Tonight sees the first of the two semi-finals. Fans in the UK will be watching on BBC4 at 8pm. I will do what I did last year which was to watch the live feed via the esc.tv YouTube channel on my telly. I can live without the dire commentary from Scott Mills. I’d rather just have super-fan Rylan on his own. Also, the Beeb don’t show the interval acts, and that’s a shame as some are quite good (yes, some have been *awful*, I know that!). I’m after as much of a complete ESC package as I can get, seeing as I’m not there.
So, here are my thoughts on the songs taking to the stage on Tuesday night. And what a stunning stage it is!
Tamta – Replay
Runners-up last year, Cyprus are hungry to go one better this year. So hungry to repeat the success of last year that they have pretty much sent the same song! Replay is a repeat! It uses the same songwriters and creative crew from last year. Casual viewers will have forgotten that, but this is essentially Fuego II. That said, I love it. The rehearsal footage sounds a bit pitchy, and the offstage backing vocalists seem to be doing the heavy lifting. Surely it’ll make it to the final, but it sure ain’t gonna win it.
D mol – Heaven
Oh bless them. It’s S Club 6 from Montenegro! A bunch of youthful singers in their late teens and early twenties, some of whom still study together. The song is called Heaven, but I think it’s heading to Eurovision hell. All a bit bland, and with the often-killer draw of singing from second place, it’s an early school night for Montenegro.
Darude feat. Sebastian Rejman – Look Away
Some of you aged (sorry, I mean evergreen) clubbers out there might remember Darude’s breakout hit Sandstorm, from 2000. This song feels suitably stuck back in the day, and a little old-fashioned. But, hey, if there’s a big fanbase out there for Darude and Finish actor/singer Sebastian, it might make it to the final, although I think it will get cancelled out by Estonia later in the draw. Oh, and our first sight of a needless backing dancer, who for whatever bonkers reason is swathed in emerald-green lighting – makes her look like the Wicked Witch of the West!
Tulia – Fire of Love (Pali się)
Girl Power from Poland this year. The vocal is a bit shouty, and reminds me of Russia’s t.A.T.u from way back in 2003. I like this bilingual song, but what’s probably more memorable is the really quite bonkers styling. I’m sure when we see the full performance it will all make more sense, but until then…
Zala Kralj & Gašper Šantl – Sebi
Another youthful performance, and a real-life couple. This is one of my top ten songs for sure this year, in the whole Contest. I really like the more ambient and chilled vibe of the song. Reminds me a little of the French entry from last year, Merci by Madame Monsieur. Just lovely. But, oh man – that staging makes a laid-back track seem a bit dull. I was sure it was going to the final, I’m not sure now.
06 Czech Republic
Lake Malawi – Friend of a Friend
A funky little number for Czech Republic, with a youthful energy that the young people from Montenegro couldn’t muster. I loves me some colour blocking, so that’s my kind of staging. Oh, and this is the first performance this year with the ever-endangered backing singers. There are a number of entries where we will hear their live vocals, but they are singing from the side-lines out of view. Look to the very left of the stage and you will see the silhouette of the three-shadowy b-xox peeps. At least they made it to the stage! 🙂
The interestingly named Lake Malawi are surely sailing through to the final.
Joci Pápai – Az én apám
Our first returning singer, Joci, represented Hugary in Kyiv in 2017. It’s the first really anthemic and indigenous song of the Contest, although there are other songs to follow that are similar. That said, Hungary have qualified for the last eight years, and this guy has done it before, so it’s probs a safe bet that he’ll do it again. Joci’s gone all Sandi Shaw on us – it’s our first barefoot performance of the Contest!
ZENA – Like It
Ooh, it’s a bit pitchy and kitchen sinky, isn’t it. I don’t mind the song – I’m just not sure I really like it that much (see what I did there! 🙂 ).
By now y’all have spotted that ESC2019 is all about the chillen, isn’t it. Zena is 16 years young – and the youngest of the performers this year (that’s a hard-lived 16 years, isn’t it!?). Sometimes with age, there’s no experience. Good effort, but maybe not this time princess warrior (yes, I know it’s spelt differently!)…
Nevena Božović – Kruna (Круна)
Another returning performer from a few years back. Nevana didn’t make it to the final last time, but I think she might this time – although the thing about being cancelled out by Hungary might be a factor? Nicely staged, powerful vocal. It made me laugh that she was a bit grumpy on the orange carpet at the opening ceremony on Sunday. She’s got a face that likes to rest, let’s put it that way…
Eliot – Wake Up
Belgium have found their groove at the ESC in recent years. They continue to send a decent mix of up-tempo songs and (dun-dun-duuur this year) a young performer. Eliot (no, not a typo!) is our youngest male performer. I’d place it 10th/11th place overall, so it might sneak it into the final.
