ESC2016: are the singers on song for semi-final one?

There’s a nice buzz around the city today. As you can see Stockholm has been decked out with the branding theme for the competition this year: Come Together. It’s all about unity and cohesion – continuity against a backdrop of change. These are familiar themes from the cosmopolitan heart of the Eurovision Song Contest. This will be a running theme, as you would expect, through the three television broadcasts this week.

townflag1Anticipation ahead of the semi-final, in the press centre today…


readyHaving seen the first semi-final dress rehearsal in the Globe arena last night, it’s now time to see it on the big screen in the press centre. You know – to see what it looks like on the telly!

As is now customary, the show is opened by a reprisal of the winner’s song. More than just a rehash of Måns’ performance from last year, this is a reinterpretation, as you will see. It’s based upon the performance from Melodifestivalen back in March, but on a bigger scale. I tell you, it’s beautifully done – makes me want to have a little man cry. If you thought the interactive animated sequence with Måns and the stick men was impressive, wait until you see 44 children take part this time. A lovely start to the show.

Our hosts this year are Måns and the returning Petra Mede, who presented the gig in Malmö in 2013. They have great chemistry and a very funny script. You will like how they bounce off each other, it seems natural and they are highly likeable.

I’m not going to re-post performance footage from earlier. Today I’ll give you the heads-up on what I think since seeing them all performed on the Eurovision stage for the first time. See if you agree tonight, BBC4 at 8pm (in the UK).

01: Finland

It still sounds retro, but on the dated end of that spectrum. Sandhja sounds a bit pitchy but is more than ably assisted by the best group of backing singers I have seen so far. You will love them and their moves! Highly entertaining, but not enough to get to the final.

02: Greece

Effective staging and choreography makes the best of the song. Good performance that looks much better on the Eurovision stage than elsewhere. That’s the right time to peak!

03: Moldova

This largely unforgettable song is made only slightly more interesting by the inclusion of a dancing spaceman. No really. He’s throwing shapes like Sisqo did in his Thong Song video (and he’s got his hair). I can’t see the gimmick lifting the song enough to get to the final.

04: Hungary

A good performance, if not for the inclusion of a man randomly banging a drum in a way that doesn’t entirely match the song. The camera makes the most of Freddie’s non-vocal talents, and it should get through to the final.

05: Croatia

In all my years of watching the Eurovision there have been loads of costume changes. Probably the most memorable was Bucks Fizz and their Velcro skirts back in 1981. This year there are a handful of costume malfunctions, it has to be said. The first is from Croatia. Rarely will you see a frock horror replaced by the reveal of a further frock horror! You’ll see what I mean. This was well received in the arena, so who knows. Could well be going through.

06: The Netherlands

The first really good song and performance of the night. Douwe and his band look great. In fact, Douwe looks like Joaquin Phoenix doing Johnny Cash in Walk The Line. Great stuff. Amsterdam next year? 😀

07: Armenia

Blimey, Iveta gives it some welly! I have been won over by her performance. Great visual effects and a powerful vocal should see this song through to the final.

08: San Marino

It really is the most dated sounding song, and is similarly staged. Serhat is backed by a less risqué looking Hot Gossip group of singers/dancers. Call me old fashioned, I like it, but surely it’s taxi for Serhat and his gossip girls…

09: Russia

After all the brouhaha last year surrounding the Russian entry it seems it’s okay to like their effort this year. You may remember that for many people the sentiment of the song A Million Voices jarred too much with Russia’s human rights agenda, not least with LGBT equality. This year there are no such concerns, not least because their singer Sergei is highly popular with the gay fans (Sergei has a penchant for taking his top off in photo shoots, which can only add to his likeability factor!).

This is impressive staging, even if the song is rather dated. Sergei is still on track to take the crown because he’s not peddling an agenda that we can’t buy into…

10: Czech Republic

What a pity that Gabriela has to follow Sergei. I really like the song, but it falls flat after the previous spectacle. Like the song title, Gabriela just stands, and it’s not enough. I thought it was a strong ballad to qualify, but not sure now.

  1. Cyprus

I guess in terms of both sounds and staging this can be accused of being a bit of old school (a familiar theme this year!). I know I said in an earlier post that this was a new sound for Cyprus, but the staging is all rather cliché as you will see. That said, it’s highly enjoyable. I expect to see this get through.

12: Austria

This looks and sounds great. It got a fantastic reception in the arena last night, and applause in the press centre just now. Nothing else sounds like it, and singer Zoe gives an energized and enthusiastic performance, so I think it’s more likely to get to the final than before I got to Stockholm.

13: Estonia

A confident vocal and stage presence from Jüri. I’d like it to get through, although the cool styling’s of singer and song might be a bit too subtle for the televoters tonight.

14: Azerbaijan

It seems that singer Samra has been suffering ill health whilst in Stockholm. Her vocal has got better, not a pitchy as it has been. Is the song interesting enough? A bunch of tired stage techniques (fire walls and flames) see Azerbaijan rehash their own tricks of staging from the past. For me, all too lazy. Perhaps this will be the first failure to quality?

15: Montenegro

If you know my music taste, which you probably do by now, you know I’m not getting anything out of this song. It has a niche, for sure, and that should itself find an audience, but will that audience be wide enough for progress to the final. I’m not convinced.

16: Iceland

What we have seen in earlier performances totally transforms to the stage. Greta interacts with the projections very well. Like Sergei, it’s all drilled to within an inch of itself. What’s cool is Greta actually looks like she’s having a ball. Going through for sure, I’d say. Stunning.

17: Bosnia & Hervegovina

A bit of a hot mess on stage, in terms of the concept – will it translate, especially when it’s not sung in English language. It’s refreshing that it’s not. I liked the song before I saw it on stage. I’m flip-flopping between it going through and going home. At this point, I think going home.

18: Malta

I am a bit disappointed by this staging. I had expected a more dynamic turn. A largely static Ira Losco is joined on stage by a distracting male dance whirling around her. Given that Ira has just announced her pregnancy, this might be the reason that it’s not all guns blazing. The song is great, as is the vocal, so I hope that will capture the votes tonight.

All in all, this semi-final has improved some of the songs immeasurably. Others have stalled a little. There will probably be few surprises in terms of result tonight – see what you think. I hope your favourites get through. You will have guessed mine – by a country mile it’s Iceland, closely followed by The Netherlands, Russia and Malta.

The interval act will give you pause for thought – no spoilers from me. It jars a little on the backdrop of music and good humour, but that’s probably why it is actually, in all honesty, really quite moving. I had a tear in my eye. See what you think.

So, that’s it from me for now! I hope you have your ‘napkin of death’ predictions ready? We will be selecting our top ten qualifiers later. I’ll post that update before the semi-final tonight.

Are you ready to get your Eurovision party started? I am! 😀 x



3 replies on “ESC2016: are the singers on song for semi-final one?”

My pics for tonight:

Croatia (Love this one)
Iceland ( LOVE this one even more )
Bosnia & Herzegovina

By the way, your euro-fabulous jury in Stockholm (Brian Singleton and myself) have done our ‘napkin of death’, and for the first time ever we agree. See what you think:

The Netherlands

Kiss of death? Let’s see 😀 x

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