Highlights and lowlights from 2011

This year’s additions to our evergreen content.

Legitimately Good Eurovision Song
For our consideration:
Love in Rewind,” Bosnia and Herzegovina
What About My Dreams,” Hungary
Madness of Love,” Italy
Never Alone,” The Netherlands
I Can,” United Kingdom

Our pick:
None.  Bosnia and Herzegovina got closest with “Love in Rewind.” It’s silly, but repeated listenings confirmed the quality musical structure of the song. We love the vocal harmonies and the musical transitions. “Sito” works on many levels: it’s jarring – it makes you pay attention, it distracts—so you don’t mind it’s bridging two distinct segments of the song, and it’s wacky—it makes you smile.   It was our favorite in 2011, but the song lacks a certain “hell yeah” quality necessary for the legitimately good.  Close but no cigar.

Biggest Misfire
For our consideration:
Rockfeller Street,” Estonia
Sognu,” France
Get You,” Russia
Live It Up,” Turkey
I Can,” United Kingdom

Our pick:
Live It Up,” Turkey
. Turkey went back to its rock formula for 2011, but the entry was perhaps a little too ’80s for peoples’ liking. Many thought Turkey had enough friends that would forgive a so-so song. What wasn’t forgivable was the lead singer’s baffling choice of wardrobe, a gold bird shirt and leprechaun-green jeans. The contortionist in the metal ball upstage center was just there, and no one knew why. Sure, at the end she turned into a bird, but Yüksek Sadakat had lost us by then. Turkey stunned Europe by showing that it was possible for them to not qualify.

Campiest Song
For our consideration:
Boom Boom,” Armenia
I Love Belarus,” Belarus
Celebrate,” Croatia
So Lucky,” Moldova
“A Luta e Alegria,” Portugal

Our pick:
Boom Boom,” Armenia
. Armenia went high concept in 2011, adopting a boxing theme and literally interpreting “Boom Boom” into a 1-2 punch. They had boxing robes, interpretive dance, and an ad hoc boxing ring. If camp is your goal, you can never go wrong with an oversized boxing glove. Presentation, however, cannot compensate for dodgy vocals and poor draw.  Emmy is so out of tune the performance is barely watchable.  Armenia failed to qualify for the finals.

Best Diva
For our consideration:
Aurela Gace, Albania
Nadine Beiler, Austria
Evelina Sašenko, Lithuania
Maja Keuc, Slovenia
Mika Newton, Ukraine

Our pick:
Nadine Beiler (Austria) started her epic Celine Dion-style ballad a cappella; just her, a little black dress, and a severe bob. In textbook style, Nadine built and built (and built) the song, culminating with a gospel chorus. Her powerful voice gives me goosebumps every time. We watched every rehearsal and performance going back to the Austrian national finals and not once did she miss a note. Austria finished 18th, a good finish for a country that hadn’t qualified for the finals since 2004.

Eurovision Song Contest 2011 Superlatives

The Eurovision Song Contest is over for 2011, so it’s time for Eurovision Lemurs to hand out our superlatives. In the spirit of fair play and all that, everyone’s a winner tonight.

