Eurovision Song Contest: semi-final one

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It’s here, it’s here, it’s here! The greatest week of the year, after Christmas. And Easter. And that week at the beginning of April when you realise it’s OK, spring’s coming and we’re going to make it.

Still, Eurovision Song Contest week’s a pretty good week. And the ball got rolling pretty quickly on Tuesday night, with the first semi-final.

16 countries lined up for our musical delectation: Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belgium, Estonia, Hungary, Iceland, Latvia, Moldova, Montenegro, Portugal, Russia, San Marino, Sweden, The Netherlands, and Ukraine. Hands up straight away who can spot the potential for conflict here?!

Our hosts are Danish TV presenters Lisa Ronne and Nikolaj Koppel, alongside hot stuff himself, Borgen star Pilou Asbaek.

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But let’s not beat about the Euro bush. Let’s get on with the songs!

[Author’s note: as your faithful correspondent sat down to enjoy the show, this happened:

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Yes, that is a police officer shutting down my street with ‘Do Not Cross’ tape. A mass operation involving helicopters, fire crews and ambulances proceeded to take place. Still not 100% sure what happened, but it involved somebody, possibly a burglar, getting stuck on a roof. Made it a little hard to concentrate during the first hour, but we got there.]

So: we kick off with an introduction featuring last year’s winner Emmelie de Forest and a load of barefoot children singing. I definitely have a tear in my eye, and we’re only five minutes in.

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The hosts arrive, if I were to speculate, I would suggest that drink has been taken, and quite frankly, good for them. This is a party, people. The Euro gays in the arena are going out of their minds, and good for them too.

The BBC announces we can’t vote in this semi-final, but we will get a go on Thursday, which is great for me, as my homeboys Greece are in that one, as are our BFFs, Ireland.

On with the songs, and first up, it’s Armenia. This song is currently the hot favourite to win the whole shebang, but see what you think of Aram MP3, with Not Alone.

This one bored me a bit, if I’m honest. Also he is pretty wide of being in tune for the first half of the song. But I can totally see why people like it, and I think it has a great chance of not only qualifying for Saturday’s final, but winning.

Then Latvia bring us their offering, Cake To Bake, by Aarzemnieki. Oh COME ON. This makes me actively angry. It’s like a random list of words stuck together, and I am sure it does Latvia no favours at all. But if past Eurovisions have taught us anything, it’s that what I think means pretty much nothing when it comes to what’ll be a hit and what won’t…

By the way, in between the songs, we have ‘postcards’ from each nation. These are, invariably, baffling. The idea this year is that each act creates their country’s flag in some way. Albania’s entrant took this possibly too far, getting a massive eagle tattooed on her back.

Anyway, Estonia’s next, and here’s Tanja, with Amazing. I look back at my notes, and see I have written, “starts out writhing on the floor” and “her gusset is showing”, which is not a good start. But mega-props to Tanja for dancing and singing energetically, which as the show goes on, we will see, is not a given.

Sweden have high hopes for their entry this year, Sanna Nielsen, with Undo:

This song contains the lyric “undo my sad”, which is clearly amazing. She seems nervous, but looks radiant, and when the arena erupts into a million lights at the end, the room definitely gets very dusty.

Iceland are sending a band called Pollaponk this year, and their song’s called No Prejudice, so I do hope Vladimir Putin’s watching. The song is OK, they remind me of a Scandinavian Sgt Pepper-era Beatles in those suits.

Our hosts point out that there are a lot of men in the audience, and wonder if this is some sort of “boys’ night out”. How droll.

Deep breaths, as Albania bring us One Night’s Anger, by Hersi. If I were in the arena, this would be my opportunity for a bathroom break. Sorry.

Ah, talking of Russia, look who we have here. Yes, it’s the Tolmachevy twins, with Shine. Now Eurovision loves a gimmick, and with the twins, we have three. One, a giant plastic rod, which you think they’ll use for something, but then they don’t. Then some weird shit where their hair appears to be tied together but SPOILER ALERT: it isn’t. Then a giant seesaw. The girls, to be fair, can sing. And the song is quite pleasant. But you’ll have to wait a little to see how Europe feels about their country of origin.

Azerbaijan are strong contenders this and every year, having won the contest in 2011. This year it’s Dilara Kazimova, with Start A Fire. But dear god this is dull.

Ukraine will surely feel the love in the room, as their entrant Mariya Yaremchuck sings Tick Tock:

YES! That, my friends, is what Eurovision is all about. A man running on a giant hamster wheel, and Mila Kunis’s pretend sister making him go faster whether he likes it or not.

And then it’s Belgium. We *loved* Belgium last year, as Roberto Bellarosa brought some very fetching dancing ladies with him. This time out, it’s Axel Hirsoux, with Mother. Oh dear. I’m sorry Belgium, I just found it a little oedipal, and the interpretive dance lady was boring and unnecessary.

As I’ve said, Euro loves a gimmick, and so we have Moldova’s Cristina Scarlat – with Wild Soul. Cristina’s going for the Game of Thrones vote, I think? Anyway, you might think that hair is hers, but you’d be wrong. Very wrong. Whisper it, but I think this could be the first appearance tonight of a wind machine. And thank the heavens.

San Marino’s so tiny! Such a small country! But they’re here, and they’re proud, and they’re singing Maybe – this is Valentina Monetta, her third attempt to qualify for the final. She has a platform made of glitter, which is just fabulous, and actually you know, this song has a Bond theme-vibe going on. Not bad, San Marino, not bad.

