Jury Analysis: 2012 Post-Mortem

Prior to the 2012 contest, we did an analysis of jury votes in 2009-2011, drew a few conclusions, and posed some hypotheses about what to expect in 2012. With the 2012 jury results released, we can revisit the post and test our hypotheses. The table below compares jury and public results from recent Eurovision finals.

In good news, there was agreement this year between jury and televote about the top placement, and once again the presence of the jury vote did not change the outcome of the 2012 competition. Even if the decision had been 100% televote, Loreen would have still beaten the Babushki (except it would have been much, much closer). Serbia also had a strong finish with both audiences. Not surprisingly, there were significant discrepancies on Russia as the Babushki were highly favored by the public. As we suspected prior to the contest, in 2012 we had fewer big discrepancies between public and jury than in 2011 or 2009.

Next let’s revisit our pre-2012 hypotheses and see how 2012 actually measured up.

 Hypothesis 1: the jury rewards “big vocalists.”

The 2012 test, what we said: If true, we should expect the jury to give more points than the public to Spain, Albania, and Macedonia, all of whom have played the “diva” card this year.  Estonia and Iceland have sent big male vocalists and may also do well with the jury.

Outcome: SUPPORTED.  Albania, Spain, and Estonia finished 4th, 5th, and 6th with the jury, respectively. Serbia, who also put in a big vocal, finished 2nd. Ukraine also overperformed with the jury. However, Macedonia underperformed compared with the televote (17th, vs. 11th in the televote), and Iceland did poorly with both (19th).

Hypothesis 2: the public punishes “musty ballads.”

The 2012 test, what we said: If true, we should expect the public to give low points to Spain and Portugal, which have submitted old-fashioned ballads this year.  The UK also meets this criteria, but Engelbert Humperdinck’s celebrity (see below) may offset the “musty ballad” penalty.

Outcome: SUPPORTED.  In the final, Spain finished 18th with the public (vs. 5th in the jury). Portugal garnered fewer televotes than jury in its semifinal and the song did not qualify, but there wasn’t a big difference between the public and jury reaction. Engelbert did better with the public than the jury, but once again, there were no large discrepancies.

Hypothesis 3: the jury will reward acts with “authenticity.”

The 2012 test, what we saidIf true, we should expect the jury to give some points to Montenegro, with the caveat that the song is too inaccessible to get really big points. Nil points, though, should be unlikely. Turkey and BiH may also do better with the juries than the public because of this factor. Watch for Denmark too.

OutcomeSOME SUPPORT. Italy, a country we didn’t tag earlier, could be argued as meeting the authenticity factor. Italy did significantly better with the jury than with the public. Montenegro received a handful of points from jury and public, but nothing noteworthy and no nil points. BiH and Denmark did marginally better with the jury than with the public. Turkey did worse with the jury than with the public, but one wonders if the difference was in how the public responded to the stage performance.

Hypothesis 4: the jury will punish acts that lack “authenticity.”

The 2012 test, what we said: If true, we should expect the jury to punish Lithuania and Georgia.

Outcome: NOT SUPPORTED.  In the Semi, Lithuania (who performed last) did much better with the public than the jury, but the Final (when he sang 4th), he did marginally better with the jury than the public. An alternative explanation for Lithuania could be the jury negated the effects of the draw. Georgia pulled in an 8th place finish with the jury in his semifinal.

Hypothesis 5: The jury will punish high camp.

The 2012 test, what we saidIf true, we should expect the jury to punish San Marino. Latvia and Austria are also vulnerable depending on how they are staged.

Outcome: NOT SUPPORTED. Some of the campiest entries, as it turned out, were Austria, San Marino, and Ukraine. Austria tanked with everyone, San Marino finished marginally better with juries than televote, and Ukraine finished much better with the juries (see Hypothesis 1). However, it is worth noting that Turkey’s highly theatrical entry was poorly received by juries (22nd place).

Hypothesis 6: the jury will award fewer points than the public to “celebrity” acts.

The 2012 test, what we said If true, we should expect the jury to award fewer points than the public to the UK, Serbia, Ireland, and possibly France.

Outcome: SUPPORTED. The jury severely punished Ireland (25th). The Irish times reported on a row between Jedward and producer Louis Walsh 1 hour prior to their final jury performance. On our original post Eric reminded us of Blue’s dismal jury performance in 2011, which may have been a reason for their poor jury result.  Similar to Blue, it’s possible that Jedward bungled their jury performance, but we observe Jedward performed poorly with juries both in the final and in their semifinal. Englebert Humperdinck finished last (26th) with the jury. The jury gave marginally less support than the public to Serbia. However, all the points France got came from the jury. Guess she’s not that famous after all.

Highlights and lowlights from 2012

Who put on the biggest diva performance in Baku? Who entered the annals of camp this year? How least self-aware was Donny Montell? (Answer: not least self-aware enough.) Here are the performances from 2012 that, for better or worse, should be remembered.