  • Most pinchable cheeks: Finland (Paradise Oskar – “Da Da Dam”)
  • Most SITO: Bosnia & Herzegovina (Dino Merlin – “Love In Rewind”)
  • Worst attack by moths: A Friend In London’s Tim Schou’s shirt, Denmark (A Friend In London – “New Tomorrow”)
  • Best language change: Lithuania (Evelina Sašenko – “C’est Ma Vie”)
  • Most delicious wearable plum tart: Hungary (Kati Wolf – “What About My Dreams?”)
  • Most Jedwardian performance: Ireland (Jedward – “Lipstick”)
  • Most palpable sense of relief at the end of the song: Sweden (Eric Saade – “Popular”)
  • Poorest understanding of Manhattan street names and landmarks: Estonia (Getter Jaani – “Rockefeller Street”)
  • Best save of a really awful song: Greece (Loukas Giorkas – “Watch My Dance”)
  • Most learned rapper: Professor Stereo Mike, Greece
  • Most indulgent performance, Warsaw Pact edition: Russia (Alexey Vorobyov – “Get You”)
  • Wettest squib: France (Amaury Vassili – “Sognu”)
  • Most splenderai! Splenderai! Splenderai!: Italy (Raphael Gualazzi – “Madness of Love”)
  • Best performance by an American actress: Claire Danes, Switzerland (Anna Rossinelli – “In Love for a While”)
  • Worst Graham Norton prediction: “This could be one of the dark horses in the competition” in regards to Switzerland
  • Most indulgent performance, NATO edition: United Kingdom (Blue – “I Can”)
  • Most annoyed that Blue downplayed the “Oooh” in “I Can,” thus depriving him of being able to hand out the Story of Oooh award: this writer
  • Quite maddest performance: Moldova (Zdob şi Zdub – “So Lucky”)
  • Best headwear: Zdob şi Zdub, Moldova
  • Best tribute to Woody Allen’s “Everything You Wanted to Know About Sex (But Were Afraid to Ask)”: Germany (Lena – “Taken By a Stranger”)
  • Most annoyingly chipper performance: (TIE) Romania (Hotel FM – “Change”) & Spain (Lucía Pérez – “Que me quiten lo bailao”)
  • Biggest voice: Austria (Nadine Beiler – “The Secret Is Love”)
  • MILFiest performer: Nikki, Azerbaijan
  • JLOiest performer: Nikki, Azerbaijan
  • Most likely to get there, popular: Azerbaijan, as it turns out (Ell & Nikki – “Running Scared”)
  • Best use of the staging that Azerbaijan should have used for Safura: Slovenia (Maja Keuc – “No One”)
  • Most creepily prescient lyrics: Iceland (Sjónni’s Friends – “Coming Home”)
  • Best Ricky Gervais impersonator: Matti Matt from Sjónni’s Friends, Iceland
  • Best use of a gimmick to distract you from a mediocre song: Sand artist Kseniya Simonova, Ukraine
  • Song most likely to become a “Crystal Light” advertisement: “Angel” by Ukraine’s Queen of Soundtracks, Mika Newton
  • Most distracting LED graphics: Serbia (Nina – “Čaroban”)
  • The Austin Powers Yeah Baby award for swankest performance: Nina, Serbia
  • Most likely to make the Mortal Kombat soundtrack: Georgia (Eldrine – “One More Day”)
  • Most interesting array of noses: Eldrine, Georgia

The State of Our Predictions for Eurovision 2011

We knew going into the Eurovision Song Contest Final that predicting the result was going to be tricky. But honestly, neither of us expected that Azerbaijan was going to pull off the win.

In the end, Jen got six of the 10 finalists and I got five (indicated below in italics). I also got one finish exactly right (indicated in bold). I didn’t pick any of the top five, whereas Jen got one: Azerbaijan.

Jen:

  1. Germany
  2. France
  3. Azerbaijan
  4. Bosnia & Herzegovina
  5. Greece
  6. Austria
  7. Ireland
  8. Romania
  9. Russia
  10. Ukraine

Last Place: Lithuania

Chris:

  1. France
  2. Ireland
  3. Austria
  4. Germany
  5. Bosnia & Herzegovina
  6. Azerbaijan
  7. Greece
  8. Russia
  9. Moldova
  10. Iceland

Last Place: Lithuania

Europe:

  1. Azerbaijan
  2. Italy
  3. Sweden
  4. Ukraine
  5. Denmark
  6. Bosnia & Herzegovina
  7. Greece
  8. Ireland
  9. Georgia
  10. Germany

Last Place: Switzerland

Looking at the final scorecard, the key to Azerbaijan’s win is easy to see: They got points from 30 of the 43 countries voting, and decent points (six and higher) from 23 of those countries. They received three douze points, from Russia (FRIENDLY VOTING!!!), Turkey (NEIGHBORLY VOTING!!!) and Malta (WAIT, WHAT?!).

