Our Predictions: 2018 Semifinal Two

Our picks for the first Semi were difficult to make because there were so many acts that deserved to qualify. Our picks for the second Semi were difficult to make because we knew that 10 acts had to qualify.

Kieran has once again submitted picks. We strongly urged him not to pick San Marino, so if they actually make it to the Final, he is going to be really mad at us.

Jen:

  • Norway
  • Romania
  • Denmark
  • Moldova
  • Netherlands
  • Australia
  • Poland
  • Hungary
  • Sweden
  • Ukraine
Chris:

  • Norway
  • Denmark
  • Russia
  • Moldova
  • Australia
  • Georgia
  • Poland
  • Hungary
  • Sweden
  • Ukraine
Kieran:

  • Norway
  • Denmark
  • Russia
  • Moldova
  • Australia
  • Poland
  • Latvia
  • Sweden
  • Slovenia
  • Ukraine

Norway: Alexander Rybak – “That’s How You Write a Song”

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

Long live the King of Eurovision. Even if his song is pants.

Romania: The Humans – “Goodbye”

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

A quote from Kid Lemur: “Wait, they’re doing the mannequin challenge? That is so 2016.” Jen is picking them because… she doesn’t know why.

Serbia: Sanja Ilić and Balkanika – “Nova deca”

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

While not as jarring as Macedonia’s entry, the variety of style changes in “Nova deca” may be its undoing.

San Marino: Jessika feat. Jenifer Brening – “Who We Are”

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

If San Marino had filled the stage with angry orange robots that can’t stop trolling people on Twitter, then their staging would have made a lot more sense.

Denmark: Rasmussen – “Higher Ground”

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

As bored with “Higher Ground” as we are at this point, Rasmussen does stand out in a crowd.

Russia: Julia Samoylova – “I Won’t Break”

Jen -NQ. Confidence: Low.
Chris – Q. Confidence: Medium.
Kieran – Q.

Russia has never had a problem qualifying and even if they did, we Americans figure they can hack their way out of trouble, right? Fire up them servers, boys. You got some work to do.

Moldova: DoReDos – “My Lucky Day”

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

Moldova’s staging for “My Lucky Day” is absolutely delightful. We foresee another top five finish on Saturday might.

Netherlands: Waylon – “Outlaw In ‘Em”

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

We like the song, but the artist singing it hasn’t exactly covered himself in glory in the past week and a half. It has become very easy for us to root against him. Not that this method acting has any bearing on the live performance, mind you. How uncomfortable the staging is on television will be another matter.

Australia: Jessica Mauboy – “We Got Love”

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

We have an emerging story about gender politics at this year’s Eurovision, and it’s not just about Netta and Eleni. Jessica’s spark has been somewhat diminished in rehearsals due to fan nastiness. We hope she can find a way to a joyful and effervescent performance.

Georgia: Iriao – “For You”

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

We have no idea what anyone is going to make of “For You,” but regardless of what happens, we encourage Georgia to continue thinking outside the Eurovision box. Chris is picking them because… he doesn’t know why.

Poland: Gromee feat. Lukas Meijer – “Light Me Up”

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

It’s cheesy. It’s soooooooooo cheesy. But since when was that a problem with a Eurovision entry? On the night, with the crowd, we think this will come off okay.

Malta: Christabelle – “Taboo”

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

We’re not sure we would understand the story Malta is trying to tell had we not read about it beforehand.

Hungary: AWS – “Viszlát nyár”

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

Chris is digging his heels in and saying this is a lock to qualify. Jen is not so sure because AWS may not be strong enough vocally. Kieran doesn’t like the song because, as mentioned, we’re not raising a rock and roll kid.

Latvia: Laura Rizzotto – “Funny Girl”

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

Latvia has gone all in on Laura’s ease on stage and her eye for the camera. Let’s see if that will be enough. Tuesday’s results, and Hungary’s big arena energy right before, may give them reason to worry.

Sweden: Benjamin Ingrosso – “Dance You Off”

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

The only thing certain in life are death, taxes, and Sweden qualifying for the Final with “Dance You Off.” Unless, or even if, his lighting rig fails.

Montenegro: Vanja Radovanović – “Inje”

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

It’s probably a bad idea to bet against a Montenegrin ballad, since they have had a lot of success with them. We’re doing it anyway.

