Loves me some Eurovision, 2017 pt. 4: second semi-final notes and songs with a bye

General second semi-final notes

As I predicted the sound quality was a lot better for the second semi, I’m hoping it stays like that for the final. I usually don’t watch the opening numbers or non-competitive song parts but they did a nice medley of a few recent winning songs but in a Ukrainian folk style which was a lot better than it sounds on paper.

The hosts are still irritating me with the obsequious and phony smiles (you’re Eastern Europeans for Godsake, can’t you muster a snear or two?). I’m not sure if I’ve sufficiently processed their embroided suits enough to write about them…. no, I haven’t, I may never have processed that enough.

I’m puzzled by the absence so far of the first Ukrainian winner, Ruslana…. maybe she’ll show up in the final (or maybe I just missed her).

Bye to songs with a bye

I should cover the other six songs that didn’t have to make it through the semi-finals… but meh, don’t wanna. At first I thought the semi-finals were a bad idea but now I often like them better than the final. And the songs that make it through without the ordeal of the semi-finals the songs from the previous year’s winner and the “Big 5” Germany, the UK, Italy, Spain and France (who pay a lot into Eurovision) seem like legacy admissions who wrangle their way in by connections rather than merit. Occasionally there’s something good there (Itay’s L’essenziale from 2013 is that rare thing – a Eurovision song that I listen to for itself again and again) but often they’re just kind of…. blah. They should totally make all songs go through the semi finals with just 24 in the the final.

What’s worse is that since semi-final songs get heard twice they have the songs with a bye performed during the semis two which looks like even more non-merit based favoritism. This turns me against them and so I cannot maintain my exquisitely impartial standards…. I’ll review the performances in the final, that should be enough.

War by other means

The whole original idea of Eurovision was to help create a sense of solidarity between different European countries after WWII in a non-media saturated era and two add another low stakes friendly competition for countries (like soccer) to encourage people to not engage in high stakes unfriendly competition like wars and invading each other.

Of course now we’re living in an all media enviornment all the time so something like Eurovision isn’t that necessary beyond the purposes of fun but oddly enough it still serves as a proxy vehicle for diplomatic hostilitiy. Russia proposing a singer that it knew Ukraine would not allow is just that kind of nasty shit that is still preferable to escalating military conflict. I’m not sure if Russia has completely withdrawn or will it still be able to vote during the final and if so will they use the few seconds they have to try twist the knife in. It seems that Russians distrust the very idea of voting that they try to subvert any occasion of the act, no matter how trivial.

Different Eurovisions in Search of an Audience

There are times when I regret my smart ass cynicism. I love poking fun at Eurovision’s excentricities and absurdities but it makes me feel bad when I realize that for some (former Iron curtain) countries it still maintains a kind of… civilizational cachet. Ukraine is a country struggling to emerge from Russian despotism into European civil society and winning and hosting Eurovision is actually a big cultural deal. I remember that even if that isn’t the aspect that I choose to stress as I bliss out over overblown and/or misguided spectacle.

Down with the ESC

My Eurovision aesthetic (how pathetic is that?) can be summed up in three words that (helpfully) mimic the initials of the Eurovision Song Contest (the offical name of this shindig).

ETHNIC, I like music that sounds like it’s from a specific place and not something that could be made anywhere, that’s why I like yodeling and folk songs in Belarussian and am bored out of my skull for slick and lifeless products. I’d love it if they said no country could sing in English.

STRANGE, it’s Eurovision, if you can’t let your hair down there and look silly then what hope is there? I even liked the universally reviled UK entry in 2007 just for the variety show vibes, it surely wasn’t like anything else that evening.

COMMITTED, Give me committed and overdone over plain old competence any day of the week. The song may be weak and choreography misguided and the costumes ludicrous but if they seem like they’re giving it their all I’m on their side.

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