Legitimately Good Song

For our consideration:
Euphoria,” Sweden
Time,” Israel
Echo (You and I),” France
Don’t Close Your Eyes,” Slovakia
Sound of Our Hearts,” Hungary

Our pick:  It was hard for us to decide between “Time” and “Euphoria.” Since there’s no rule saying we have to pick just one song per category, we just said to heck with it and picked them both.

Jangly and Bowiesque, “Time” was this year’s too-cool-for-Eurovision entry. The song needs to be considered on its merits separate from the performance. Izabo performed it with a charmingly disinterested air that probably did the song no favors when it came time to vote.

Meanwhile,  “Euphoria” is not still in the top 40 on a lot of European pop charts (number six in Germany as of this writing) for no reason: it is a terrific Swedish pop song masterfully staged.

The Runners-Up: Max Jason Mai’s performance during the second Semi was pretty rough, but “Don’t Close Your Eyes” was a terrific slice of old school metal. “Sound of Our Hearts” came together live, but early placement during the final relegated Compact Disco to the bottom of the table. “Echo (You and I)” is a great song probably hurt by an odd staging (more below). Of course, it’s not our favorite “You and I” from the 2012 Eurovision season; that would be Minnie Oh’s “You and I,” which didn’t make it out of Melodi Grand Prix semis.

Biggest Misfire

For our consideration:
Woki Mit Deim Popo,” Austria
Echo (You and I),” France
You and Me,” Netherlands
Stay,” Norway

Our Pick: It pains us to say this, but Trackshittaz’ “Woki Mit Deim Popo” is our pick for biggest misfire. It was kind of uncomfortable to watch the pole dancers during their performance. But the bigger issue is that they couldn’t let go of the glow-in-the-dark bit that was so effective during the Austrian national final. When the delegation found out they could never get the Crystal Hall dark enough for it, they should have restaged it, rather than go for the tacky sewn-on lights on the performances. The cheapness of it all destroyed all chances of a butt-shaking performance in the Final.

The Runners-Up: “Echo” is one of those “how could you mess this up” stagings. You have a strong song and a strong singer, and you surround her with bare-chested gymnasts and a ridiculous train that only was really effective during the big wind machine blast. It was just a whole lot stuff getting in the way.

“Stay” was hurt the most by the vocal performance. Good song, decent staging, flat singing. The big victory for Tooji was making it to the Final despite a really poor Semi.

Not that “You and Me” was ever going to be staged spectacularly while Joan Franka was still wearing the headdress, but why weren’t the back-up singer and musicians dressed as cowboys? Why was the background video all fire? It made it look like she was singing from hell. If they had just gone with the childhood memories motif captured in the official video, it would have made a world of difference.

Campiest Performance

For our consideration:
Be My Guest,” Ukraine
Love Is Blind,” Lithuania
I’m a Joker,” Georgia
The Social Network Song (Uh oh oh),” San Marino
La La Love,” Cyprus

Our Pick: There is the top. And then there is over the top. And then there is way over the top. Then there’s Ukraine, where subtlety goes to die. Gaitana’s “Be My Guest” had it all: big diva performance, mad dancing, ridiculous backdrop graphics, and then its own flash mob acting like a glitter-covered cherry on top.

The Runners-up: Ivi’s performance of “La La Love” seemed inspired by Elizabeth Berkley’s dancing in Showgirls. Donny Montell’s blindfold and spastic dance moves added kitschy bits of flair to “Love Is Blind.” Anri Jokhadze and Valentina Monetta were both seemingly going for intentional camp, which is usually not as good as unintentional camp.

Least Self Aware

There is no competition this year. If you really want to see someone without a clue, look no further than Bulgaria’s Sofi Marinova and her performance of  “Love Unlimited.” “No no, I don’t need back-up singers or back-up dancers or anything. I will not share the stage! I’LL DO IT ALL MYSELF!!!!” She probably designed her costume and lighting as well.

Biggest Diva Performance

For our consideration:
Euphoria,” Sweden
Be My Guest,” Ukraine
Crno i blo,” Macedonia
Suus,” Albania

Our Pick: It seems like an obvious winner now, but think about how gutsy Loreen’s performance was: she is doing weird tai-chi-like dancing in dim lighting with the occasional snowstorm and a back-up dancer who only appears with 38 seconds left in the song. If that is not the definition of a diva performance, what is?

The Runners-up: That Ukraine could have such an over-the-top staging and Gaitana still emerges as the star of the performance is a sign of how bad-ass she is. Note, too, that while she shared the stage with dancers, Gaitana delivered that powerhouse vocal with no backing vocalists. Rona Nishliu brought Albania back to the Final with some really big, long high notes, while Kaliopi only needed one powerful screech of a high note to get Macedonia out of the Semis.

Eurovision 2012 Superlatives

The Eurovision Song Contest is over for 2012, so it’s time for Eurovision Lemurs to hand out our annual superlatives. To make Tooji feel better, everyone’s a winner tonight.