I was amused when the audience booed instances of friendly voting last night during the results, but when you’re dealing with 43 nations voting, the friendly voting is in a way irrelevant.

In the past, we would say that some nations are never going to finish on the right side of the board (16th place and lower) because of their friends. But Russia finished 16th, which sort of blows that theory away. For example, Belarus had given Russia 12 points four times in the previous five contests. (The exception was in 2009 when they gave Russia 8, and 12 to Minsk-born Alexander Rybak.) This year, Belarus gave Russia five points. If you can’t get more than eight points from your friends, you’re not going to break the left side of the board.

Even Ukraine and Georgia, who finished top 10, were helped as much by votes from places like Italy and Greece as they were by friendly voting.

The Guardian said that Blue “failed miserably” with a “quite poor 11th,” but I would like to point out to The Guardian that the United Kingdom finished last in 2010, and that Blue’s fan base helped them overcome poor staging to finish a quite respectable 11th. The UK got small points from 25 countries. That’s not bad, particularly for a country that doesn’t think it has any friends on the continent.

I can explain stuff like this all day, but I’ll be darned if I could tell you how Italy finished second. Was everyone really excited about Italy’s return? I will say this: after a stilted, unengaging performance from Amaury Vassili, Raphael Gualazzi couldn’t help but come off well. Maybe a good performance was rewarded? Shocking!

So what have I learned this year?

  1. For all that is good and green on this earth, take the bookies with a grain or two of salt. The UK and Ireland did well (make no mistake, Guardian readers). But they still were overvalued by the hometown oddsmakers. Moreover, the bookies were absolutely convinced that France was going to stroll to victory. Sure, they were right about Norway in 2009, but they couldn’t be more wrong this year.
  2. No matter how well it is sung, any ballad that smacks of being old-fashioned is not going to do well in the final anymore. Nadine Beiler sounded fantastic, but “The Secret Is Love” is pretty danged musty. You think I would’ve learned this after Niamh Kavanaugh’s finish last year, of course.
  3. We watched a lot of national finals this year. We followed this Eurovision season closer than any other one before. But in the end, as much as I know, I don’t know anything. (See Jen’s post “The Problem of Knowing.”)
  4. In a related point, as much as I like to believe I’m objective when I’m making my predictions, I am totally biased. I try to be objective, but either I’m picking acts to do well in the Final because I like a performance (Austria, Moldova), or I’m really trying hard to not seem biased and picking the opposite of something that I like (France). Of course, I don’t know how I change that, but I don’t really think I should try. I’m not a professional punter, and I’d rather just enjoy the show.

And in the end, that’s the important thing. Regardless of what you think of the result, this was a ridiculously entertaining show. I will be so bold as to say this might have been my favorite Eurovision Song Contest in the six years I’ve been watching it live. Part of it was the quality of the performances (everyone except France did really well). Part of it was because the Germans did a great job staging it (surprising, given how rough that first Semi was). But this is definitely going to be a Final we’ll be watching over and over again.

Eurovision 2011 Final Recap

ESC 2011 will go down as an interesting, hard to predict year.  It was a level playing field and if folks are honest no one had much idea what would happen.  Bellwethers like the oddsmakers or Google predictor called it wrong.  The bookie favorite, France, finished 15th overall, and Google’s Eurovision predictor indicated the winds were favorably blowing for Ireland and Germany, which finished 8th and 10th respectively.  At least Azerbaijan was usually in the Top 5 conversation; second place finisher Italy was almost completely off the radar.

People have mixed reactions about the outcome, but I think most will agree we had a lot of fun getting there.  Our spirits were raised from entries that were batty (Ireland, Moldova), high-energy (Sweden, Estonia, Russia, UK), and engaging (Spain).  In other moments our hearts were warmed by amazing visuals (Ukraine, Greece, Finland), powerhouse ballads (France, Austria, Lithuania), and expressions of friendship (Iceland).

