Eurovision 2017 Superlatives

It’s time once again for Eurovision Lemurs to bestow honors on all of this year’s Eurovision Song Contest Grand Final contestants. Everyone is a winner tonight, to the chagrin of the Spanish voting public.

  • Winner of two tickets to the gun show: Israel (Imri – “I Feel Alive“)
  • The Johanna “And then there’s a dolphin” award: Poland (Kasia Moś – “Flashlight“)
  • Best mode of transportation to a steampunk winter wonderland in the clouds: Belarus (NAVI – “Historyja majho žyccia“)
  • Most effective self-censorship: Austria (Nathan Trent – “Running On Air“)

  • Handiest jive or jiviest hands: Armenia (Artsvik – “Fly With Me)
  • Best family bonding exercise: Netherlands (OG3NE – “Light and Shadow“)
  • Best revival of the Running Man: Moldova (SunStroke Project – “Hey Mamma“)
  • Best proof that rap can work at Eurovision: Hungary (Joci Pápai – “Origo“)
  • Best fusion of human evolution and chakras: Italy (Francesco Gabbani – “Occidentali’s Karma“)
  • The Anja Nissen Award for the artist we’d most like to see return to Eurovision with a better song: Denmark (Anja Nissen – “Where I Am“)
  • Best throwback to when it was just a Song Contest: Portugal (Salvador Sobral – “Amar pelos dois“)
  • Best musical representation of the plot to Equus: Azerbaijan (DiHaj – “Skeletons“)
  • The Flygande Jacob award for two great tastes that shouldn’t taste great together but do: Croatia (Jacques Houdek – “My Friend“)
  • The Maria Yaremchuck award for best use of an exercise toy for a caged rodent: Australia (Isaiah – “Don’t Come Easy)

  • Best homage to Jedward’s “Waterline”: Greece (Demy – “This Is Love“)
  • Best audition to be a Margaritaville house band: Spain (Manel Navarro – “Do It For Your Lover“)
  • Best outfit choices for Kylo Ren and Hoban Washburne when they want to hit the club: Norway (JOWST feat. Aleksander Walmann – “Grab the Moment“)
  • Best audition for the female lead in William and Kate: The Musical!: United Kingdom (Lucie Jones – “Never Give Up On You“)
  • Most successful sobriety test: Cyprus (Hovig – “Gravity“)
  • Best portrayal of the hope, the anticipation and then the ultimate disappointment of impotence (right down to the awkward kiss at the end): Romania (Ilinca featuring Alex Florea – “Yodel It!“)
  • Best song in the 21st slot of the 2017 Eurovision Song Contest: Germany (Levina – “Perfect Life“)
  • Most innovative way to shine a spotlight on the mosh pit: Ukraine (O.Torvald – “Time“)
  • Winner of the Eurovision Staring Contest: Belgium (Blanche – “City Lights“)
  • Best tribute to OK GO by frat boys: Sweden (Robin Bengtsson – “I Can’t Go On“)

Hey girl…..

  • Best love theme to every movie adaptation of a young adult romance novel ever: Bulgaria (Kristian Kostov – “Beautiful Mess“)
  • The annual award for the most successful theft of France’s thunder: the juries, who ranked “Requiem” in 18th place.
  • Most likely to get there, popular: Portugal

Also, most innovative millinery fashion!

Highlights from 2017

At the end of each Eurovision season, we take time to ask ourselves the big questions. Questions like, in a year of legitimately good songs, which song is the legitimately goodest? And, who was so clueless that they couldn’t find a clue in a basket marked “HERE ARE THE CLUES! CLUES RIGHT HERE!”? And, how many Koit gifs can one household generate?

The answer: a lot.

Biggest Misfire

For Our Consideration

Montenegro: Slavko Kalezić – “Space”
Czech Republic: Martina Bárta – “My Turn”
Macedonia: Jana Burčeska – “Dance Alone”
Ireland: Brendan Murray – “Dying to Try”
Germany: Levina – “Perfect Life”

Our Pick: Czech Republic. We felt that Czech Republic could have qualified with “My Turn” if they had come up with a more cohesive package. The juries ranked “My Turn” seventh, but it finished dead last with the public vote. Why? It may sound shallow to say that a costume cost Martina her qualification, but that unflattering gold suit destroyed Czech Republic’s stage picture. Showing the touching official video on the backdrop only accentuated how far off the mark her costume was.

