20 May 2015
If anyone was not exhausted after the first semi final of this year’s Eurovision Song Contest in Vienna, then they are not human. With many of the weaker songs opening the contest, it was a tepid start before the show blossomed into a breathtaking and dramatic journey through to its completion. Starting at Greece from song 6, the cavalcade of quality, powerful songs, not to mention some brilliant vocals throughout, was only punctuated by lower grade efforts on two occasions – and thankfully so, simply to catch your breath.
01 Moldova – Eduard Romanyuta – I Want Your Love – 5
A great, energetic start to the show – for 90 seconds at least – before the cheapness of the song, and the presentation, failed to hold attention.
02 Armenia – Genealogy – Face The Shadow – 4 (q)
The presentation was beautiful, vocals were good, the song is still pompous drivel.
03 Belgium – Loic Nottet – Rhythm Inside – 6 (q)
The most distinctive song of the night and with great choreography. I probably had seen enough after 2 minutes. Even though it’s a song that will never appeal, I can admire Loic’s talent, especially his dance moves.
04 Netherlands – Trijntje Oosterhuis – Walk Along – 7
Sung really well and nice that the strange zigzag booby dress used in a rehearsal had disappeared. The veil at the start was odd. Overall, Trijntje succeeded in bringing a real intimate feel to the song. It needed that because, sadly, the repetitious “why eye eye” was always a drawback. It took me a few listens to really like this song, which is not a luxury most viewers of Eurovision enjoy.
05 Finland – Pertti Kurikan Nimipäivät – Aina mun pitää – 0
Garbage. Somehow they sounded even worse than the Finnish selection. Officially, it’s my worst Eurovision song ever, taking over from Croatia’s Severina with “Moja Stikla” in 2006. It shows that novelty acts do not succeed without substance behind them. Right, Conchita and Lordi?
06 Greece – Maria Elena Kyriakou – One Last Breath – 8 (q)
Now we’re cooking. Stunning performance. My favourite voice of this year’s contest was flawless and sounded almost orgasmic. Maria Elena said the performance would be dignified, and the only time it might have strayed was the slow double-palm hand slide down the microphone stand late in the song. Ooh, aah. There were doubts Greece could qualify (even I had them) with a ballad that, superficially, does not offer anything overly exceptional. Mostly it is Maria Elena. She deserved it, and I impulsively gave her a fist pump and a loud “yeah” when she was announced as a finalist.
07 Estonia – Elina Born & Stig Rästa – Goodbye to Yesterday -10 (q)
In contrast to my concern with Greece to qualify, Estonia was a certainty. There would have been a reaction had they not qualified, notably fury, outrage and despair, especially after the most flawless and mesmerising presentation I can remember. After hearing this song so often already, I never expected to be transfixed by it. The brilliant lighting that isolated Stig and Elina, the tremendous and stoic dramatisation as they performed, it really highlighted the theme of the song and transformed it to a new level. It takes something special for me to give a 10 – I can’t even remember the last one – so it’s a remarkable achievement. You need a great song and a superb, artistic presentation to further capture it. They succeeded in every possible way. Pure class.
08 FYR Macedonia – Daniel Kajmakoski – Autumn Leaves – 7
The biggest surprise of the night in terms of presentation was seeing the three homeboys perform with Daniel. Am I up (or is that down?) with the right expression? Either way, while the backers added to the song, the integration with the performance was a disaster. It was almost like mini homeboy flashmob (wow, double urban slang) on stage. Had they been standing in a row it might have worked better. It’s unfortunate, because a nice song missed out on the final.
09 Serbia – Bojana Stamenov – Beauty Never Lies – 7 (q)
Great vocals! When this burst into life, a big smile emerged on my face. Still, I wasn’t sure if this would make the final, probably battling with FYRM for one of the last spots.
10 Hungary – Boggie – Wars For Nothing – 7 (q)
Seeing this song performed a few times now, it was difficult to find much new in it. By the end, Boggie, along with the superb graphics, managed to capture me again. No doubt because it ended on a really nice, subtle touch. She still should consider some taller heels.
11 Belarus – Uzari & Maimuna – Time – 6
They did as good as possible with an average song. This was the first “break” in the emotional cavalcade.
12 Russia – Polina Gagarina – A Million Voices – 9 (q)
I needed that break from the emotional cavalcade because Russia left me quite breath-taken and even a tear welling. Oh shut up! Polina seemed a tad nervous at the start, squishing the pronunciation of some words, before finding her groove. Like with Stig and Elina from Estonia, Polina dramatised the song with so much passion, almost to the point that she was in tears. She even had the crowd cheering – a remarkable change from the boos that Russia received last year. Polina had a band on stage too, which was a nice and interesting surprise. It made it less “diva”, and therefore more humble.
13 Denmark – Anti Social Media – The Way You Are – 5
Phew! Time for another break. In the context of all the dramatic and powerful songs, Denmark was disturbingly hollow. What was with the constipated expression on the singer’s face as well? This song always suffered from repetition, despite its infectious melody. I think I zoned out through much of it. That will teach Denmark for not sending Anne Gadegaard!
