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14 May 2016 @ 12:38 am
Eurovision 2016 Semi Final One  
It's that time of year again. Stockholm, we salute you and your willingness to take one for Europe (and Israel and Australia). Straight into things tonight.

Last year's winner starts the night off with a very nice acoustic version of the 2015 winning song. Very cute little kid there with him, and it's all going well, until – in the words of Mr Brammers, 'Oh no, a children's choir! That's a low blow.' A Children's Choir dressed as Oompaloompas, no less. Could be worse.

The emblem is the dandelion, which makes sense as those buggers will set seed everywhere. Lots of faffing about, which is a relief as I'm freshly home from work and trying to scoff a bit of dinner.

HOSTS! The magnificent Petra from three years ago, and Mons, last year's winner. Nice gag with 'Welcome Europe!' leading to the opening riff of 'The Final Countdown', then not too much filler until we are on with the singing. Sweden, you know how do run this gig! And let us ignore the fact I originally typed swinging rather than singing. No Swedish stereotypes! Also, almost all the Swedes I know are sober, mature and monogamous. And the ones who weren't went out with my father.

Finland up first, Sandhja with Sing it Away. Look, I confess, work has been constant hell, so I have listened to some of these songs in their formal video forms, and this is one of the ones I really, really did not rate. But it's a LOT better live – she has a good energy and audience connection that works better with, you know, an audience. Also what looks like the most intricately coiled and plaited topknot I've seen at Eurovision. Still a little pitchy on the top notes, but I've gone from not being a fan to really enjoying this song.

Now Greece, Argo with Utopia Land. Another I've heard before and I liked bits of it. I notice the classic White Costume theme is back. You Greeks really know what works with your skin tones. The rapping bit sounds like an argument at Athena Cake Shop down the road, so, basically, Saturday morning, but without the galaktobourekas. Some complicated timing during the dance break, nice, but the actual song is a bit plain. Though a well-muscled chap now has his shirt off, so DRINK!

Toby Truslove is doing the backstage interviews for Australia this year and I would like to apologise to all the competitors. He's a very sweet man, I'm reliably informed by people who've worked with him. But I can't work out if he's drunk or on the pull with half of these. Probably both.

Moldova now! Falling Stars performed by Lidia Isac. Her costume looks like a Blue Peter Make A Space Dress project, made from a school tunic and discarded ATM cards. But she has gorgeous hair, and quite a good voice. OOH! And now there is a spaceman dancing with her in what seems to be an aluminium foil outfit. The actual song seems to have been written by someone who wanted to showcase all the least spectacular aspects of her voice: random minor keys in pop songs are no-one's friend, kids. And it ends with the astronaut putting the moves on Lidia. I saw that coming.

Let's go to Hungary, with their hot boy poet singer. My friend would totally date him if he had more of a beard. Freddie with Pioneer. Sounds a little Tom Waitsy, but with those arms, that's perfectly fine. Oh sweet Jesus, assymmetric T-shirt, ripped jeans and a whistling chorus. What drugs are you on, Hungary? It's not awful, he might get through on hotness and tuneful whistling, but I just feel that it needs the taiko drummer to be a grandmother, or someone to take their shirt off for this song to really lift. Having said that, first truly epic key change and hero note of the night, so kudos, Freddie.

Nina Kraljic from Croatia with Lighhouse. And YES! THAT IS A EUROVISION FROCK! Bless you. Croatian designers. First team of the night who have made an effort with a white organdie cloak with black branch-like tracery, ripped away to REVEAL! a similar dress but with more ruffly bits and silver. She's rather good at the singing, too, though the song is not as good as the frock. The chorus appear to be dressed as Dementors, which I suppose makes her an albino Fawkes? Nice to see that Harry Potter is a cultural touch point in Croatia, too.

Sam Neill is in a great new Kiwi film called Hunt for the Wilderpeople and I really want to see it! Unlike Toby's next set of uncomfortable interviews. Though at least he is less sexist than Sam was last year and less predatory than Julia. Thinking about it, he's probably there because they were banned from harassing the contestants.

NICE HORSE in the country clip! The Netherlands, Slow Down by Douwe Bob and it's all a bit unplugged and country and I quite like it. But, like so many Eurovision songs, it's about 87% of a good song, it just needs a little bit something more to get it there. In this case, I would suggest more lyrics could have been handy, a lot of repetition, now a guitar solo, now a 10-second uncomfortable silence in the middle of the song, and now the chorus yet again. It's like listening to a politician argue. Two points, but you'll hear then 73 times.

