07 May 2013
When Eurovision executive producer Jon Ola Sand tweeted several weeks ago that there was a “high level of music quality” this year, I chuckled. The songs seemed mostly a rabble, with Copenhagen having no chance to measure up to Malmo in any way. At least not musically. So what happened in Denmark on Eurovision Island with the first semi final? The show proved mesmerising. Not so much in something that rocked our world, more in the abstract and incongruity of it that’s left me still in a state of flux.
First, the stage was way too big. It wasn’t just the viewer needing to make adjustments, so did the artists. Several failed, notably Armenia, Latvia, Estonia and Moldova. They looked totally overwhelmed, like being in a giant dollhouse. Sweden and Netherlands got it right, keeping it dark and relying on spotlights. Albania was the first nation to appear that had the right answer: props. While Hersi tried by elevating herself on a podium to make herself bigger, the right way proved to be other objects on the stage to provide scale against the performer, and becoming the pseudo background. Russia, Ukraine and San Marino excelled here. Iceland and Portugal managed to overcome the problem with sheer numbers of people and instruments. Azerbaijan, Hungary and Montenegro overcame the problem by movement of either themselves, fellow performers, or both. Of course, I’m still to comprehend what the hell does the actual giant cube mean?
This semi final was always the loaded one with quality, and it proved such. Any song that made the final would be acceptable. Even the potential lamest of this group – Portugal – managed to produce something really good with their lightweight fluff piece. Ultimately, it’s difficult to be critical of the results returned by jury and televote, even if one of my big personal favourites missed out, that being Estonia and “Amazing”.
Scores and Summary
9 Sweden – Simply brilliant… and 90% of that is Sanna herself. Song not the greatest.
9 Russia – The harmonies were a delight. Presentation superb. Stuck it to Europe.
8 Montenegro – Probably the most outstanding of the night in terms of surprise
8 San Marino – Sounded superb, nice softer look, so happy for Valentina
8 Hungary – Class all round. If I want something to win, this is it.
8 Estonia – Great song, nice voice, choreography seemed slow, overwhelmed by stage
8 Iceland – Superb, fun performance
7 Ukraine – Presentation great, and developing a thing for this girl. Smoking hot.
7 Netherlands – Again, superb sounding voices, and they really captured audience
7 Moldova – Another greater singer. Song probably not strong enough.
7 Latvia – Needed to close the stage down, sit on stools. Folk singers behaving like rock stars? Come on!
6 Azerbaijan – Beautiful voice, song stagnant
6 Armenia – A let down. Repetitive. Why is it a favourite? Many others better.
6 Albania – Another stellar voice with a weak song
6 Portugal – Made the best out of an average song
5 Belgium – Too much wailing. Too loud. Lost control of the song. Dodgy theme.
With all the troubles in Crimea and the Ukraine, there was a pre-ESC threat and petition from fans not to vote for Russia. With Estonia, Latvia and Ukraine all in this semi final and all with large Russian populations that historically give top marks to Russia, it was unlikely Russia would fail to make the final. We’ll get a guide about sentiment towards Russia during Saturday’s final when we see actual points awarded. We know already courtesy of Jon Ola Sand that just 3 points separated 10th and 12th places, so it’s possible Estonia and Latvia tipped themselves out of the top 10 by voting Russia high. The full semi final results are released after the final is complete.
The average score is 7.2. That beats the previous record of 6.9 from SF1 in Malmo. Wow.
Of my top 10 before the final, Armenia and Latvia dropped out for Iceland and Netherlands.
Compared to the actual results of the show, eight of my top 10 made the final. The two that missed were Estonia and Moldova. Armenia and Azerbaijan took their place.
Montenegro is an interesting journey. I went off it after initially loving it, feeling it was too cliche of previous Balkan ballads. Now I’m back on it. Sergej really captured the magic. I’m so happy for them as a nation too. Their first time ever to the final. Their first 3 years they had the unwelcome spot of being first song in the first semi final. With a reasonable draw last year, they bombed even though making a sparkling presentation. They must have thought Eurovision was against them. While most of the other Balkans stayed away, Montenegro stuck in with honour and integrity.
Of course, when you talk emotion and deserved finalists, nothing beats San Marino. I wasn’t too sure initially when I saw Valentina without a microphone in hand. I always think real singers should have one as it looks too much like preaching. Ultimately, the song and the vocals carried Valentina through. It’s San Marino’s first time in the final too.
Quite disgraceful that the audience booed Russia when they were announced as a finalist. The Tolmachevy Sisters are in Copenhagen to shine with their beautiful song with their beautiful voices and telling the world to show some love. In return, they get booed. I loved the footage the broadcasters showed during the second recap of the performers immediately after the song heading back stage, and it was especially great to see the Tolmachevy Sisters look so defiant and rejoicing in their success of reaching the final. So yeah, stick it up Europe! It’s not like Europe are doing anything about Ukraine, so why should the Tolmachevy Sisters? They are only 17 years old. They are innocent pawns in a high stakes game of geopolitics. Please treat them respectfully.
Despite my great loyalty, it was no surprise to see Estonia and Tanja miss the finals. The performance didn’t captivate like it did in the Estonian National Final, and there were just so many other great performances to overcome. The choreography had changed too, and while the opening sequence laying on the floor was good, the next opening that we saw when Tanja sat up was not a great portent. Then the giant stage… Maybe later in the draw once the viewer’s focus was attuned, the song might have achieved better. Given that tenth spot was so tight, it will be interesting to know if she was close.
One thing Estonia and Tanja did win is best introduction. The personal formation of flags by the contestants was a well conceived idea by the Danes, and Tanja moving the shipping containers around to form the Estonian flag was just brilliant. More than that, women are noted for excelling in that particular role of container handler. They have calmer nerves than men and a defter touch. So it certainly wasn’t any tokenism having Tanja in that crane.
Oh, and can we go at least one year without the hideous Jedward ruining our ESC enjoyment? Grrr.
With one show down and two to go, be sure to check the Full Preview of Eurovision here
Look for a review of Semi Final 2 around 1600 GMT on Friday. Australia’s timezone and the requirement to work means the show will be watched Friday evening Australian time.