Thank You For The Music… ESC 2013 Semi-final 1

It’s 3.00pm local time, 2.00pm back in the UK, and I’m in the press centre to watch the first semi-final on one of the huge screens in the press centre. It’s my chance to see how it looks on the telly, and it’s the last chance for the artists to rehearse before the live semi-final tonight.

There is a nice opening sequence, followed by a reinterpretation of Loreen’s winning song from last year, “Euphoria” (no spoilers!).  You will then be welcomed by our host for the week, Petra Mede. She has presented the Swedish Melodifestivalen in the past, and clearly as a talented presenter she bagged this gig.  Whilst she is wearing a fab frock you might be slightly distracted by her diction – she sounds a bit like Mary Poppins.  It’s a bit odd, but you will like her light-heatred presentation style. You will quickly get a sense of the glossy presentation from Swedish bradcaster, SVT – the arena looks fabulous, and with the magic of telly it looks (a bit like the Tardis) much bigger than it does in ‘real life’.

Anyway, here are my comments on the songs and performance – see if you feel the same tonight (although you are not seeing the footage of the actual show tonight!)…

01. Austria

A good opening song. Nice contemporary song.  Well performed.  I hope it goes through.

02. Estonia

This wasn’t on my radar until last night. It gave me my first ‘euro-tingle’ of the night – always a good sign. It’s a strong ballad, very well sung and delivered.  The only problem, as you will see, is that there are loads of ballads this year. This might get lost as there are bigger and bolder ballads to follow.  That said it’s a beautiful song.  And that frock is concealing a pregnant singer, fyi…

03. Slovenia

My colleague Gary Westhead has correctly predicted (hoped!) that there would be a leather-clad chanteuse, and Slovenia’s Hannah is the first of the week. 8/10 for effort, but is the strong memorable enough?

04. Croatia

It’s a pity that the vocal group Klapa Mora haven’t been styled like Il Divo.  They are performing a song in that style, but they are dressed like a convention of dandy highwaymen. One of the lead singers looks a bit like David Schwimmer from friends.  All in all a good performance – not sure it will go through.

05. Denmark

This is the hot, hot favourite. It has been so since it won the Melodi Grand Prix back in February. It’s a really, really good song.  You will hear the influence of Florence + The Machine, amongst others.  It looked great in the arena last night, and it looks even better on the telly.  It throws everything and the kitchen sink in towards the end: there are confetti cannons galore *and* a ‘wall of fireworks’ as the backdrop – always visually stunning.  100 percent going through to the final, and we may very well going to Copenhagen next year…

06.  Russia

After the Russian grannies last year Russia have opted for a big ballad this year.  Vocally very strong – and well choreographed, with the best vision mixing at the climax of the song.  In a ballad heavy semi-final surely it will go through?

07. Ukraine

This is another strong ballad.  There’s something for me which doesn’t connect: it sounds like a song from The Lion King and Defying Gravity from Wicked. So, it’s Broadway does Eurovision.  The singer Zlata Ognevich is stunning, with a frock to die for, ladies.  Should go through…

08. The Netherlands

This is probably one of my top three songs this year.  It’s an unusual song.  The simplicity of the staging is a brave choice.  Then again, coming off the back of the two big ballads it needs to be different.  I hope it gets through.  I have a sneaky feeling that the next one will, because it’s the first up-tempo in a while…

09. Montenegro

Great staging will make you smile. It’s quirky, and actually makes a bit of a mad song quite memorable.  If you like a bit of dub-strp mixed with some rapping from Montenegro, this’ll do it for you!  Going through I hope!

10. Lithuania

Andrius Pojavis, according to Brian Singleton, has very big hands.  Good to see he’s paying attention to the song!  Then again, it’s one of those songs – you may very well be refreshing your drinks and nibbles to this one? Mind you, Andruis has a wee twinkle in his eyes, so that might garner him a few more votes…

11. Belarus

This is a bit of a rip-off of the Turkish song from 2009…

Hadise must be fuming!  Mind you, she did very well, so what’s to say that this will get through?  This is probably the most camp staging of the night so far, by the way, with the introduction of a huge glitter ball…

12. Moldova

Ok, so this is a major frock – no spoilers from me! But it might just be a little more interesting that the song. Another ballad, yawn…

13. Ireland

The best thing Ireland have sent since, erm, Jedward in 2011 (seriously I *loved* Lipstick!). This is sailing through.  One of the best of the Contest in fact. And for leather lovers out there,  and in the interests of gender balance, we have men wearing the leather. Well, Ryan the singer is covered in it, the backing dancers – as you will see – less so.  In fact, you might say they are playing to a certain target audience, quite a few of whom are here in Malmö… 😀

Oh, and Ryan has more than a passing resemblance to Fatboy in EastEnders…

14. Cyprus

Despina Olympiou belts it out like the rent is due tomorrow. And as if to highlight this she has slipped into a négligée to delight the eye, as well as the ear. She has also hired Celine Dion’s ‘armographer’ – marvel as she reaches for the clouds! It’s a nice song but in the cluttered field of ballads is it too subtle?

15. Belgium

There was an issue with this performance last night at the Jury Final.  By the time I had got the press centre (I didn’t stay to the end as I’ll see the whole show again tonight) Roberto Bellarosa was reprising his song.  Why? Apparently there was a loss of audio for the international juries, and so he performed again.  Perhaps because of this the second performance sounded rather ropey. You might not take to his rather shifty gaze (he could have been an extra in The Twilight Saga). Going through or going home?  Taxi, perhaps?

16. Serbia

Serbia have a great track record in previous years.  Only in 2009 did they failed to qualify for the final.  I’m not sure about this one. That said – it’s uptempo, so that might just be enough.  Although you might well be distracted by some rather questionable styling.

So, that’s that my thoughts on tonight’s semi-final.  Keep reading – as it’s the return of the ‘Napkin of Death’ – where a panel of (supposed) Eurovision experts (including me) test our metal and predict which ten songs will survive to sing another day.

More later, friends…