Least Self-Aware

For Our Consideration

Malta: Claudia Faniello – “Breathlessly”
San Marino: Valentina Monetta & Jimmie Wilson – “Spirit of the Night”
Lithuania: Fusedmarc – “Rain of Revolution“

Our Pick: Lithuania. If you watched Fusedmarc’s performance at Lithuania’s national final and thought that all they needed to do to elevate their performance at the Eurovision Song Contest was to make the beating heart on the video backdrop more realistic looking and to glue extra long fingernails on lead singer Viktorija Ivanovskaja’s hands, then you may want to consider applying for a job on Lithuania’s creative team next year. Though they may want to think about taking their production into a different direction.

Legitimately Good Song

For Our Consideration

Finland: Norma John – “Blackbird”
Italy: Francesco Gabbani – “Occidentali’s Karma”
Portugal: Salvador Sobral – “Amar pelos dois”
Norway: JOWST feat. Aleksander Walmann – “Grab the Moment”
Belgium: Blanche – “City Lights”
Bulgaria: Kristian Kostov – “Beautiful Mess”
France: Alma – “Requiem”

Our Pick: Italy. We have listened to “Occidentali’s Karma” a lot since it won Sanremo, and we still love it. In our hearts, it overtakes “Shady Lady” as the best ever song that did not win Eurovision. At least it carries on a fine Italian tradition: “Nel blu, dipinto di blu (Volare)” only finished third in 1958 even though it has since become an iconic song. Side note: even though we aren’t fans of it, we are including “City Lights” on our list of candidates in recognition of how many people loved it. That fourth place finish is nothing to sniff at!

Campiest Performance

For Our Consideration

Montenegro: Slavko Kalezić – “Space”
San Marino: Valentina Monetta & Jimmie Wilson – “Spirit of the Night”
Estonia: Koit Toome and Laura – “Verona”
Croatia: Jacques Houdek – “My Friend”
Romania: Ilinca featuring Alex Florea – “Yodel It!”

Our Pick: Estonia. Eurovision is unpredictable. Had you asked us who was going to win this award before the Semifinals kicked off, we would have said Croatia in a heartbeat. If you had questioned us on this, we would have gotten very stabby indeed. But count us among the Eurovision diehards who were upset “Verona” languished in the Semis. Oh, “Verona” is a wondrous slice of cheese, a decent song made memorable by some serious emoting. It is kind of like the movie Valley of the Dolls, with Laura as Barbara Parkins and Koit as Patty Duke. It is delightful and will be a cult treasure for fans like us for years to come.

Biggest Diva Performance

For Our Consideration

Azerbaijan: DiHaj – “Skeletons”
Armenia: Artsvik – “Fly With Me”
Poland: Kasia Moś – “Flashlight”
Denmark: Anja – “Where I Am”
United Kingdom: Lucie Jones – “Never Give Up On You”
France: Alma – “Requiem”

Our Pick: No one. Diva is always the hardest category for us to pick. We limited our nominees to finalists, even though there were some plum candidates that did not make it out of the Semis. And yet, it’s hard to argue that this was a diva’s year. The most successful female artists on the night were Blanche from Belgium, who does not carry herself like a diva, and Ilinca from Romania, who is a powerhouse yodeler but was overshadowed a bit by her kissy-kissy duet partner. If we determined diva by results, we would go with Alma, who just missed out on the top 10 because the juries ranked “Requiem” low. But if we’re being honest, we don’t think anyone entered the pantheon this year.

Recap of Eurovision Song Contest 2017

Holy shit, you guys, Portugal just won Eurovision!

Jen:

  1. Italy
  2. Bulgaria
  3. Portugal
  4. Belgium
  5. Romania
  6. Hungary
  7. France
  8. Greece
  9. Armenia
  10. Sweden

Last Place: Germany

Chris:

  1. Portugal
  2. Italy
  3. Bulgaria
  4. Belgium
  5. Hungary
  6. Armenia
  7. Sweden
  8. Austria
  9. France
  10. Romania

Last Place: Germany

Europe:

  1. Portugal
  2. Bulgaria
  3. Moldova
  4. Belgium
  5. Sweden
  6. Italy
  7. Romania
  8. Hungary
  9. Australia
  10. Norway

Last Place: Spain

First, Brexit. Then, the Cubs win the World Series. Then, a human Cheeto wins the U.S. presidency. Now Portugal wins Eurovision. How many more harbingers of the apocalypse can this world be asked to handle? What’s next, Ottawa winning the Stanley Cup?

We are thrilled for Portugal. They took a year off from Eurovision and then thought about what they wanted out of their participation. Rather than worrying about how they did in the competition, Portugal staged a national final that was a celebration of Portuguese music and culture. An old fashioned, but lovely song sung by a quirky, but dynamic singer captured the hearts of the jury and the public to clinch the title. Unless you are an eight-year-old kid who was emotionally invested in Italy winning, you have to be happy that a country that had never won in 48 previous attempts finally achieved Eurovision glory.

