Greetings. I can’t even believe it’s been a whole year since we last gathered together for this joyous occasion – THE EUROVISION SONG CONTEST. There’s been a lot of water under the Euro bridge, our fine lines are less fine, more line, truth be told, but here we are, it’s the most wonderful time of the year and those of us who quite like being a part of Europe are going to enjoy ourselves.
(Please note: this is NOT a political post. This is not an excuse for a fight over who was right and who was wrong in a certain referendum. Thanks)
Here we are in Kiev, Ukraine, thanks to Jamala’s win last May in Stockholm. What a show that was, by the way! Now, who can instantly predict what the problem is going to be here? What’s that? Everyone? Yes, of course everyone, yet the EBU, which organises the show, somehow managed to stick its head in the sand till the very last minute, ignoring the tensions between Russia and Ukraine – a long and frankly depressing story that I won’t tell here (but can be read here) – leading to Russia pulling out altogether.
That means we’re one act fewer this year, and it will be very interesting to see where all the votes that might have gone to Russia will end up.
Anyway we kick off with some Ukrainian hiphop, because why not? Actually there are several strong reasons why not, but let’s remain positive till at least halfway through.
We have three hosts tonight, Oleksandr Skichko, Volodymyr Ostapchuk (interesting Vlod fact: he is the voice of Hans in the Ukrainian dubbing of Frozen!) and Timur Miroshnychenko. First time in the history of Eurovision that it’s had three male presenters, if you’re interested. I dunno. These three are already better than the three Austrian ladies from a few years ago, in that they actually appear capable of presenting, albeit relying very heavily on their cue cards, but I can’t stop laughing.
That’s the business out of the way, now on with the songs. Don’t forget, France, Germany, Spain, Italy, the UK and the hosts, Ukraine, all go straight to the final. The Italians are being tipped by many to win the whole thing…
But there are a couple of big hitters in this first semi-final tonight. In fact, one of the very biggest will kick things off – Sweden. They just know how to do this, do the Swedes. With a twinkle in his eye and something else in his trouser pocket, here’s Robin Bengtsson, and I Can’t Go On.
Fact: “freakin'” was not the original lyric. It was something a mite stronger, also beginning with F. Now I like a good swear, but it did take us by surprise a little, the first time we heard it! Language aside, come on – this is a belter. This has almost all our favourite Euro things – a gimmick (treadmills), filth. I try never to make predictions but this will a) qualify and b) probably finish top three in the main show. That said, I think it got a little lost on the massive stage here in Kiev.
Following that is going to be tough, and oh dear, it’s Georgia. Tamara Gachechiladze is singing Keep The Faith. Now, I do hope she’s changed her ‘show’ from what I saw in the run-up to the contest, as it featured what seemed a rather ill-advised backdrop of shots of disasters (she has) She throws herself into it, but there are better ballads this year.
One that I just cannot call next – it’s Australia, now in their third year of Eurovision, their singer Isaiah will perform Don’t Come Easy. It’s a grower, this one, to be fair, but not as strong as the two previous entries, I feel. Should qualify though, despite what one might politely call “tuning issues”.
Next it’s Lindita for Albania with World. She’s come as what can best be described as a cross between a bride and Little Red Riding Hood (in white). Hot mess.
One of my personal favourites now – it’s Belgium’s Blanche, with City Lights. I love her voice, but she does look terrified (she’s only 17, so she probably is) I really want this to do well. She gets a great reception in the arena, but looks and sounds like she would rather be anywhere else. Simon Cowell once accused a contestant on the UK X Factor of being like “a singing candle”; similar criticisms here, but I wish Blanche so much love.
Up next it’s – oh, it’s Slavko Kalezic from Montenegro. Oh Slavko and his long, swingy, detachable hair. Oh Slavko. Space is the song, anyway. Enjoy! The Eurocrew is. The trousers on this lad are quite something and he’s camper than Christmas, so everybody swing it!
We’ve expected a lot from Finland ever since Lordi won in 2006, and their latest entrant is Norma John with Blackbird. My next-door neighbour chose this moment to put the washing machine on a quite intense spin cycle, and I missed most of the music, but what I did catch assures me the singer’s the most in-tune so far. I like the end better than the beginning, and if that’s not a backhanded compliment, I don’t know what is.
