Recap of 2016 Semifinal 1

Jen:

  • Greece
  • Hungary
  • Netherlands
  • Armenia
  • Czech Republic
  • Russia
  • Cyprus
  • Austria
  • Iceland
  • Malta
Chris:

  • Greece
  • Hungary
  • Netherlands
  • Armenia
  • Russia
  • Cyprus
  • Austria
  • Estonia
  • Iceland
  • Malta
Europe:

  • Hungary
  • Croatia
  • Netherlands
  • Armenia
  • Russia
  • Czech Republic
  • Cyprus
  • Austria
  • Azerbaijan
  • Malta

As usual, Jen got 8 out of 10 on her predictions and Chris got 7 out of 10. To be fair, who knew just how badly Estonia was going to misfire? Every facial tic, every vocal aside, every c’mon hand gesture (14 total…we counted) added up to a disastrous performance for Jüri Pootsmann that would normally secure the title of camp classic in any year where Ivan is not dancing with wolves.

Generally speaking, there weren’t a lot of surprises. Russia, Hungary, Netherlands, Malta, and Armenia all performed up to expectations. Sergey Lazarev solidified his status as the favorite, but Iveta Mukuchyan was the real revelation of the first Semi. As flashy as the camerawork and the special effects were, the whole package was about her, and she made every moment count.

The real tragedies on the night were Iceland and Bosnia & Herzegovina. We hadn’t been impressed with “Ljubav Je” in rehearsals, but on the night we thought the whole package came together quite well. And as good as the staging was for “Hear Them Calling,” perhaps the song just wasn’t good enough for it to crack the top 10.

As we mentioned in our rehearsal roundup, Montenegro was going for a concert performance and Cyprus was going for a Contest performance. Even knowing that, we couldn’t have predicted just how well Cyprus were going to come off. Francois Micheletto is a striking and charismatic singer and the whole package was orchestrated effectively.

Austria, Azerbaijan, and Croatia should be thanking their lucky stars. ZOË was visibly nervous and seemed to get through her performance on muscle memory, although her vocals were still pretty strong. Samra, meanwhile, was pretty good for 2 of her song’s 3 minutes, before going off the rails a bit at the end. And Croatia managed to use costuming to create a memorable visual, if nothing else.

We were surprised by how flat and ponderous Greece’s performance was. It was sort of like watching Steven Gerrard plodding around the field during his last season with Liverpool. You hate seeing the once great become also rans.

Lastly, a huge round of applause for Czech Republic for finally qualifying for the Grand Prix Final! We were worried that the staging for “I Stand” would hurt their chances; too many long shots, a distracting, primitive backdrop, and not enough close ups on Gabriela Gunčíková for our money. But she sounded great and the song deserved its spot on Saturday night.