9 May 2018
Continuing with the theme that this year’s Eurovision Song Contest is one of the most interesting ever, so proved the ten finalists from the first semi final in Lisbon last night. Music with feeling, fast food music and fireworks music, it was all there, along with no real surprises. While we can make a personal case for some songs that missed out, objectively only one could feel being aggrieved. That’s Switzerland’s Zibbz, with Stones. That is objective too, as despite it one of my favourites, online comments easily spotlighted it as the most unlucky to miss out, while it had great reviews in the press during the rehearsal phase.
Of the more popular songs that are going home, that was mostly through self-destruction. FYR Macedonia was so much the most obvious one that it was really WTF Macedonia and Eye Cue should rename themselves to Eye Clueless, while Belgium seemed lost at sea, trying to wave down planes on an aircraft carrier. Azerbaijan, while not really setting the stage on fire, were perennial qualifiers since their debut in 2008 and had a good enough song, so will be confused at their early exit. They started the show with Cyprus finishing, and you wonder if the roles were reversed, particularly with the theory later songs have a significant advantage, would results have changed?
Austria – Cesar Sampson – Nobody But You (5)
A radio song that deserved to stay on radio. If there’s one in the top 10 to eject for something else, this would be it. That’s despite Cesar being confident after his performance of qualifying.
Estonia – Elina Nechayeva – La Forza (9)
Simply breathtaking. Another goosebumps moment! Also loved it that Elina was so ecstatic to qualify. She’s such the sweetest person too, and great for Estonia to qualify after two failures, especially after the shock of Verona last year.
Cyprus – Eleni Foureira – Fuego (7)
A big finale for the night and a deserved qualification. While there’s no LED screen, the compensation was graphics could be integrated into the broadcast, and Cyprus used them well. Song still a big cheap for my liking and I can’t see how this gets anywhere near winning despite the jump to one of the favourites. Right now, betting is strategic with people looking for value for money, and remember that Cyprus was the 20th ranked song at $70 before rehearsals started. That the market is so fluid means there’s no clear favourite.
Lithuania – Ieva Zasimauskaite – When We’re Old (8)
Quality rendition of a great song. A lovely touch with her husband at the end, and it’s her parents, grandparents and friends in her preview video.
Israel – Netta – Toy (8)
Loved all the maneki-neko (waving golden cats) in the background. Potentially a tricky song to present, and Netta has delivered well in capturing the verve of the song.
Czechia – Mikolas Josef – Lie To Me (6)
The backpack was idiotic, otherwise an accomplished display in a similar veinn to Israel.
Bulgaria – Equinox – Bones (7)
Groups can often appear like drunk karaoke performers at weddings. This had a hint of this – especially when viewed in the arena – and wasn’t as cosmic as hoped. Saved by the big vocal finale.
Albania – Eugent Bushpepa – Mall (7)
Great voice saved a song that was far superior in its original 4 and a half minutes form. At position 3, the earliest song to qualify and it shows rock can rock!
Finland – Saara Aalto – Monsters (7)
Turn me upside down, the great prop used for Domino at her national coronation was brought to Lisbon for Monsters. Quality performance and vocals surprisingly really good. A vast improvement from her coronation show and good for Saara she didn’t show 11th was the new 2nd. She’s had so many 2nd placings in talent shows that the pattern in Lisbon would have been 11th in the semi final. Naturally, her dream of 2nd in the grand final is now open!
Ireland – Ryan O’Shaughnessy – Together (8)
The surprise performance of the night with perfect presentation and choreography, and deserved to qualify.
Azerbaijan – Aisel – X My Heart (7)
Loved the white outfit and triangles. Ultimately it was a bit flat, and the impact on viewers of the unusual stage would have been at its worst at the start, exacerbating the problem.
Iceland – Ari Olafsson – Our Choice (4)
Poor choice of song, not that there was much to choose from in Iceland. Poor outfit signaled the worst for this old fashioned song right from the start.