  • Best use of the pyro Bulgaria ended up not needing for the final: United Kingdom
  • Best performance by an act you forgot about later: Hungary
  • Best way to order a chai at Starbucks: Albania (Thanks to eurovicious)
  • Best use of a Bedazzler: Lithuania
  • Best shout out to Alexis Carrington: Bosnia and Herzegovina
  • Most adorable grannies, oh my god they are so fucking CUTE, THEY BAKED COOKIES!!!!!: Russia
  • Best use of a Jonsi outside of Sigur Ros: Iceland
  • Best tribute to Nomi Malone: Cyprus
  • Best tribute to Jane Russell in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes: France
  • The annual award for most successful theft of France’s thunder: Italy
  • The Eric Saade Award for most palpable sense of relief at the end of the song: Estonia
  • Worst birthday present: Tooji from Norway’s last place performance
  • Best continuation of a proud tradition of bombing at Eurovision: Norway
  • Best Hunger Games reference: Azerbaijan’s dress
  • Best musical representation of the premise for The Big Bang Theory: Romania
  • Best epaulets: Denmark
  • The Svetlana Loboda Award for least subtle sexual innuendo: Greece
  • Most likely to get there, popular: Sweden this time
  • Best Hammer dance: Sweden
  • Best 38 seconds of work: Sweden’s back-up dancer
  • The First Annual Can Bonomo Award for most bad-ass staging: Turkey
  • The Jóhanna Award for best performance by country that wants to do well without actually winning: Spain
  • Biggest Eurogasm: Spain
  • Best song the United Kingdom should have entered: Germany
  • Biggest hint to the BBC that they should reconsider how they pick their Eurovision entries: Germany for the past three years
  • Most adorable performer who isn’t a Russian granny: Germany
  • Largest, most expressive feet: Malta
  • Best scream: FYR Macedonia
  • Best tribute to Metropolis: Ireland
  • The Amaury Vassili Award for wettest squib: Ireland
  • Best performance by Eurovision royalty who really deserves a better fate: Serbia
  • The Other Svetlana Loboda Award for “more is more” staging: Ukraine
  • Best impression of the Squirrel Nut Zippers by a Colin Ferrell impersonator: Moldova

The State of Our Predictions 2012

Jen:

  1. Sweden
  2. Serbia
  3. Ukraine
  4. Italy
  5. Russia
  6. Romania
  7. Denmark
  8. Greece
  9. Turkey
  10. Germany

Last Place: Hungary

Chris:

  1. Serbia
  2. Sweden
  3. Russia
  4. Denmark
  5. Ukraine
  6. Italy
  7. Estonia
  8. Turkey
  9. Romania
  10. United Kingdom

Last Place: Hungary

Europe:

  1. Sweden
  2. Russia
  3. Serbia
  4. Azerbaijan
  5. Albania
  6. Estonia
  7. Turkey
  8. Germany
  9. Italy
  10. Spain

Last Place: Norway

This year, we both predicted six of the top 10. That’s my usual par for the course: since I started making predictions in 2007, I’ve guessed six of the top 10 four times. (I had seven of 10 in 2009 and eight of 10 in 2010). Jen is more likely to get seven of 10, so this year is a bit low for her. At least she predicted the winner.

I was going to pick Albania for the top ten, but didn’t because I thought the draw would kill her, but I picked United Kingdom for the top ten, because I didn’t think the draw would kill him. In an earlier post Jen compared Azerbaijan to “Oro” (Serbia 2008), but then when it came to it she didn’t put her in the Top 10. Obviously, making predictions for Eurovision results is not an exact science.

When we were making our picks, Jen and I realized at a certain point that there was going to be a lot of heartbreak at the end of the night. I don’t think any of the bottom five songs deserved their fates, but when you have a lot of strong songs and strong performances, someone has to get left out. Poor Norway. But on balance, I think Norway will simply add Tooji to their distinguished list of failure. Had Engelbert finished last the whinging would have been unbearable.

There were other surprises on the night. Although it finished well clear of the bottom, Ukraine’s 15th place result is the second worst finish they’ve ever had. Ireland’s legions of fans could do nothing to stop them from dropping to 19th from eighth in 2011. And Greece dropping to 17th was also a bit of a surprise, although deeply satisfying to me since I’m still bitter about them making the final… by the way, I cannot explain to you my irrational hatred of this song, since it’s a better song than “Secret Combination” and “Yassou Maria,” both of which finished in the top 10 in their respective years.

For me, there were two big stories on the night: the first is the fact that both Sweden and Russia got points from almost every country. To steal Jen’s point, Loreen had built up a big lead early, before the Scandinavian countries gave any results. We knew she was going to win and win big after only about 10 countries. Only Italy did not give Sweden points, and only Switzerland could resist the charms of the adorable Russian grandmothers. This makes sense. After all, the Swiss resisted the charms of Lys Assia in their national final, too.

The other big story is the strong performance of the Big Five. Sure, France and the United Kingdom finished in the bottom five, but Germany, Italy, and Spain rounded out the top 10.

