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10 May 2014 @ 08:30 pm
Eurovision 2014, Semi final 1  
Yes, kids, it's that time of year again, and this is late because the telecast is delayed in Australia, and also because last night was Mr Brammers's birthday and we had guests. Who I introduced to Eurovision. They loved it. He called it one of his more surreal birthdays.

Anyway, on with the recap!

Opening montage was lovely: the notion of having people from around the world record snippets of the song was not only clever, it was beautiful, in both sound and concept. Last year's winner was a crackingly good song and this is a great rendition of it. Which is good, because we need to remember as the night goes on that music can be the winner in this contest. Occasionally.

And now, straight into the songs!

Armenia and Aram MP3 with the favourite tune, as voiced by the bookmakers. Not so much by me, because I lived through the Bon Jovi years, so a pretty young man with good hair and a power ballad doesn't move me the way it does these young folk. Nicely pared back outfit and stage for the first part of the song, then a massive crescendo into the chorus, at which point the arms are raised, the light show kicks off, and before you know it, there's freaking pyro. Everything you expect from that sentence is an accurate reflection of the reality. He then hauls it all back down for a quiet ending, at which point I realise his outfit looks like a Romulan uniform from Star Trek.

Latvia, with their song Cake to Bake. I caught this in the preview videos. I didn't understand it then and I don't understand it now. I would very much like to hang out with this band, as they look like enormous fun, and they're all competent musicians, not to mention a bunch of cuties, but this song is bonkers. 'I've got a cake to bake, I've got no clue at all,' says the chorus, and I think we can all sypmathise with that.

Estonia! Tanja with Amazing, and it's retro pop again, this time early C21 Dance Power Ballad. She's got a fabulous set of pipes, and she and her backing dancer get through some incredible choreography while she's singing (that woman has spectacular breath control), but the song itself is a bit meh, hitting every cliche exactly as you expect it to. A shame, as she deserves better. If this gets through to the final, I will be surprised.

Sweden and Sanna Nielsen with Undo. All my guests last night were struck by this woman's beauty. They're right, she's gorgeous, but what they were ignoring is that she has a wonderfully clear and strong voice. The commentators here say that Celine Dion is one of her big inspirations and I believe that Blind Freddy's dog could have spotted that one. But you know, though I may never forgive Celine for the Titanic theme, she's a great role model for a chanteuse and Sanna lives up to her standards. The song itself is standard Celine, but catchy.

Next, Iceland, where alcohol cannot be as expensive as people say if this is their entry. Pollaponk with No Prejudice, looking like the Wiggles meet the Teletubbies and with an Icelandic MP as a backing vocalist. It's a lovely message, with some truly admirable beards in the troupe and a genuinely tight performance, but I keep expecting Dorothy the Dinosaur to appear and I cannot cope.

The Australian team are interviewing the singers: Tanja from Estonia is also very funny. Is there no end to her talents? Meanwhile, the Danish commentators are bringing in the homosexual subtext. Take that, Putin!

Hersi is singing One Night's Anger for Albania and she has a fabulously flexible and clear voice. The song itself owes Kiss From A Rose some significant royalty fees, and is only about 10% as good as its performer. Though for some reason she is singing on a plinth. Sure she's not as tall as Sweden's Sanna, but really? A LOT of fog down below, maybe she needed to be lifted up above it.

Russia now, the Tolmachevy Sisters with Shine. They have no plinth, they have a see-saw. Of course they do. They also have co-joined ponytails and matching perspex lightsabers. And despite being decent singers, they also have a powerfully shit song. Which is a relief, because I suspect that Russia will be receiving a lot of political nil points this year, having offended most of Europe in the last six months, and all right-thinking non-homophobes in the last six years. I feel better about political anti-votes when they happen to bad songs.

Azerbaijan's song is Start a Fire, and I missed the singer's name because I was concentrating too hard on how to spell Azerbaijan. But that doesn't matter, because despite having a pleasant song and very fine voice, she is wholly overshadowed by the trapeze artist she also has on stage with her. A woman who may have the strongest toes I have ever seen and a core of steel. She also has a thermonuclear device lighting effect, but everyone is watching the girl spinning around up there.

Ukraine, Mariya with TickTock and a Manster Wheel. Of course. Why wouldn't you? Chap running around in a wheely thing behind her to show the remorseless grind of time. Meanwhile, Mariya's dress is sort of Evil Queen meets Rhianna. As is the song, actually. Oh I am sure she's a delightful human being and probably has a PhD in astrophysics, but I am bored already.

Belgium, and their contestant is knitting his country's flag. Axel Hirsoux singing Mother. He has a big, beautiful operatic voice, but his breath is all over the shop and this song is an Oedipal mess. I cannot cope with the fact that the backing dancer is representing a longing mother, balleting away behind him, so I am just going to check my email until it all goes away.

Cristina Scarlat and Wild Soul for Moldova and yes, they ARE massive Game of Thrones fans! Lovely and deep vocals from a quality contralto voice and our first big wind machine moment. Also, she rips most of her hair off halfway through, and you don't see that very often!

San Marino, with the lovely Valentina, singing at her third Eurovision in a row. The song is called Maybe, and it may be enough to get her to the finals this year. Nice piano opening, excellent Botticelli's Venus impersonation in the stage setting and costume, another plinth and OH MY GOD that fog machine is simply out of control. It sounds like a Bond theme from the Roger Moore years, but she's a good singer and gives it everything she's got, so I hope it's enough this year. Oooh, spoken word section and big arm action. That's got to clinch it for her!

Are we there yet? I cannot tell you how knackered I am today, and my hands are already sore, with Semi-Final Two starting in less than an hour here. Did you see that aeroplane with the parachute in the Blue Mountains today? Amazing. Four songs left. OK, I have just had chocolate pudding for early supper, I can keep my will to live going.

