I stopped watching after the perfromances so now I will do a rundown of the songs with my personal picks for the top 10 (based on song, performance, weirdness, other intangibles) before checking out which songs actually qualified.
Serbia – What’s going on? Between them, the ex-Jugoslav countries usually manage to produce at least one song I really like, but this year so far? Nuttin’. Kind of generic Eurovision song without enough stage trickery to distract from the ordinariness of it all… It might have a chance if it appeared late in the evening after a disaster or two, but first? Dead in the water. Like my interest (is that too harsh? yeah…. that’s too harsh).
Austria –The song is pleasantly poppy enough but it has two big strikes. He starts off standing in large crescent moon that looks like it was carved out of a mirror ball. For one magic second it looks like he’s going to…. I dunno, defy gravity and walk around the inside of the crescent or stay standing while the moon lifts up into the sky but nothing like that happens… And the combination of the “I’m okay but you need work!” lyrics and his smug demeanor make me hate him beyond all rationality. This is my current anti-favorite (song whose success fills me with dispair)
Macedonia – Jugoslavija is batting 0 for 4 this year. The song from the Former Republic with too long an official name is forgettable song and weak vocals and no choreography beyond inept attempt to walk like a model that comes off more like a stripper struggling to walk a straight line. But now I feel bad because the announcer said the singer works with disabled children and the film before the performance indicates she might be pregnant. Hey Macedonia? Boo! Boo for making me feel conflicted!
Malta – Maybe its the nostalgia from my trip there a month or so ago but I like this. Malta is one of those countries that bizarrely takes Eurovision very seriously and they often punch well above their small population weight. The song is an old school ballad (but in a good way) and the performance is committed and strong. I’m all for it but I’m skeptical about its chances.
Romania – THIS IS WHY EUROVISION EXISTS DAMMIT! Where else in the world will you get cannons on stage, and an okay pseudo hip hop song decorated with a bunch of YODELING(!) thrown in for good measure? Nowhere else but Eurovision, that’s where! It’s a plus that the yodeling is women into the song in an organic way and is actually very good (which hints darkly at forbidden passions on the part of the singer). And the singers are really committed – that’s the only way to carry somethnig like this off – full speed ahead and damn the consequences! It’s moments like this that make me think there’s hope for Europe after all. I will be crushed if this doesn’t qualify….
Romania yodels its way out of the Balkans and into my heart!
Netherlands – Three sisters who have very good harmonies and the song is good enough I guess, but I worry that their musicianship and professionalism might hold back more oddball performances and so that makes me not like them so much.. The way they’re dressed makes me wonder if the greater acceptance of homosexuality in the Netherlands means that gay men aren’t disproportionately represented in show-business. That’s a long way of saying it looks like they have no gay friends and they should hit some drag clubs (if Kiev has any) between now and the final and get some tips on tarting things up.
Hungary – There’s a singer in a toy soldier outfit singing a folkish thing in Romani and then rapping in Hungarian and occasionally playing what looks like a milk can like a bongo while a young Romani woman dances around and looks like she’s in romantic despair, occasionally a blonde violinist pops up. Hungary you had me at the toy soldier outfit, all the rest is just making me love you more.
Denmark – The beehive’s internal structure is a densely packed group of hexagonal prismatic cells made of beeswax, called a honeycomb. The bees use the cells to store food (honey and pollen) and to house the brood (eggs, larvae, and pu…. oops! sorry my mind wandered for a moment because BEEHIVES ARE MORE INTERESTING THAN THIS SONG! I guess that both the song and performance are competent enough but they fail in arousing any interest on my part. I’m sure it will do well but I am very uninvested in it….
Ireland – My first thought is that the singer looks like a young K.D. Laing and then I’m confused because the announcer is talking about a “he”. “His” voice is thin and girlish and I keep thinking he’s going to switch and pull out the big guns which he does…. for about two seconds and then it’s back to the thin colorless sound… He sings in a balloon that unhelpfully stays on stage rather than floating up and exploding like the Hindenberg (why wouldn’t it float up and explode like the Hindenberg?
San Marino – It sounds like the 80s and has a guest German performer and was written by a German hired to write a Eurovision song for San Marino. A bunch of songs this year written by Swedish or German hired guns (apparently there’s a bunch of Eurovision for hire writers out there). I wonder how “Author of 17 failed Eurovision songs” looks on a resume but by the time they agree to become a Eurovision songwriter I suppose dignity and pride are no longer part of the career equation.
Croatia – The singer is apparently a big deal in Croatia and the hosts and Polsih announcer lead me on by saying he has “two voices”. My thought is that he sings with overtones (like Asian throat singers). My brief excitement is crushed. He simply alternates singing in a high, thin almost falsetto voice in English and a not terribly convincing baritone voice in Italian. His suit looks different on each side (which I figure out toward the end). Whatever, it’s different, but lacks the commitment that makes _my_ heart sing.
Norway – He sings about killing the voice in his head which leads me to wonder about killing the voice in my ears…. The band members have disco-hockey masks on but don’t do anything with it and the lead is workmanlike and not committed. Just kind of there as if he’s already performed this hundreds of times and is counting on audience energy to get through it…
Switzerland – The song is just okay and the staging is journeyman like but there’s something about the lead singer’s…. presence that is intriguing. She’s ethnically Romanian and she has a look that suggests that she is the keeper of a century’s old family curse. There’s something…. lupine about her and now I want them to qualify in the vain hope that there will be a full moon during the final and she’ll transform into a werewolf or giant vampire bat. My hopes and dreams may be modest…. but they are my own.
Belarus – This is all very Freudian. They’re dressed in virignal white and standing in a boat (female sexuality!) but the boat has two large fans in back that give it a phallic appearance. They frolic around in the small space of the boat and she makes chirping sounds and even ululates at one point and the audience is super into it with many singing along. The song is in Belarussian which is always fun. If this doesn’t make it into the final I will. be. devastated!
More conflicting sexual imagery than any one country should produce…
Bulgaria – It’s all very sad. The guy can sing but it sounds like he’s been listening to way too much Adele and not much of anything else. That he’s dressed up like a whiny goth doesn’t help. The song itself is Eurovision boilerplate… There’s real talent on stage but it’s being funnelled in a very bad and evil direction.
Lithuania – I’m reminded of Latvia (can that ever be good?). The singer is doing her best to create a Bjork-like manic-pixie-girl vibe but it’s all too studied. And her vowels are off (too much emphasis on unstressed vowels). That won’t bother most listeners but it does bother me. Best moment: She looks into a moving camera and it looks like she wants to make an I-LUV-U gesture but it starts to move away and she looks pissed and kind of flips the camera off.
Estonia – They seem like Estonia’s Sonny & Cher! But… does Estonia need its own Sonny & Cher? My answer would be a thoughtful…. no. What will Europe say? The song itself is an indirect Romeo and Juliet reference. Their performance is endearing and committed but I don’t think the material is strong enough to carry them through.
Israel – The song is generic Eurovision dance-y anthem but who cares about that? There are bigger fish to fry here. In recent years I’m getting the idea that Israeli performers don’t know how to dress, a couple of years ago it was weird shiny shoes and this year it’s a mesh sleeveless t-shirt. What??? The singer himself is an odd case. I’m reminded of the phrase “good looking but not hot in any way”. He’s kind of like a big asexual puppy flopping around on stage.
My top ten (chosen without knowing the results)
The real top ten (with pluses where I was right and minuses where I was wrong)
The Netherlands +
Again, seven out of ten, I’m very happy that the two I liked most (Romania and Belarus) made it through (and Austria… ooooh I hate Austria this year!)