Recap of 2021 Semifinal Two

We have our 26 Eurovision Song Contest finalists, and it’s hard to believe that two years of preparation have come down to this already. As with Tuesday’s results, I generally can’t fault any act that was eliminated from contention last night. No one deserved to go home early, but sometimes competing in Eurovision is a losing game.

I can’t ignore how COVID-19 reared its ugly head this week. Duncan Laurence has been denied a victory lap after contracting the coronavirus. Even more devastatingly, poor Jóhann Sigurður from Gagnamagnið tested positive on Wednesday. In solidarity with their comrade, Daði and the rest of the band decided to withdraw from performing. Footage from their second rehearsal was used instead. It’s a testament to their gumption and work effort that their performance was still amazing.

Also, leave it to Gagnamagnið to figure out how to make a circular keyboard work in ways that Ovi couldn’t.

It’s always tough for me to tell what is going to resonate with juries and televoters. For example, I can’t quite grok how a strong vocal from Albania’s Anxhela Peristeri and Pedro Tatanka from Portugal’s The Black Mamba made an impression, but a strong vocal from Austria’s Vincent Bueno didn’t. If I’m being nit-picky, Vincent’s performance was a bit too stage-theatrical, but given how effective and gut-wrenching his vocal and his staging was, it seems churlish to pick nits. I thought he deserved better.

Maybe it’s as simple as going fifth in the running order and Gjon’s Tears going second to last with an even bigger, more emotional performance. I definitely got Loreen vibes from Gjon’s Tears: a powerful vocal and some dance moves that were true to the artist while still fitting the tone of the song. I still think Switzerland is in the mix for the win.

I was expecting good things from The Black Mamba, even though I wasn’t sure if a song influenced by American Southern rock ballads was going to appeal to anyone in Europe. I was really happy to see that it did.

But I have to admit I didn’t see Anxhela’s performance coming, even though I witnessed her be a complete powerhouse during Festivali i Këngës. Albania’s staging is straightforward, with good use of lighting, fog, and graphics. It all served Anxhela’s performance quite effectively, letting her be the most compelling part of the presentation.

“Growing Up Is Getting Old” didn’t have as much of an impact on me as I thought it would. Something about a singer sitting on the stage (or the prop, in this case) always seems to mute a performance, even when it’s thematically appropriate. Fortunately, Victoria getting up and singing the final lines a cappella was enough to get me all teary-eyed.

Moving on to the bangers: Was there anything more surreal than Flo Rida appearing on stage with Senhit? He’s not the first American to compete in the Song Contest and he’s not the first world famous American to perform at Eurovision. And yet his appearance in “Adrenalina” was still a sight to behold. He only arrived this week and he fit into the production perfectly. I also loved the shots of him hanging with the Sammarinese delegation throughout the rest of the evening. I think he might be hooked on this.

I was disappointed we didn’t get reaction shots of Flo Rida after Hurricane performed, though. For some reason, I’d love to get his thoughts on “Loco Loco.” Hurricane’s energy was appropriately overwhelming. They were moving constantly, dancing from one end of the giant stage to the other. They were a blast, and it wouldn’t have been a Saturday night without them.

The only artists to match Hurricane’s intensity were Blind Channel. The Finnish band could have gone overboard trying to get the room worked up. But they were able to walk the fine line of giving a concert performance and giving a Eurovision performance without looking like they were trying too hard. Painting their middle fingers red was a nice touch.

I really enjoyed Greece’s green screen-heavy staging, although I do get the criticism I’ve heard about it. The dancers don’t completely disappear properly and the visual of Stefania walking up invisible stairs to float in the middle of the skyline is a little weird. Even though working through the staging made her a bit stiff, I was still impressed with how well Stefenia commanded attention. Her place in the Final was well deserved.

Not so with Moldova. “Sugar” is a good song, so I’m not surprised Natalia Gordienko qualified. But her performance was really breathy as she pretended to be Marilyn Monroe in front of an old Microsoft Windows screensaver. While her long note to end the song was impressive, it also came out of nowhere, was a wee bit flat, and was clearly a gimmick to get attention. It was all so calculated that it lacked any personality.