Portugal should always do better than they do, maybe this’ll be their year? Here’s Suzy, with Quero Ser Tua:

Yes. Portugal got the memo. This is pure summer, Eurodisco with a good hook and a slightly slutty dress. We needed a break from the balladry and the pouting. But I warn Portugal – Ireland tried the ‘half-naked man with drums’ thing last year. You’d think it’d be a shoe-in for success, but they ended up in last place. So careful.

Three more songs to go, hang on in there. Cos it’s the Netherlands next. I LOVED their entry last year, Anouk, with Birds. Made me weep like a baby. So no pressure, The Common Linnets, with Calm After The Storm.

For the first time tonight we have a man and a woman singing at each other’s faces, which is a Euro staple. It’s not my thing, but our BBC host tells us it beat Coldplay to number one in Holland, so it can’t be all bad. JK.

Montenegro’s here, guys! They’re trying their hand with Moj Svljet, sung by Sergej Cetkovic. Two words for you: roller. Skating. (That may be one word) Yes. Just yes. The last time we saw a similar thing on the Euro stage was in 2008, when Russia’s Dima Bilan brought Olympic gold medal-winning figure skater Evgeni Plushenko along with him, who ice skated on the actual stage. And he went on to win the darned thing.

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We’ve made it to the end, and last but by no means least, it’s Hungary, with Running, by Andras Kallay-Saunders:

His dad is American, you guys! This is a nice old song, he’s got a nice voice, plus, as the song is called Running, it’s nice to see him actually doing some running around. Nice visual.

So now it’s time for voting! 10 artists are going through from this semi-final. Before we learn the results we have to sit through the interval entertainment, which is apparently inspired by Hans Christian Andersen’s ‘The Ugly Duckling’, but looks to the untrained eye like a kid in a glittery tracksuit waving his arms around. I’m sure I’m just too excited about the results to pay attention properly though.

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So, spoiler time (like you care). The following countries have been voted through to Saturday’s grand final:

  • Montenegro
  • Hungary
  • Russia
  • Armenia
  • Azerbaijan
  • San Marino
  • Ukraine
  • Sweden
  • Netherlands
  • Iceland

The arena did NOT take kindly to Russia going through. In fact they booed, loudly. You can hear it here. It’ll be interesting to see how they fare at the weekend. But I’m really pleased for Sweden, San Marino, Ukraine and Hungary.

Bring on Thursday, and the second semi-final!



About gnidrah

Television, books, music, sports, cooking. I only get paid for one of them. (Update: two of them!)
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22 Responses to Eurovision Song Contest: semi-final one

  1. whatisabadger says:

    Man on giant hamster wheel was definitely my favorite gimmick, followed closely by rollerblading ballerina. Interpretive trapeze artist was least favorite gimmick-wise, but overall worst was Latvia – I too was actively enraged by the whole thing. Very sad Moldova’s evil-queen-from-a-disney-movie-about-vikings failed to qualify. I really like Netherland’s song but I feel it’s a little too understated for Eurovision? Like, I’ll listen to it on my own time, for now I just want to see Portugal go nuts please.

    (Me and my eurovision friends have a small facebook group to keep track of things, and before the semifinals started we watched all the music videos to prepare – here’s a brief annotated recap that I hope is publically viewable

    • whatisabadger says:

      Oh also, did you catch that moment near the end when it reeeaally looked like Pilou was going in for a kiss with the other guy host? My roommate who’s never watched Eurovision before watched it with me this time and commented on how awkward they were, so I had to show her the Azerbaijan hosts to demonstrate how much worse it could’ve been.

      • gnidrah says:

        They were a little awks, but I put that down to first-night nerves. Petra was the same last year! I’ll be interested to see how they get on on Thursday. More gin, probably.

  2. I can’t watch videos with the sound on at work, so I have to wait and watch these when I get home, and I just wanted everyone to know that it is VERY HARD.

  3. flanny says:

    Real question: After the first refrain of Cake to Bake, did the guy in the stripey shirt say, ‘I’m Mexican”?

  4. This is like a conglomeration of European countries that everyone forgets are countries.

  5. old man fatima says:

    I’ve been so busy lately I completely forgot about Eurovision! AS IF THAT IS EVEN POSSIBLE!! Thank you so much for this, gnidrah!

  6. Can i watch it here? is it on in the USA? is there a live stream online?

    • gnidrah says: does stream live, but not sure if it will work for all territories. If not then it is on the BBC and I know a few people have ways and means of making that work? Ideas anyone?

      • Oh i know how to steal bb, but i always get nervious when it yells at me that i better have a tv license

      • whatisabadger says:

        The livestream works fine in the states, that’s how I’ve been watching it these last couple years. It might make you install a plugin if you want to stream in HD though.

  7. FRQ says:

    Some thoughts:

    I can’t believe I listened to all of the songs.

    Hampster-man is terrific

    I’m sad Portugal didn’t make it, though I am a sucker for a tropical beat.

    I like how during the introductions, the flags of each nation are trapped in a crystal, like one of the Seven Maidens in The Legend of Zelda.

    I look forward to more of these.

    • gnidrah says:

      I agree. Portugal really did deserve a chance, especially when you consider the fact that Azerbaijan did go through with a pretty much nothing song.

      And thank you for listening. Euro love will take over your life.

  8. facetaco says:

    Since Grand Rapids has no place to watch these (or limited release movies, while we’re on the subject, although God’s Not Dead and Heaven Is For Real are showing on, like, every fucking screen), I get to see none of this. I’m very bummed.

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