Oto Nemsadze – Keep on Going
Now Otto’s song really does overlap with Hungary. The major difference is the final minute where the operatic backing vocals really kick-in, which does separate it. The really dynamic staging will help the cause. Otto seemed like one of the most genuine people at the opening ceremony. He was digging being a part of ESC 2019. Will Europe be digging him?
Kate Miller-Heidke – Zero Gravity
I must confess that when I listened to all the songs for the first time I thought this was one of the worst entries. The national final performance had copied what several Eurovision performances had done over the years – by putting the singer in a massive dress that’s like 10 foot tall, and then had some stuff projected on it (think Cesar from Romania in 2013 and Elina from Estonia in 2018). Quite by chance (ahem) all these songs have the ‘popera’ sound, so perhaps bombastic songs such as these really lend themselves to some suitably diva-esque staging.
So, previously it was a case for me of naff staging (been there, seen that) with the slightly over-used popera sound (been there, heard that).
Well, cut to the rehearsals in Tel Aviv and it is a performance transformed, with probably the best staging I’ve seen so far. The clever (implied) references to the musical Wicked will entice those fans, and then there’s the Frozen aspect, not to mention The Greatest Showman. Ok, so the lawyers might be onto Australia for plagiarism, but for now this is one to watch and 100 percent through to the final. Oh, and that ear worm of ‘Ze-e-e-e-e-e-e-e e-ro, Gra-a-a-a-a-a-avity’ is gonna get into your head, trust me!
Hatari – Hatrið mun sigra
There are some entries in the Contest this year that are really engaging with modern themes of identity, acceptance and being true to one’s self – I’m thinking specifically of the French entry this year (more on that to follow). Then there are those that are just trying to court controversy by being seemingly boundary breaking. With their BDSM stylings and anti-capitalist lyrics (because you understand Icelandic, right?!) Hatari also think they are engaging with modern themes of identity. Well, maybe. The funny thing is that this has made it onto the ESC stage in a more tempered version than at the initial national final performance. The edges have been taken off it, and actually whilst it’s going to appear edgy, I find it all rather childish. Yeah, it’ll get to the final, but there’s a bit of me hopes that it doesn’t. BTW, I love the track’s underlying pace and melody, but I don’t dig the vocal.
Victor Crone – Storm
This is not the first time that Estonia have sent a Swedish singer to represent them at the ESC. Back in 2002 Sahlene represented them, which caused a little bit of controversy back in Estonia. Well, in 2019 it’s the turn of Victor, with his mid-tempo pop song that should cancel out Finland’s Darude. This song is also a little dated, but of the two I prefer this performance and performer.
Conan Osiris – Telemóveis
OMG. I can’t deal. I’m like the Martian’s when I hear this song.
I do like the singer, Conan, who seems like a more high-fashion version of former winner Conchita, and looks like the hair stylist on Queer Eye. But that song…
Katerine Duska – Better Love
It was a bit of a shock when Greece failed to qualify last year. This year they are BACK, with a song that’s got a whole load of familiar hooks – please tell me what they are! This is a really good pop song, a great vocal, a great place in the draw and great staging. Through for sure. In the parallel universe where Adele and Sam Smith had a child, their kid would sound like this.
17 San Marino
Serhat – Say Na Na Na
And for our final course, some fromage. You’ve gotta love a bit of cheese at the end of a banquet. Bless him, Serhat represented San Marino a few year back, narrowly missing out on a place in the final. Hey, you never know – by this time in the proceedings, and with next to no proper euro-pop/euro-camp in this draw (this year in fact), we might all be saying yes, yes, yes… although it’s probs going to be no, no, no…
So these are our choices for tonight. I’ve got 11 on my list so I need to narrow it down to ten qualifiers. Remember I’m seeing what you see for the first time tonight – the full performances – so something might change. I will post my napkin of death during the interval, so pop by blog and see what I’ve decided, and see if we agree. But for now I fancy these countries:
Cyprus, Slovenia, Czech Republic, Hungary, Serbia, Belgium, Georgia, Australia, Iceland, Estonia, Greece. Happy to see Iceland out and Slovenia in, but Slovenia might be too dull. Let’s see…
Enjoy your first night in the euro-bubble. Have fun and speak tomorrow, eurochums!
[‘Ze-e-e-e-e-e-e-e e-ro, Gra-a-a-a-a-a-avity’]