Surprisingly, the other vocal that didn’t quite work for me was from Uku Suviste. He’s been so solid every time I’ve heard him sing. For some reason, his vocal was got lost in the backing tracking. I couldn’t tell if it was a sound mix issue, nerves, or both, but the performance didn’t really come together.

I had bad feelings about both Tornike Kipiani’s and Samanta Tīna’s chances of qualifying for the Final even before they took to the stage. I love how uncompromising the two are as artists and I love how their songs are unique in their own ways. But they also seemed a bit too inaccessible unless you really bought into their visions.

Visions of pure 1980s revivalism also died on Thursday night when both Fyr & Flamme and Rafał were eliminated from the competition. I had warmed to Fyr & Flamme since Dansk Melodi Grand Prix, especially after watching singer Jesper Groth on Stormester, the Danish version of Taskmaster. (Yes, I got that geeky.) I had also warmed to Rafał just by seeing his goofy charm in interviews and stray bits about his enjoyment of being in Rotterdam. The stagings for both “Øve os på hinanden” and “The Ride” were fun, if a bit hokey. I’m kind of bummed that both Denmark and Poland are out.

But I think I’ll miss Benny Cristo most of all. I love “omaga,” but I think his performance betrayed some nerves. He wasn’t able to fully display his charm and charisma, and he was out of breath at the end. Once Moldova was announced as a qualifier, I knew that his time in Rotterdam was almost up. Fortunately, I have his whole back catalog to dive back into, because he’s really good. I wish everyone voting in Eurovision had seen it too.

Denmark’s Eurovision 2021 Entry

For a moment there, I thought I had fallen asleep in a Delorean and woken up in 1985.

My initial reaction to Fyr & Flamme’s “Øve os på hinanden” was confusion. Are they a joke act or are they doing an intricately-constructed pastiche of the ’80s era of Eurovision? Reading the interview they did with Good Evening Europe: Eurovision Denmark, it’s clear (even with Google’s rough English translation) that they are celebrating the era rather than mocking it. How well that comes off when they perform at Eurovision will probably be the key to their success.

I am not a member of the Eurovision fan community who has a soft spot for the Song Contest of the 1980s. That is kind of strange, considering I first came to Eurovision for the campiness. That decade had kitsch in abundance, but I generally prefer the 1970s type of gaudiness.

That said, I can’t force myself into disliking “Øve os på hinanden.” Singer Jesper Groth is a big reason why. His slightly exaggerated movement and delighted looks at the camera impart such joyful enthusiasm for what he’s doing that I can’t help but smile. So even though I find the song he’s singing cheesy, I am also happy to keep watching him sing it.

Also, he has a chest tattoo, which is something I associate with 1930’s cartoon strongmen and and sailors. That he comes off as more Popeye than Bluto just makes him more likable.

Thanks to Good Evening Europe for flagging on Twitter their interview with Fyr & Flamme!

Denmark’s Eurovision 2020 Entry

This year’s Dansk Melodi Grand Prix was a preview of what life is going to be like for the next few months. Because the Danish government issued restrictions on large crowds in order to stem the rapid spread of COVID-19, the entire show was staged in an empty arena.

So let’s assume that Ben and Tan now have a distinct advantage if the EBU need to fall back on a contingency plan for this year’s Eurovision Song Contest.

Benjamin Rosenbohm and Tanne Balcells met during the 2019 edition of Denmark’s The X Factor. Ben finished second, while Tan was a member of the fourth place finisher Echo. They formed a duo after the series was over.

Their song “Yes” was written by Jimmy Jansson, Linnea Deb, and Emil Lei. Jimmy had a break-out year as a songwriter at Melodifestivalen this year, co-authoring six songs in the Swedish competition. Emil is a Danish engineer who has worked with Greta Salome. And Linnea is of course one of the songwriters behind the Eurovision-winning song “Heroes.”

“Yes” is a country-flecked pop tune with a big catchy “SAY YES” of a chorus. Ben and Tan’s vocal tones compliment each other really well, with some lovely harmonization throughout their performance. We love how they provide support for each other as they alternate leads on the harmonies. It’s a well-constructed song that has a lot of warmth.

We have to comment on the staging, though, because it was far from ideal for a love song duet. For two thirds of the song, Ben and Tan are on different parts of the stage. At one point, Tan stands behind Ben, staring at the back of his head while he faces forward. They don’t look at each other until the 2:12 mark of the song. It all made Chanée and N’evergreen look like Monika and Vaidas.

