We’re midway through the first week of the Eurovision final fortnight – doesn’t time fly when you’re caught up in an insane bubble of Euro-pop? Today the first half of semi final two rehearsed – Lithuania, Ireland, San Marino, Montenegro, Malta, Norway, Portugal and the Czech Republic.
It was a tough day to judge in terms of winners and losers, as the majority of today’s acts fell somewhere in between. Nobody crashed and burned, but nobody really knocked it out of the park either. Still, formats must be obeyed, so read on for more of my unrealistically polarised reflections…
WINNER | Norway: Mørland & Debrah Scarlett – A Monster Like Me
I still have some issues with the pacing of this song, and based on today’s rehearsal Mørland and Scarlett still haven’t come up with a compelling way to fill the fairly long instrumental before the song’s final chorus. However, the camera work for the first half of the song is really strong, and the vocals were largely on-point. This won the press vote for today, although that may be more down to the popularity of the song than how well they delivered it onstage.
LOSER | San Marino: Michele Perniola & Anita Simoncini – Chain of Lights
The San Marino performance looks very pretty for the first half, with strong use of the LED lights to visualise the ‘illuminate the night’ lyric. It seems to run out of ideas about halfway through though, and it’s not a striking enough presentation to make up for the leaden, dated song. Anita also a little trouble finding the right key for much of her first run through. A second pass to the finals is looking increasingly unlikely for Eurovision’s smallest participant.
WINNER | Ireland: Molly Sterling – Playing With Numbers
When Ireland selected their Eurovision song for 2015 back in February, I had very few positive things to say about it. With a crappy draw and little interest from the bookies, nobody was expecting much from this today. However, the Irish have bucked the trend for their recent entries and put together a really nice stage show for this low-key ballad, with nary a panpipe or Riverdancer in sight. Singer Molly Sterling was in excellent voice too, and proved to be a charming presence in the subsequent press conference. I tend to think that if this and Poland swapped places, this would have a good shot at qualifying. After today, I’m wondering if she might steal Monika Kuszyńska’s thunder even from second.
LOSER | Lithuania: Monika Linkytė & Vaidas Baumila – This Time
This Time is – for my money – the best Lithuanian in many years, and Monika & Vaidas have great chemistry onstage. Their performance felt more or less fully-formed when they won the national final in Vilnius – a flirty, energetic slice of classic Eurovision showmanship. The vocals and chemistry remain intact, but they’ve come up with a really distracting psychedelic backdrop that distracts from rather than enhancing their performance. Their sheer likeability should carry them through to the finals, but at the moment this is feeling like a bit of a missed opportunity.
WINNER | Malta: Amber – Warrior
The Maltese have put a lot of time and effort into preparing ‘Warrior’ for Vienna, and it shows. They’ve come up with a really polished, hard-hitting interpretation of the song that gives Amber ample opportunity to unleash her inner diva. The fiery backdrop may draw a few comparisons to ‘Rise Like A Phoenix’, but it really works for the song. It’s a vocally demanding song and while there were a couple of bum notes during the run-throughs, on the whole Amber was on powerful form, with simple, fluid choreography. A really strong staging of a song that could easily have been lost in the shuffle.
LOSER | Czech Republic: Marta Jandová & Václav Noid Bárta
After the hilarious press conference they gave after rehearsals, there’s no act this year I’d be happier to see make the finals than Marta & Václav from the Czech Republic. There’s a lot to like about this performance too – their vocals are excellent throughout, and the hall of mirrors effect in the backdrop looks really good.
If there’s a problem here, it’s that the same goofy personalities that make them such winning interview subjects occasionally bleed into their performance, and it slightly undercuts the emotional impact of the song. There’s a moment halfway through the performance in which Marta throws off her high-heels and performs the rest of the song barefoot. This is apparently her professional trademark, but to the casual viewer it reads as a mistake. I’m being hyper-critical here, but for a song as on-the-bubble of this, every mis-step could make the difference between a slot in the finals and an early exit.
WINNER | Portugal: Leonor Andrade
Ever the underdogs, Portugal’s pretty but forgettable slice of Radio Lisbon fodder is one of the least-fancied efforts in this semi final. They’ve got precious little chance of qualifying, but to give them due credit the song works considerably better live than on record. Leonor is in excellent voice, and she delivers a smoky, passionate performance, with a simple but attractive stage show that wisely keeps the focus squarely on her. Everything about this feels comfortable and assured – it’s just a shame the song is probably isn’t quite striking enough to benefit from it.
LOSER | Montenegro: Knez – Adio
Montenegro have this year’s standard-issue brooding Balkan ballad, and a very pretty song it is too. Knez is a total professional and his vocals are spot-on throughout. The backdrop offers a moody panorama of the Montenegrin landscape against a starlit sky, and the solemn female backing vocalists are present and correct. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with this, save for the fact that we’ve seen it so many times before. Sergei’s performance felt a little hookier and more rousing, and he still relied on the juries to push him through. I still think this has a strong chance of making the finals, but it’s by no means nailed on for me at this point.
And that’s day three. Tomorrow – Israel, Latvia, Azerbaijan, Iceland, Sweden, Switzerland, Cyprus, Slovenia and Poland. Not much of interest there then…