Rather than trying to scamper around and live blog all the rehearsals, we’re simply doing one post per Semifinal to wrap up the goings on. These roundup posts summarize everything we have learned since the songs were selected by their respective countries, including the promotional live performances, the draw, and two rehearsal impressions. We’ll be doing separate posts for Semi 1 and the Big 7.
The second Semifinal starts off well enough. It then settles into an interminably long stretch of competent but boring songs. At the halfway point, when we’re losing faith in the entertainment value of Eurovision, Nadav from Israel kicks down the door with his golden shoes and invites us to Tel Aviv. After that the show improves dramatically. We get werewolves, animated characters, badass divas, and excellent eyewear. The songs aren’t bad either.
Lithuania kicks off the Semifinal. “This Time” is full of unrestrained joy. Monika and Vaidas have great chemistry. You’d have to have a problem with puppies, chocolate chip cookies, and Love Actually to not like this song. Seriously, what kind of a monster are you? (Answer: see Norway 5 songs later). It’s a great opener.
Ireland has gone for a straightforward staging with Molly at an upright piano. The backdrop is beautiful. We dream of taking summer vacations in that forest. And nary a bodhran in sight.
Then the Semifinal takes a turn for the worse.
San Marino has given us the Paradise Oskar backdrop. And there’s a thousand points of light, which is a reference that is as horribly dated as this song.
Amber from Malta is alone on stage, and she’s stolen Conchita Wurst’s phoenix backdrop. Top Eurovision tip: don’t go to the animator with footage of last year’s winner and say, “Give me that.” Even the most casual Eurovision watcher is going to remember Conchita’s staging. Everything about this is uninspiring.
With our eyes glazed over from boredom and lack of creativity, we spend of the first two minutes of Norway’s atmospheric ballad trying to figure out if it’s any good. We are also trying to figure out why Debrah Scarlett has crumpled aluminum foil in her hair. Her dress is good, though, so that’s something. At the climactic point, the scales tip, and we decide, yeah, it’s okay. Norway, you may stay.
Sadly, next up is Portugal, and we’re thrust back into the doldrums. The arrangement is dated and the backing vocals are distracting. Ugh, so bored. Why do we do this to ourselves? We amuse ourselves by imagining Leonor as Anna Kendrick in the Portuguese remake of Pitch Perfect. Also, remember the movie Camp when Anna Kendrick sang “Ladies Who Lunch?” “Oh save the speech. She’s f’d, I’m ready, and the g’damn show must go on. So let’s get cracking, shall we?” Good times.
The good news for the Czech Republic is they’re probably going to have their best showing ever at Eurovision. Of course, they only need 9 points, so the bar is not set high. Marta and Václav are singing the melody well enough, but they are not connecting with the lyrics. That makes for a competent, but ultimately unengaging performance. Also, there’s a point where Marta kicks off her shoes for no apparent reason.
It’s a great draw for Israel. Nadav sounds like he’s about to sing a a ballad, which feels like a continuation of what we’ve heard, but then the song opens up. Our spirits bloom in an instant. We are like the magnolia tree in spring. Nadav is moving a lot on stage, and we do have concerns that his vocal could be compromised. Don’t care, our long winter is over. Also, golden shoes. With wings.
Latvia is next. The sparseness of “Love Injected” has made this one tricky to figure from audio alone. However, Aminata has presence and a powerhouse vocal, supported by intense red-and-white staging. No, she will not be ignored. The juries are going to love her. We do too.
So we hear that Twilight movie is popular. Azerbaijan, bless their hearts, has gone high concept with Elnur howling at a full moon and interpretive dance by people pretending to be wolves. Finally, something over the top. Azerbaijan just can’t help themselves. Gotta love ’em.
So we hear that Frozen movie is popular. Iceland, because it’s Iceland, has placed the aurora borealis in our living room. Maria has a tendency to go sharp. Adding in the natural overtones in her voice, she can come off shrill. Chris would like to share with everybody that he hates this song with every fiber of his being. We shall defuse Chris’s crankiness by giving a shout out to Hera Björk in the backup crew. We NEED a Hera Björk and Bojana diva-off. Make it happen, good people in the Euroclub.
Next up is Sweden. They’re doing the Melodifestivalen staging as expected, which is going to be a treat for those who haven’t seen it before. Detractors have been complaining that Måns has been giving the same performance during his promotional tour, with or without the animation. To which we say, folks, he’s got a background in musical theater. That performance is locked. Because it’s locked, he hits his marks and sounds great every time. The live backing vocals are seamless.
Switzerland is a mess. Mélanie sounds good, but she’s saddled with backing singers that are too high in the treble. So far we’ve had two other warriors and four other forests across both Semis. At this point we’re developing an irrational hatred of elves. The draw does her no favors either. It has similar thematic content as “Heroes” but is not modern or radio-friendly.
Then, Mr. Cyprus dreamboat comes on. The camera puts him in close up. He looks deeply into our eyes and holds our gaze. We say, Tom Dice who? John has been flying under the radar so far. We think he’s going to surprise people.
Slovenia has one of the best draws in the Semi. The intro transitions perfectly from Cyprus’s quiet ballad. Maraaya’s staging is the same as the national final: headphones, wedding dress, miming violinist and all. It’s silly, but we do remember it. The song kicks into gear immediately. It’s modern, and it’s going to land. Our bold prediction: of this year’s two fanwank songs, Slovenia will outperform Estonia. (UPDATED 5/19/2015: See our comment below.)
Folks in the press room report that Poland intersperses Monika’s live performance with video clips explaining her backstory. As far as we can tell, Monika’s vocals are undersupported and she can go pitchy. For “In the Name of Love” to qualify, Monika needs to find a level of emotional intensity that matches the arrangement.