22 May 2015
In contrast to the amazing first semi final of this year’s Eurovision Song Contest, the second one was positively drab. After the crowd chorus of “Good Morning Australia” made sure I was fully awake just after 5am, I was almost back asleep before the midway mark. Thankfully seeing Latvia about to perform re-energised me, and then I had the anticipation of Slovenia and Poland at the end. In my preview, there’s a reason I initially only selected 6 songs to qualify: the rest were so bland. That proved so in the actual show. Outside the five or so notable efforts, it was difficult to split the rest. Suffice to say several songs in SF1 would have been far more worthy as finalists than some in SF2.
01 Lithuania – Monika & Vaidas – This Time – 5 (q)
An old fashioned effort complete with over zealous grinning and happiness. I had it as my second last pick to reach the final, and that was on the third run through the list of songs. Still, it stood out among so much of the drab and is worthy in the final.
02 Ireland – Molly Sterling – Playing With Numbers – 5
Instant thought was deja-vu, we’ve seen all this before and it’s more like colour by numbers. Specialists in tautology will appreciate that repetition of expressions of similar meaning. Even though Molly sounded great, the song just plodded towards its end. Dare I risk upsetting a dear friend and say Ireland should have sent Erika Selin with “Break Me Up”?
03 San Marino – Michele & Anita – Chain Of Lights – 4
This song was always flaccid and could not even be saved by the pair’s surprisingly nice vocals and lighting effects. One big error they made was head microphones. They nearly always look terrible, like the singer is lecturing. Only on really energetic routines should they be worn. Stick to a hand mic. That also gives you something to do with your hands rather than flailing them about unnaturally.
04 Montenegro – Knez – Adio 6 (q)
Balkan ballad by the numbers, using mid-range numbers.
05 Malta – Amber – Warrior – 6
A ridiculous amount of background effects almost subsumed poor Amber, turning her Warrior into Wuss. She did perform it well considering the song proved way too big for her voice, and she has a delightfully well defined and powerful left leg. Sadly, in the “Battle of the Warrior” songs, Georgia wins on accomplishment by virtue of making the final. I’ll reserve personal judgement until seeing the performances again.
06 Norway – Morland & Debrah – A Monster Like You – 7 (q)
Offered nothing in the presentation other than a far better outfit and hairstyle for Debrah than seen in Norway’s national final. Even then, the all-white might not have quite worked, and Debrah’s vocals were still not quite at the premium level that this song demands. I have huge doubts now that this can win.
07 Portugal – Leonor Andrade – Ha um mar que nos separa – 5
This song was always so middle of the road that it could be used to separate traffic. So it proved. There must be something about the Portugese language (and the similar Spanish, for that matter) or it’s their music culture that lends itself to bland, repetitive chorus lines. Leonor did her best with the material on offer and, on the score of appearance, looked absolutely stunning.
08 Czech Rep – Marta & Vaclav – Hope Never Dies – 6
Classic sounding voices and an interesting performance that proved to be one of the better ballads.
09 Israel – Nadav Guedj – Golden Boy – 5 (q)
What was with the weird golden shoes? Being up-tempo no doubt helped it separate from the rest and qualify, which is ironic compared to the miserable failure of up-tempo last year. It was another song that wore out its welcome before end.
10 Latvia – Aminata – Love Injected – 7 (q)
Peerless vocals, if a little high pitched for my liking. Went way too heavy on the graphics, especially those big white flashing panels, threatening to subsume the song, just like the graphics did for Malta. That the song and Aminata could still show through highlighted its overall quality.
11 Azerbaijan – Elnur Huseynov – Hour of the Wolf – 4 (q)
One of my least liked songs this year. It was again whiny, with the only redeeming factor the simple and stylish presentation.
12 Iceland – Maria Olafs – One Step At A Time – 5
Am I the only one that feels a “son” is missing from the end of Maria’s surname – as in Olafsson? Anyway, you can’t have a second verse of one line and expect a song to do well. Even the first verse is just two lines, and almost every single line in the song starts with “one step at a time”. It was always short of its potential by this repetitious nature and it makes you wonder what the large posse of songwriters credited did with their time. Despite this, with its nice melody, it proved enjoyable. The magic dust from Maria’s hand and the Northern Lights in the background were nice touches.
13 Sweden – Måns Zelmerlöw – Heros – 6 (q)
An average song with a great presentation. In hindsight, a certain qualifier in this average bunch. Sweden is a warm favourite to win, which I still find perplexing. Maybe to win sexiest man in Eurovision this year, that’s it.
14 Switzerland – Melania Rene – Time To Shine – 7
The biggest improver for me. An average song made great by excellent staging and a nice performance. Considering the songs that had already performed, I had hopes Switzerland might qualify. Alas, with Portugal and San Marino, it proved to be one of the songs I said were certainties to miss out. Something strange was this was the first time I heard “mucking around” in the chorus. First, my ability to hear lyrics is very poor. Second, I believed “mucking” was an Australian expression.