Slovenia: Lea Sirk – “Hvala, ne!”

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

We love this song. However, we follow people on Twitter who also love this song and are weeping openly about the staging. Kieran doesn’t care because he can still dance to it.

Ukraine: Melovin – “Under the Ladder”

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

Vampires in Lisbon, come alive!

Recap of 2018 Semifinal One

Eurovision is, amongst other things, a family bonding experience. So it seems fitting that we all went 6 for 10 in our picks for tonight.

Jen:

  • Azerbaijan
  • Czech Republic
  • Israel
  • Estonia
  • Bulgaria
  • Croatia
  • Greece
  • Finland
  • Armenia
  • Cyprus
Chris:

  • Azerbaijan
  • Czech Republic
  • Israel
  • Estonia
  • Bulgaria
  • Croatia
  • Greece
  • Finland
  • Armenia
  • Cyprus
Kieran:

  • Azerbaijan
  • Czech Republic
  • Israel
  • Estonia
  • Bulgaria
  • Croatia
  • Armenia
  • Switzerland
  • Ireland
  • Cyprus
Europe:

    • Albania
    • Czechia
    • Lithuania
    • Israel
    • Estonia
    • Bulgaria
    • Austria
    • Finland
    • Ireland
    • Cyprus
Photo by: Andres Putting (Eurovision.tv)

Jen and I made the same picks and we both agreed we’re getting worse at this. Then we comforted ourselves by re-reading last year’s Semifinal Two recap. For his part, Kieran lamented how bad he did, especially because he thought he was going to nail this. Welcome to the world of pretending you know anything about the Eurovision Song Contest!

We knew this Semifinal was going to be a bit of a bloodbath based on the sheer quality of the songs on offer. As we said in our preview, we could make the case for just about every act here tonight. Even so, we still found ourselves surprised by the results.

Azerbaijan’s perfect record since joining Eurovision in 2008 is now broken. Greece has missed the Final two out of the last three years. Armenia missed out on its first Final since 2011. Belgium missed out on its first Final in three years. All of the artists representing these countries were deserving finalists, but at the end of the night, nine acts needed to go home.

One of the ones that broke our hearts tonight was Croatia. We thought Franka sang well tonight, and we are sad to see that her performance didn’t land with the audience. It was a rough night for acts that just stood there and sang well. Armenia, Croatia, and Iceland were knocked out, and we wonder if voters are looking for something different than what won last year.

We could argue that Estonia did the same thing and succeeded, but the projection dress gimmick probably carried Estonia as much as Elina did.  She remains a bit iffy in her lower register, though.

We weren’t sure about Lithuania. Ieva sang well, but she also just sat there  for more than half the song. However, her emotional break as her husband approached her left us with a lovely, genuine closing image.

Kieran hit the nail on the head with Ireland. He thought the performance really came alive when the dancers appeared, and we agreed. He was less pleased about Albania, because apparently we’re not raising a rock and roll kid. No such complaints from us, as we think it’s about time Albanian rock was represented in the Final.

As usual, we jumped out of our chairs when Austria qualified. We were not confident “Nobody But You” was coming together, but we are more than happy to be wrong.

We thought Israel and Czech Republic were a bit rough, but we are hopeful that the Semifinal will have helped them get the kinks out. We really enjoyed Bulgaria’s performance, although we need to forgive a couple of bum notes here and there.

Finland’s Saara Aalto is one of those artists who is just made for Eurovision. She was fantastic and we’re thrilled that someone who has wanted this for so long gets to make the most out of her time here.

Cyprus took over as the odds leader after yesterday’s jury rehearsal, and we could see why. The staging for “Fuego” was brilliant, particularly as Eleni Foureira was always the center of the action (and lit slightly brighter than her backing dancers). Kieran thinks Cyprus could win and we can’t argue with him.

But tune in on Thursday when a specter of Eurovision past takes the stage. This ain’t over yet.

Our Predictions: 2018 Semifinal One

In predicting the results for Semifinal One we can plausibly argue the case for everyone except Macedonia. By the time you read this, we will have reviewed and revised our lists several times and we still won’t be quite satisfied with them. Now that we’ve set our picks in stone, we look forward to laughing at them later tonight.

