Straight to the question of the day: how was Loreen? I can report that she’s still doing tai-chi, even when it snows. What we saw today was similar to the Melodifestivalen production. Once ‘Euphoria’ starts, there are no long shots, Loreen is at the centre of the action at all times and there’s only the occasional glimpse of three backing singers in the background.
There were a few other minor changes, in what was very much a game of spot the difference. Some purple lighting makes ‘Euphoria’ look less dark than it did in Stockholm. The stage is bigger, which means that we catch the backing dancer creeping towards her a bit earlier, looking for all the world like a Jimmy Jump-style gatecrasher.
Overall, there’s little reason to change your opinion of Loreen’s chances from what you reckoned after the Swedish final. Those who believed they saw the Eurovision winner back then can take comfort from the fact that Sweden haven’t tinkered with it significantly.
What else wasn’t new? You can see for yourself here. My thoughts are below.
The Norwegians have also applied the ‘if it ain’t broke don’t fix it’ maxim to ‘Stay’. Sure, Tooji’s hairstyle is a little different once the hood comes off, but this was a competent rehearsal that followed the MGP final formula.
Without the pre-recorded backing vocals, Tooji’s voice is a little thin and occasionally off-key, especially towards the end, and this reinforces the feeling that ‘Stay’ is not quite as effortless as it appeared in Oslo. However, given the strength of the song and its draw, this should sail into the final.
Both ‘Stay’ and ‘Euphoria’ were at least a blessed relief from the Balkan ballads on offer today. Slovenia’s Eva Boto generally got positive reviews, but you have to overlook the kitsch nature of the presentation that had more than a touch of Feminnem about it. Emoting away in her bridal outfit, Eva looked like this was a shotgun wedding or unhappily arranged marriage.
If that was a little much it was nothing compared to Croatia’s Nina Badric, who had two male dancers making angles out of their arms and unfurling a long sheet, as if they were thinking up new ways to come up with the most pointless activity within three minutes. It was highly distracting and is doing ‘Nebo’ no favours at all.
Bosnia’s ‘Koratke ti znam’ is not the most exciting three minutes, and that’s putting it mildly, but at least it avoids the kitsch. Maya Sar sang it perfectly well, though she kept her eyes closed for much of it, both at the piano and after standing up for the last part. I’m not sure how well this will travel beyond its allies, but those friends are plentiful in this semi, and it also has a fine draw and the juries to rely on.
Turning to some of today’s uptempo numbers, Georgia should have learnt from Moldova how to stage their number – make it fun. It’s not rocket science, right? Instead, Anri Jokhadze looked like he took himself incredibly seriously, which is wrong on so many levels when you’re belting out a song like ‘I’m a Joker’.
Anri started off on the catwalk before surrounding himself with pretty ladies, occasionally went over to bang on a drum and briefly took to the piano. We thus got plenty of shots of his back as he strutted around, whilst being reminded how disjointed and annoying the song really is.
At least Turkey got their staging right. Can Bonomo generally toned down his antics whilst a bevy of hunky sailors played out a nautical theme, throwing in some boat formations to match the sea-and-anchor backdrop.
However, just as when first aired on Turkish television, this still feels like a private party which one hasn’t been invited to. I think that the main problem with ‘Love Me Back’ as a song and package is that it doesn’t really care if you love it back at all.
If any act bettered my expectations today it was Estonia’s ‘Kuula’. Yes, it’s Eurovision-ballad-by-numbers, and staged accordingly, but in amongst what I’ve seen over the last few days that felt like it would be enough to see Ott Lepland over the line in this semi-final.
The backdrop pleasingly built with the song, starting out with black-and-white shadows that became colourful before blooming into a full-on shower of rose petals. This was a chick-flick with a handsome male lead able to give the camera a searching look when his eyes opened. ‘Kuula’ is also ideally drawn, sandwiched between Turkey and Slovakia.
The latter is a difficult one to call. ‘Don’t Close Your Eyes’ certainly stands out and there’s a demographic for hard rock, but it all boils down to how it’s performed when it matters. Max Jason Mai was a bit hoarse today, both when singing and talking in between run-throughs. He’ll only need to throw himself into it once on the night though.
Lithuania’s Donny Montell did have his eyes closed for the start of ‘Love Is Blind’ but I’m happy to tell you that he has upgraded his blindfold. It’s now diamante. Perhaps he travelled first class on Azeri Airlines and it came in the complimentary wash bag.
However, the pole-dancers featured in his backdrop felt inappropriate, especially as Donny doesn’t look a day older than 13. This is still 80s-ballad-meets-dancey-80s-cheesefest, as if Donny was listening to Wham’s greatest hits and decided to amalgamate what he heard. I’m not buying it despite his best efforts.
That’s day four in the Eurovision house. What were your thoughts? Do let us know below.