There’s much to talk about.  Here’s our take on the main storylines:

  • Azerbaijan’s win caused a lot of disappointment at our Eurovision party. Folks here had the same reactions we’ve heard often before, and indeed have said ourselves–they liked Eldar but weren’t that impressed with the song.  Azerbaijan did a lot of things right, but they also had some luck.  They staged the number beautifully and used Sweden’s Shirley’s Angels to minimize Nikki’s vocal weaknesses.  At the same time, they were the only country this year to enter a male/female ballad, and they were blessed with a late draw.
  • For us the biggest surprise on the night was Italy’s 2nd place finish.  Many, including us, underestimated Raphael Gualazzi’s ability to garner votes.  However, he was a San Remo winner and we should have taken him more seriously.  The presentation showed off Gualazzi as an accomplished musician–it may well have added up to something.  Other factors that may have been in the mix were jury appeal and people happy to see Italy back in the ESC.
  • Sweden had an excellent 3rd place finish. The early draw in the final (following Jedward) certainly did them no favors. Sweden can attribute the result to Eric Saade’s charisma and meticulous staging. Sweden won the 2nd semifinal, outpacing other buzz acts like Denmark, Bosnia, and Ireland. Swedish identity crisis averted, and we hope to see much more schlager from Melodifestivalen in the years to come.  Just take care, because people are voting for the person too.
  • Never underestimate the Greeks.  Coming out of the national final, the song was a nightmare, and we raised questions about whether it would qualify.  Note to self: if I’m ever involved with Eurovision I want the Greek organizers on my team. After the national final, it underwent a complete transformation. Their backdrop was stunning, they put increased focus on dreamy Loukas, and Loukas was vocally solid in every performance and rehearsal.  They deservedly won the first semi-final, beating out Azerbaijan and Bosnia.
  • In the battle of Jedward vs. Blue, Jedward won out as we predicted.  Both acts deserve credit for working hard on performance and promotion leading up to the contest.  However, Jedward put on an extreme, ridiculously high energy, daft performance and “Lipstick” was a perfect fit for their artistic image.  We had a laugh, and the voters responded–8th place overall.  Blue, on the other hand, layered an indulgent performance over a good song.  (Gentle readers: when Simon Cowell uses the term “indulgent” and we don’t know what that means, here is a perfect example.  It’s indulgent to use four LED screens with big images of your band members.)  In so doing, they limited their appeal to previous fans–a concern we have raised about Blue from the beginning.  The efforts resulted in small points from a lot of countries, but it only added up to 11th place.
  • Germany, which we had both pegged for a strong result, finished 10th. Fan reaction was pretty accurate–in all likelihood the song just didn’t grab in the same way as “Satellite.”  It’s also worth noting that most entries with better results were more uplifting or powerful performances. Still, no artist has successfully defended a Eurovision title in the next year, and following up a win with 10th place is nothing to sneeze at.
  • France, the pre-competition favorite, finished a disappointing 15th.  The sad story is he simply wasn’t good enough.  The period wardrobe (and the song) had the unintentional outcome of making him look like a Les Miserables reject.  His hair had too much product in it and looked terrible.   These are shallow points, but Amaury’s telegenic appeal was supposed to be driving votes and it wasn’t there. Worse, France was a casualty of the song draw, undermined by Greece’s tour-de-force vocal and Italy’s musicianship.
  • Russia finished a disappointing 16th, which will go over poorly at home.  All is not well if Mother Russia can only manage 5 points from Belarus.  Russia was badly hurt by their draw.  Their draw put them right after Ireland (who had more energy and did a backflip), Sweden (who was cute and could dance), and Greece (who was cute and could sing).   More than just bad luck, the draw underscored Russia’s major weakness: that Alexey did not seem completely connected to the song.  The song was competent in every way, but one wonders if it was really the kind of music Alexey would want to make or if he was simply trying to appeal to the audience.
  • Estonia, an early favorite of the bookies, finished 24th out of 25.  I don’t think it was the 2nd-to-worst performance on the night, but Estonian organizers were unable to translate a great song into a package that would drive votes.  The same could be said for Hungary, which finished 22th overall.