For us, it then all became about how Donny Montell finished. (14th, by the way, with 12 lovely points from Georgia!)  Donny was great on the night and showed up the naysayers that had him pegged for the Bottom 3.

And We Have a Winner!

Congratulations Sweden, who put together a decisive and deserved victory tonight!

And how about Donny Montell, eh? Well done Lithuania, who brought it tonight and really outperformed expectations.

Results of the Final and Semis are up on eurovision.tv, and there are a few surprises to talk about. We’ll do a full debrief when we recover from our Eurovision burnout.

Predictions for the 2012 Grand Final

It was June 2011 when the first call for artists was released, and now it’s May 2012 and the contest is tomorrow.  Eurovision has truly become a year-round affair. It’s finally time to make our predictions for the Eurovision Final.  To write this post, we watched the semi-final performances in order of their final draw. In our opinion, it’s the best way to prepare short of watching the monitor in the Baku press room. When you put the songs in order, you see things you simply can’t see by eyeballing the draw or watching single songs.

For once, we don’t feel that the draw interferes with the strongest entries this year. Many of the weaker songs in the final have been drawn at the beginning, leaving the stronger entries for the latter half of the show. Unlike last year, where the draw had a big impact on the winner, this year the songs will get to compete mano-a-mano, on their own merits. May the best performance win.

Engelbert kicks off the show for the United Kingdom.  This is a far from ideal placement, but as it turns out not as tragic as one might think. “Love Will Set You Free” is a great fit for Engelbert.  Hours later, when you’re watching Serbia and his big ballad, you still remember you saw Engelbert.  Yet draw still does matter.  The middle of the show is very, very strong, and we think that’ll make tough for the UK to have a big finish. Chris has Engelbert just squeaking into the top ten, while Jen has him just out.

Songs 2-5 are among the weakest songs in the final. One of these will probably be our last place finisher. Hungary is too early in the competition to make an impact and immediately downed by Albania’s standout vocal. Lithuania smoothly transitions us from ballad to disco. He holds his own against Rona, and gives us a little something extra (as if we would expect anything less from Donny) in the second half of the song. Bosnia pulls us back to ballad land.  By this point we are feeling rather sleepy.

This early parade of ballads nicely sets up Russia, and in context 6th doesn’t seem like so terrible a draw after all. To a certain degree adorable Russian grandmothers are draw proof. They are utterly charming and so different from anything we have ever seen at Eurovision that you’d remember and love them no matter where they were in the running order. Now we feel like the show has begun (even though we’ve already seen a couple good performances).

Iceland is a contrast but placed between Russia and Cyprus its earnestness and absence of joy puts them at a disadvantage. By the end of the show, their plea to “Never Forget” will be long forgotten.

Songs 8-10 are 3 female performers with upbeat songs. On first blush, we liked Cyprus’s contrast with what came before. However, she is followed by two more experienced vocalists who are better singers. By the time we get to Greece at 16th, Cyprus is not holding up. We’re predicting she finishes out of the Top 10. France, as with last year, is killed by Italy which follows immediately after. Anggun is singing well, but rehearsal footage suggests there is too much happening onstage. France might have gotten away with it if she weren’t followed right after by Italy. Nina has similar poise and experience, but their more straightforward staging shows you can have a better impact without the acrobatics.

Estonia offers us a big ballad, followed by Norway.  Though “Stay” is one of our personal favorites, their Semifinal performance was a shambles. Even if they pull it together, Tooji has an uphill climb to finish well.  Especially with what follows.

We will be given a short break between 12 and 13 and resume with Azerbaijan. It’s at this point where the competition heats up.  Songs 13-20 are well-written, well-performed and well-staged. Any of them could make the Top 10. It’s punishing because they are all good and we don’t get a break. Dressed in a gorgeous dress, Azerbaijan delivers a power ballad. Romania follows with a solid vocal and an engaging stage show. Denmark after that. Soluna is a former front runner who has been near perfect the entire fortnight and looks like she has been greatly enjoying her Eurovision experience. Then Greece, who lightens it up with their ethno-pop. This song is simple but appealing, and there’s no reason why Greek fans won’t vote for it in droves.

In the middle of this pack is Sweden. Among all the others, somehow Loreen manages to stand out. The darkness of the performance, the movement, the excellent fit of vocalist and song…it draws you in.

Turkey follows after Sweden and holds his own. Can has a unique style, and the song’s staging is excellent. Spain follows, and in rehearsals she has arguably been laying down the best vocals of the entire show. In all likelihood she will get a good result from the juries. However, while the type of ballad she is doing gets big votes from juries, the public tends to stay away from them (see Nadine Beiler from Austria last year).

Next is Germany, who seem to have figured out how to make Eurovision work for them. Roman is the first male eye candy since Tooji, has a radio-friendly pop ballad, and vocally has been extremely consistent.

Whew.

The final batch is also good, but some aren’t quite on the same level with what we have just seen. Malta is good fun and lightweight compared what has come before. Finally a chance to catch our breath. FYR Macedonia lays down a powerhouse rock vocal, but I just think the audience will be feeling a little fatigued at this point.