As noted, we hated our picks, but we both still ended up with 7 out of 10. Jen correctly predicted second and fourth, and Chris correctly predicted first and fourth. We’ll take it.

Italy ended up finishing sixth, a respectable finish, but probably a bit disappointing considering how long “Occidentali’s Karma” was the odds leader. But a top 10 finish is a top 10 finish, and we imagine every country in the top 10, from Bulgaria down to plucky, plucky Norway, will be happy with how they finished.

A lovely little side story to this year’s competition: Moldova’s Sunstroke Project finished 22nd in 2010, but generated the Epic Sax Guy meme. This year, they finished third and while we don’t expect Sergey Stepanov is going recapture that Epic Sax Guy glory, delivering Moldova’s best result ever has got to feel good.

We were really disappointed that Austria got nul points from the public vote. WHAT THE HELL, EUROPE? You seriously believed that Spain was worth five more points than Austria? Do better.

On the other hand, we were only a point off of being correct about last place. Germany was dreadful, but at least it wasn’t actively annoying the way Spain was. We may not have picked Spain to finish last, but we are deeply satisfied it did.

For those countries who want to blame geopolitical bias or whatever on their poor results, we want to underscore something we said after 2014. If Austria and now Portugal can win, literally any country can win. It just takes lightning in a bottle. We don’t know how you capture it or even know that you have captured it, but don’t ever think you can’t.

Our Predictions: 2017 Grand Final

God we hate our picks. We have no idea whatsoever what’s going to happen this year at the Eurovision Song Contest. No idea. We hate our picks, but we don’t know how else to select them.

Jen:

  1. Italy
  2. Bulgaria
  3. Portugal
  4. Belgium
  5. Romania
  6. Hungary
  7. France
  8. Greece
  9. Armenia
  10. Sweden

Last Place: Germany

Chris:

  1. Portugal
  2. Italy
  3. Bulgaria
  4. Belgium
  5. Hungary
  6. Armenia
  7. Sweden
  8. Austria
  9. France
  10. Romania

Last Place: Germany

Italy has been such a favorite for so long that, going into the rehearsal period, we would have thought that anyone said that someone else was going to win was just being deliberately contrarian. And yet, now that we’re on the cusp of the Grand Final and we see that Italy is performing ninth, before Portugal and before Bulgaria, we can’t shake the feeling that the favorite is going to fall short.

Are we putting too much stock in the rehearsal videos of the Big 5? Francesco Gabbani’s manic energy was a bit off-putting to us, but that is not necessarily the performance he is going to give in the Final. He’s going to turn on the charm when it really matters, right?

Watching all of the performance videos in running order, we noticed two things. One, Salvador Sobral shines bright. He’s between solid if shallow Denmark and solid if strange Azerbaijan and he stands out among the strong competition around him. Two, Kristian Kostov shines bright. He is second to last to perform and gets a favorable lead in from Belgium and Sweden. “City Lights” and “I Can’t Go On” build up to “Beautiful Mess” in a way that just elevates it. Francesco has got serious competition.

Chris is now convinced “Amar elos Dois” is going to take it. Jen is not sure and, in the face of uncertainty, she does not see enough reason to pick against “Occidentali’s Karma.” Maybe “Beautiful Mess” could take the crown, but it feels to us like a second placer. Regardless of what happens, we will be happy if any of these three songs win.

We both picked Belgium to finish fourth. Chris is doing his usual thing where he decides that a song won’t make it out of the Semifinals and then when it does, he picks it for the top 10. This year, Jen is joining him in the madness.

We feel good about our top three or four picks, but after that, the doubt and the dread and the self-loathing kick in. Is Romania really a top 10 song? Are we picking France because her staging wasn’t nearly as bad as we originally thought? Why is Jen picking Greece? Why is Chris picking Austria? Why did we not pick Norway? Oh god, we should have picked Norway.

Do we really think the United Kingdom is going to finish out of the top 10? A lot of people seem excited about “Never Give Up On You.” It is going the plum 18th spot and the staging is beautiful. But Lucie Jones gets a little “crazy ex-girlfriend who fakes her pregnancy” at the end of the song. (Versus DiHaj, who is more “crazy ex-girlfriend who keys your car.”)

Then we get to the bottom of the table and the only other thing we’re sure of is that Germany is going to finish last. The backdrop video and Levina’s costume are meant to be silver, but it all looks so gray. The only way it could have been less appealing is if the color scheme was taupe. At least Spain has surfboards. And a really awful surfer dude. Should we pick Spain to finish last? It’s so bad… No. We’re going to stick to our guns.

