The first of the two semi-finals for Eurovision kicks off in Kyev, with 18 countries competing to make it to Saturday’s Grand Final. We run down who succeeded and who failed.
It’s the first night of Eurovision in Kyev, ironically being held on the day that Trump announced he would start arming the Russia “rebels” who are trying to swallow their country back, because he is a terrible person. Last year Eurovision allowed the Grand Final to air in America albeit on the rather obscure Logo channel, and invited Justin Timberlake to perform. We can safely assume that due to the events of November 9th, we won’t be getting an invite like that again until at least 2020.
But let’s forget the horror of the world, and the stupidity of certain country’s leaders. Eurovision was invented back in 1956 as a way to bring European countries together and avoid ever seeing World War III. And this year’s theme “Celebrate Diversity” feels almost like it was chosen to throw itself in the face not only of the US, but also the UK, which is still participating this year, despite Brexit.
So which ten countries triumphed to make it to Saturday? And who failed? And, in a brand new category just for today, since I have food poisoning, who managed not to make Ani throw up? Let’s run down the performances. (Videos will be added when the YouTube Channel makes the available.)
The 10 Making it to Saturday’s Grand Final
1. Moldova: “Hey, Mamma!” SunStroke Project
Moldova has backup singers singing into bridal bouquets and a well deployed sax riff. Winner winner chicken dinner. (No really, never discount well deployed sax riffs. Ariana Grande’s entire career was built on one.)
2. Azerbaijan: “Skeletons” Dihaj
Points for having real props on stage, including a ladder that looked like it was taken from a WWE ladder match and dude in a horse mask that looked like it was borrowed from their local community theater. That being said the chalkboard visuals were really cool.
3. Greece: “This is Love” Demy
It’s funny when you see a country that hasn’t been trying recently *really try.* That was Greece this year with the water feature on stage as well as the water-based digital effects in the background and foreground. I would have liked it better if the singer got down and dirty in the pool too though, instead of just the background dancers.
4. Sweden: “I Can’t Go On” Robin Bengtsson
Sweden are always so reliable as an act. This is a country that exports pop music for heaven’s sake. Of course they’re first. Their Tron background is merely ok with the visuals, but the song was one of the best of the evening.
5. Portugal: “Amar Pelos Dois” Salvador Sobral
The UK announcers made a joke about Portugal not being here last year, but it was because they couldn’t afford it. I’m not really sure this act was worth the money, with the too-cutesy performance and clutchy hands. Way Too Twee. Totally nauseous.
6. Poland: “Flashlight” Kasia Moś
I was promised strobe effects by Poland. Instead I got constellation projections and a few digital bird effects, as a snail’s pace tempo. The swelling strings and wind machine tried to save it, but her glory note was the only bit to write home about.
7. Armenia: “Fly With Me” Artsvik
It started out a dry ice fest, but once the two backup dancers joined in with the digital backgrounds, it improved substantially visuals wise. The pyro at the end was a pleasant surprise. The marked two dark gothy songs in a row after Cyprus, both of which I liked a lot. And I’ll bet her braid isn’t one that travels in a box.
8. Australia: “Don’t Come Easy” Isaiah Firebrace
Look, after last year’s robbing them of the win, I was firmly in Australia’s corner. But this was….Not good. The clown shoes. The too-short trench. The Narcissistic visuals that were just his face in a digitalized Warhol style. Sorry Australia. Nausea levels, medium.
9. Cyprus: “Gravity” Hovig
I want Cyprus to make it into the Grand Final because this is the first thing we’ve heard that’s different all night. It’s not *wrong* different, like a left field death metal act. It’s still firmly Europop, but the minimalist riff was such a welcome relief after all the slow tempo ballads.
10. Belgium: “City Lights” Blanche
I keep waiting for Belgium’s song to go somewhere. But now it’s stubbornly laid there, refusing to breakout into some grand danceable club jam. Instead it was monotonically goth and dull. Good for my nausea, bad for my attention span.
Those Who Failed To Qualify
Georgia: “Keep The Faith” Tako Gachechiladze
Sequined cat suits with feathery bell bottoms, red cloaks and a slow ass tempo. It would have been a lot more interesting if the red thing behind her had been like the lips in Rocky Horror. As Mel put it “Several key changes and a cloak.” Nausea levels, low.
Albania: “World” Lindita
She started out awkward in this weird nun in sequins and roses look, while standing with her too large shoes turned in. She got better when the hood came off. And that glory note that spanned half of Europe, whew! It’s like she didn’t breathe once. Robbed.
Montenegro: “Space” Slavko Kalezić
Mel promised his meter long hair braid is detachable, which made me very sad. If you’re going to commit to hair like that COMMIT. Commit like when the blue skirt came off. Commit like you do to the abs. Commit like you do to not having back up dancers.
Finland: “Blackbird” Norma John
Finland is not doing heavy metal or death metal this year, just to be different. I’m personally proud of them, even though I don’t think they’ll get anywhere with this either. It was so boring, Mel tried to end it early. My nausea thanked her.
Iceland: “Paper” Svala
Iceland hasn’t made it to the Grand Final in years, and apparently their solution is faux decollage tattoos decorated in metal ink. not that the song is bad, but the combo of Eurovision cliches they’re deploying here is why they’re still not making it through.
Czech Republic: “My Turn” Martina Bárta
There’s always one or two acts that are so very behind the times fashion wise that you look at their outfit and say “Hey, that’s Jennifer Lopez circa____” In this case, the answer was circa 2005. Also the song was boring.
Slovenia: “On My Way” Omar Naber
This is one of those big ballads that everyone involved with thinks will go over like gangbusters, like the climax of a movie musical. Except I fell asleep a minute in. Also, this is where I got nauseous again.
Latvia: “Line” Triana Park
Last performance of the evening. There’s the painted plexi flats, there’s the full band, the girl dressed like it’s 2374, and the great digital rainbow backdrop. I wanted the bass drop to kick in harder, to earn those lighting cues. I might have appreciated it more when I don’t feel quite so sick? But the audience didn’t vote for it either so…
As Eurovision followers know, the five richest countries in Europe, plus the home country holding the event, are “Prequalified” to make the Grand Final. Here are the sneak previews of three of those acts:
Spain: “Do It For Your Lover” Manel Navarro
This is terrible. Go Away. (Barfs)
Italy: “Occidentali’s Karma” Francesco Gabbani
Italy is catchy, as always, but the guy in the ape costume is dicey.
United Kingdom: “Never Give Up On You” Lucie Jones
This is the best entry the UK has submitted in the last couple of years.
The next Semi Final is on Thursday. We’ll run down those who are making it through to Saturday from the second group right here, same time, same blog address.