15 Albania – Elhaida Dani – I’m Alive – 8 (q)
Another fabulous voice and beautifully sung.
15 Romania – Voltaj – De la capat (All over Again) – 7 (q)
I wondered how Romania could impart the message of their adorable song while singing most of it in Romanian. It was done by stills from the official video on the giant LED screens. In a nice touch, the boy that featured from that video, the camera cut to him at the end of song sitting in the green room. He was later taken to the stage by the band. The lead singer says his family and children are in Vienna so possibly it’s one of his kids.
16 Georgia – Nina Sublatti – Warrior – 6 (q)
Best outfit of the night and tremendously powerful solo display. The song did wear thin by end as it always has. It would have relied on first impression to get through, which has always been its strength. After all, it won the round of first impressions in the “Battle of the Warriors” against Malta’s “Warrior” song. Malta levelled on durability, and now the pressure is on Malta in SF2 to at least make the final.
Total score is 102 for an average of 6.4. Any show over 6 is doing well. If we exclude Finland (scored 0), the average jumps to 6.8. Note that any show that achieves over 7 is outstanding. Exclude Armenia (4), the average is 7. If you can forget Finland (that should not be too difficult), then this is one of the great Eurovision shows. The highest ranked show is last year’s first semi final of 7.2. The year before, again the first semi, average score was 6.9.
It was nice that the hosts said “good morning” to Australia, and this time the reference to the morning was accurate because finally we were able to watch live. Previous years there’s been references to Australians being up in the middle of the night for Eurovision and falling asleep on the couches. No, Eurovision has always been delayed to early evening time-slots of Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights. We still get that schedule and its zany extras this year, along with the 5am live broadcast, which is win-win for everyone. Let it continue.
To actually vote, that was an amazing buzz. I was curious how the phone app worked, and all it does is push your votes to a SMS, saving you the typing. It is handy to simply click on a country and hit “send” and also have the opportunity to keep voting for that country. The app actually only allowed 19 for me; maybe I did something wrong at a point when I cancelled some of the warnings. Anyhow, my votes went 4 for Netherlands and Greece, 3 for Estonia, 2 for Russia, Romania and Albania, and 1 each for FYRM and Georgia. I wonder if Greece only qualified by a few votes? I’d be so proud! The complete results are released after the final.
In a contrast to most years, the finalists were read out so quickly! There was barely a chance to see them celebrating. The organisers obviously wanted to stick to the 2 hour schedule, and they managed it. Let’s hope they can find a few extra minutes in SF2. You do need a little bit of drama.
Any hard luck stories?
No. For the first time ever, the voters and the jury got the official Top 10 right. While the scores suggest Netherlands and FYRM should advance instead of Armenia and Belgium, objectively, it’s difficult to make an argument for them. From my pre-ESC SF1 Top 10, the only other song to fail was Denmark, and definitely that was fair enough on the night. If I could alter the top 10, the only change I’d make is to toss out Armenia for the Netherlands.
Great to see Guy Sebastian being interviewed during the interval along with fellow pre-qualifiers France and Spain. I sense now part of the reason for Guy’s selection is his experience and professionalism, whereas someone like Dami Im might have been starstruck. That’s not to say Europe would not have been smitten for her and even more excited by Australia’s presence on stage. So far Guy seems unfazed by all publicity and intensity that comes with Eurovision, even realising less is more with his performance by dumping much of the lighting and pyrotechnics he originally had. He’s been a great ambassador so far.
There’s nothing to say about SBS’s commentary this time, which is good! Both Julia Zemiro and Sam Pang were professional and imparted the right amount of knowledge to the viewer. Pang cut down severely on his inane and often childish jokes, and those that he made were witty rather than demeaning. The best being about Polina from Russia losing 30kg after pregnancy, and Pang responded by saying it must have been a big baby. The only advice I could give is during one of the two recaps, please be quiet!
This change in approach is no doubt due to Australia’s involvement in Eurovision. It’s forcing us to talk about music, not wind machines and sequins. Surely the jokes about wind machines have run their course? Rather than watching for some idiotic costume for a cheap laugh, now we’re be watching to compare Guy against the competition. Whether this courtesy extends to the remaining shows, or even removing the traditional snide tweets inserted during the postcards of the main broadcasts over the weekend, that remains to be seen.
A grand opening to the show. Conchita sounded even better than last year. While I’m not usually one to give fashion advice to a drag queen, I much prefer her in long hair. She’s been wearing a short bob for some events. Strangely, the much-hyped promotion of Conchita doing interviews in the green room, we saw none of that. The preset advertising breaks seemed short enough, so it’s unlikely SBS encroached over them. Maybe the green room interviews were in fact the preset ad breaks? We’ll find out during the replay on Friday night. Before that, of course, is the second semi final live at 5am. For Australian readers, don’t forget the special 60th Anniversary show “Eurovision’s Greatest Hits” is on Thursday night at 8.30.