This year, our son asked if he could make picks with us (although he declined to give us his confidence levels). Watch him go 10 for 10.

Jen:

  • Azerbaijan
  • Czech Republic
  • Israel
  • Estonia
  • Bulgaria
  • Croatia
  • Greece
  • Finland
  • Armenia
  • Cyprus
Chris:

  • Azerbaijan
  • Czech Republic
  • Israel
  • Estonia
  • Bulgaria
  • Croatia
  • Greece
  • Finland
  • Armenia
  • Cyprus
Kieran:

  • Azerbaijan
  • Czech Republic
  • Israel
  • Estonia
  • Bulgaria
  • Croatia
  • Armenia
  • Switzerland
  • Ireland
  • Cyprus

Azerbaijan: Aisel – “X My Heart”

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

Everything about Azerbaijan’s performance looks solid and professional.

Iceland: Ari Ólafsson – “Our Choice”

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

We have long posited that the audience for the first Semi is more conservative than the ones for the other shows. So it’s possible that Ari, with his anthemic ballad and big high note, is in with a chance. But “Our Choice” is really old fashioned, even for the most fuddy of duddies. We also worry that Ireland, who comes along later in the show, will steal whatever thunder Iceland would have.

Albania: Eugent Bushpepa – “Mall”

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

Although Eugent is a terrific singer, Albania is giving us a Festivali i Këngës staging, not a Eurovision staging.

Belgium: Sennek – “A Matter of Time”

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

It pains us to say that Sennek’s performance isn’t landing with us. Her styling is incomplete and the staging appears to lack any unifying moment. We’re not sure she will pack the wallop she will need to get votes.

Czech Republic: Mikolas Josef – “Lie to Me”

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

A little back injury isn’t going to be enough to slow Mikolas down. Well, technically, yes, it will slow him down physically. But you know what we mean.

Lithuania: Ieva Zasimauskaitė – “When We’re Old”

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

We predicted good things for Ieva back in 2016, so we feel bad for not backing her up here. In truth, we agonized about this pick, ultimately ruling her out for flashier songs that appear in the second half.

Israel: Netta Barzilai – “Toy”

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

Despite some fans’ concerns during the rehearsals, Netta should have no problem making it to the Final.

Belarus: Alekseev – “Forever”

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

We figure if naked Ivan and his wolves didn’t qualify, then how could Alekseev and this rose-colored nightmare?

Estonia: Elina Nechayeva – “La Forza”

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

As we said when we reviewed “La Forza,” a pop opera song like this is designed to get out of the Semifinals. Unless (or even if) Elina struggles with her vocals, she should make it out of the Semi with ease.

Bulgaria: Equinox – “Bones”

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

Bulgaria is bringing drama and visual moments we can grab onto. Plus Vlado Mihailov looks like the headmaster of Durmstrang.

Macedonia: Eye Cue – “Lost and Found”

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

They got the “lost” part right.

Croatia: Franka – “Crazy”

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

“Crazy” has been largely under the radar, but Franka has been delivering strong live vocal performances. Such is the folly of reviewing recorded versions of songs.

Austria: Cesár Sampson – “Nobody But You”

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

Our feelings about Austria are similar to our feelings about Belgium. We want to root for “Nobody But You,” but the staging isn’t clicking with us.

Greece: Gianna Terzi – “Oneiro mou”

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

As Wesley Snipes once told us, “Always bet on Greece.”

Finland: Saara Aalto – “Monsters”

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

Even if “Monsters” has the potential to go off the rails, we think that Saara Aalto will benefit from the fact that the United Kingdom, Ireland, and Estonia are voting in this Semi. That said, by no means do we think her spot in the Final is safe. She needs her fans to show up.

Armenia: Sevak Khanagyan – “Qami”

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

Sevak is a solid, charismatic performer, even through his song is a bit staid. Since there is a dearth of male vocalists who are likely qualifiers in this heat, we’ll give him the benefit of the doubt.

Switzerland: ZiBBZ – “Stones”

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

As with Albania, we wonder if Switzerland’s concert staging is going to play better in the hall than in living rooms.

Ireland: Ryan O’Shaughnessy – “Together”

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

Ireland’s music video in miniature is lovely, so we would not be surprised if they made it out of the Semifinal. Two out of three of us wouldn’t count on it, though.

