Now all the semifinalists have been through two rounds of rehearsals, and the picture becomes a little clearer. BUT!… Today ALSO marked the first rehearsal for the six automatic qualifiers: last year’s winner, Azerbaijan, and the Big 5, France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK. Most years the Big 5 (or 6) add only an asterisk or footnote to the predictions and prognostications the reporters and bloggers have so carefully amassed during the week. This year presents a big problem–all the Big 6 are good! Suddenly a blogger who has been carelessly tossing around accolades as to who will be automatically a top three or top five finisher in next week’s finals realizes that after today, there are ten or eleven in their “top five”.
First to rehearse today was GERMANY. The entries were meant to rehearse in the same order as their songs’ positions in the running order, but Engelbert Humperdinck would not be ready for the first rehearsal and so the UK switched with Germany for today. Germany’s young contest winner, Roman Lob, proved to be note-perfect, camera-ready, young and attractive. His Jamie Cullen-penned entry, “Standing Still”, is poised to move effortlessly into the world’s pop charts no matter what his placing in the contest. But there’s no reason to suspect that he won’t do well in Baku.
FRANCE has opted to internally select one of their nation’s top recording artists, Indonesian-born songstress Anggun, with a song she co-wrote “Echoes (You and I)”. Anggun’s stage presentation is a bit busy and not camera-ready yet, but there is no worry that she will not be up to the task of impressing viewers next Saturday.
ITALY is widely seen as one of the few true rivals to Sweden for the victory this year, and though Nina Zilli and “Out of Love” didn’t knock it out of the park today, there is no denying her catchy song and fresh appeal. Can she raise her game enough to take home the prize in 7 days?
This year’s host country, AZERBAIJAN has returned to their winning formula of the past three years of turning to the pop geniuses of Sweden to supply a ready-made top entry. “When the Music Dies” is written by a team headed by Swedish Idol’s top judge, Anders Bagge, and presented by the knockout beauty Sabina Babayeva. If the Azeris don’t repeat with another top five entry for the third consecutive year, they won’t be far away…
SPAIN has suffered with poor results the last several years, and responded by choosing a home-grown superstar in Pastora Soler, and a song penned by Thomas G:son, Tony Sánchez and Erik Bernholm, “Quedate Conmigo (Stay with Me)”. Today Pastora knocked the crowd dead with an amazingly strong, pitch perfect rendition of her soaring ballad that left no doubt that she will bring home Spain’s finest result in years.
This year the UK hinted that they were presenting a world-famous star of the music scene with their 2012 entry, but few were ready for 76-year old Engelbert Humperdinck and “Love Will Set you Free”. Will their gamble pay off? In the rehearsal today, the Hump started off in shaky vocal form, but built to a solid performance by the end of his allotted session. Will Engelbert join the Russian grannies as the senior contigent atop the scoreboard for 2012?
Tomorrow I will run down the second rehearsals of the semifinalists and whose ratings have risen, or taken a fall…