This year’s dates stack up like so: Tuesday 10th May = semi-final one, Thursday 12th May = semi-final two, then Saturday 14th May = grand final. I’m here to take you through the runners and riders, with tears, laughter and cocktails. And you, yes YOU, can watch it live on Saturday, as for the first time ever, it’s going to be on TV in the USA, courtesy of a channel called Logo, which if you don’t have it, you should get it now. I said, NOW. Seriously – Justin ruddy Timberlake‘s going to be there.
We’re in Stockholm in Sweden for this year’s Song Contest, thanks to Mans Zelmerlow’s victory last year with the fabulous Heroes (saw him live a couple of months ago, it was great!) It’s just three years since the Swedes last hosted, in Malmo, and our host from then, the fabulously funny Petra Mede is back this year, alongside our man Mans. Now. Other countries have tried having victorious singers take a turn as host – last year Conchita Wurst ran the backstage green room, with wonderful results… but others have been less successful. Cross fingers that MZ can pull this off. Petra ought to reel him back in if it all goes tits up.
Sad news early on in the contest, as Romania has been kicked out for not paying its bills. It’s no great loss musically, but they did this so late in the day, just three weeks before the contest, that it doesn’t seem totally fair on their act. But it does mean we have one less song to sit through! Semi-good news for later in the week, but we have 18 (eighteen)songs to get through tonight. In two hours! The hosts are going to have to do a remarkable job shoving us on through this one!
We have to kick off with some host country gubbins – this year it’s Mans singing Heroes, a sort of stripped back version featuring a real kid rather than an animation. Those of us who watch Melodifestivalen (the Swedish song selection) religiously saw this a few months back, but it’s a nice reminder of what a great song it is. One question: has he taken that grey t-shirt off in a year? Doesn’t look like it.
Now we see a lovely film of some seeds flying from all over Europe to Stockholm, signifying this year’s theme, Come Together (see the image at the top of this post) If I had a dirtier mind, I would join in the jokes that are being made here, about seeds and coming together. Petra goes there, of course.
Petra and Mans welcome us and they look HOT. Mans thanks Vienna in German. They also talk a lot about unity and friendship. They make a genuinely LOL joke about the band Europe. I LOVE THIS SHOW.
Now it’s time to immerse ourselves in the music. Finland start us off, it’s Sandhja with Sing It Away. And sing it away she does. I’m told it’s a girl power anthem, and it does feature a few “brap braps”. All I know is, that’s quite an unforgiving blue jumpsuit, and a very unforgiving vocal. She’s a registered nurse, fact fans. I do like her five dancers though.
Shout out to my homeboys and girls Greece, up next! This is Argo, with Utopian Land.
The band used to be named Europond, which rightly makes Papa Gnidrah laugh like a drain, and my Greek relatives just made a sad face and shook their heads when I asked what they thought of the song. It’s sung partially in dialect, and takes a look at the many tough situations facing Greece right now, the financial crisis and the refugee crisis. Will this win them sympathy from across Europe? Or will people just go, you know what, terrible rap, terrible trousers? Classic Greece though, he whips his shirt off last-min for a few extra votes.
Now it’s Moldova – Lidia Isac brings us Falling Stars. I like her dress and as we know of old, Euro loves a gimmick. Lidia’s got one. Yep, a fucking SPACEMAN turns up halfway through, just to do some hand jives.
Hungary has done pretty well in recent years, and now they will try their luck with Freddie and his song Pioneer.
He’s got a nice rasp to his voice, and the staging is very good, red lighting, big drum, whistling backing blokes. It’s gone down very well in the arena. But nothing to blow us away so far.
Croatia time! Nina Kraljic is singing about a Lighthouse. Presumably not an homage to Virginia Woolf, but this is Eurovision, anything could happen. And happen it does. She’s in a massive dress that weighs something like 18kg, and somehow it turns into a totally different one?! I have no idea how that happened. I know I’ll believe anything, but that really was magic. Was that Emperor Palpatine with a torch at the back?
I think The Netherlands is still stuck on coming so close to victory with The Common Linnets a couple of years back, but Douwe Bob is going to try for the win in 2016 with Slow Down. Good advice, but nothing we can take here, we’ve still got 12 songs to get through. He’s quite an attractive young man, thank you Eurogods. Stage looks like a giant clock. I said CLOCK. This is a little bit country, and has a really odd bit where he stops halfway through. I think it’ll qualify for the final, but I’ll be honest, I got distracted during this song, something that never happens. What I’m saying is it’s dull.
Strong song from Armenia this year, as in 2015. We’ve got Iveta Mukuchyan, singing LoveWave (no space) FINALLY. This is a proper tune and a proper performance. There’s fire, there’s wind, there are hair extensions, there’s a cape, there’s a… hologram of Iveta? Good job Armenia.