Cyprus: Eleni Foureira – “Fuego”

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

Eleni is quite possibly the sexiest creature to have ever crossed the Eurovision stage. Also, her hair has hypnotic powers. Look what it has done to Eurofans on Twitter.

May 6, 2018 Rehearsal Recap

Portugal and the Big Five took to the stage today for their second run-throughs.

Here are your Eurovision words of the day:

  • Love
  • Death
  • Messages

Are there two more relaxed performers at this year’s Eurovision than Cláudia Pascoal and Isaura? Portugal are here to play genial host and Cláudia and Isaura are here to simply sing their ethereal song with no pressure on their shoulders.

Photo by: Andres Putting (Eurovision.tv)

SuRie has been a delight to follow in the lead up to Eurovision and just seems to be a lovely human being. United Kingdom have her standing in front of a tunnel of angular halogen tubes. It reminds us of a 1980s-era EPCOT Center live show. But she looks and sounds great, so we wish we liked “Storm” more.

Photo by: Andres Putting (Eurovision.tv)

Alfred & Amaia are insufferably adorable, so Spain just lets them get on stage and flirt with each other for three minutes. Grandmothers everywhere will be charmed.

Photo by: Andres Putting (Eurovision.tv)

No LED screen? No problem! Germany brought their own. Seems like a bit of a crutch to us. It’s not like “You Let Me Walk Alone” has vague, cryptic lyrics and it’s also not like Michael Schulte doesn’t have perfect English diction. Germany are over-gilding the lily.

Photo by: Andres Putting (Eurovision.tv)

Both France and Italy have songs with messages this year, so it’s interesting to contrast how the two countries stage them. France took Madame Monsieur’s straightforward national final staging and expanded it. They make full use of the stage, including the catwalk and the bridges. Emilie and Jean-Karl are clad in Jean Paul Gaultier outfits that evoke their black turtleneck look while still adding a bit of Grand Prix grandeur. They have some audience engagement at the end. Their song is elegant, and it looks like they will be able to get their point across.

Photo by: Andres Putting (Eurovision.tv)

One of the concerns we have had about Italy’s “Non Mi Avete Fatto Niente” was whether they would be able to effectively convey the song’s message to an audience that mostly doesn’t speak Italian. Italy’s solution is to overlay selected lyrics on screen while Ermal Meta and Fabrizio Moro sing on stage. Unfortunately, they are painting themselves into a corner. They show a lot of lyrics in multiple languages in order to make sure Eurovision’s full audience gets it. The effect adds up to subtitling rather than underscoring an important point. It feels like they are hitting us on the head with a message hammer.

Photo by: Andres Putting (Eurovision.tv)

After the rehearsals, each of the Big Five acts drew for their halves in the Final. (Portugal previously drew the eighth slot.) Italy is the only country that drew the second half. Before you read too much into that, keep in mind that three of the last five Eurovision winners drew the first half. It’s really anyone’s game.

May 5, 2018 Rehearsal Recap

Today’s Semifinal Two rehearsals started on a mountain and ended inside a piano-coffin. So who thought the Song Contest was getting boring?

Here are your Eurovision words of the day:

  • Props
  • Pyro
  • Tone-deaf
  • Ach, Dracule!

Russia used the “I Won’t Break” video as inspiration for their staging. Julia Samoylova sings atop a projection mountain (take that, Estonia!) while two dancers perform in front of her. It’s a reasonable way to work with Julia’s physical limitations while still making sure she commands the stage.

Photo by: Andres Putting (Eurovision.tv)

We thought “My Lucky Day” was a weird song to be sung by a trio. Moldova seems to have noticed that too and staged it like a door-slamming farce. It is glorious.

Photo by: Andres Putting (Eurovision.tv)

Netherlands is up next. Waylon has included krump dancers in the staging of his rebel country rock song. From the clips we have seen, we’re not sure that this is coming off the way he intended.

Photo by: Andres Putting (Eurovision.tv)

Australia is still very early in its Eurovision career. While they have come out of the gate strong musically, they still have a lot to learn about staging. Jessica Mauboy looks very lonely on stage singing and dancing by herself. “We Got Love” is crying out for her backing singers to join the party.

