Stockholm 2016 – Semi Final 2 – Review

13 May 2016

Mixed emotions! That’s the outcome of semi final 2 of the 2016 Eurovision Song Contest. Rapt that Australia, Poland, Bulgaria and Georgia qualified; still feeling hollow about Slovenia missing out. Also to a lesser degree, Norway, which completes a Nordic wipeout. Only the hosts, Sweden, in the final, and if Frans finishes in the lower half of the table, you could comfortably say this will be the worst Eurovision ever for the region.

To say I’ve become absorbed with Slovenia’s quest this year is an understatement. A restless night, awake at 5am again (as I’ve been every day since arriving), and with a decidedly hollow heart. In short private moment over breakfast, shed a few tears. I can only imagine how ManuElla feels. During the voting and results phase, I had my eye trained on the Slovenian delegation the entire time. ManuElla was so happy dancing during the recap, then became pensive as the slots for the finals dwindled, and then it was quiet disappointment. A few hugs with her delegation, a big one with Ivan from Belarus, walked off in arm with her partner, then a final salute to the arena.

Slovenia's ManuElla exits the Eurovision arena for the final time. Sob. :(

Slovenia’s ManuElla exits the Eurovision arena for the final time. Sob. 😦

It’s not just Slovenia either. Fifteen other delegations suffered the same fate. For many of them, each year simply to make the final is a big achievement. Burdened by often zero money from their local broadcaster, personal money is often required. Each stage effect is an additional expense, as are the promo tours. This year was the first time ever Slovenia used pyrotechnics. Even Australia uses a record company to subsidise the costs. For that, they hope the exposure their artist gets will recoup some of that money through record sales.

The Finalists

Latvia – Justs – Heartbeat (7)

Still not a huge fan of the song. Love the electro beat and Justs always leaves a lung on stage.

Georgia -Nika Kocharov & YGL – Midnight Gold  (7)

This is probably the big surprise, and no doubt can thank the jury for their place (and that’s the reason we have juries doing half the vote – for diversity!). Georgia have been almost invisible to all media and fans all week. A funny moment was at the red carpet when they strolled to their car without anyone recognising them. For Australians, this is one song to get behind. It’s classic pub rock, even with some INXS mixed in. I joked at the time when their song was nominated they could be straight out of a pub in Colac. They put on a straight-forward show, and let their song and style do the talking. Thankfully, being high up and to the side of the arena, the nasty strobe-lightning was not a detriment, unlike the jury show where I was head on.

Bulgaria – Poli Genova – If Love Were A Crime (7)

Poli power does it! Great that this excellent, energetic dance song made it. I only wish someone would ask the interpretation of her line in Bulgarian that sounds like “I’m a loser”. (Edit: it means “give me love”)

Australia – Dami Im – Sound Of Silence (8)

Enough has been said already from the Jury Show Impressions post. Stellar vocals here, including a blistering final note to ensure no one forgets. There seems to be a momentum developing for a possible win. We’ll see. Russia still seems the most likely. Interesting the screen graphics and stadium lighting were in the nation’s official national colours of green and gold, not the British themed colours of the flag. It’s the right decision because green and gold is clearly the colour scheme we use to identify ourselves these days.

Ukraine – Jamala – 1944 (3)

Technically brilliant; I still hate the song, and the screeching. Jamala is currently second favourite to win.

Serbia – Sanja Vucic – Goodbye/Shelter (5)

Probably the one that surprised making the final at the expense of, say, Norway. Credit to the vocals, and probably the message of the song, and it’s fresh for first time viewers of the song (ie: the bulk of the voting public and the jury). Personally, I’m a bit over it.

Poland – Michal Szpak – Color Of Your Life (8)

The other song I was really hoping to qualify. I’d actually forgotten about poor Michal until Poland were called out. It’s a straight reprise from the Polish final and one of the more interesting songs. It’s a very traditional style of Eurovision ballad, and therefore un-Eurovision in this day and age. Michal seems to have hit a good formula here, with his engaging style and great voice. I’m disappointed the audience hasn’t sung the “oh oh ohhh” bits that has been common elsewhere. Once my hollow heart recovers from Slovenia’s exit, my allegiances will go to Poland.

Israel – Hovi Star – Made Of Stars (6)

Without the superb finish, this song goes nowhere.

Lithuania – Donny Montell – I’ve Been Waiting For This Night (7)

Donny Montell really makes this song. Strong vocals, cool dance moves, great lighting, and a flying forward flip. If he could make a chocolate milkshake and deliver it to my seat, then he couldn’t be beaten.