Armenia, with another nice horse in the promo. Iveta Mukuchyan with Lovewave. Very Beyonce in the leotard and spoken word interlude. Not to mention the hair flicking. The song touches on the Bey ouevre, but mostly in the wo-ho-ho and ooo-oo-oo-oo-ooh department and not so much in the incisive cultural commentary. And now some holograms: is she meant to be nude in them? Oh buggered if I know. Ends with pyro, so at the very least it's helping people playing the Eurovision drinking game slip into blessed oblivion.

San Marino, I Didn't Know, sung by Serhat. Years ago, I used to front a Leonard Cohen cover band (true story), and I strongly suspect this is a fact Serhat and I have in common. However, I have never rocked a trilby half that hard. Shiny hotpanted backing singers/dancers suggesting that every girl likes a sharp dressed man. The song itself is most like a cross between Bonnie and Clyde (https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=GDAuaStv2Kk) and Everybody Knows (https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=Lin-a2lTelg). I'm rather hoping it's the sleeper hit of the evening.

And now for Russia. Apparently it's the favourite, but I hated the preview video. Though he adopted a rescue dog, so he's OK. Sergey Lazarev, with You Are the Only One. He has a nice voice and perfect hair, but I still hate the song, though I like the shadow puppetry in this performance a lot. The whole staging is very clever, but the song is nowhere near as good as it wants you to think it is. Still, gold stars for innovation when it comes for Things For Your Chap To Do in Three Minutes, there's mumming, there's climbing, there's a lightshow that would have had half my peer group needing to be talked down off the edge at a rave in 1991, plus random chick at the end. And he does have a nice voice.

Toby backstage again. You know what? At least he's nice. The nervous ones are finding him soothing.

Gabriella Guncikova singing I Stand for the Czech Republic. It sounds as though it should be the theme song for a TV Series about A Woman Wronged. I really need a cuppa, I think this is the song I blow off this year. Though I will say she has a terrific voice and great hair.

Cyrpus have sent Minus One to sing Aler Ego and I have a fresh cup of cocoa. All is well with the world. Actually, now they've started playing, and I'm not convinced it is. Apparently it's 1993 in Cyprus. Good rhythm section, I'll grant them that. But it's as though Aerosmith decided to do Eurovision, without irony. Look, they are all seriously competent musicians and that's more than can be said for many here tonight. Back to the cocoa.

Austria have sent, Zoe, singing Loin D'Ici, a song she composed with her dad, in French. It's all very pleasant: nice frock, nice voice, nice song, nice animation on the screens behind her. Good key change, sweet coda, little tempo shift, a handful of hero notes. She's really a class act, I am too cynical for this song.

TIME FOR ESTONIA! Public nudity in their promo, bless. Juri Pootsman singing Play. And it kind of looks as though he is auditioning for a reworking of Caberet, playing a boy who looks like the perfect example of Aryan young manhood, but is living a double life hiding away his Jewish gay lover and Communist sister and having to trade off sexual favours with the wife of the local SS commander for her continued silence. One of the more distinctive voices of the night, but not one of the more distinctive songs, alas.

Time for Azerbaijan, who have sent Samra to sing Miracle. I remember the old days when you could hope for furs and drumming and cheerful crazy from Azerbaijan. This year, sleek production values, amazing hair and a very boring song. The costume designers have done their best with the backing dancers, but I am more interested in my fluffy cat trying to eat my iPad cord. She's adorable! Sweet baby Jesus, they are STILL singing.

Montenegro, song 15, WE ARE SO NEARLY THERE! They're promising this is Lordi-esque, I can only hope. Highway singing The Real Thing. And it's Regressive Rock (which is Progressive Rock with really poor sexual politics.) Boring, boring song with hot bustier-wearing woman there for hair and boobs. Bring back wannabe Aerosmith, at least they had better energy and sound. I did not appreciate them when I had them! This happens every year at Eurovision: you think you know how awful things are going to become, and you're wrong every time.

ICELAND! Yay! Song sung and written by Greta Salome, Hear Them Calling. She's trying to recapture the Loreena Floor Sweeping vibe of the other year, but it's not quite there. Still, it's a step up and she is enjoyably tuneful. The song itself is a bit Of Monsters and Men and so is the shadow puppetry and background Hey!-age. I'm liking this one more as it goes on, fingers crossed it gets through to the finals!

TWO LEFT! Boznia and Herzegovina and you can look up the name of the song and singers because I cannot type that fast. Electric cello! Wasn't expecting that. Nice to have another non-English lyric, and I very much like the woman's Xena Warrior Princess tribute frock. He's come dressed as the head Nazi from Raiders of the Lost Ark, though without the hat and monocle. There is a bucketload of emoting and now what looks like Joachim Phoenix rapping angrily in the middle of the song. It's simultaneously godwaful and perfect Eurovision.