On paper, we thought 23rd was a good draw for Ireland. Watching it through we’re revising that call. Jedward is about performance, not vocals, and we’ve already seen from the likes of Turkey and Sweden that others can do both. The viewing audience will appreciate Jedward’s energy, but this is a tougher field than 2011. They simply aren’t going to hold up.

At 24th we have Serbia. The last thing we want at this point is another ballad, but Serbia is just too good. Watching Zeljko’s performance, I found myself thinking “I’ve heard this before,” but I also found myself thinking “none of the others I heard before were better than him.” At the end of the day, we think this competition is a two-horse race between Serbia and Sweden.

Finally at 25th and 26th we have Ukraine and Moldova. Ukraine, in contrast to Serbia, is exactly the kind of number we want to hear at this late stage of the show. She’s going to bring down the house. Moldova is our pleasant, sweet after dinner aperitif.

Jen:

  1. Sweden
  2. Serbia
  3. Ukraine
  4. Italy
  5. Russia
  6. Romania
  7. Denmark
  8. Greece
  9. Turkey
  10. Germany

Last Place: Hungary

Chris:

  1. Serbia
  2. Sweden
  3. Russia
  4. Denmark
  5. Ukraine
  6. Italy
  7. Estonia
  8. Turkey
  9. Romania
  10. United Kingdom

Last Place: Hungary

 

Semifinal 2 Wrap Up

First off, how bored is Dima Bilan with “Believe?”

Anyway, overall, both Jen and Chris got 7 out of 10 tonight, and goddamn are we be thrilled to be wrong about Malta and Lithuania. Donny Montell has been delighting us for a long time, and we’re so happy he’ll be delighting us and our guests on Saturday.  (Jen would like to believe that folks read our predictions post, in which she said, “He’d get my vote if I had one to give. Europe needs to experience the wonder that is Donny Montell.” So she’d like to thank our readers that shared in that dream.)

And how can you not root for, as Irish commentator Marty Whelan said, “plucky Malta,” who brought a lot of fun and joy to the stage and qualified from the fourth position. We jumped out of our seats when they got through.

Bad luck for Belarus, who we thought did a great job. They’ve gotten a lot of stick (particularly from Terry Vision) for changing the arrangement of their song, but it made sense in context, and they staged it well. (Although Dmitry Karyakin sorta missed that high note.)

Of course, missing notes was kind of a theme. Both Slovakia and Norway were rough as hell, and it seems to us like Tooji and company have a lot of work to do if they expect to contend on Saturday. Particularly from 12th position.

Chris’ plan to just pick all the former Yugoslavian republics backfired, but honestly, the staging for Croatia absolutely killed their chances. Slovenia was sort a hard luck story, but she was nervous, and when faced with so many ballads, a few are going to miss out.

Ott Lepland from Estonia apparently noticed that there were a lot of ballads tonight and upped the intensity and the theatrics to good effect. Sadly, all the theatrics in the world couldn’t bring Georgia to the final, especially when having technical issues. Perhaps Anri should have gone even further over the top?

Bosnia & Herzegovina, Sweden and in particular Turkey all provided clinics on staging Eurovision entries. Ukraine, meanwhile, continued its tradition of throwing everything and two kitchen sinks into the performance, but as always, it worked anyway.

And how about FYR Macedonia? We still don’t like “Crno i blo,” but Kaliopi sold it so well, there was no doubt in our minds that she was going through.

The trouble with making picks before the shows is that it hasn’t taken into account the live show. Had we made our picks immediately after all the performances, we both would have picked Serbia, FYR Macedonia, Malta, Belarus, Ukraine, Sweden, Turkey, Estonia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, and Lithuania. Here’s how we actually did on the night:

Qualifiers Jen Chris
Lithuania
BiH x x
Serbia x x
Ukraine x x
Sweden x x
FYR Macedonia x
Norway x x
Estonia x x
Malta
Turkey x

After the show, the draw for the final was announced:

4. Lithuania

5. Bosnia & Herzegovina

11. Estonia

12. Norway

17. Sweden

18. Turkey

21. Malta

22. FYR Macedonia

24. Serbia

25. Ukraine

Both Sweden and Serbia drew seriously good slots, and we both suspect that the final votes are going to come down to them and Russia at the end of the night. To the chagrin of Jedward haters, we’d have to throw Ireland into the mix, although they are really a lovely dark horse.

Ukraine is a lock for another top 10 finish with a song that would make a better curtain raiser than 11 o’clock number, with only Moldova left to perform after. Macedonia and Turkey might also find themselves in the top 10 as well. (Fine predictions from us who said they wouldn’t qualify, of course.)

We’ll give our predictions later, but one thing we will say is that we’re in line for a really fun show on Saturday. Except for, you know, the parts where the hosts are talking.