God, we hate our picks.

Eurovision 2017: A Primer for Saturday Night Viewing

The Eurovision Song Contest is being held this Saturday in Kyiv, Ukraine. Their theme is “Celebrate Diversity,” which is somewhat ironic considering the geoblocking in the U.S., Canada, and Brazil, and the three white male hosts.

No matter. Here’s our guide of the big Eurovision story lines this year, and who to watch for in the contest.

Russia’s Withdrawal
The lead up to the contest has had plenty of political controversy. Ukrainian officials alleged that Russia’s selected entrant, Yulia Samoylova, had illegally traveled to Crimea in 2015 after Russia’s annexation. In response, Ukraine issued a 3-year travel ban against Samoylova. It was widely speculated that Russia was fully aware of the conflict that would result from her selection, and Russia’s choice of Samoylova (who uses a wheelchair due to a childhood medical condition that robbed her of her ability to walk) was a cynical, deliberate attempt to provoke Ukraine. The EBU ultimately weighed in, saying that while it encouraged the participation of all countries, it respected the local laws of the host country. Russia subsequently announced it was withdrawing from the contest this year. Yulia Samoylova, incidentally, performed again in Crimea on May 9, the day of the first Eurovision Semifinal.

Russia’s absence from the contest this year has opened up a potential power vacuum. Russia can generally be relied upon to get votes from many former Soviet bloc countries because of the large number of ethnic Russians there and shared pop culture. One thing we will be watching for on Saturday is how those points are distributed. Do other Eastern European counties (e.g., Armenia, Ukraine, Belarus) benefit? Or, will the those votes simply be distributed to the songs each country likes the best?

Who’s in the Mix to Win?
All eyes are on Italy. Almost immediately after winning Italy’s prestigious Sanremo festival, Francesco Gabbani’s “Occidentalis Karma” became the odds leader, and he has stayed there ever since. As of the time of writing, the official video has amassed over 110 million views on Youtube (10 times more than anyone else in the competition). The question wasn’t whether Italy would win, but by how much.

And then, Tuesday’s Semifinal included a preview clip of Italy, part of a standard effort to showcase 3 of the Big 6 who have automatic entries into the Final. The full live Eurovision performance is available to watch on YouTube. Gabbani’s performance was unfocused and sloppy, leaving some to wonder if the frontrunner is going to choke. Though the horserace has gotten more interesting this week, he remains the favorite.

If not Italy, then who?
Portugal, that’s who. Yeah, that’s right, Portugal. The country with the longest Eurovision drought in history, who in 48 previous appearances has never won, is in with a shot this year. “Amar pelos dois” is a gentle cabaret ballad that sounds like a recent discovery from the Great American Songbook. But Salvatore Sobral’s unique stage presence completely draws you in. Look for a lot of jury love here, as well as a potential groundswell of public support for the underdog.

Bulgaria is also in the conversation. “Beautiful Mess” is a modern pop ballad with an attractive staging that features on-screen animation. Though only 17 years old, singer Kristian Kostov is a mature, poised performer, and he delivered a very strong performance in Semifinal 2. Unlike the other two contenders, which are going 9th and 11th, respectively, Bulgaria drew the second half of the final and is slated to go 25th out of 26 songs.

Other countries in the mix to place very well on the night are Sweden, which has a prime second half draw and a clever staging involving treadmills; Armenia, with a fab song, a fab staging, and a fab diva; Hungary, with a Roma-inspired pop song; and Belgium, who struggled in rehearsals but has a song with undeniable commercial appeal.

What about the cheese?
Oh, there’s cheese. 2017 is a vintage year for cheese. Sunstroke Project from Moldova is back this year. They initially rose to fame at Eurovision 2010, when Epic Sax Guy became a global meme. The members of Sunstroke Project are eager to recapture their moment in the sun, and yet, they’re also relaxed and clearly enjoying their experience this time around. “Hey Mamma” is wildly fun and, yes, gives us more epic sax.

Romania’s song is called “Yodel It!” As you might expect, there is yodeling. As you might not expect, there are glitter cannons.

The Master of Rennet, however, is Jacques Houdek from Croatia. “My Friend” is 2017’s answer to Cezar’s “It’s My Life.” Only more so. Prepare yourself.

And in case you think it is all going to be camera tricks, fire curtains, and giant images of the artist on video projection, rest assured we still get some stage props. Keep an eye out for Austria’s moon, Ukraine’s big head, and U.K.’s mirrored fan. As if you could miss them.