Photo by: Andres Putting (Eurovision.tv)

Georgia is lovely. Iriao just stand there and sing and let the lights and the dry ice and the fire curtain flow around them. It’s not particularly exciting, mind you, but it is lovely.

Photo by: Andres Putting (Eurovision.tv)

If Australia isn’t bringing the party, Poland certainly is. Gromee may dance like your dad after a couple of alcopops, but “Light Me Up” is goofy fun.

Photo by: Thomas Hanses (Eurovision.tv)

Malta has an LED prop on stage that shows clips from the official video for “Taboo,” amongst other images. There is also an interpretive dancer. Christabelle risks getting lost in all of the trappings, which is a shame because she is more than capable of telling her own story.

Photo by: Andres Putting (Eurovision.tv)

We don’t know how expensive pyro rigs are, but Hungary sure are making full use of their investment. Vocalist Örs Siklósi brings an intensity to his performance that matches the explosions going off around him.

Photo by: Andres Putting (Eurovision.tv)

Latvia stick with the Supernova staging for “Funny Girl.” It’s a proven winner on a national final level, but we can’t help but feel that “Funny Girl” needed a little bit extra to stand out between “Viszlát Nyár” and “Dance You Off.”

Photo by: Andres Putting (Eurovision.tv)

It seems like the only change Sweden have made to “Dance You Off” is giving Benjamin Ingrosso a more comfortable jacket. It’s like the Swedes read our blog!

Photo by: Andres Putting (Eurovision.tv)

Montenegro are doing a standard issue Balkan ballad staging for “Inje.” You know what you’re getting with it.

Photo by: Andres Putting (Eurovision.tv)

As a side note: every year there are a couple of artists who seem so delightful that we become very jealous of anyone who gets to meet them. Vanja Radovanović is one of those artists.

At first glance, Slovenia are serving up a straight-forward performance of “Hvala, ne!” Then, for reasons we don’t begin to understand, they stage a fake technical error as a way to… uh, get the crowd involved? They should have hired Jimmy Jump and the naked Ukrainian guy while they were at it.

Photo by: Thomas Hanses (Eurovision.tv)

The day finishes off with Ukraine, who have taken Melovin’s national final staging and just added more. The riser-on-fire stunt is still there, except it’s now the entire stairway to the piano that goes up in flames. Also, Melovin starts off by rising out of his piano like a vampire. (Was DJ Bobo just too far ahead of his time?) It’s over the top, which of course means it’s perfect for Ukraine.

Photo by: Andres Putting (Eurovision.tv)

May 4, 2018 Rehearsal Recap

Today’s rehearsals bridge artists from Semifinals One and Two and give the Big Five and Portugal their first crack at the main stage. We’ll keep our thoughts about the host country and the automatic qualifiers to ourselves for now, but let’s dive into today’s Semifinal action!

Here are your Eurovision words of the day:

  • Robots?!
  • Fire
  • Diva

Armenia kicked off today’s rehearsals. Sevak sounds great and brings a grounded intensity to “Qami.” It’s solid, if not exciting.

Photo by: Andres Putting (Eurovision.tv)

Switzerland was up next and, like Albania, Zibbz are bringing an arena rock performance to the Song Contest. Coco is a charismatic singer who commands the stage, which carries “Stones” about as far as it can go.

Photo by: Andres Putting (Eurovision.tv)

A few countries are using their official videos as the basis for their staging. We weren’t expecting that from Ireland, but Ryan O’Shaughnessy has taken the touching choreography from the “Together” and brought it part and parcel to Lisbon. We’re still not crazy about the song, but it’s been years since Ireland has devised a good staging for Eurovision, so we’ll take it.

Photo by: Andres Putting (Eurovision.tv)

Semifinal One closes with Cyprus and Eleni Foureira takes over. This is her stage and everyone else is just borrowing it. Cyprus moved up in the betting markets after their first rehearsal and with good reason.

Photo by: Andres Putting (Eurovision.tv)

Alexander Rybak opens Semifinal Two and there really is no better performer to do. He is not doing anything you didn’t see at Norway’s national final, but he is still doing it very well. Could he win with this? Maybe. We would be annoyed, but also happy that someone is chasing after grumpy Johnny Logan’s legacy.