In the postscript, we should acknowledge three songs that just missed the cut in the Semis. In the first semifinal, 10th place finisher Switzerland qualified with 55 points; Armenia and Malta (!) both missed out with 54 points.   In the second semifinal, 10th place finisher Moldova had 54 points, while Belgium (!) missed out with 53 points.  So Armenia, and especially Malta and Belgium, hold your heads up with pride–you did a good job and missed by the cut by the smallest of margins.

Congratulations Azerbaijan!

Our winner… Azerbaijan!

We said it would be a tough year to call, and in our hearts we genuinely felt it wasn’t France’s moment. Azerbaijan pulled out the win with a good vocal performance, beautiful staging, and a good draw.  Well done, Azerbaijanis, and congratulations.  I look forward to learning more about Baku for the 2012 contest.

Here’s our Eurovision 2011 winner:

Recap coming soon.

Predictions for the 2011 Grand Final

For our 500th post, we’re making our predictions for this year’s Eurovision Song Contest. To help us decide, we made a YouTube playlist off all the winning performances from the Semis and rehearsal footage of the Big 5 and watched it in order of the final draw. It is the second geekiest thing we’ve ever done, with the first being our three hour drive from DC to Red Bank, New Jersey and our three hour drive back home later in the day just to see a Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gormé show.

Anyway, as you can see, despite our research, our predictions vary quite a bit:

Jen:

  1. Germany
  2. France
  3. Azerbaijan
  4. Bosnia & Herzegovina
  5. Greece
  6. Austria
  7. Ireland
  8. Romania
  9. Russia
  10. Ukraine

Last Place: Lithuania

Chris:

  1. France
  2. Ireland
  3. Austria
  4. Germany
  5. Bosnia & Herzegovina
  6. Azerbaijan
  7. Greece
  8. Russia
  9. Moldova
  10. Iceland

Last Place: Lithuania

The first thing I will say is I really want Dino Merlin to win for Bosnia & Herzegovina. But I think going second is going to keep that from happening. If Dino can’t win, I would love for Jedward to win, just to stick it to Johnny Logan.

The thing about this year is, despite the bookies’ confidence that France will win, it really is a wide open draw. I think there were 17 acts that could legitimately make the top 10, which really makes the running order important this year.

That said, even though Ireland has drawn sixth, Jedward do more than enough to make lasting impression to pull in the votes. Jen thinks I’m overestimating their impact, but we both agree that they will pull off a top 10 finish.

Jen is picking Germany to repeat because Lena will likely provide an intense, engrossing performance. I’m picking France to win because Amaury appears to be a magnetic enough presence to drive people to the phones.

That said, I do think he is one of the acts that is really hurt by Lukas Yiorkas. The Greek singer sounded fantastic on Tuesday, and he’s charismatic and dreamy.

The other act that Lukas hurts is Alexey Vorobyov, who immediately follows. Alexey is starting off with a little ethnic intro to “Get You” that is only going to sound weak in comparison to the mfing testosterone that preceded him. In addition, Jen pointed out that by the time Alexey hits the stage, Jedward has already done the backflips and Eric Saade has done the elaborate choreography.

The real dark horse in all this, as it turns out, is Nadine Beiler from Austria. She’s got a prime slot in 18th position, and she’s a powerful, flawless singer that pretty much outshines every other female singer in the competition. Her closest competitor is Maja Keuc from Slovenia, who performs 20th, but even Maja’s dramatic belting pales in comparison. The only thing that could hold Nadine back is her song is a bit old-fashioned, but we’re expecting her to either match or top Alf Poier.

Sort of lost in the shuffle in all this is Blue. I guess if their fan base on the continent is bigger than I thought, they could move up in the standings. But I really think their staging is going to bump them into an 11-15 position on the leaderboard.