God bless San Marino, they’re here again, it’s Serhat with I Didn’t Know. Holy shit, they’ve nailed it. Serhat’s voice is so gravelly you could probably use it to polish diamonds (is that a thing?)
The dancers are wearing tin foil skirts and pants. I can’t work out if this is the best thing I’ve seen at Eurovision so far this year, or the most worst. (My apologies, I can’t get the link to the semi-final performance to work, but this is the same)
Now it’s time for one of the big guns – Russia. We all remember (shut up of course you remember) how close they came last year: Polina Gagarina took second place with a very passsionate performance, and a whole heap of booing. This year they’re trying a different tactic, with Sergey Lazarev and You Are The Only One. The bookmakers have this as one of the favourites to win the whole contest, but I’m not so sure. Polina had a sort of vulnerable charm, and people didn’t equate her with her country as much as I think they will with Sergey.
It’s quite an aggressive song, albeit a good one. What do I know though? One thing I do know is they’ve basically totally copied Mans’s winning routine from last year. It’s a very clever act. But there’s no warmth.
The Czech Republic follows Sergey – here’s Gabriela Guncikova with I Stand. Would really have liked it if she’d done this whole song sitting down. She didn’t.
Cyprus is here! Minus One are singing Alter Ego. Before I heard it everyone said “it sounds like Somebody Told Me by The Killers”, and I laughed. But it really does. For some reason, all the musicians are in a cage. It could be because the lyrics say something about jail? Eh, it’s OK.
ZOE (caps hers, not mine) is representing Austria this year, and they’ll be hoping to a) qualify for the final and then b) not get no points whatsoever, as their act achieved last year. Her song is Loin d’Ici (Far From Here), sung all in French. She’s wearing a pretty fairy dress and she does pretty finger-clicking, it’s all just very pretty. But I have a phobia of butterflies, and a lot appeared on stage during this, so it’s instantly discounted. It went down well though.
Juri Pootsmann’s up next for Estonia, with Play. What a voice. He looks like a young conservative politician, but there’s also something weirdly dirty about that little hand wave with a playing card in it. I’ll play, Juri, is what I’m saying. Give this one a listen.
And now it’s time for Azerbaijan, always strong, and this year trying her hand is Samra with Miracle. She’s wearing the gold version of Britney’s body stocking from the Toxic video. I have to agree with our British commentator who says you’re always waiting for something to happen, only it doesn’t. Please don’t take that to mean I don’t like it. I do like it, and I’m learning that dance routine ready for Saturday. NB. also contains fire curtain. Yesss.
We have four more songs to go. Keep the faith, team. Highway are representing Montenegro with their tune The Real Thing. Might be time for a bathroom break. It’s not good rock.
Now it’s time for Iceland. They had a fun qualification process, no really they did, but Greta Salome emerged victorious, with the song Hear Them Calling. She performs very well, and I love when it kicks in. There are (again) a few flashbacks to Mans’s staging from last year, but I wish this one well.
The return of an old Eurovision friend now, as representing Bosnia & Herzegovina is Deen. He’s looking hella different to how he did a few years back; he’s also teamed up with a load of pals called Dalal, Ana Ruchner and Jala, for the song Ljubav Je.
This is proper classic old school Eurovision. Everyone’s wrapped in foil and there’s a cellist, and two singers shouting in each other’s faces through some barbed wire, and it’s sung in actual Bosnian, not English. Halfway through, a man starts shouting. For all of those reasons, it should go through.
And last but by no means least, Malta brings us Walk on Water, sung by Ira Losco.
She looks like my friend Natalie. Nice song, and does indeed feature a man walking on water. Haha no it doesn’t. Opportunity missed there though, eh Malta? My favourite bit of the dance is when he just picks her arm up, looks at it, then puts it back down. It’s fun and upbeat – and she’s doing it all whilst pregnant.
PHEW! That was a marathon! Ten of those bad boys are going to qualify, and I’d suggest we can already call it for Russia. This was not a strong semi-final, though, with favourites in both the second semi and already qualified for the grand final.
Interval entertainment – well, we don’t get to see it, as the BBC has crafted what I have to be honest is a very funny video, featuring UK entrants Joe and Jake, and a comedian by the name of Sarah Dawn Finer. She does a character called Lynda Woodruff, who works for Eurovision, I wish I could explain to you how funny she is but I can’t do it justice. It made my evening. Here’s a clip of her earlier this year:
If the BBC allowed us to watch what was going on on stage, we would be seeing an interpretive dance, to a dubstep soundtrack, about the refugee crisis. It’s called the Grey People. So there we all go. I’m told it’s good.
Now for the qualifiers, announced in no particular order:
So I’m gutted, GUTTED, for Greece, for San Marino, for Iceland, for Estonia – I really thought a few of them would make it. See ya Thursday. I’m sad, guys. Euro isn’t meant to feel like this.