The London Eurovision Party returned to the bunker of the Shadow Lounge last night. Seven of this year’s acts performed live. As with the Amsterdam event, all of them showed an ability to sing and work the stage decently enough, though some shone more than others.
A look back at last year’s article is a reminder that one shouldn’t get too carried away on the basis of a couple of hundred fans getting over-excited at these events. For example, Poli Genova put up a barnstorming performance last year, but this didn’t change the difficulty in qualifying with a rock song in Bulgarian. Meanwhile the Romanian entry that received a muted response sailed through its semi in the very different context of the Eurovision stage.
Bearing that in mind, here’s how last night’s acts shaped up.
We started with Slovenia’s Eva Boto. Vocally she was better than I had expected, after some mixed reports from Amsterdam and my own minor doubts based on her national final performance, which I expressed in my article on the Serbian entry. ‘Verjamem’ felt like it took a long time to get going, however, although I have to admit it’s not my cup of tea anyway.
It was also a hindrance having this placed next to the following act, Portugal’s Filipa Sousa with the rather similar ‘Vida Minha’. Filipa did a great job of selling this number, and is an excellent vocalist. There’s no getting away from her rather dated, insipid song, however, which is a cod-Balkan ballad (written by Croatian Andrej Babic) in a semi-final stuffed with Balkan ballads already.
Neither Portugal nor Slovenia have great draws in the second heat, and whilst both have some televoting allies to rely on, these points will not be nearly enough in themselves. Therefore, both require neutral televoters and juries to show some interest, which will be difficult when both songs fail to stand out from the crowd. Slovenia has more of a chance of doing so, but it won’t be easy.
This was our first chance to catch Valentina Monetta sing ‘The Social Network Song’ without miming. Actually, she’s a very assured vocalist, and I’d love to say that her live interpretation lifted the song from laughable nursery rhyme to a higher plane, but like I say, she’s an assured vocalist, not a miracle worker.
The UK crowd loved it anyway, lapping up its repeat performance with many admitting it was their guilty pleasure. There’s no saving the Brits when it comes to Eurovision cheese. Were it in the final, I’m convinced that the UK would give it some televote points; alas, it won’t be there.
Hungary’s Compact Disco present quite a quandary for punters. ‘Sound of Our Hearts’ is a strong song in its studio incarnation, and the kind of thing that juries could latch on to. Everything about its presentation in the national final was flat, however, hence its outsider status.
Yet the lead singer’s vocals are better than he showed back then, though they take a verse or so to warm up. I didn’t have too many problems with his supposed lack of charisma either, although the problem for any band on the Eurovision stage is always going to be a tendency to look rather static – I can’t see Mr Compact Disco combining his song with the 100m dash like his Danish counterpart last year. He doesn’t look as athletic, though it might literally allow us to hear the sound of his heart.
So here we have a strong song that on this evidence is not sung badly and offers the only straight-down-the-line entry among the final five drawn in the first semi – it’s surrounded by the Russian grannies, the Austrian Trackshittaz, the Moldovan trumpet boy and Jedward. Its qualification chances cannot be discounted, even though many have previously written Compact Disco off on the basis of their national final performance.
Meanwhile, I’ve been busy laying France’s Anggun in the top 10 market. Cute and lovely though she seemed, there was nothing I saw in her performance of ‘Echo (You and I)’ to worry me that my money is at risk.
It’s not an easy song to get right live with plenty of notes requiring modulation. She was adequate at best but has problems sustaining notes and modulating, which is not going to lift this song anywhere near the top half of the scoreboard from a poor draw of nine in the final.
Next came Sabina Babayeva for hosts Azerbaijan. There has been some disagreement about her vocal acrobatics in our comments section. I can tell you that she was very strong here, and made me think I had been a little too pessimistic in my recent analysis of her chances. Her rendition of ‘When The Music Dies’ was easily the best package of the evening so far – by a country mile.
Until Macedonia’s Kaliopi came on stage. I was rather blown away by her actually, and I wasn’t the only one. If there’s any justice, ‘Crno i Belo’ will qualify though Eurovision has nothing to do with justice, it’s all about cold, hard points. Kaliopi has to do it from the nightmare draw of two in the second semi, from where it will struggle to win over neutral televoters. Macedonia does have six allies to rely on, however: Turkey and Bulgaria as well as the four other former Yugoslav republics. That’s not a bad televote start, and I’m imagining some jury love for her too.
Macedonia hasn’t qualified since the two-semi system was introduced in 2008, though it’s worth remembering that tenth-place results in the 2008 and 2009 semis would have been enough to get through under this year’s system. At the time, a rule was in place that allowed the televote top nine in followed by the best jury scorer among the rest. It would be nice to see that story flipped on its head, with the juries helping Kaliopi to squeeze into the final, and I think that’s a possibility.
She was a fitting final act before the DJ got the fanboys on the small, crowded dancefloor – the other compact disco of the night. Agree or disagree with anything in this article? Do let us know in the comments section below.