Photo by: Andres Putting (Eurovision.tv)

Romania are one of two countries in the second Semi that are seemingly inspired by DJ Bobo. Here’s one of our Eurovision rules of thumb: don’t fill your stage with mannequins. It looks cheap. The Humans are also wearing masks on the backs of their heads, which means… something? Romania has always made the Grand Final in the years that they have competed, but we think they may struggle to keep that streak alive.

Photo by: Andres Putting (Eurovision.tv)

Serbia apparently saw “Love Love Peace Peace” and didn’t realize it was satire.

Photo by: Andres Putting (Eurovision.tv)

San Marino staged its first ever national final this year and decided that the only tweaks “Who We Are” needed were additional robots and signs for the robots to hold. Jessika and Jenifer Brening have different interpretations as to why the robots are on stage, which gives us the impression that San Marino didn’t really think this through.

Photo by: Andres Putting (Eurovision.tv)

Denmark has simply recreated its national final staging in Lisbon. There’s nothing wrong with it. Maybe it will resonate with viewers who don’t obsessively watch all the national finals. We’ve got no complaints, but nothing else to add.

Photo by: Andres Putting (Eurovision.tv)

Today there have only been hints at the madness to come in Semifinal Two. Russia starts tomorrow off by planting Julia Samoylova on top of a mountain. It only gets weirder from there. Stay tuned!

May 3, 2018 Rehearsal Recap

It’s tough to follow the rehearsals through short clips and reactions on Twitter and websites. There is very little consensus among the die-hard fans on the ground about what they are seeing. Except that Iceland isn’t going to qualify. Which means it probably will.

Here are your Eurovision words of the day:

  • Compentencies
  • Hands
  • The Continental

Azerbaijan kicks off the first Semi with “X My Heart.” They are showing remarkable restraint in their staging, only bringing some icebergs to perform on. Perhaps they were tipped off to the batshit insane staging to come later. Aisel looks and sounds fabulous.

Photo by: Thomas Hanses (Eurovision.tv)

Next up is Iceland. By all accounts, Ari is a lovely lad, good-natured and sweet. And he is a good singer. But god, this song is as dull as dishwater.

Photo by: Andres Putting (Eurovision.tv)

Albania has gone for a rock concert staging. Eugent is a fantastic singer and “Mall” has a big, arena-sized sound. Whether it is engaging enough to capture votes remains to be seen, especially when this style of Albanian rock has struggled in the past. We really hope they can pull it off.

Photo by: Andres Putting (Eurovision.tv)

Sennek sounds good, but something about her styling and Belgium’s staging overall isn’t clicking with us. Beyond an interesting outfit, they’ve been unable to provide a compelling stage picture. It’s a real shame, because “A Matter of Time” has gone into heavy rotation in our household. We will be really sad, but not surprised, if this does not qualify for the Final.

Photo by: Andres Putting (Eurovision.tv)

Poor Mikolas Josef injured his back during his first rehearsal and spent a couple of days in the hospital. He had been planning a very athletic performance, with backflips and other feats. Now Czech Republic have had to rethink their choreography in order to give him time to recover. He has been philosophical about the situation, saying, “Music is not about flips, it’s about many other things.” In the second rehearsal, he stood and sang while the dancers moved around him. At this point it’s unclear what kind of performance we’ll see on Tuesday.

Photo by: Andres Putting (Eurovision.tv)

Ieva Zasimauskaitė from Lithuania is standing on a bridge in a fuzzy pink sweater singing a love song to her husband, who joins her on stage at the end. If it weren’t so effective, it would be really cheesy. But Ieva’s beginning to look like a qualifier.

Photo by: Andres Putting (Eurovision.tv)

Israel has made a couple of odd staging choices. Netta is on stage surrounded by waving lucky cat dolls and standing at a table that is not a looper, because the backing singers are doing live renditions of the vocalizations. The singers seem to be struggling to keep up with Netta, which is a bit of a concern. Maybe we’re feeling a little snake bit when the odds leader shows up to Eurovision and the staging hasn’t gelled. Is this still a potential winner? We’re not sure, but we still think Israel is going to do just fine.

Photo by: Andres Putting (Eurovision.tv)

Belarus. Belarus Belarus Belarus. Belarus.