How to Watch in the United States
For those of us with access to extensive cable packages, Logo will be broadcasting the Contest with commentary from Michele Visage and Ross Matthews. Though the announcement came late, Logo has been publicizing it over the last two weeks. Let’s see if more than 52,000 Americans tune in this year!

Those of us in North America without access to Logo have been stymied by geoblocking thanks to the deal the EBU signed with Viacom. At least the good people of Sweden and Germany are there to help us out. If you run into problems at Eurovision.tv, try catching the broadcast at svt.se or eurovision.de.

Updated 5/12/2017: Since we posted this primer, Portugal has overtaken Italy as the odds leader. Looks like a lot of people are putting money down on Salvador. It looks like game on!

Recap of 2017 Semifinal 2

Forget what happened on Tuesday. We’re freaking geniuses! 9 out of 10, baby!

Jen:

  • Austria
  • Romania
  • Netherlands
  • Hungary
  • Denmark
  • Croatia
  • Belarus
  • Bulgaria
  • Estonia
  • Israel
Chris:

  • Austria
  • Romania
  • Netherlands
  • Hungary
  • Denmark
  • Croatia
  • Belarus
  • Bulgaria
  • Estonia
  • Israel
Europe:

  • Bulgaria
  • Belarus
  • Croatia
  • Hungary
  • Denmark
  • Israel
  • Romania
  • Norway
  • Netherlands
  • Austria

So let’s get something out there right off the bat. When we were debating which songs could potentially miss out on the Final, we never thought it was going to be Estonia. Particularly after Koit became a legend with his epic Blue Steel. It was amazing, and we have to admit we are sad we lost our “Verona.”

But we are absolutely chuffed to bits that Norway qualified. We were worried that following Croatia was going to suck the life out of their performance. In fact, the opposite happened: JOWST and Aleksander came off as modern and professional.

As expected, Bulgaria solidified its standing as one of the odds leaders with a confident staging and effective animation. Kristian looked in command the entire way. Right now the conversations are about either Italy or possibly Portugal winning, but with those two drawn in the first half and Bulgaria drawn in the second and performing 25th out of 26, you figure Bulgaria may just top its fourth place finish of last year. Unless going that late hurts their chances. There are lot of songs to get through before “Beautiful Mess” goes on.

Hungary also had a great night. Joci performed with the most confidence we’ve seen out of him, and the staging took what he had at A Dal and elevated it. We think a top 10 finish could be in the cards.

We were a bit underwhelmed by Romania and Croatia. There was a weird lack of energy in Ilinca and Alex’s performance that dragged “Yodel It!” down a bit. It’s hard to explain, but all that madness on stage came off as a bit dull when it should have felt invigorating. Plus the glitter cannons didn’t do anything, which was just odd.

As for Croatia, we wonder if we built up in our minds the camp potential for “My Friend” to a level it could never reach. Camp usually needs to lack self-awareness to really be camp, and Jacques and his buddies seemed to be in on the joke. And yet, it was still bonkers enough that it was still campy. We call this the Scooch corollary of camp.

Belarus and Israel overcame slightly dodgy vocals, while Denmark and Netherlands overcame slightly dodgy songs with some strong vocals. We don’t see any of these songs troubling the top of the leaderboard, but they are all deserved finalists.

Lastly, let’s raise a glass to Innsbruck’s own Nathan Trent. We jumped out of our chairs when the hosts finally announced he made it through. In “Running on Air,” he sings, “I ain’t gonna stop til I make that final score.” As our son (age 8) pointed out, it made sense they announced Nathan last because he was the final score. The kid has a point.

Our Predictions: 2017 Semifinal 2

It’s not often that we both have the same qualification picks. Even though we often appear to be of the same mind, you don’t know how much we agonized separately to narrow this potentially epic Semifinal down to just 10. We then agonized together because looking through historical voting data is no fun by yourself.

Jen:

  • Austria
  • Romania
  • Netherlands
  • Hungary
  • Denmark
  • Croatia
  • Belarus
  • Bulgaria
  • Estonia
  • Israel
Chris:

  • Austria
  • Romania
  • Netherlands
  • Hungary
  • Denmark
  • Croatia
  • Belarus
  • Bulgaria
  • Estonia
  • Israel

Serbia: Tijana Bogićević – “In Too Deep”

Jen – NQ. Confidence: Medium.
Chris – NQ. Confidence: Medium.

As Serbia worked on its staging this week, we realized that “In Too Deep” is saddled with a poor vocal arrangement, which makes the song sound muddy and hurts the overall impression. We have a feeling this is going to play as a bit of throat-clearing before the show kicks off in earnest with Austria.

Austria: Nathan Trent – “Running On Air”

Jen – Q. Confidence: Medium.
Chris – Q. Confidence: Medium.

