12 May 2017
Celebrate Diversity is the theme and celebrate diversity is the result. The ten finalists through to Saturday’s Grand Final of the 2017 Eurovision Song Contest were a triumph of originality over generic, bland and over-produced. Going home are Serbia, FYR Macedonia, Malta and Estonia, and staying are Belarus, Hungary, Romania and Croatia. Add Portugal from the first semi final and you see the three native language songs in the semi finals have been rewarded. While they might not be to everyone’s taste, it’s all about acknowledgement and encouragement of all styles of music and artists.
Bulgaria – Kristian Kostov – Beautiful Mess (6)
One that still promises much and doesn’t quite deliver as you expect. It’s still a good song and should poll well.
Belarus – Naviband – Story Of My Life (7)
These two were so much fun, the flying boat added to that, and deserved to qualify.
Croatia – Jacques Houdek – My Friend (7)
So the mystery of one man presenting two voices wasn’t much of a mystery at all. Wisely there were no tricks or a half-half costume, only slick editing, great visuals and a bit of Humpty Dumpty dancing. The lip-licking is the only annoyance.
Hungary – Joci Papai – Origo (6)
I’ve been able to enjoy this live, so credit to Hungary for sending something traditional and interesting.
Denmark – Anja – Where I Am (8)
After over-singing in the jury show, Anja hit her groove with a flawless performance.
Israel – IMRI – I Feel Alive (7)
I feel alive too. The most improved song so far of this year’s event. He can sing and he was one of the very few to bring a troupe of dancers with him.
Romania – Ilinca ft. Alex Florea – Yodel It! (9)
This really got the venue rocking. Initially I was worried there was too much happening graphically. Then watched it mostly on the screens and saw for TV it’s mostly tight shots. That’s the predicament of seeing ESC at a live venue – that you are almost seeing a totally different presentation. Need not have worried because Ilinca and Alex brought a great presentation and rendition of their charming song.
Norway – JOWST – Grab The Moment (6)
This has grown on me too. Particularly that it is unique in this year’s field. No doubt that helped it qualify.
Netherlands – OG3NE – Lights And Shadows (7)
Always loved the harmonies of this, and the sisters brought a stylish and simple presentation to ensure viewers focused on that. I was seated next to some crazy Dutch girls, who got their moment of a glory being recorded for the applause after the song was performed. I didn’t want to spoil the shot so stayed in my chair while trying to poke my head in under the Dutch flag. Check the official youtube video, bottom right of screen next to the brunette.
Austria – Nathan Trent – Running On Air (6)
Somewhat a surprising presentation, I expected it more low-key. The song proved far more energetic when presented live and is a worthy finalist.
Serbia – Tijana Bogicevic – I Too Deep (6)
Nothing wrong with this other than it was swamped by the competition.
FYR Macedonia – Jana Burceska – Dance Alone (7)
Same as Serbia, except I much preferred the song. If you give either of these songs to Sweden, they’d turn them into immediate qualifiers. Some of these smaller countries do lack the funds and resources to really compete at this level, so maybe the solution is to occasionally return to tradition or something low-key. Jana still goes home a winner after getting engaged on live TV.
Malta – Claudia Faniello – Breathlessly (8)
Claudia could do no more. A beautiful song and voice, and sung and presented really well. It’s one of those years of people weary of ballads and have looked elsewhere.
Ireland – Brendan Murray – Dying To Try (4)
More like Trying To Fail – and he didn’t need to try hard. Putting him a silly balloon was pointless – unless it was leaking helium to ensure his voice stayed high. This was one act that need a band or choir on stage to provide emotion, because the song deserved better than this mess.
San Marino – Valentina Monetta and Jimmie Wilson – Spirit Of The Night (2)
Sending a has-been, a no-name and superficial gibberish – that doesn’t benefit anyone. At least we know who Jimmie Wilson is and he gets to be a trivial question for years to come by being the answer to the only time Valentina sung in a duet. Valentina really soaked up her fourth appearance, as evidenced by being the only one to sit in the green room during the final dress rehearsal. All the rest go backstage to prepare for the main event later that day.