As for last place, Jen and I both think Spain and Lithuania will be vying for the bottom. Spain’s advantage is that Lithuania goes fourth. By the time Spain hits the stage, “C’est Ma Vie” will be a forgotten memory.

Second Semifinal Results

Well, that’s more like it!  A much more entertaining show than the first semi, and a much better result for us. I got 10 of 10, Chris got 9 of 10 — but they kept to the very last envelope to let us know which of us had done better.

When this year’s contest is all said and done, we’ll be viewing the 2nd Semifinal more than the 1st.  Though the 1st had much stronger songs in the beginning, the show just wasn’t all that entertaining.  Tonight’s show was full of talented singers, wackiness, fails, and occasional moments of coherence.

Bosnia and Austria gave excellent, professional performances to start.  Dino got a huge ovation in the audience.

Netherlands and Belgium were good as well, and for a brief moment we wondered if the Netherlands might just pull it off.  Then there was just too much loose movement and long camerawork, and we were reminded that 3JS viewed Eurovision as just another concert. Belgium represented for the a cappella world — good on ya.

Slovakia, boooring. The shouty backup singers did it no favors. I found myself screaming at the TV “Really? You couldn’t write a frickin’ bridge?” Ukraine achieved a decent balance between singer and art in the camerawork but I found myself screaming at the TV “Show me more sand art!”

And then Moldova, lovely lovely crazy Moldova. I am tickled that this has made the finals.

Sweden pulled it out, but don’t you get the feeling only just?  Right down to the 10th envelope at the end. It puts rather an appropriate mark on what’s been a rough week for Eric and company.  The glass breaking worked, and the one panel breaking actually works in the Eurovision context, especially what he’s been through this week — like he’s over coming obstacles, as opposed to simply being transcendently awesome, as he was when he broke 3 panels at Melodifestivalen. He alluded to something extra for the Final, will he break all 3 at the final?

Cyprus, I’m sorry to say, was a fail. I liked their concept, but Christos’ backing singers let him down and he didn’t “seduce” the camera like other singers in the competition.

Bulgaria didn’t get it done either, though they do win the award for best use of the catwalk. The flyaway camera was a excellent idea–a clever solution to the too-long catwalk that interfered with both Israel and Denmark’s performances tonight. Sadly, she went back to the shredded wedding dress, and the costume change was completely lost with the pyro and the wide angles.

FYR Macedonia didn’t make it but was not a fail. They put together a high-energy, engaging performance of ethnopop–nowhere near the bottom feeder they were made out to be.

Israel fail. The energy level was there, I guess, but all the posturing just went to show that there wasn’t a lot of there there. Not much to the song, not much to the vocal, not much to the staging. And the voters saw through it.

Slovenia–when the votes are released, I’m betting she just eked it out. Maja’s vocal was strong and she played the camera well, when the camera was on her.  What was with all those long shots in the last 30 seconds? I nearly thought they blew it because the camerawork undermined the crescendo.

Romania and Estonia both came off as cheap. They are both good songs but with silly performances. Alarmingly, Romania’s staging reminded me of Germany 2009’s disastrous Alex Sings Oscar Swings, with a native English speaker, a guy at the piano giving us a shit-eating grin, and 2 manic dancing girls.  All I was missing was Dita Von Teese. Estonia’s song has a lot of hooks–the staging needed to have less changes to soften it, not more. The staging was chaotic, Getter’s make up was very Joel Grey in Cabaret, and the whole presentation seemed unfocused. A former front-runner, she should consider herself lucky to make it through.

One wonders if Belarus decided to turn up the camp at the end, because there was a ton of fire. More unfocused chaos.

The Latvia boys got up on stage with their bowties and pretended to be rockstars for 3 minutes. The song sounded nice enough when I averted my eyes.

Denmark, after about 5 songs of unfocused chaos, was simply coherent. Bless them.