15 Cyprus – John Karayiannis – One Thing I Should Have Done – 6 (q)
This has been a grower over time. Still nothing special, just a nice, solid, listenable song. It’s main flaw – like so many others – is that it runs out of steam by the end.
16 Slovenia – Maraaya – Here For You 9 (q)
Number one in my Fab Five and did nothing wrong to harm its rating – and that’s despite reproducing almost exactly the same performance from the Slovenia national final. That shows that the song has legs, and so does Marjetka with her unique voice and style, and I suspect she has actual legs as well.
17 Poland – Monika Kuszynska – In the Name of Love – 9 (q)
Speaking of legs, Monika doesn’t have the use of hers anymore, and her story was always going to induce some sentiment. For me, I’ve loved her song and beautiful voice all along and, I admit it, I shed tears during this. It was the point the footage of her in the younger days dancing on stage appeared on the screen, then there were a few more tears as she rounded off the song. Monika overcame obvious nerves at the start to perfectly deliver extra subtleties to her song to make it a bit different to the studio version and feel less repetitious. A fist pump and a “yeah” came when she was announced as a finalist, followed by another for the next country announced, which was Slovenia.
Total score is 102 for an average of 6, compared to 6.4 for SF1 (or 6.8 without Finland). In a word, that is considered “good”. The semi final was saved from a lower score by not having any absolute stinkers involved, and then helped by the two good scores at the end. That raises the question: an even semi final or one with peaks and troughs? I definitely prefer the latter. Music is subjective and emotional, and you obviously need high quality songs to feel this. No one buys music because it’s just “good”; it’s because it touches us in a way. Therefore it’s better to be touched infrequently than never be touched at all. The first semi final was obviously a groping.
Much like the first semi final, the public and jury combined to deliver the right top 10. There’s not a case to argue any change, other than individual preferences. Of my dream top 10, Ireland, Malta, Czech Republic and Iceland all missed for Israel, Azerbaijan, Sweden and Cyprus. If I had a choice, I’d throw out Azerbaijan for just about anything. In reality, once Slovenia, Poland and Latvia were announced as finalists, I couldn’t care about the rest.
It’s a great year for the Baltic countries of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. All in Eurovision for the first time since 2002 in Estonia and therefore the first time ever since semi finals started in 2004. Latvia, alone, has been missing from the final since 2008.
Poland 8, Slovenia 5, Switzerland 3, Malta 2 and Latvia 2. I was confident Slovenia would qualify therefore concentrated most votes on Poland.
Wheelchairs and Postcards
I was always intrigued how Monika from Poland would handle her wheelchair on stage. Cynics could easily construe such use as a sympathy play, and Monika might want to avoid such a scenario anyway. So would she be sitting on the floor like in her video or even on the piano? She chose to keep the wheelchair, which was the right decision as it is part of the person that she is now. It’s up to the audience to forget about it and focus on the song. I loved the song before I realised she was in a wheelchair and maybe part of my emotion was to just see her on stage and present the song so well. I had very strong emotions for Russia in the first semi for very similar reasons of song presentation.
There were also peripheral issues, like the march to the stage that the artists took before the show started. Poland was not even called. During the show’s opening, you could see Monika near some steps, and midway through the introductions she was already on stage. During the final presentation of the finalists, you could see her emerge from the back of the stage, so no doubt using an underground passage from near the green room.
Speaking of green rooms, still no green room interviews! This telecast only saw one advertising break, so definitely nothing was missed. All that we saw Conchita do was a few introductions. I’ll be watching SBS’s delayed coverage to see if we get some interviews with Conchita (of which I know she rehearsed), and also the traditional interviews by SBS’s commentators.
It took until Malta’s performance in the semi to finally understand the purpose of the postcards. So each artist was delivered a present that involved an activity that they would try. Praise the organisers for not mixing up any parcels, because skateboarding, rock-climbing or paddle-boarding would obviously have been out for Monika. She was sent to a bakery to make a cake.
05 United Kingdom
It’s a strong start to the show, and a strong finish. Slovenia might be disappointed drawing the first slot. I’m not sure it’s such a big deal. While the statistics don’t portend well, the truth is that potential winning songs haven’t been in slot 1. Slot 4 is the lowest winner that I can remember, that being Turkey in 2003. That year Iceland, one of the favourites – and one of my favourites ever, was drawn first and only finished eighth. This is just the third year that the organisers have been placing songs, so it’s quite different. Last year Ukraine was first with a decent song and finished sixth. If there’s an impact, it is in Australia because the broadcast is at 5am. Chances are most Australians that watch will only see the latter stages of the show.
If we do accept history that a low draw doesn’t help, then Russia, in slot 25, is my pick to triumph. Even if they were placed first, I still think Polina Gagarina and “A Million Voices” will win. It’s the one song that has the complete package of song, singer, presentation and performance. While Slovenia also has that, it’s not at the same level and may not have the broad appeal that Russia does. Estonia is the biggest danger.
As to the song I hope to win, that stays with Slovenia. Go Maraaya and go Marjetka!