Our Predictions: 2012 Semifinal 2

We’re having more trouble calling the 2nd Semi. We seem to get to about 7 countries, and after that who knows. With 5 ex-Yugoslav countries, surely at least one will be left out, right? But which one? Do we really think there’s enough oxygen for both Croatia and Macedonia? Or maybe all 5 make it in. And how about Estonia–does the big ballad with the telegenic singer stand a chance with the countries voting in this Semi? And what in the world do we do with Slovakia? And Georgia, good God, what about Georgia?

Serbia: Željko Joksimovic – “Nije ljubav stvar”
Jen says: Q. Serbia is professional, consistent, and well-known in the Balkans. This ballad is one of the best entries in the entire contest. Top 5.
Chris says: Q. This is the best of all the ballads you’ll hear tonight, whether it’s from a former Yugoslavian republic or not.

FYR Macedonia: Kaliopi – “Crno i blo”
Jen says: NQ. She’s working it with the press and hardcore fans, but I’m going to say that casual viewers will pass because the song isn’t good enough, and she’s going too early in the draw.
Chris says: Q. Normally, I would not bet on this, but with four other former Yugoslavian republics voting tonight, I would be shocked if this didn’t go through.

The Netherlands: Joan Franka – “You and Me”
Jen says: NQ. The staging is out of sync with this retro folk song. Folks at home will remember her for the headdress, not the song.
Chris says: NQ. Eurovision is about immediate impact, and if you’re spending three minutes trying to figure out why the performer is dressed the way she is, then the song is not going to have an impact.

Malta: Kurt Calleja – “This Is the Night”
Jen says: NQ. I hope I’m wrong about Malta, because this is a likable performance and I would love to see it qualify. But Kurt’s tonality doesn’t stand out enough.
Chris says: NQ. I’m with Jen: I so want to be wrong, because I really enjoy what Kurt and the Maltese team have done here. But I don’t know if this is memorable enough, particularly with “Be My Guest” coming up in three songs.

Belarus: Litesound – “We Are the Heroes”
Jen says: NQ. This was a good mainstream rock song, and they blew it.
Chris says: Q. Some friendly voting from Ukraine and Georgia is going to help Belarus along, I bet.

Portugal: Filipa Sousa – “Vida Minha”
Jen says: NQ. Boooring. The Lisbon backdrop is pleasant, but I don’t see that as enough to make her stand out in a crowded field of ballads.
Chris says: NQ. You’ll have forgotten about this song 20 seconds into the next song.

Ukraine: Gaitana – “Be My Guest”
Jen says: Q. Ukraine doing what Ukraine often does. Gaitana has a big voice, and the song is good fun.
Chris says: Q. It’s totally overstaged, but Gaitana is an engaging performer and the song is just a blast.

Bulgaria: Sofi Marinova – “Love Unlimited”
Jen says: NQ. Sofi’s solo turn does her no favors for this Saxobeat-like song.
Chris says: NQ. This is the Bulgarian equivalent of “Rose’s Turn.”

Slovenia: Eva Boto – “Verjamem”
Jen says: Q. I’m putting her in based on the strength of the song, but it’s not a confident pick. Eva is a good singer but other 16-year-olds have betrayed nerves on the night. The Slovene organizers haven’t helped matters by sticking her in the wedding dress.
Chris says: Q. I would rather “Verjamem” does not go through, even though I like Eva Boto, because there are better songs during this Semi. I hope the juries will ding this for being a “Molitva” rehash, but I’m not sure they will.

Croatia: Nina Badric – “Nebo”
Jen says: NQ. This song comes in the middle of the show, between 2 female singers. To stand out it has to have something special. I don’t see that happening.
Chris says: Q. Nina and the Croatian organizers have not done a great job in staging this, but I suspect bloc voting is going to carry the day.

Sweden: Loreen – “Euphoria”
Jen says: Q. Loreen will sail through.
Chris says: Q. The favorite to win it all will go through easily.

Georgia: Anri Jokhadze – “I’m a Joker”
Jen says: Q. Stranger things have happened. Memorable performances can carry a country a long way, and folks are going to remember him.
Chris says: NQ. I love this and I love what Anri did with this. But come on, is this really going to qualify for the finals? I mean stranger things have happened, like “I’m a Joker” making it to Baku…

Turkey: Can Bonomo – “Love me back”
Jen says: Q. Turkey didn’t qualify last year, but let’s not be too hasty in writing their obituary this year, shall we? This song is not conventional Turkish pop, but there is something interesting about Can as an artist. This performance has also features some clever staging that may win over some folks on the fence.
Chris says: NQ. “Love me back” is probably too odd a song for voters to put through. Not “Euro Neuro” odd, obviously.

Estonia: Ott Lepland – “Kuula”
Jen says: Q. The staging is simple and reports are the camerawork does a lot of close-ups on Ott, which is a good thing as long as he remembers to keep his eyes open.
Chris says: Q. I’m picking a lot of ballads to go through. This is one of the better ballads on the night, and Ott is going to command the stage.