That’s why we hope Denmark let Ben and Tan wear their hearts on their sleeves at the Song Contest. “Yes” is going to fall flat if they aren’t allowed to display any chemistry.

Denmark’s Eurovision 2019 Entry

After watching Leonora win Dansk Melodi Grand Prix with “Love Is Forever,” we asked ourselves, “Did anyone in Russia put their guns down and not go fight in Donbass?”

tl;dr No.

Leonora was a figure skater who competed in the World Junior Championships in 2016 and won gold with her brother Linus at the Danish figure skating national final in 2016. She still works as a choreographer while pursuing her music career. “Love Is Forever” was co-written by Lise Cabble, who also co-wrote “Only Teardrops.”

Leonora is an amiable performer with an amiable voice singing an amiable song with an amiable staging. Plus it’s all about love changing the world in the most direct way possible. And she sings it in French and Danish too! What’s not to tolerate for three minutes?

Okay, maybe we’re a bit cynical, but keep in mind we flipped over to Dansk Melodi Grand Prix after watching the fiasco unfolding in Ukraine, so maybe we weren’t up for a sunny “love conquers all” number at the time. Revisiting “Love Is Forever” a week later, we came to the conclusion that it is not good, it’s not bad, it’s just nice. Good luck changing the world with that.

Denmark’s Eurovision 2018 Entry

Since Portugal has given Eurovision a maritime theme this year, it is apropos that Denmark has voted to go for the full Viking. Here’s Rasmussen with “Higher Ground.”

Higher Ground” is by Swedish songwriters Niclas Arn and Karl Eurén, who co-wrote Timoteij’s 2010 Melodifestivalen entry “Kom.” The song is inspired by Magnus Erlendsson, a Viking leader and martyr who sought peaceful solutions to conflicts.

Rasmussen is a singer and actor who fronts an ’80s cover band Hair Metal Heröes. You may be surprised to learn he has performed in a production of Les Miserables.

So let’s not put too fine a point on it: “Higher Ground” is “One Day More” crossed with “Only Teardrops,” but with zombie Vikings. It is a suitably haunting song and the staging is simple but effective. Rasmussen is a solid, charismatic singer and the arrangement makes good use of bass, dwarvish vocal tones. It was our favorite at Dansk Melodi Grand Prix from the moment we heard it.

We do wonder if there is a market for a theatrical song about Vikings outside of Denmark. If so, who will like it more: the parts of Europe that were never invaded by Vikings or the parts that were frequently invaded by Vikings? Either way, we are more than happy that Rasmussen and his fellow unkempt, undead hippie Norsemen have set sail to Lisbon.

Denmark’s Eurovision 2017 Entry

Anja Nissen has won Dansk Melodi Grand Prix 2017 and will represent Denmark at the Eurovision Song Contest with “Where I Am.”

Nissen is a Danish-Australian singer who won the third season of Australia’s The Voice. She had also made the semifinals of Australia’s Got Talent when she was 12. She finished second in Dansk Melodi Grand Prix 2016 with “Never Alone,” which was co-written by Song Contest winner Emmelie de Forest. Nissen co-wrote “Where I Am” with Angel Tupai, who was a competitor on season four of Australia’s X Factor, and Michael D’Arcy, an Australian songwriter who has penned songs for 5 Seconds of Summer and Samantha Jade.

We stress that “Where I Am” is this year’s Danish entry, not this year’s Australian entry.

We know this because Australia usually sends more interesting songs. I mean, it’s fine, in a bland adult contemporary sort of way. It’s great if you want to make a long-distance dedication on a love songs after dark radio show or looking for background music during a standard rom-com montage. (Shh, don’t tell the Danes that rom-coms are dead.) On the plus side, Nissen is a good singer and a charismatic performer, so she has a decent shot at getting Denmark’s groove back. But this is not our cup of schmaltz.

Eurovision 2016 Round-Up: President’s Day Edition

These are busy times in the Lemurs household, making it difficult for us to write about the National Finals results on a regular basis. Rather than skip out on the Eurovision season altogether, we decided to do a round-up of what has happened around Europe up until now.