Alekseev has given us a little art film. A gory little art film. There are roses and blood and roses and archery and a dancer and more roses. If “Forever” is half as epic on television as the rehearsal footage and the Twitter commentary suggests, we will have one for the ages.

Photo by: Andres Putting (Eurovision.tv)

Estonia had some drama in the lead up to Eurovision because they needed to get a stronger projector for Elina Nechayeva’s projector dress. Because without that dress, the whole package falls apart, we guess? It’s not like we haven’t seen that effect before. Anyway, rather than rethink their staging, Estonia stuck with it and were able to raise enough money in sponsorships to pay for the production. Yay? That said, “La Forza” does stand out as different from the other songs, and Elina and her vocals are pretty. Maybe for the first time in a few years, Estonia is sitting pretty too.

Photo by: Andres Putting (Eurovision.tv)

Equinox sounds good, but Bulgaria’s staging is not doing it for us. It doesn’t seem cohesive. This is a concern, since our criticism of the song is that it felt more like a performance piece than a solid song. If the performance isn’t there, than what is it?

Photo by: Andres Putting (Eurovision.tv)

Macedonia’s staging looks like a hot mess, so at least it suits the song. There is a costume change in which Eye Cue’s Marija Ivanovska loses a backwards pink jacket to reveal a chain mail bustier. There is awkward dancing. It all makes us sad.

Photo by: Thomas Hanses (Eurovision.tv)

We hadn’t rated Croatia highly in our song review, but it sounds like Franka has shown up to play. She comes out looking classy and just belts her song. It should help her stand out in a year full of high concept stagings.

Photo by: Andres Putting (Eurovision.tv)

It looks like Austria is relying on some camera tricks to accentuate Cesár Sampson’s performance. He’s got a big platform to fly around on, but he still finds time to wander the stage. We’re worried he is not going to give a grounded performance in his efforts to fill the room.

Photo by: Thomas Hanses (Eurovision.tv)

Greece’s Gianna Terzi feels lost in the diva parade tonight. Between Azerbaijan, Israel, Estonia and Croatia before and Finland and Cyprus to follow, Gianna is just there with her blue hand. We hear Greece has some camera tricks up their sleeve that they have yet to reveal. Will that miraculously make their staging engaging?

Photo by: Andres Putting (Eurovision.tv)

Saara Aalto is finally at Eurovision and Finland has given her everything plus a couple of kitchen sinks to play with. However, what really matters to us is how well she sings “Monster” amidst all the chaos. And we think she sounds shrill.

Photo by: Andres Putting

The last four songs in Semifinal One rehearse tomorrow. Despite all our caveats and reservations, this show is shaping up to be a doozy. And this isn’t even the crazy Semifinal. It’s going to be a fun year.

Things We Learned By Reading the Bios of the 2018 Eurovision Participants

When we write our song reviews, we do research to get background into the songs and the artists performing them. But the official bios on the Eurovision site are our chance to see what the artists have to say about themselves in their own words. Or their publicists’ words.  Of course, in the past many artists have lacked self-awareness or humility. Mika Newton’s bio, in which she says “she got acquainted with the such legendary producers as … Randy Jackson,” inspired us to start writing “Things We Learned by Reading the Bios” posts so we could document such unintentional hilarity.

This year, the main thing we have learned is that the artists bios are really dull. Almost every bio can be summed up thusly: the artists are all child prodigies who attended Berklee College of Music in Boston and/or Royal Academy of Music in London and got a lot of streams on Spotify and/or views on YouTube before appearing on X Factor and/or The Voice and/or Pop Idol, then doing a musical and/or winning Dancing With the Stars. Also, their songs are about how love can transform the world.

So it is with a great deal of excitement and relief that we point you to Benjamin Ingrosso’s bio. It is a tour de force. It says so much and yet so little at the same time. His bio claims he “has turned many a head with his contemporary twist of polished pop tones and soulful performance bravado.” He brags that he is “set to consistently channel a customized stamp that falls far for [sic] the stereotypical world of Swedish pop music,” then in the very next paragraph talks about writing songs for Oscar Zia and Molly Pettersson Hammar.

