“Are we heading for a car crash?” This was the pressing question all day given that Jedward were the last to rehearse. The Irish twins managed to hog the limelight once more having been picked up at the airport in a limo containing last year’s winner, Lena.
Yet, as well as Jedward, today’s rehearsals also contained an intriguing first Eurovision glimpse of Estonia’s Getter Jaani, the most fancied of the semi-final participants in the outright winner market, as well as another well-backed entry in Denmark’s A Friend in London.
But the last shall be first in today’s summary.
When I first discussed Jedward’s chances there were many imponderables that I expected rehearsals to clarify. Well, I think the positives easily outweighed the negatives and Irish eyes should be smiling tonight.
The vocals were perfectly passable, aided by the backing singers and a song that isn’t really much of a challenge; the backdrop was the best we had seen all day – youthful red, black and white designs interspersed with Jedward-type figures; and the twins got across their enthusiasm in a routine that wasn’t too frantic.
On the downside, they had some problems remembering the choreography in early run-throughs, and their mis-timing of a few of the dance moves occasionally reached the levels of hilarity achieved during their time on the UK’s X Factor. But this was nothing that a few more rehearsals couldn’t sort out.
In short, with their plum draw and a car crash apparently averted based on what we’ve seen so far, I have this down as a probable qualifier at this stage – although a watching brief is probably still best advised for now.
Estonia have gone down the Disney Channel route for the staging of ‘Rockefeller Street’, with Jaani playing the magician for the first verse and generally acting cute around a rather cheap-looking set of cut-outs.
Perhaps the song’s greatest strength is how contemporary and youthful it feels compared to most of the competition (Jedward apart), and the performance is attempting to emphasise this. In an era when more votes are sent by SMS than phone, attracting the youth vote has become more crucial.
Trouble is, it’s not quite working on the Eurovision stage at the moment.
The problem is essentially the one I expressed my fears about after ‘Rockefeller Street’ won the Estonian national final. The performance and song still feels over-complicated, with too many changes in direction. This doesn’t help the vocals, which remain shrill at times.
I’m prepared to give this more time, because there’s so much going on – some of it works right now, and much of it doesn’t yet but still conceivably could. Those who have backed it into single figures in the outright winner market should, however, be concerned.
Far more convincing was Denmark, with A Friend in London adding two backing singers to their armoury for ‘New Tomorrow’, as I’d hoped they would. This is a much more coherent three minutes of pop with a real Eurovision vibe to it. The staging and performance is as it was in the national final, and it feels much more like the finished article than either Estonia or Ireland.
This means that ‘New Tomorrow’ will probably not be getting appreciably better in later rehearsals, whilst ‘Rockefeller Street’ and ‘Lipstick’ have plenty of improvement to come. Nonetheless, what we have seen from the Danes is very strong.
With its ideal draw of 18th out of 19, it still strikes me as an obvious candidate to win this semi-final. While the 13/2 I signposted in my earlier article has gone, the best price of 11/2 at the time of writing still looks like fair value. Based on these early run-throughs, Bosnia poses the biggest threat to ‘New Tomorrow’ winning this heat, and ‘Love in Rewind’ has to overcome being drawn first.
I’ve thought for a while that Romania was a comfortable qualifier, and a highly competent rehearsal from Hotel FM with ‘Change’ means I am sticking to that evaluation. Its sheer middle-of-the-roadness is incredibly annoying to some commentators but, alongside Romania’s voting allies in this semi-final, helps explain why it should progress from this stage of the competition.
The team behind ‘Change’ have clearly been practising it to within an inch of its life and the British lead singer is doing a fine job of looking good, finding the camera and selling the song. The dancing girls with the trumpets are a little superfluous, and it feels very dated coming before Estonia, but it has plenty enough going for it to get through in my opinion.
Of today’s borderliners, we had strong rehearsals from both Slovenia and Bulgaria. Maja Keuc and Poli Genova respectively are vocally strong and own the stage with the right sort of kick-ass attitude. The main problem for ‘Na Inat’ is that it remains in Bulgarian, and for that reason, I think qualification could go either way.
Pundits have been pondering which of Austria and Slovenia will prevail in the battle of the powerful female vocalists; on this evidence there’s plenty of room for both of them in the final. In fact, the main damage done is to Israel’s Dana International, who is obviously outshone vocally when followed by Maja Keuc.
The first rehearsal of ‘Ding Dong’ did nothing to dispel a word of what I wrote about it after the Israeli national final. I still think that “because it’s Dana International” is not a strong enough argument for Israel qualifying. She may pull it out on the night, but I wouldn’t bet on it. Indeed, I have been betting against it – and after this rehearsal, I’m very comfortable with my liabilities.
From those I have previously categorised as no-hopers, what we got from Macedonia and Belarus failed to convince me that either have a chance of qualifying.
I’ve never been impressed with ‘Angel in Disguise’ from Latvia, and I still think the rapping brings it down. However, a great draw, an apparent fanbase and the fact that the pair of them look to be enjoying themselves on stage means that it can’t be completely discounted.