Well, that was an interesting night, wasn’t it? Highs and lows, ups and downs, success and failure – just as it should be.
Let’s start with the hosts who will be guiding us through the week. As is not always the case, this year’s hosts are actually quite decent. Just as last year, there’s four of them, and they give us embarrassing jokes and bad accents, but we’ve seen so much worst during the years that this is rather pleasurable to watch in comparison. The bits from the green room, when they’re supposed to interact with the nervous contestants during some broadcasters commercial breaks, are as forced and awkward as always, but other than that we just have to stand a couple of strange jokes from time to time – and that’s not really their own fault but the scriptwriter’s.
Much of the broadcaster’s own material is quite good as well, e.g. last year’s winner Netta’s opening act where we are shown her as a kid growing up with the dream of becoming an artist after watching Dana International win in 1998 – a story that rhymes beautifully with this year’s Eurovision theme, Dare To Dream. The massive number she treats us with, a remix of her own winning song TOY from last year, is spectacular.
I also rather liked Dana International’s rendering of Bruno Mars’s hit Just the Way You Are (even though the kissing camera was a rather awkward feature) and the revamp of old Israeli winner Abanibi from 1978 to video clips from all contestants postcards was really good in my opinion. And speaking of good, how about the Eurovision History collage with clips from all previous edition of the show mashed into one delicious cocktail?
However, there were some important things missing in this production. First of all, where was the crowd? Half of the arena floor was empty, making the show look like a rehearsal rather than a live broadcast. I’m guessing this is due to the expensive tickets and I sincerely hope they’ll get a full house on Thursday and Saturday because it did not look good. Second of all – and the most important part lacking tonight – was the awful sound production. The levels were all wrong and I get the feeling it wasn’t just for us watching but for the contestants as well since many of the artists delivered really bad singing tonight. The balance between vocals and backing tracks were terrible, and I think many of the artists didn’t hear their backgrounds well enough to sing on pitch. I know not all of them can do it even in the best of circumstances, but many of the failing artists have done well enough previously in the week to make me think this is not just about bad singing. If they don’t fix this in time for Thursday’s Semi Final I don’t know what to do. Seriously…
Eight of the ten predicted entries made it through to the Grand Final – Australia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, Greece, Iceland, Serbia and Slovenia. The two who didn’t make the cut – Belgium and Hungary – were both seemingly affected by the bad sound production and delivered much worse tonight than they have been during the rehearsals. In their stead, two rather big surprises grabbed the remaining tickets to the Grand Final – Belarus and San Marino.
Australia delivers yet again, continuing their tradition as finalists for the fifth year in a row, not once missing a Grand Final since they entered the contest in 2015. Hungary not qualifying for the first time in a decade may be the biggest surprise this evening, together with the unexpected qualification of San Marino who, just like Iceland, qualifies for the first time since 2014. It’s also nice to notice Greece back in the Grand Final after last year’s miss, together with both of tonight’s ”Swedish” entries – Cyprus and Estonia.
So, when all votes are in, staying on for the rest of the week are six women and nine men, one powerful Balkan ballad, one LSD trip in space, two sleepy lovers, disco, BDSM, Avicii vibes, a bunch of gymnastic props, two crazy cool dancers – did you see those somersaults? – some frisky indie-pop and a something which looked like a transparent shower curtain with chandelier bling but was supposed to be clothing of some kind.
These are the acts who proceeded to the Grand Final this Saturday, listed in the order they were announced during last night’s show.
Greece: Katerine Duska, Better Love
Belarus: ZENA, Like It
Serbia: Nevena Božović, Kruna
Cyprus: Tamta, Replay
Estonia: Victor Crone, Storm
Czech Republic: Lake Malawi, Friend of a Friend
Australia: Kate Miller-Heidke, Zero Gravity
Iceland: Hatari, Hatrið mun sigra
San Marino: Serhat, Say Na Na Na
Slovenia: Zala Kralj & Gašper Šantl, Sebi