Kiev 2017?!

Last night in a nailbiter that proved Sweden’s idea to separate out the televote and present it from lowest to highest scores was the right way to energize the final portion of the show,  Australia clobbered everyone in the jury vote, Russia topped the televote, and then Ukraine won by coming second in both categories.

Ukraine’s song is emotional, heartfelt, and very dark, recounting the feelings of loss Ukrainian Tatars suffered when Russia attacked in the throes of WW2. It’s not a song that people will get down to on the dance floor, sing along with at Eurovision parties, or probably even buy mp3s of online.  It’s a worthy winner, but not a fun one.  If Australia or even Russia had topped the scores, the crowd in the arena would have been jumping and bopping to the final reprise. Instead they watched and applauded respectfully.

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Sergey and Jamala have two different reactions to his voting score and her victory.

But Ukraine must be respected and applauded for her commitment and artistry.  Let’s wait and see how the hosting gig for next year plays out, since the Ukraine government and tv network are not exactly flush with cash to mount an event like Eurovision 2017.

Is it Anyone’s Race This Year?

Last night my LA friend and I attended the dress rehearsal of the Grand Final, and the high quality of the entries makes it hard to pick a winner. Russia, Australia, Ukraine, France, Sweden and Armenia are crowded at the top of the betting, and a credible case can be made for any one of them to win the contest.

Meanwhile, Eurovision is making news this year for this year’s surprise interval act, Justin Timberlake debuting his new Max Martin-composed single.  Although for arcane reasons this segment is the ONE part of the show that will be blocked out from the US telecast, American JT fans can watch him on the eurovision.tv internet streaming version of the show.  I am also sure that after the show his song will be burning up YouTube.

The Running Order for the Grand Final!

Saturday night Europe will choose its song of the year, and here is the order of finalists:

  1. Belgium
  2. Czech Republic
  3. The Netherlands
  4. Azerbaijan
  5. Hungary
  6. Italy
  7. Israel
  8. Bulgaria
  9. Sweden
  10. Germany
  11. France
  12. Poland
  13. Australia
  14. Cyprus
  15. Serbia
  16. Lithuania
  17. Croatia
  18. Russia
  19. Spain
  20. Latvia
  21. Ukraine
  22. Malta
  23. Georgia
  24. Austria
  25. United Kingdom
  26. Armenia

Contest organizers took the randomly drawn slots that each artist drew which placed them in the first or second half of the show, and placed them in a running order that makes sense technically and also makes for a good experience for viewers.theme_eurovision_2016_small

Two of the top entries, Belgium and Armenia, have been placed at the beginning and end. The remaining strong contenders have generally been spaced out through the evening.  There used to be a certain superstition about which places in the running order were lucky and unlucky, but recent years has mostly disproved such speculation.

Tonight’s dress rehearsal will tell us more about the running order and its progression when we see and hear it all in action!

We have our last group of Finalists

Tonight’s semifinal was a tough one, and many good entries got left behind. We have ten more finalists now, and Saturday’s running order will be published shortly.  Here are the remaining ten finalists:

Latvia

Georgia

Bulgaria

Australia

Ukraine

Serbia

Poland

Israel

Lithuania

Belgium

Of these ten I think the top rank are Australia, Belgium and Ukraine, with Serbia and Latvia close behind.finalists

Semifinal One Results!

With one sad exception, all the songs I was quite certain of came through and made the finals.  I am told that the great performance of Greta for Iceland didn’t really come across on television, with her backdrop projections making the whole stage show look too dark on screen.  She didn’t proceed to the finals, with most of the fans and journalists agreeing that Iceland was far more worthy than a few of the countries that made it through.semi winners

From best to worst, here are the top ten qualifiers in the order I would rank them:

1.Armenia — looks and sounds great! Top contender on Saturday

2.Malta — excellent song, nicely performed

3. The Netherlands — cool, fun countryish pop with a comfortable, relaxed stage presence

4. Russia — the overwhelming odds-on favorite, though I find it artificial and cold.

5. Czech Republic –nice song, fantastic singer.  Glad they qualified for the first time!

6. Cyprus — best of the rock numbers this year.

7. Croatia — haunting melody and strange but cool visuals

8. Austria — sweet French pop, delivered with more confidence than I expected

9. Azerbaijan — fine radiopop teen-level song, with a less-than perfect singer

10. Hungary — ok song, good-looking but not charismatic singer

 (Click the photo below to see a full album of the semifinal’s photos on flickr.)

ESC2016 First Seminfinal

Notes after Semi One Dress Rehearsal

Well, last night we had our first look at the stage setup at Globen, and our first chance to see the 18 acts of the first semifinal.  Overall no painful catastrophes, but below the top rank and the acts below there is a clear delineation.

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Finland, Greece and Moldova opened the contestant portion, and I think tonight’s semi will probably be the last wee see of them. Greece has had a perfect record of qualification, but this year’s offering is a messy rap-ish number that I think few viewers will relate to. Finland is a peppy opener, but dated and not visually exciting, while Moldova is merely bland and pleasant. San Marino offered a whispery disco number from Serhat, and I think it also will struggle to qualify. Bosnia and Herzegovina offered up a weird melange of Balkan ballad and Euro-rap, and though there are many friendly neighbors in the voting, it probably shouldn’t make it through.  And Montenegro’s hard alternative rock looked and sounded fine on the big arena stage, it will struggle to appeal to televoters.

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Croatia has been getting its share of criticism for Nina’s strange stage wear, but she was in fine voice last night. Azerbaijan has put the press through painfully offkey rehearsals this week, but on stage Monday Samra was good.  Estonia sounded good, but his weird cardplaying theme seemed a bit disconnected. Austria had a big fanbase in the audience, but her song is a little simple and sweet to make any big impact. Hungary looked attractive, but Freddie’s song is not the strongest.

For the big votegetters, I think Armenia, Malta, Russia, Iceland, the Netherlands,Czech Republic and Cyprus are all pretty safe bets to qualify.

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The hosts of the show are lively and fun, and the opener was a repeat of Måns Zemerlöw’s ballad version of “Heroes” with live children’s choir that was so striking at the Melodifestivalen finals.  It should be a great show tonight, and I will be interested to see what surprises may be in store when the ten finalists are named.