Switzerland – Timebelle – Apollo (8)
While the all yellow dress and staging was a bit of a shock, the song rose through it, as did the gorgeous Miruna Manescu and her glorious vocals. The flourishes added really elevated the song too. Much like Malta, nothing wrong here other than a tough semi final and the wrong year to have a ballad.
Lithuania – Fusedmarc – Rain Of Revolution (3)
So much potential, so much wasted opportunity. A great rhythm ruined by the screeching “yay yay yay”.
Estonia – Koit Toome and Laura – Verona (8)
The big surprise, or was it? During each show I was developing the feeling it might be struggling. Overall it was way too slick and clinical, and Laura’s voice sounded off at times, mostly due to her electronic pitch melding into the music when singing at low volumes. That still doesn’t diminish the quality of the song, nor that Estonia fixed the flaws from Eesti Laul, particular the two looking awkward on stage together and integration of the graphics needing work. Ultimately it backfired, and something more understated would have served better. I’m getting the feeling these days with the development of Eesti Laul and the vibe of the country in general that Estonia seems to aspire to become a Sweden, when it really they should stay an Estonia. Ironically, put this exact performance under the banner of Sweden and it qualifies in a heartbeat.
Curiously there are so many acts this year of a single person on stage. Even with dance numbers from Serbia and FYR Macedonia in this semi final, and Greece in the first, barely an elaborately choreographed routine with a group of dancers could be seen. Even bands are sadly devoid of stage presence, with only the occasional piano, drummer or violinist making an appearance. Ukraine is the main exception to this. Also common this year is self-glorifying images of the singer on the giant screen. It seems about 10 countries did this. Some are suitable and quite evocative liked Malta, while others seemed overtly narcissistic like Australia and Montenegro.
My top 10: Romania, Denmark, Estonia, Switzerland, Netherlands, Malta, Israel, FYR Macedonia, Belarus and Croatia. That’s slightly changed from my immediate thoughts (or lack of thoughts) last night when I had Serbia and Bulgaria in for Belarus and Croatia. From my pre-ESC top 10, Serbia and Ireland are out for Israel and Belarus.
Average score is 6.4, which seems lower than expected. San Marino and Lithuania would have dragged it down. Anywhere in the mid-6 range is a quality final. Semi final 1 scored 5.9.
Comparing to the actual top 10, my differences are Estonia, Switzerland, Malta and FYR Macedonia in for Bulgaria, Hungary, Norway and Austria. I’m not really fussed because the actual top 10 is a good selection, and I got two of my key favourites through of Denmark and Romania. The only problem I really have is the Estonia scarf I bought is now obsolete. I will get a Romania one today. Yodel It!
Now that all songs have been performed, we can make some serious predictions. I still can’t argue rationally against Italy winning. While Portugal is challenging, it’s difficult to estimate the threat. Is it relying much on jury? Is it popular enough with the public? Is it mostly hype from Eurovision fans? Similarly Romania, my preferred choice to win this year, is it getting enough of both jury and public votes? No doubt the public is with it. Croatia is likely in a similar position. We won’t know any of this until the voting starts. Belgium and Sweden are still up in the betting – mostly thanks to money previously bet – and then comes the United Kingdom. That’s my darkhorse. The revamp of the song has done wonders, and the Brits have brought a brilliant staging routine to boost it further. It simply might be time too. For so long the UK have been dismissed; this time viewers might take notice.
Update – Jury Show
The jury show for the Grand Final completed last night, allowing us to see all finalists again, and there’s one notable change from my pre-ESC rankings. That is the launch of the United Kingdom. At one point I had them near last as a favourite song.
Personal Grand Final Top 10: Romania, Denmark, Belgium, Greece, Netherlands, United Kingdom, Ukraine, Azerbaijan, Germany and Croatia. Let’s hope it is Bucharest 2018. Yodel It!