To wrap up the show we returned back to the world of chaos, but with great production value and executed flawlessly. One thing I will say about the Jedward boys–they know exactly the images they want to portray. There’s a certain authenticity behind the outrageousness because they’re being true to their inner voices, their inner crazy voices.

Here’s are the finalists, along with their draw:

Estonia, 8th in the final: not so great a draw, right in the middle of a lot of heavy hitters

Romania, 17th: late draw, but between Germany and Austria

Moldova, 15th: good draw, going right after UK is going to play into their crazy and will show Europe what a successful backdrop looks like.

Ireland, 6th: early draw. They go right after Hungary, and if Kati can’t sing on the night, their presentation heavy performance may play well

Bosnia & Herzegovina, 2nd: TRAGEDY. Poor Dino couldn’t hide his disappointment. The silver lining is he goes after Finland, but no one has ever won from the dreaded 2nd position. He will need all the voting and jury help he can muster.

Denmark, 3rd: About friggin’ time they got an early draw. Time to show what you’re really made of. My guess is not much.

Austria, 18th: Great draw for Nadine. Can she do some damage to Azerbaijan by showing viewers what a real singer sounds like?

Ukraine, 23rd: Fantastic draw. But the closers aren’t really all that strong–door’s open for songs that come earlier.

Slovenia, 20rd: Great draw.

Sweden, 7th: Rough draw, right after Ireland and before a spate of strong songs.

Predictions for the Second Semifinal

Well, those first Semifinal predictions didn’t exactly pan out, huh? But seriously, who picks against Turkey? Wahnsinn. I was happy to be wrong about both Armenia (awful, awful performance) and Serbia (despite the seizure-inducing LED graphics).

So let’s try this again. Here are our picks for tomorrow night’s Semifinal.

Jen:

  • Bosnia & Herzegovina (Winner on the night)
  • Austria
  • Ukraine
  • Moldova
  • Sweden
  • Slovenia
  • Romania
  • Estonia
  • Denmark
  • Ireland
Chris:

  • Bosnia & Herzegovina
  • Austria
  • Ukraine
  • Moldova
  • Bulgaria
  • Slovenia
  • Romania
  • Estonia
  • Denmark
  • Ireland (Winner on the night)

After the results from the first Semi, I think we both got into our heads a bit. We started to over-analyze the picks we had already made, then began looking at friendly voting patterns and so forth. Ultimately Jen stayed true to her original picks, whereas I made a couple of changes.

The only difference in our predictions is that Jen is picking Sweden to go through and I went with Bulgaria instead. I keep resisting the temptation of picking Israel to go through based on Dana International being Eurovision royalty, because the song is really terrible. Plus, I don’t want Jen to hold this over me if I’m wrong.

We’re both scared for Austria. Going second does them no favors. And while we’re convinced that Nadine will bring a strong performance, Aurela Gaçe brought a strong performance for Albania on Tuesday and look where it got her. Still if “C’est Ma Vie” can get through, why not “The Secret Is Love?”

It kills me to be picking Romania, because I really think their staging is awful. But they’ve got friends here, particularly Moldova, so I really can’t bet against them. Of course, at this point, I wouldn’t be shocked by anything, like FYR Macedonia making it through. Which I wouldn’t mind, actually, since it would mean that I didn’t sit through the Macedonian national final for nothing.

First Semifinal Results

You have to laugh — 4 months of closely watching the national finals and both of us got 6 of 10, worse than in previous years!

Most worrying to us is that though many strong songs had early draws, Serbia was the earliest to make it out.  Looking towards Thursday, it raises questions about Austria, and one starts even to wonder about Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Borderliners that succeeded: Serbia, Switzerland, Lithuania, Iceland, Georgia

A couple things stand out to me about these “surprise” qualifiers:

  • All of them were well performed.
  • Georgia had several natural voting allies, who were more likely to turn to out thanks to the good vocal and effective camerawork.
  • Lithuania, we estimate had about 5 voting allies.  Coupled with the late draw and the fact that it was the only big ballad in the group, I started to wonder about this one while watching the show.  I also suspect the juries rated this entry highly.
  • SerbiaSwitzerland and Iceland are light, uplifting songs that seem a bit adult contemporary. It’s a genre that clearly performed well on the night.  It made me wonder about the demographics of the audience tuning in for a Tuesday night semifinal. Older? Female?