A decent song elevated by a charming performer and a fun staging. To think we were worried. Nathan’s gonna swim like a champion.

Macedonia: Jana Burčeska – “Dance Alone”

Jen – NQ. Confidence: Medium.
Chris – NQ. Confidence: Medium.

We love this song, but we hate the way Macedonia staged it. Shi from escgo! sums the problem up nicely. With any luck, this will go through instead of Netherlands, but we’re not holding our breath.

Malta: Claudia Faniello – “Breathlessly”

Jen – NQ. Confidence: Low.
Chris – NQ. Confidence: Medium.

Look, a lot of artists at Eurovision this year have plastered their mugs all over the video backdrop. But does anyone look more conceited than Claudia when doing it?

Romania: Ilinca featuring Alex Florea – “Yodel It!”

Jen – Q. Confidence: Low.
Chris – Q. Confidence: Low.

We expect this to qualify, but something has been bothering us about the staging for “Yodel It!” Romania’s key selling point is Ilinca and her yodeling. Yet in the camera clips we’ve seen, they cut away from her when she is yodeling. Granted, Alex is the more charismatic of the two singers, but the song is called “Yodel It!” It’s like Romania is missing the point of its own song.

Netherlands: OG3NE – “Light and Shadow”

Jen – Q. Confidence: Low.
Chris – Q. Confidence: Low.

If the results of the first Semi are any indication, there isn’t a lot of patience for dated crap like this. Still, it’s hard to pick against it when the Vol sisters are singing well.

Hungary: Joci Pápai – “Origo”

Jen – Q. Confidence: High.
Chris – Q. Confidence: High.

We’ve been listening to the ESC Insight podcast, and on Sunday’s episodeMonty Moncrieff and Ewan Spence discussed how the staging for “Origo” tells a Romeo and Juliet story. And gosh darn it if Joci and dancer Alexandra aren’t telling that story better than the song in this Semi actually inspired by Romeo and Juliet.

Denmark: Anja – “Where I Am”

Jen – Q. Confidence: Medium.
Chris – Q. Confidence: Low.

Anja is a singer to be reckoned with. Even if the song isn’t the best, she is gonna drag it to the Final through sheer force of will.

Ireland: Brendan Murray – “Dying to Try”

Jen – NQ. Confidence: Medium.
Chris – NQ. Confidence: High.

Stop watching “Dying to Try” if you experience the following: nausea, stomach pain, suicidal thoughts, or ringing in your ears. Call your doctor immediately. Do not watch “Dying to Try” if you are pregnant, planning to become pregnant, have been pregnant before, have never been pregnant, or have boy parts.

San Marino: Valentina Monetta & Jimmie Wilson – “Spirit of the Night”

Jen – NQ. Confidence: Medium.
Chris – NQ. Confidence: Medium.

We like that San Marino decided to give “Spirit of the Night” a disco club atmosphere. If we were in a disco club it would be fun. Here, it just looks like an unfocused mess.

Croatia: Jacques Houdek – “My Friend”

Jen – Q. Confidence: Low.
Chris – Q. Confidence: Medium.

Do you even realize how hard it is to switch from pop voice to opera voice like that? Yes, the song is insane and the staging is even more insane, but like Cesar before him, Jacques rises above it all.

Norway: JOWST feat. Aleksander Walmann – “Grab the Moment”

Jen – NQ. Confidence: Low.
Chris – NQ. Confidence: Low.

“Grab the Moment” is a cool song and we hope that voters watching tonight agree. But we’re afraid it’s going to get lost in the shuffle.

Switzerland: Timebelle – “Apollo”

Jen – NQ. Confidence: High.
Chris – NQ. Confidence: High.

The Barbara Dex Award competition is going to be fierce this year, but at least Switzerland is in with a chance to win something in Kyiv.

Belarus: NAVI – “Historyja majho žyccia”

Jen – Q. Confidence: Medium.
Chris – Q. Confidence: Medium.

Belarus should sail right through the Final, so long as they don’t crash into the Forbidden Desert.

Bulgaria: Kristian Kostov – “Beautiful Mess”

Jen – Q. Confidence: High.
Chris – Q. Confidence: High.

Kristian is the youngest competitor at this year’s Eurovision, but he is one of the most mature performers. He will qualify with ease.

Lithuania: Fusedmarc – “Rain of Revolution”

Jen – NQ. Confidence: High.
Chris – NQ. Confidence: High.

This is the week where we envy the folks in the press room, but we also recognize that to pay for that privilege, they are forced to listen to songs like “Rain of Revolution” again and again. Their ordeal will be over soon.

