8 out of 10 again. Par for the course.
The show ran a lot smoother tonight than on Tuesday. We still haven’t figured out why ORF needed to have three hosts plus Conchita. One host plus Conchita would have worked fine. Hell, Conchita could have done the whole thing herself the way Petra Mede did for Sweden in 2013.
As for the performances, Lithuania was a great opening act. We know “This Time” grates on some people, and we will admit it is relentlessly chipper and rather cheesy (especially when Vaidas Baumila asks “Eurovision” to make some noise), but it came off pretty well, especially when it was followed by a parade of ballads.
We had second thoughts about picking Ireland for the Final when we heard reports from the rehearsals. Indeed, Molly Sterling’s lack of connection with the audience was a detriment. She didn’t look at the camera enough, and all around the performance was too introverted. A spark was missing. Frankly, the placement of the upright piano was a mistake: it put a barrier between her and the audience that she couldn’t, or didn’t want to, overcome.
San Marino performed next.
We underestimated Knez as a performer and the power of a Željko Joksimović ballad. We still think it’s stale, but we admit we should have known better. We were impressed with how well “Adio” came together and we weren’t surprised when Montenegro was announced as a finalist.
We were expecting to be underwhelmed by Malta and boy, did they deliver on that expectation. As we noted earlier, they just rehashed Conchita Wurst’s winning video background. Coupled with Amber’s uneven vocal, they had no shot of reaching the Final.
There is something vaguely stilted about how Norway has staged “A Monster Like Me.” The song really didn’t come alive until the end, but when it did it delivered the first goosebumps of the night. As in the national final, Debrah Scarlett had an off-night. We wonder about how well she can tame her nerves. But even if she lands her vocal on Saturday night, “A Monster Like Me” feels like it is missing something.
Our impression of Portugal was simply that Leonor Andrade was way too good for her song. She has a lot of talent. She just wasn’t given the chance to show it off. We would love to see her come back another year.
We kind of felt bad that Czech Republic didn’t qualify because Marta Jandová and Václav Noid Bárta looked like they had a lot of fun performing. Still, “Hope Never Dies” is rather morose, so it’s not surprising it didn’t garner enough support to see them through.
Israel’s staging for “Golden Boy” was very… well… Greek. Watching Nadav Guedj and his crew strut around the stage, we were reminded of Greece at its most macho. Nadav’s vocals were fine, and everyone exuded energy. The lighting change at the refrain elicited the second set of goosebumps on the night. Even the “Okay we gotta go” bit at the end of the song worked. We’re so happy to have Israel back in the Final. It’s about time.
Aminata from Latvia is a force of nature. She has a ton of vocal power, and the red and white backdrop just enhanced that. On stage, she comes across as a much bigger presence than her diminutive figure would suggest. It’s as if she’s a different person. While “Love Injected” may be an unconventional song for Eurovision, it was one of the more memorable performances we’ve seen across both Semis. It’s the first time that Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia have made the Final in the Semifinal era.
We cannot express enough how annoying we found Azerbaijan’s interpretive dancers. Not that they were bad, per se, but they were an unwelcome distraction. Elnur Hüseynov is a skilled singer and he doesn’t need the crutch. Our favorite moment of “Hour of the Wolf” was when Elnur shoved the dancers out of the way:
It was not surprising that Iceland failed to qualify for the Final. María Ólafs did not sing well at all, end of story.
We have seen the staging of “Heroes” over and over again and you know what? Måns Zelmerlöw makes us love him every single time. Haters can hate. We still say this is Sweden’s contest to lose.
Poor Switzerland. “Time to Shine” is not a bad song and Mélanie René sang it fine. They were hurt by an uninspired staging and by following one of the Song Contest’s clear front runners.
On the other hand, Cyprus was helped by having a simple but effective staging. John Karagiannis worked that camera for all it was worth, but never lost sight of the song. He was pretty terrific.
Slovenia generally kept the same staging that they had at their national final. Marjetka kept doing this weird head bobbing thing that was rather distracting. Hopefully she’ll be able to tone down some of that aimless movement for Saturday. Meanwhile, Raay was giving us a lot of face:
We weren’t particularly impressed with Monika Kuszyńska’s vocals tonight, but Poland did find a way to tell her story effectively. Coupled with a good Semifinal draw, it wasn’t entirely surprising that she punched a ticket to the Final on Saturday.