Slovakia: Max Jason Mai – “Don’t Close Your Eyes”
Jen says: Q. I have no idea. His vocal is great, the performance is full of energy, and the staging is as good as a hard rock song staging can be. It’s got a late draw. Sure, why not.
Chris says: NQ. Although I really, really, really, really, really, really, really want this to go through.

Norway: Tooji – “Stay”
Jen says: Q. Everything has come together for Tooji and the world is filled with butterflies, sunshine, and happiness. WERK.
Chris says: Q. Terrific song, steady staging, dreamy performer, and a pimp slot: all the stars aligned for Tooji.

Bosnia & Herzegovina: Maya Sar – “Korake ti znam”
Jen says: Q. I find her ballad dull as can be, but Bosnia has put together a competent package. She will make it in based on a lot of help from the jury, the diaspora, and the late draw.
Chris says: Q. It’s a total snoozefest and it doesn’t seem to be popular with the diehard fans, but to sound like a broken record, there are too many former Yugoslavian republics voting tonight for this to miss the Final.

Lithuania: Donny Montell – “Love is Blind”
Jen says: NQ. Despite Donny’s best efforts I don’t think his gimmicks land. Of course, that’s exactly why we love him so. He’d get my vote if I had one to give. Europe needs to experience the wonder that is Donny Montell.
Chris says: NQ. Savor Donny while you can.

Semifinal 1 Wrap Up

Overall, Jen got 9 and Chris got 7. And, yes, Jen is still taunting Chris over his nonsense regarding Greece. And, yes, Jen had to tolerate Chris ranting for several minutes about Greece after the envelopes were opened. And, yes, Chris is still bitter.  Very very bitter.

This is a show where you could tell which performers had experience. Only a handful — Montenegro, Denmark, and Israel — looked like they were enjoying themselves. Not that it had much impact on the outcome.

Albania, Denmark, and Hungary came over strong.

Moldova and Ireland looked as good as expected.

Iceland and Romania were surprisingly unimpactful. Romania in particular should feel lucky there was a separate jury performance. The lead singer struggled with her earpiece the entire 3 minutes but still managed to turn in a solid vocal.

Cyprus botched the vocal. And people loved it anyway. I’ll admit when I’m licked.

The Semifinal results played out this way (in no particular order):

Qualifiers Jen Chris
Romania x x
Moldova x x
Iceland x x
Hungary x x
Denmark x x
Albania x
Cyprus
Greece x
Russia x x
Ireland x x

 

Immediately after the show, the qualifiers had a press conference where they drew slots for the Final:

2. Hungary

3. Albania

6. Russia

7. Iceland

8. Cyprus

14. Romania

15. Denmark

16. Greece

23. Ireland

26. Moldova

With the exception of Russia, I don’t think these early draws change folks’s prospects too much. Of course it sucks for Hungary to go 2nd, but realistically they weren’t in the hunt for the win. So better they take the spot than stick it to a contender like, say, Sweden or Serbia. Of course, 6th draw for Russia is pretty gutting. The grannies are going to have a hard time winning from here. 7th isn’t great for Iceland, but based on their Semifinal performance, Top 10 maybe isn’t so likely after all.

16th is a good draw for Greece, though maybe not ideal coming right after Romania and Denmark. Despite Chris’s irrational hatred, this pick could have them well positioned for yet another Top 10 finish. Denmark looked very good in the Semi and is well positioned for a strong finish. Hopefully Romania won’t have technical issues again in the Final.

Of all the Semi 1 qualifiers, Ireland stands to gain the most by drawing 23rd. Their Semifinal performance dispelled all concerns we had about seeming too similar to last year. Keeping the hair down is functional because of the water, but it was a stroke of presentation genius because they are showing us something new. It’s entirely possible they could do better than last year’s 8th place after all. Expect a strong finish from Moldova as well, but I hope they can tweak the camerawork a bit before Saturday.

Our Predictions: 2012 Semifinal 1

We’ve spent countless hours combing over the recorded tracks, national finals, rehearsals, comments, bloggers, news, and past voting histories.  Here’s how we piece it together.

Semifinal 1. May 22, 2012

Montenegro: Rambo Amadeus – “Euro neuro”

Jen says: NQ.  Rambo may pick up some support from juries and from Balkan fans, where he is known.  But the performance is sloppy and his sound is just too niche to achieve the big points, even from the neighbors. Bottom 3.

Chris says: NQ. Three minutes of your life you will never get back. Read a magazine article instead.

Iceland:  Greta Salóme & Jónsi – “Never Forget”

Jen says: Q. This song has drama going for it, experienced, telegenic artists, and a beautiful presentation. It will do well with both the jury and the televote.

Chris says: Q. Here’s where the show really begins, with a memorable hook and a striking staging that promises to stick with viewers for the rest of the evening.

Greece: Eleftheria Eleftheriou – “Aphrodisiac”

Jen says: Q. Greece is likely to suffer from jury support, but it’ll get 12 points from Cyprus and its faithful diaspora. Despite the mediocre song, the Greek staging and Eleftheria’s sex appeal will see them through.