Estonia: Koit Toome and Laura – “Verona”

Jen – Q. Confidence: Medium.
Chris – Q. Confidence: Low.

Falstaff wishes he ate that much ham.

Israel: IMRI – “I Feel Alive”

Jen – Q. Confidence: Low.
Chris – Q. Confidence: Low.

The song and the staging are fun, IMRI is eye candy and has drawn a good slot, and… well, the vocal may be a bit dodgy. No matter: the plusses outweigh the negatives.

Recap of 2017 Semifinal 1

Jen:

  • Sweden
  • Georgia
  • Finland
  • Azerbaijan
  • Portugal
  • Greece
  • Moldova
  • Cyprus
  • Armenia
  • Slovenia
Chris:

  • Sweden
  • Georgia
  • Finland
  • Azerbaijan
  • Portugal
  • Greece
  • Moldova
  • Poland
  • Cyprus
  • Armenia
Europe:

  • Moldova
  • Azerbaijan
  • Greece
  • Sweden
  • Portugal
  • Poland
  • Armenia
  • Australia
  • Cyprus
  • Belgium

Chris got 8 out of 10 and Jen got 7 out of 10. Jen in particular is annoyed with her result, but she is happy that juries are no longer forcing through songs like “On My Way.”

What have we learned? First off, Portugal feels like a legit contender to win. The gentle, controlled performance of “Amar Pelos Dois” stood above all the other songs tonight. We include the clips of Spain, United Kingdom, and even Italy that were shown in the interval. Francesco Gabbani needs to dial back his energy a bit so that it looks infectious and not manic.

Sweden does not seem like a contender to us. Robin Bengtsson seemed to be performing on autopilot and we’re wondering when he is going to turn on the jets and really perform. The immediacy he had back in that third heat of Melodifestivalen has slowly disappeared. It’s still good, but it could be so much better. Maybe he’ll find it in the Final.

Of course, Portugal and Italy are both drawn into the first half of the show and Sweden is drawn into the second. There are only three slots left to fill in the second half of the show, so if there is another contender coming through Semifinal 2 (say, Bulgaria), they are likely to get drawn in the first half as well. This could turn out to be very interesting indeed.

Are we ready to admit we are wrong about Belgium? It looks like YouTube views and digital sales of “City Lights” went up after Blanche’s performance. Obviously, the song has something that people besides us get. So much for our smugness!

We were very surprised Australia and Greece  made the Final. Neither Isaiah or Demy (or her back-up singers) really delivered in our book, and there were a lot of bum notes being thrown around in both performances. We are really looking forward to see the split between the jury and the public votes. Did juries help put them through?

The biggest disappointment on the night for us was Finland not qualifying. We thought “Blackbird” was ravishing. At least we can understand how Belgium went through. How this did not is a mystery to us.

Otherwise, there were no big surprises. We absolutely adored Azerbaijan and Armenia. Armenia in particular seems cruising for a top 10 finish this year. What does it say about us that we thought Azerbaijan’s performance was straightforward? Cyprus and Poland were solid, if not spectacular. All were deserved qualifications.

Then, we come to Moldova. Sunstroke Project are drawn into the first half and we are guessing that they will be chosen to open the show. In a way, we hope they aren’t because they would be the perfect palate cleanser between, say, “Flashlight” and “Skeletons.” But we can see the producers looking at “Hey Mamma” and saying to themselves, “Let’s get this party started right.”

Our Predictions: 2017 Semifinal 1

It is now the time of the year we make our predictions and then immediately regret three of them after seeing the live show and then still end up with 8 out of 10 correct. Let’s see if that pattern continues this year!

Jen:

  • Sweden
  • Georgia
  • Finland
  • Azerbaijan
  • Portugal
  • Greece
  • Moldova
  • Cyprus
  • Armenia
  • Slovenia
Chris:

  • Sweden
  • Georgia
  • Finland
  • Azerbaijan
  • Portugal
  • Greece
  • Moldova
  • Poland
  • Cyprus
  • Armenia

Sweden: Robin Bengtsson – “I Can’t Go On”

Jen – Q. Confidence: High.
Chris – Q. Confidence: High.

“I Can’t Go On” is a fun and, more importantly, memorable way to open the show.

Georgia: Tamara Gachechiladze – “Keep the Faith”

Jen – Q. Confidence: Low.
Chris – Q. Confidence: Low.

Neither of us are fans of the song, but it’s hard to ignore how many friends Georgia has in this Semi. Not to take anything away from Tamara, who has been singing it well.

Australia: Isaiah – “Don’t Come Easy”

Jen – NQ. Confidence: Low.
Chris – NQ. Confidence: Low.

