With Lady Duncansby and her butler William trekking through deepest north Devon, it was left to just Mrs Chrisparkle and I to crack open the white burgundy for the two hours’ journey into the unknown that is the first semi-final of this year’s Eurovision. Our task – to decide which ten of the sixteen songs we would put forward to Saturday’s Big Show. One thing’s for sure – we fly in the face of popular opinion on lots of these songs! Oh, and you can click on the picture to get a glorious close up.
Armenia – visually great, but I felt Aram’s vocals were occasionally a bit ropey, on reflection I’d have preferred Aram Mp3 to Aram Live. It came across to both of us as an extremely repetitive song, even after it comes to life halfway through. Having both wavered on the fence a bit, in the end neither of us put it through (yes, even though it was the bookies’ favourite).
Latvia – A bit like Engelbert a couple of years ago, this came too early in the proceedings to be the breath of fresh air that it is. The guys performed it much better than I was expecting, and its looseness and relaxed fun style suited the song perfectly. It remains my favourite song of this year’s entire offerings. We both put it through.
Estonia – Very good performance, the presentation made it appear like a crossover between music and contemporary dance. Maybe the power of the song got lost just slightly somewhere along the line – but it was still in my top 4 and we both voted for it to proceed.
Sweden – We’ve both always been very lukewarm on this song but there’s absolutely no doubt that Sanna sold it hook line and sinker. Even the “undo my sad love” bit didn’t ruin it. Plus, she looked gorgeous in one of Mrs C’s cast-offs. No question that we both thought it should qualify.
Iceland – When the colourful guys were doing all their whizzy dance moves in front of that vivid backdrop, I was reminded of the opening sequence to the old Jackson Five cartoon shows, remember? I was expecting the song to feel a bit more exciting than it did – I felt it laboured at times. Still there was something about it that made me send it through to the final, bur Mrs C didn’t.
Albania – Mrs C’s one word comment: “inaccessible”. Thought the guitarist in the polo neck looked a bit scruffy too. The song didn’t come over to us at all, and it was definitely my least favourite of the six so far. It was a no from both of us.
Russia – Common decency prevents me from using the word that Mrs C chose to describe their hair trick, but I guess they had to have some gimmicks in order to shift your attention from the utter beigeness of the song. I really wanted the see-saw to get stuck in the air. I know, I’m cruel. Mrs C showed the milk of human kindness, she put it through.
Azerbaijan – I love the slinky orchestration on this. Didn’t think Dilara was on top form vocally, her first “maybe nightfall” got me wincing. The lighting effect of the church background was a-ma-zing. This one sails over Mrs C’s head, and although I was expecting something better, it was still good enough for me to have it as one of my ten.
Ukraine – What is it with Ukraine and hamster wheels? Did they learn nothing in 2009? Visually though this was much tidier than when Svetlana was causing havoc with the Moscow stage, and the effect of the guy running fast in the wheel but getting nowhere made an interesting contrast with Mariya’s agent provocatrice act. I still think it’s a paper-thin song but very well masked by its performance. It was at this point that Mrs C started looking at work emails. We both gave it the thumbs up.
Belgium – Sadly Axel more or less ruined it by going over the top with the performance. It’s already a big song with a big guy and big words – it needed a bit more subtlety to survive and I fear he made it over-ripe. Mrs C has never liked it, and found the whole thing creepy. I expected to put him through to Saturday night, but in the final shake-up neither of us did.
Moldova – Cristina was struggling so hard with those low notes at the start and for me it declined from there on. Another rather over-the-top performance; just as I was about to implore her to keep her hair on, she didn’t. One way of getting back to your roots, I guess. On my score sheet I’ve written the words “ridiculous” and “awful”. Not a lot you can say to that really. It got my lowest score of the night. We both refused its visa application for Saturday.
San Marino – After the insanities of Belgium and Moldova, Valentina’s simple performance had a significant effect – as can be seen by the fact that she finally made it to the Saturday night. We both agreed that the song is “quite nice” and nothing more – but it was a winning performance. No overblown theatrics meant it we both sent it forward.
Portugal – So Suzy does have another dress after all. Not so much Suzyshake this time – slight disappointment – but she absolutely nailed the vocals and we both thought she gave a great performance. Sadly I think it’s one of those songs which lacks an initial impact, but grows on you during the course of the season, which is why it won’t be there on Saturday. We both loved it though, and gave it two thumbs up.
Netherlands – As soon as the introduction started, Mrs C sang “Every breath you take….” But in the same way that one likes that old Police song, this is also likeable. Vocally really strong, and you can see its potential for Saturday. Mrs C put it through no question, but I’m just not a Nashville guy.
Montenegro – Having seen Sergej at the London party and been amazed at his lack of stage charisma – sorry if that’s cruel – I was concerned how this would come over. No need, it was superb, and again a really strong vocal was a delight to hear. Forgive me, but I did want to see the irrelevant skater fall over though. We both had no hesitation in selecting it for the final.
Hungary – For me, probably the performance of the night. A fantastic combination of melody, words, drama, singing, action, and light show coming together for three minutes of magic. The only thing that bugged me slightly was Andras’ dropping his h. “She calls forrelp, she calls forrelp…” no wonder no one seems to care, they can’t understand what you’re saying, old chap. I thought the subject matter was going to be too dark for the show, but no, the drama stands out. We both said yes to Saturday.
So we weren’t very good at predicting, both getting 7 right. I had three bets on – Latvia, Portugal and Albania to qualify. A 0% success rate, then. Oh well, back to the drawing board…. See you Friday for more post-mortem!