Belgium – Laura Tesoro – What’s The Pressure (6)

Laura is so cute, and a bundle of energy. While the song is nothing special, becoming quite repetitive, it stood out with its funky vibe. It also marks the first year in ages that the Flemish broadcaster has got a song to the final. Belgium switch between the Flemish and French one each year and usually that means a failure every second year.

 

Going Home

Switzerland – Rykka – The Last Of Our Kind (4)

Song just didn’t have enough to it, no matter how much Rykka tried.

Belarus – Ivan – Help You Fly (6)

The gratuitous effects ploy didn’t work.

Ireland – Nicky Byrne – Sunlight (5)

Ultimately rather bland and generic. Sometimes great radio songs should stay on the radio.

FYR Macedonia – Kaliopi – Dona (4)

The music to this sounds like that Vitamin C song, Graduation (Friends Forever) from the late 90s. While decent enough, head to head with Serbia for the female big ballad, votes would have gone Serbia’s way.

Slovenia – ManuElla – Blue And Red (9)

Putting my bias and emotional investment aside (it’s difficult!), reviewing this on youtube, the dancer was a distraction. This song was always about the journey, with the focus on ManuElla presenting it. When the dancer walked out, the stadium all wooed and became focused on his role. If you look to the last successful country song, The Common Linnets from 2014, they kept the presentation understated. It was just the two under a spotlight. Even in 2016, Douwe Bob, again a Dutch country song, it’s simple. You could say similar about Georgia and their rock song, and even Slovenia at their national selection, EMA. There I was entranced by ManuElla from the start, her smoky voice, her piercing blue eyes, and the simple, yet eloquent, choreography. That trance became deeper as the song progressed, and only broke once the song finished. Now there was the dancer. The pyrotechnics were fine, serving the same purpose as the “strip” at EMA. Mostly I missed ManuElla’s final “allay” from EMA, where she was dancing and so happy when expressing the liberating phase of the song. It was such a magical touch. In the necessity to update the song and presentation for this giant Eurovision stage, the risk was always there to lose a little something to gain something big. For their effort, Team ManuElla hit all the marks. The imagery, the lighting, the vocals, the stunning dress and styling – it was all there. Magic often hits only once and can never be orchestrated, and I’ll always have that moment with Blue And Red from EMA regardless of anything ManuElla does for the rest of her career. Thankyou again for your wonderful song and I will remain forever proud of you!

Denmark – Lighthouse X – Soldiers Of Love (2)

Dull, bland boyband. I never liked this and it’s the second year in a row Denmark sent such an act instead of an accomplished solo female. This time it was Australia’s Anja Nissen that missed out.

Norway – Agnete – Icebreaker (8)

The shock for me. Agete performed well and I found it one of the highlights. I guess that tempo change into the chorus might have been off-putting for many.

Albania – Eneda Tarifa – Fairytale (6)

Nice song, well sung, just swamped by the competition.

 

Summary

My top 10: Slovenia, Poland, Norway, Australia, Bulgaria, Lithuania, Belarus, Belgium, Georgia and Latvia. Even though Slovenia, Norway and Belarus missed the final, no real complaints with the top 10 chosen. Ukraine is popular among many fans, while Israel and Serbia performed well enough. When you’re talking about the middle pack of songs, there’s never that much between them, and unfortunately someone must miss out.

Surprisingly, an average score of 6 – only .1 higher than the first semi. It felt like a much stronger semi than that. Probably because more personal favourites were involved. Offsetting that, Ukraine and Denmark were involved. Had Romania not been ejected over their financial problems, the average would have been even lower.

Onto the final, and it’s difficult for me to find a clear personal favourite. Poland, Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Lithuania and Croatia are probably it, especially because I’d like to see a new country win. From the five, Bulgaria probably has the strongest chance. A longshot for a decent place is Georgia. The more I see it, the more impressed I am. As a part-time patriotic Australian, I guess I should add Dami Im to the equation too.

If you believe the betting agencies, fans and even my objective self, it will be Russia. They are odds-on to win at just $1.50. Australia is next at $4, Ukraine at $8, France at $12 and Sweden at $14. Armenia is at $25 before the next country at $40. Both France and Sweden have drifted in the market while Russia and Australia have tightened. So it’s Russia’s to lose with Australia and the Ukraine the only challengers. Apparently Croatia, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Czech Republic, Hungary and Germany – all at $250 or worse – have no hope. Let’s see about that!

 

A few extra comments and photos were added to the Stockholm 2016 – Semi Final 1 – Review since it was initially posted.

 

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One response to “Stockholm 2016 – Semi Final 2 – Review

  1. Pingback: When ManuElla from Slovenia and I Came Together | Mr Eurovision Australia·

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