I quite like the next song – it’s Azerbaijan’s DiHaj, with Skeletons. Nice video for this one too. She’s got herself a giant blackboard with words like “bad boy” and “lungs” written on it. Oh, and a bloke up a ladder wearing a plastic horse’s head. Because that’s what she wants and are you really going to argue with her? Four new dancers arrive and try to, and she just draws on them with chalk. Ha!
The jury is split on Portugal. It doesn’t do much for me, but Eurocrew member C says it’s one of the best songs she’s ever heard and it makes her cry. *shrug* This is why we love Eurovision. Because we can have different opinions but we’re still friends. Glittery, spangly friends. Here’s Salvador Sobral with Amar Pelos Dois.
Break out the flags now, because Greece is here! After last year’s ignominy (failing to qualify for the final for the first time ever) they have upped their game (a bit) – the singer is Demy, the song is This Is Love. Believe me, this was the best song of the options presented to the public vote in Greece. I’m not 100% sure, but she will hopefully get through to the final at least. She’s got two topless blokes splashing around in little puddles in front of her, and we needed that, I feel.
Hmmmm, Poland bring us Kasia Mos’s Flashlight – a little dry for me, but a good performance, and the fact her dress stays up is a wonder of engineering.
Eurocrew member L loves our next act, saying it makes her smile in uncertain times – it’s Moldova’s Sunstroke Project, with Hey Mamma! I mean, say what you like and god knows I have, that sax will stay in your head forever. Papa Gnidrah chose this moment to text me about the Prime Minister, so I missed a lot of the fun. Cheers, Pops.
Our next country is Iceland, and I have to confess that despite having done a lot of research in the lead-up to the contest, I haven’t really taken much time to listen to Iceland. So now’s my chance – it’s Svala, with Paper. I think there must be a sale on at the floaty white outfit factory outlet, because by my count she’s the fourth to don one.
Whose turn is it next? “My Turn!”, shouts Martina Barta, of the Czech Republic, and she’s not wrong, because her song is indeed called My Turn. You guys are going to love her outfit, at least you will if you have just run a marathon and need something shiny to lower your body temp. There are some people running around in their underpants on the big screen behind her, which is basically the most interesting thing about this.
I have had a few goes round with this year’s Cypriot entry, Hovig, who sings Gravity, and sings it very well. A lot will come from whether or not this is staged well, so I’m interested to see what they do with it. Well, he’s not floating, so there’s an opportunity missed, though there is one moment that made me gasp, and some very clever graphics. Main thing is, he sings and dances well. Not a given tonight.
Hang on, we’re nearly there, just three songs to go! Armenia are next, with Fly With Me, sung by Artsvik. It’s not my favourite, I’m afraid to say, but you just never know with Euro. The staging is a bit dull, but does feature an absolutely stunning ‘shaky camera’ effect that might make you drop your tea if you’re not concentrating.
Now we have Slovenia. Their entrant is Omar Naber, and his song is called On My Way. BUT WILL HE BE ON HIS WAY BACK TO SLOVENIA? You’ll have to wait till the results, mate, I don’t know. I like the expansiveness of this song, and it feels a bit like the title music to an inspirational film, possibly starring Tom Hanks and/or Julia Roberts c. 2001.
Last but by no means least, we have Latvia. Triana Park bring us the inspiringly titled Line. One suspects these guys would describe themselves as “wacky”, which we all know really means “irritating”. Everyone is saying “Latvian Katy Perry”, so I won’t repeat it.
Now we sit back and relax for a short while, as the voting takes place… Our three hosts possibly don’t realise there are millions of people watching, as they discuss which of them is the best looking. It’s the blonde, FYI, but I’m sober tonight, so I might be wrong? Mama Gnidrah texts from Greece, asking why the Greek entry was not in Greek. This text is perfect.
Last year’s winner, Jamala, is here to sing her old song and tell us that she’s just got married. She’s still bats, and thus, still great. We also have a welcome repeat appearance from Ukrainian Eurovision legend Verka Serduchka (ask your gran, no don’t, there is literally no way she will know), releasing some doves with some kids and old ladies, who then get bird droppings on them. Our hosts just told us Jamala would be back in the grand final on Saturday, but she’s back sooner than that – like, now. With a LOT of dry ice and a new song called Zamanly, which is pretty cool but I know you all would rather have the results so here they are, in no particular order:
They held back Blanche right till the end and she genuinely looked like she had died when they revealed it. There’s a fair amount of Euro sadness about the lack of Montenegran hair-swinging, but I’m pretty happy about the qualifiers. See you back here on Thursday for semi-final two!