Borderliners that failed: Poland, Albania
“Dead certs” that failed: Norway, Armenia, Turkey

The real shocker on the evening is Turkey’s failure to qualify.  The song wasn’t strong and the fashion choices were ill-advised, but the vocal was professional and we both believed Turkey had enough friends to qualify no matter what.  Lesson learned on that one.

Armenia, on the other hand, we are not surprised with.  They looked promising in rehearsals, but tonight’s performance was a hot mess.  The package was sloppy.  Emmy and her backing singer weren’t in good voice, and even the dancers weren’t together.  We got very nervous watching this one.

Poland looked sloppy and was pitchy.  Coupled with the poor draw, we were always skeptical that they would be able to pull it out.

Norway and Albania will be missed.  We are particularly sad that on Saturday we will not be able to entertain our friends with our 2-year-old’s infectious enthusiasm for “kibaba.”   Albania we thought gave a very professional performance.  There was nothing more she could do.  If it wasn’t enough, so be it.

The first semifinal qualifiers are below, along with their draws for Saturday’s final.

  • Serbia (Running order position in the Final: 24) — very nice draw indeed.  Left side of the leaderboard a distinct possibility.
  • Greece (Running order position in the Final: 9) — hmmm.  More information about the earlier slots is needed.  However, this goes before a lot of very strong songs.
  • Azerbaijan (Running order position in the Final: 19) — excellent draw.  Top 5 looking pretty darn likely.
  • Georgia (Running order position in the Final: 25) — late draw, possible Top 10?
  • Switzerland (Running order position in the Final: 13) — this is going to feel pretty amateurish between France/Italy and the UK.
  • Hungary (Running order position in the Final: 5) — even if Kati brings it, the placement is too early to do very well.  Top 10 may still be possible if she sings very, very well. Top 5 unlikely.
  • Finland (Running order position in the Final: 1) — gutting.  Very rough draw for the innocent ballad.
  • Russia (Running order position in the Final: 10) — hmmm, right after Greece and right before France.  Coupled with the relatively early placement, it’s not looking so good for the Russians.   What might have been Top 3 under other circumstances is now looking like Top 10.
  • Iceland (Running order position in the Final: 21) — the song doesn’t have so much impact but given that every commentator is going to talk about the backstory, it’s hard to tell how people will react.  The late draw sets up the opportunity for a decent finish.

Predictions for the First Semifinal

Eurovision week is finally here, and it’s time for us to make our predictions. Today, we look ahead to tomorrow and make our calls on the first Semifinal.

Jen:

  • Norway
  • Albania
  • Armenia
  • Turkey
  • Russia (Winner on the night)
  • Georgia
  • Finland
  • Hungary
  • Azerbaijan
  • Greece
Chris:

  • Norway
  • Albania
  • Armenia
  • Turkey
  • Russia
  • Georgia
  • Iceland
  • Hungary
  • Azerbaijan (Winner on the night)
  • Greece

As you can see, Jen and I are almost completely of one mind here. It comes down to this: will the public be more supportive of a late singer or THE ENTIRE EARTH? I’m going with the former and picking Iceland to go through.

We both share the concern that we’re picking heavily from the top half of the draw. But frankly, most of the songs in the bottom half are forgettable, so we’re confident in our picks.

Of course, there’s the danger that friendly & diaspora voting could come into play with the Balkan entries, but I’m guessing not, because Croatia’s entry is awful and Serbia’s, while adorable, is too retro. Of course, if I’m wrong, I hope Serbia beats out Georgia, who also has a musty, dated song. I just think the hard rock song is going to attract more people than the Duffy-style song.