Belgium – Sennek – A Matter Of Time (6)
A matter of confusion. Dreadful dress followed by inane wandering and arm waving around the stage. I expected much more. Wait! I expected less. Keep it subtle and use dancers for movement, if required. I suspect the lack of LED screens saw them take this path of using the singer as the activity centre. The score is mostly for the song as it still holds up.
Belarus – Alekseev – Forever (5)
Really needed the light-suit from this national final to really make this shine. Note, there were two roses in this act. The initial one handed to the dancer, and then a second one brought on and handed to Alekseev as the one he “caught” when the dancer shot it back to him. Her one flew to the ground behind his platform. The tricks!
FYR Macedonia – Eye Cue – Lost And Found (5)
A total mess. Dreadful outfit at the start, even worse by the end, and a totally random representation of the 3 styles within this song. It really needed to be controlled with lighting, with Marija alone for the quieter moments, then the stage bursting into colour and life for the chorus. If that wasn’t enough, the transition into the first chorus was ruined by the backers too loud. They often seemed out of sync with the lead singer too. Yep, it could be the worst presentation and the biggest self-destruction of an excellent song ever. Score would be a zero if I didn’t love the song!
Croatia – Franka – Crazy (6)
This has always been a track forgotten for most people, and it remains so, and that’s despite Franka’s great vocals.
Greece – Yianna Terzi – Oniro Mou (5)
Too drab a presentation for a song that didn’t prove good enough.
Armenia – Sevak Khangyan – Qami (3)
Did as much as he could for a song I never really liked much.
Switzerland – Zibbz – Stones (9)
Pardon me, Zibbz really kicked arse! Nothing the brother and sister duo could have done more to present their excellent song. This semi final was always super hot and there would always be unfortunate misses.
Interestingly my personal ratings reflect the top 10 were almost exactly right. Obviously Switzerland in for Austria would be the main change, with Azerbaijan in for Czechia the next change. If Zibbz had qualified, I would not have cared much about the rest! That’s Eurovision. Loyalty is to songs, not country. Music touches you unlike anything else, and certainly much more than blind patriotism for your home country. It will be curious to see the 11th song as they could directly claim that Australia’s addition has cost them a spot. 19 songs in this semi compared to 18 in the second. Without Australia here, one of those from SF1 goes into SF2 and likely qualifies.
Average score is 6.4, which reflects a strong final – and it would have been even higher if Belgium and WTF Macedonia didn’t self-destruct. The highest score remains for the first semi at Malmo 2013 at 6.9. A score of 6 is the benchmark for a decent show. For comparison, Kyiv’s three shows rated 5.9, 6.4 and 6. Stockholm was 5.9, 6 and 6.3.
My top 10: Estonia, Switzerland, Israel, Ireland, Lithuania, Azerbaijan, Belgium, Bulgaria, Albania and Cyprus. Variations with the actual top 10 are Switzerland, Azerbaijan and Belgium out for Czechia, Austria and Finland. From my Fab Five, three are gone already. Yep, those three of Switzerland, Belgium and Azerbaijan – songs 3,4 and 5. Estonia is through, while we await on Romania in SF2. From my top 10, we’ve lost WTF Macedonia (7th favourite), while Latvia (6th) is in SF2. Israel (9th) and Lithuania (8th) are through, as is obviously Spain (10th).
As for the broadcast itself, the Portuguese Desperate Housewives didn’t offer much. There’s too many of them for personalities to shine. There was no introduction act, nor an interval act. It was all very low-key, much like the vibe in Lisbon itself. Much of the time you wouldn’t know Eurovision is on, and most of the locals are indifferent or couldn’t care at all. Salvador Sobral had a heart operation not long ago so obviously unfit to do anything himself, so why not his sister? A nice compromise was the video montage of last year’s artists performing Amar Pelos Dois. Obviously looking for a bit better with the next shows.