One Eurovision constant is that the hosting tends to reflect cultural cliches. The Danish hosting has been quiet, efficient, expert, attractive and with a subtly subversive wit that you sometimes only notice a second after it's gone past. Classy work, Denmark.

Porturgal and Suzy with Quero Ser Tua. For me this is the dress of the night: it's seriously racy, but that lace and fringing is divinely put together. Giant drums dominate the stage, and there hasn't been enough of that this year, so well done, Portugal. Three hot male drummers in leather, and two cute girl backing dancer/singers. It appears that only one of the drummers is really there to drum, the other two are now waving giant flags. Well why not? Song is standard Eurovision model #42, alas, so we may not see them again, though there may be enough straight men and fashionistas voting to get them through.

And now we get to the Netherlands. Hipsters at Eurovision, my friends. The Common Linnets with Calm After the Storm (though there is another Mumford and Sons tribute band that slightly out-Hipsters these guys.) I can only assume that this means that the Hipster movement is officially over and that beards will now start to decrease. Anyway, the song is a little bit country, a little bit Angus and Julia Stone, the performance is pared back but musically excellent and (despite it being nowhere near as exciting as the last frock) I genuinely want her frock and could wear it in public. You'll probably hear this song the next time you're getting a massage or spending the afternoon at the kick-back cafe of your choice.

Montenegro's singer has made a big hit with the Aussie woman commentator. He's a lovely chap if his interview is anything to go by. Sergej  Cetkovic singing Moj Svijet. Opens with a flute, which is an immediate 10 points from me. Simple black suit, rich classic voice, and a girl rollerblading like a figure skater around the stage. What's not to love? Even a trio of backing singers who all have great pipes. Glorious. Classic Eurovision in the good way. There is not a hope in hell these people can win, but I am grateful for them raising the tone at this late stage in proceedings.

Last song! Hungary has sent Andras Kallay Saunders with Running (sorry for lack of diacritical marks all the way through this, my typing is gruesome enough without them and half of them don't translate into LJ, so I am ignoring the lot). It's a song about child abuse, and it has a really earwormy chorus, which I am not certain is the best combination. ooh, the piano player has launched into interpretive dance. That was unexpected. It's actually quite a good song and well performed.

And now for the interval act, based on Hans Christian Andersen's The Ugly Duckling. Which, as we all know, was a not-at-all secret metaphor for Andersen's own homosexuality, so I am taking this as another Danish fuck you to Putin, who criticsed the transvestite performer from Austria. Bless you, Danes.

Quick recap of the songs. You know, I was unfair to Iceland, they're actually very good, it's just all those colours … Voting time! In the semis it is the short version, just the tallies announced in no specific order.

I missed this last night, I was putting pudding in the oven, so it's a bit exciting. Pre-voting interviews include Iceland. I have come round entirely, I love them. Jesus, the padding goes on forever around here. You know, the UK song isn't bad this year.

First through is Montenegro! HURRAH! Niceness can win!

Hungary! Bloody earworms get there every time.

Russia! Bleh. Boo from the audience on that one. Be fair, they're girls, not Putin.

Armenia! Massive cheer!

Azerbaijan! MORE TRAPEZE! YAY!

San Marino! AT LAST! YES!!!! HURRAH!!!!!!

Ukraine! More hamster!

Sweden! Well, der. She was terrif.

The Netherlands! Bloody hipster vote.


There we go, five minutes to play with the kitten before Semi Final Two and all this madness all over again.

The finals will be screened in a few hours in Europe, while I am asleep. PLEASE put your posts behind a cut, because it's better to not be spoiled and there is no way I am going to get my act together to watch it online before the Aussie telecast. But I'll understand if you don't and just swear quietly at you under my breath.
sassy_cissasassy_cissa on May 10th, 2014 01:08 pm (UTC)
Eurovision sounds so delightful. I've never heard of it before - apparently I live in a cave, however, since a quick Google tells me it's been around since I was born. ♥
blamebramptonblamebrampton on May 10th, 2014 01:24 pm (UTC)
You can catch the shows on their website: eurovision.tv

It's always been a big part of my life, but I understand that it is very under-reported in the US. I could only stay in Australia because they were already massive Eurovision fans over here, so I didn't have to forego it when I moved :-)

It's utterly nutty, but in a very fun way. Over here it's mostly gay Christmas and an excuse for parties, but some of my non-British friends take it very seriously. Brits can't take it seriously because we almost never do well as we've usually offended one group of countries or another and are suffering bloc anti-votes. This year, Russia will be receiving all the hate, so we might do well for once!

Edited at 2014-05-10 01:26 pm (UTC)
17catherines on May 10th, 2014 02:03 pm (UTC)
I loved Iceland. And I am *so sad* that Cake To Bake didn't get through. So ridiculous and happy-making. Portugal was also robbed, I tend to think...
blamebramptonblamebrampton on May 10th, 2014 02:24 pm (UTC)
You're just sad because practically everyone singing Cake to Bake was a major hottie ;-)

I agree that Portugal was a fabbo performance, but the song was rather crap. There's usually only room for one or two dodgy songs with great performers and this year it's Conchita and Ukraine. But I hope that Iceland so well in the final! I have come right round and now want to be friends with everyone in that group.
Loyaulte Me Lieshocolate on May 10th, 2014 04:20 pm (UTC)
I loved Iceland - totally my pick from this semi, and totally bonkers.
Kristina Andersson: Can I Play? (by Dolimir)kriscat on May 10th, 2014 11:07 pm (UTC)
Sanna Nielsen age 11. :)