It may seem harsh to judge this based on a 40-second glimpse at the camera work. But when we consider how much of a selling point Australia has made Isaiah in its staging and how little he engaged the camera while strolling on his needless prop, we wonder if he will connect with anyone watching at home. Going third may just seal his fate.

Albania: Lindita Halimi – “World”

Jen – NQ. Confidence: High.
Chris – NQ. Confidence: High.

Albania’s kitchen sink approach has made for a mess of a staging. Lindita may try to oversell her vocal, which will only make it worse.

Belgium: Blanche – “City Lights”

Jen – NQ. Confidence: Medium.
Chris – NQ. Confidence: Medium.

Putting aside whether or not Blanche is going to give a confident performance, Belgium’s staging and costuming are nowhere near as cool and urban as the song. The disconnect between the stage picture they’ve created and the song they are presenting is striking.

Montenegro: Slavko Kalezić – “Space”

Jen – NQ. Confidence: High.
Chris – NQ. Confidence: High. 

All this needs to work is a good vocal performance and two back-up dancers. Unless Slavko has met some friends at the Euroclub he can throw onstage last minute, he is totally screwed.

Finland: Norma John – “Blackbird”

Jen – Q. Confidence: Medium.
Chris – Q. Confidence: High.

Gorgeous, sophisticated staging for an ethereal ballad. We expect this to pack an emotional wallop. First chills of the evening.

Azerbaijan: DiHaj – “Skeletons”

Jen – Q. Confidence: Medium.
Chris – Q. Confidence: Medium.

We always welcome Azerbaijan’s penchant for high concept staging. Anyone who says that this is too weird to qualify should remember that they have qualified with weirder stuff than this.

Portugal: Salvador Sobral – “Amar pelos dois”

Jen – Q. Confidence: Medium.
Chris – Q. Confidence: High.

Shamelessly old-fashioned, but charming. This year, Portugal rethought what it wanted to do at Eurovision and they will be rewarded for their efforts.

Greece: Demy – “This Is Love”

Jen – Q. Confidence: Low.
Chris – Q. Confidence: Low.

Even with Greece missing out on the Final last year, we have learned to bet against them at our own peril. (To wit, they had an unusually bad entry in 2016.) We’re not entirely confident “This Is Love” is going to come together in the end, but we are willing to give them the benefit of the doubt.

Poland: Kasia Moś – “Flashlight”

Jen – NQ. Confidence: Low.
Chris – Q. Confidence: Low.

Jen thinks the song is not good enough, the juries will not respond to it, and Poland lacks voting allies in this Semi to overcome all that. Chris thinks there is something to be said for having an emotional connection to your song. Kasia is selling “Flashlight for all it’s worth. ($5.99 or something like that.)

Moldova: SunStroke Project – “Hey Mamma”

Jen – Q. Confidence: Medium.
Chris – Q. Confidence: High.

It’s a bit hokey and a bit self-aware, but “Hey Mamma” is so full of glee and charm that you can’t help but enjoy it.

Iceland: Svala – “Paper”

Jen – NQ. Confidence: Low.
Chris – NQ. Confidence: Medium.

Svala is uncompromising, and we like that. She is still singing the song “Paper,” and we don’t like that.

Czech Republic: Martina Bárta – “My Turn”

Jen – NQ. Confidence: High.
Chris – NQ. Confidence: High.

Ugh, poor Martina looks like a sad, discolored disco ball in that gold lamé jumpsuit. The Barbara Dex Award was made for outfits like this. Even if it were actually flattering, it would still derail what is meant to be an intimate, emotional ballad.

Cyprus: Hovig – “Gravity”

Jen – Q. Confidence: Medium.
Chris – Q. Confidence: Medium.

You have to hand it to Hovig: this is an ambitious choreography to attempt. If he and his dance crew can pull it off, it should go over quite well. Also: G:Son wrote this song and Greece, Spain, and Sweden, who all vote in this Semi, usually buy what he is selling.

Armenia: Artsvik – “Fly With Me”

Jen – Q. Confidence: High.
Chris – Q. Confidence: High.

Artsvik is fierce. Armenia has one of the best marriages of song and staging this year.

Slovenia: Omar Naber – “On My Way”

Jen – Q. Confidence: Low.
Chris – NQ. Confidence: Low.

Jen thinks the juries will eat this up. Chris hates this song and is picking against it out of spite.

Latvia: Triana Park – “Line”

Jen – NQ. Confidence: Low.
Chris – NQ. Confidence: Low.

As much as we like “Line,” the presentation is a bit of a visual assault. There’s too much going on to process and, seeing as we’re not at a rave spaced out on ecstasy, we’re not sure this is going to go over well.