The most interesting (if not exciting) thing so far is what happened in Italy. This year’s Sanremo winners, Stadio, turned down the invitation to represent Italy in May’s Grand Prix. The day after Sanremo ended, Italian broadcaster Rai announced that they gave the ticket to Stockholm to runner up Francesca Michielin. It was not quite as dramatic as Germany’s schlagerfiasco last year, but trust the Italians to be better prepared than the Germans to handle this kind of situation.

(Wait, did I just say that?)

Francesca has not confirmed what song she will be performing at Eurovision (although presumably she would go with her Sanremo entry “Nessun Grado Di Separazione”), but plenty of other countries have their entries locked up:

Continue reading “Eurovision 2016 Round-Up: President’s Day Edition”

Denmark’s Eurovision 2015 Entry

Anti Social Media has won the right to represent Denmark and to reply to about a thousand questions about their band name at this year’s Eurovision Song Contest:

Anti Social Media’s styling gave me hope that “The Way You Are” would be a Ruben Cossani-style lounge-pop single. It did have a certain 1960s guitar pop savior faire, but I admit it lacked the swankiness I desired. Still, it did contain a healthy dollop of Denmark’s Eurovision 2008 entry “All Night Long.” I wouldn’t say it’s a rip off (the way, say,  Thomas G:Son and Henrik Sethsson ripped off their own “In a Moment Like This” with “Mi Amore“), but it’s hard to listen to this one without imagining Simon Mathew strutting around the stage.

Nevertheless, you’ve got a good-looking, amiable quartet of lads, dressed impeccably, performing a catchy, upbeat love song. You would have to have problems with puppies and rainbows to begrudge Anti Social Media’s success at this year’s Melodi Grand Prix.

Denmark’s Eurovision 2014 Entry

Denmark has tasked Basim to defend its Eurovision title with “Cliché Love Song”:

Stop us if you heard this one before: Basim is a former X Factor contestant! He co-wrote his winning song with Lasse Lindorff, Daniel Fält, and Kim Nowak-Zorde. He also co-wrote another entry in the Melodi Grand Prix final, “Vi finder hjem” by Emilie Moldow.

As you can guess from the title, “Cliché Love Song” revels the standard tropes of love songs. Despite its cheekiness, it still comes off as a bit cloying. It’s also relentlessly chipper, befitting the happiest country on earth. Frankly, it would fit right into the regular rotation on Radio Disney. But Basim is an engaging performer, the staging is cute, and the whole thing is slick and professional.

But I am convinced that Basim won the Melodi Grand Prix at this specific moment right here:

You can keep your Azerbaijani showers, Eurovision. Basim has a GIGANTIC DANISH FLAG. I mean, come on, it’s like a NASCAR driver painting his car with military camouflage. A play to national pride never hurts.

STRAY OBSERVATIONS: We talk a lot about how the same songwriters pop up all the time at Melodifestivalen. The same can be said of Melodi Grand Prix. As mentioned, Basim co-wrote two songs. Two of his “Cliché Love Song” co-writers, Lasse Lindorff and Kim Nowak-Zorde, also co-wrote “It Hurts” with five other writers. One of Basim’s co-writers on “Vi finder hjem,” Engelina, co-wrote “She’s the One” with three other writers. And Lars Halvor Jensen co-wrote two songs, “I Choose U” and super-finalist “Wanna Be Loved.” No Ronan Keating this year, though.

Denmark’s Eurovision 2013 Entry

Judging from the segments where the Dansk Melodi Grand Prix hosts interview Eurovision legends Johnny Logan (Ireland), Brotherhood of Man (United Kingdom) and Herreys (Sweden), Denmark really wants to win it this year. So they did the logical thing: shamelessly steal from Ireland.

Countries of Eurovision, you’re on notice.  If we hear one more penny whistle we’re going to lose it.

“Only Teardrops” is power ballad about, well, who really knows what. Maybe it’s about failed relationships, but the use of drums and Emmelie de Forest’s wardrobe choice of rags and mussed up hair (think Cosette in the Les Miserables logo) makes it read political. We roll our eyes, because this form of pretentiousness is SO Sinead O’Connor. We despise Emmelie’s Cranberries-inspired vocal affectations. It’s a shame really, because she’s a good singer and we like her alto tonality.

And, girl, put some shoes on. And go brush your hair. AND GET OFF OUR LAWN!