He goes on to say, “Having a lit spark over in Scandinavia with his breakthrough last year, his undeniable pop sensibility and genuine musicality spread like wildfire through the rest of Europe.” “As the heat intensifies towards the US,” his bio boldly claims, “Benjamin Ingrosso is the one to watch in 2018.”

Then there’s this gem, “The years ahead points to a well-oiled peak.” First of all, years point, not years points. Grammatical error. Also, years don’t actually point. That’s not something years do. Syntax error. Also, why would you oil a peak? Why does a peak need to oiled, let alone be well-oiled?

If you’re looking for something less gushy and a bit more pretentious, let’s head over to France. Madame Monsieur start their bio, “Since the dawn of time, the old saying is that two is better than one. In some cases, it rings as true to the ears as it does to the eyes.” Let us repeat: they start their bio with the phrase “Since the dawn of time.” We like Madame Monsieur, but we can’t help but roll our eyes when we read stuff like, “Jean-Karl and Emilie’s fortuitous meeting with producer Guillaume Silvestri came at the end of a cycle of doubt, as if the planets had aligned and delivered them the way forward.”

By the way, they inform us their second single “Comme une reine” “serves as a resounding warning for the self-esteem against tyranny.” Right. Maybe it makes more sense in French.

Then there’s Elina Nechayeva (Estonia). “She is a big fan of all the classic Disney Princess cartoons and has a love for Japanese Anime” because of course she does. She dreamed of being an astronaut when she was a kid and “it is this same drive that inspired ‘La Forza.'” Not sure how much drive you need to dream of being an astronaut compared to actually becoming an astronaut, but sure let’s run with it.

Not surprisingly, given her genre, Elina “enjoys the clear structure of Mozart’s music and the passion and rich soul of Tchaikovsky. This shows also the two sides of her vivid personality – playful, yet formidable.” Maybe if “La Forza” was a bit more like Mozart’s “Queen of the Night” aria and less like “Sognu” we’d be more excited. Also, don’t mess with us in a pretension battle. We’re older and we’ve got layers.

Some other fun items we unearthed:

The Humans (Romania) end their bio with this: “The Humans project is not just about entertainment, but emotion translated in music through original compositions and remarkable remakes of the most famous rock songs.” That’s a bold claim, but are any of their remakes as remarkable as Simple Minds turning “Love Will Tear Us Apart” into a dance song? We. Think. Not.

Melovin (Ukraine) came up with his name “from a combination of the holiday Halloween and the last name of the British fashion designer Alexander McQueen.” That’s a bit of a stretch, but at least we’ve learned how to pronounce his name. Also, he is passionate about “music, perfumery and chemistry.” That’s pretty awesome, actually. Hopefully this means he plans to use smellitizer technology at his concerts.

Waylon (Netherlands) says, “‘Outlaw In ‘Em’ is an ode to his own authenticity, as well as to his many heroes who dared to be different.” This is coming from someone who named himself after a more famous outlaw country singer.

Saara Aalto (Finland) “was the most and second-most Googled person in Finland in 2016 and 2017 respectively.” Yet another time she found herself in second place.

Belarus’ Eurovision 2018 Entry

At last we come to Belarus. We delayed our review of “Forever” because we can never tell if the song Belarus initially selects for Eurovision is going to be the one that will represent Belarus at Eurovision. Given all the controversy over Alekseev’s participation at this year’s Belarusian national final, it seemed like there was a good chance that “Forever” was not going to make it to Lisbon. But, as is so often the case, Belarus’ president Alexander Lukashenko weighed in so that Eurovision preparations could move forward. He’s helpful that way.

It’s been a few years since Belarus has had a chaotic national final, so we are bathing in the nostalgia.

So, without further ado (we hope), here is Alekseev with “Forever.”

So we’ll give Alekseev top marks for staging. Knowing Portugal is not using giant LED screens at Eurovision, he showed up with an LED suit. Fabulous. If only his vocal were as good.

Of course, since the national final, he’s revamped his song a bit, so here is the official video with a new arrangement.

It’s not bad, but the vocal line is still the same. You know, the vocal line that he struggled with live and can’t seem to nail even on the recorded track. So it doesn’t exactly give us confidence that his national final performance was an off night. But he’ll have the LED suit, right? That should keep the audience happy since nothing else will.