Chris says: NQ. It’s a terrible song and I don’t think Cyprus and all the ex-pats in the world are going to send it to the final.

Latvia: Anmary – “Beautiful Song”

Jen says: NQ. It’s a pleasant tune with a silly lyric, competently sung. But it just doesn’t stand out.

Chris says: NQ. I can’t explain it, but this strikes me as a quintessential Semifinal song.

Albania: Rona Nishliu – “Suus”

Jen says: Q. Rona has a tendency to go sharp, which personally puts me off. I have her just squeaking into the Final because I think juries will like her power. The minimalist staging is effective.

Chris says: NQ. Too shouty, no melody.

Romania: Mandinga – “Zaleilah”

Jen says: Q. Romania’s catchy, joyful song will do very well in the televote.

Chris says: Q. “Zaleilah” is fun and charming, and after two forgettable pop numbers and a tuneless dirge, it’s just going to seem even more bright and festive.

Switzerland: Sinplus – “Unbreakable”

Jen says: NQ. Sinplus has done well in rehearsals, but something about the song itself makes me wonder if it can drive the votes.

Chris says: NQ. I think Sinplus should move on to the Final. But I also think Compact Disco is going to steal all of their thunder.

Belgium: Iris – “Would you?”

Jen says: NQ. Iris has made this more of a competition than I would have believed a couple of weeks ago. Personal preference is driving this one.

Chris says: NQ. “Would you?” just lacks the it factor that makes people pick up the phone. It’s all very pleasant, but it’s also all very unmemorable.

Finland: Pernilla Karlsonn – “När Jag Blundar”

Jen says: NQ. She’s done well in rehearsals, but I feel in my gut that Finland lacks the “so what” factor.

Chris says: Q. I’m not a fan, but I bet its simplicity and earnestness will see “När Jag Blundar” through.

Israel: Izabo – “Time”

Jen says: Q. “Time” may not be to everyone’s liking, but I hope they’ll get some support from their voting allies. I also want to believe they’ll get help from the juries.

Chris says: Q. A good time will be had by all. I think it’s as much fun as “Zaleilah,” actually.

San Marino:  Valentina Monetta – “The Social Network Song (Uh oh oh)” (Alternate view)

Jen says: NQ. Um, no. Enjoy now. Bottom 3.

Chris says: NQ. I heard Mark Zuckerberg played this at his wedding.

Cyprus: Ivi Adamou – “La La Love”

Jen says: NQ. I think she’s going to botch the vocal, and the juries will have none of it.  To make matters worse, the presentation doesn’t fit the song. (Note: I wrote this before the jury rehearsal, and it turns out she has botched the vocal in the run-through)

Chris says: NQ. She can’t dance and she can barely sing. The song is kind of catchy, but only in an annoying earwormy sort of way. Pass.

Denmark: Soluna Samay – “Should Have Known Better”

Jen says: Q. Soluna has been drama-free for months.

Chris says: Q. Everything “Would you?” wants to be, “Should Have Known Better” is.

Russia: Buranovskiye Babushki – “Party for Everybody”

Jen says: Q. The Babushki will win the televote but juries will not go for it, thus preventing the overall win. Likely Top 3, and Top 5 for sure.

Chris says: Q. They are adorable Russian grandmothers! Are you going to break an adorable Russian grandmother’s heart? I think not.

Hungary: Compact Disco – “Sound of Our Hearts”

Jen says: Q. Hungary has put together a solid performance that supports a good song. I think they’ll squeak in.

Chris says: Q. The question I have is whether or not this has an immediate impact. Songs you grow to love are not a good fit with Eurovision. But I have a feeling Compact Disco’s professionalism will win out. (Watch Csaba Walkó sing flat and make me look like a fool.)

Austria: Trackshittaz – “Woki Mit Deim Popo”

Jen says: NQ. Austria was always going to need a lot of support in the televote. But with the tacky staging, I question how well this will do with the Tuesday night audience. Juries will put this in the Bottom 5.

Chris says: Q. If Austria goes through and Greece does not, I am going to look like a genius. This pick was made more with wishful thinking and less with well-reasoned logic, obviously.

Moldova: Pasha Parfeny – “Lautar”

Jen says: Q. I’m not crazy about Moldova’s staging, but Pasha is charismatic and there are some cute moments in the choreography. They’ll be helped by the late draw.

Chris says: Q. I’ve picked the last six songs on the night to go through to the final, which is pur wahnsinn. I don’t know, I just have a feeling that there is a lot of amateurness and tweeness at the start of the show, and a lot of just plain fun at the end. Plus Pasha looks like the best parts of Colin Ferrell and Edward Norton rolled into one dreamy Moldovan package.

Ireland: Jedward – “Waterline”

Jen says: Q. Whether or not they are good on Tuesday, the Jeds have too much in their favor to not qualify. Great draw, great staging concept, and great fans.

Chris says: Q. As automatic as an adorable Russian grandmother.