Malta is our final act. Walk on Water sung by Ira Losco. Starts with her face projected onto the floor, which was weirdly like Holly from Red Dwarf. Great frock, amazing hair, strong and flexible voice, but the song is yet another in the Meh lineup for the evening. She is four months preggers, though, but has only one backing dancer, so no worry about overstepping the onstage performer limit. She deserved a much better song, Malta. Hope she's back another year with something worthy of her voice.

Petra and Mons are back, looking seriously as though they want the night to be over in the next ten minutes. But the polls have only just opened, so no hope of that. Happily for me, I have this on playback, so I can skip some of the faffing.

Mockumentary on Swedish Eurovision history. I would like to put it out there that I love Nordic humour. You Scandinavians do satire brilliantly, it's just overshadowed by your genius at crime dramas involving complex geometric jumpers. The acting in this is genius. 'And the rest is, what we historians like to call … history.'

YES! Final Countdown joke redux! We love you, Stockholm.

The final of this starts at 5am on Sunday here. I think there's probably a 7% chance I'll catch it live.

Petra is in the green room now with the innocent performers, making the same Leonard Cohen joke I did. She is also sexually harassing the nice Dutch boy, but he doesn't seem to mind. Someone has a bakery called Poodle Strudel and I admire that.

More filler schtick with the hosts pretending to be taxi drivers for the contestants. It's the sot of thing that makes me wish I'd never given up drinking. So much of my life is like that lately. I really need a new job. Or a lot of dead relatives. Happy either way.

Sneak previews of half the pre-qualifiers. France is fun, Spain is energetic and Sweden is apparently channelling one of those films in which a teenage boy sings his emotions to the girl in the second-last scene and you think it's all going to end badly, but she's deeply moved and then there's snogging.

And now the accountants. HARRY POTTER JOKE FOR REALS IN THE SCRIPT! You lot are so my besties. The joy of the semis is that the voting is much, much faster than the finals. SO, tonight's qualifiers are: Azerbaijan. Because that hair was magnificent. Russia, no surprises. The Netherlands! Petra can keep flirting with that boy! Hungary, PLEASE TAKE YOUR SHIRT OFF NEXT TIME. Croatia in a deserved win. Austria, which is a win for niceness. Armenia: really? Czech Republic, FFS. Cyrpus and I can only assume that all of Europe is drunk. Fair enough. Final qualifier is … MALTA? WHAT THE ACTUAL FUCK??? I mean, at least she can sing, but you were robbed, Iceland and San Marino. Right, I'm off for a sleep and will hit the second semi final tomorrow night.
Bondeannawol on May 13th, 2016 03:16 pm (UTC)
I purposely avoided the semi's. It just... I kinda want the shock value. :)

I'll be driving my facebook friends list nuts over the weekend :) Should be fun!
connorblondconnorblond on May 13th, 2016 08:13 pm (UTC)
Also, almost all the Swedes I know are sober, mature and monogamous. And the ones who weren't went out with my father.


I only saw parts of the 2nd semi-final! Parts of what I saw made my eyes bleed. Geez.Who dresses those singers/performers?
I liked Ireland and they failed. Tons and tons of eastern European countries in the final. They'll give each others points by masses.
Devil Chicken: Moonflower Rose (Liv)moonflower_rose on May 13th, 2016 10:25 pm (UTC)
I didn't get to watch as I was at the office, but I did get a text from The Boss saying wtffffff and rather than it being about work, turns out she was WTFing the Greek competitors.
lokifanlokifan on May 16th, 2016 12:10 pm (UTC)
I don't know if it came off better in the semis, but the video version of the Greek one was super WTF. Shirtless dude in actualfax jackboots singing about how dawn will rise and bring a utopia, and given Golden Dawn I was just like '...are they bringing irony to Eurovision?'
Devil Chicken: Moonflower Rose (Liv)moonflower_rose on May 16th, 2016 12:33 pm (UTC)
Kristina Andersson: Frankiekriscat on May 14th, 2016 10:09 am (UTC)
Yay! I'm so glad you're doing this! :) Can't wait to hear what you think of the opening number in semi 2. :D

Edit: BTW, I'm rooting for Australia this year. I really liked it.

Edited at 2016-05-14 10:11 am (UTC)
valkyrie17valkyrie17 on May 14th, 2016 11:27 pm (UTC)

I just realized this was on, and zipped over to LJ for your commentary:)
17catherines on May 15th, 2016 07:51 am (UTC)
Lovely to see you back! I loved Greece, and Iceland and Bosnia and Herzegovina, and was gutted that they didn't get through. But the second semi-final made me much happier. And Petra and Mons should host every Eurovision.