Eurovision 2016: May 7 rehearsals

Germany started proceedings with a facsimile of the national final performance, which is to say they’ve turned a haunting song into the visual equivalent of watching paint dry. The U.K. have come up with a more engaging stage of blue and purple lights, featured both in the backdrop and the plinths with the two drummers. Joe and Jake work the cameras, interact well with each other, and sound good. As is usually the case, the BBC also throw some pyros at the finale.

Italy’s staging rather divided opinion. The positive spin was that the collection of flowers, balloons and rubber ducks was lovely. Francesca is standing on a narrow raised platform that looks like an island on a watery LED floor. There are animated white etchings that appear on the screen, as she sings beautifully and emotively. The less charitable felt that the staging cheapened a very classy song. I was somewhere in the middle, finding the overall effect cute. The visual concept was at least coherent, and carried out with conviction.

Moving onto the second rehearsals for the second semi, and not too many changes to report. Latvia were experimenting with a few minor details, but seemed happy to keep the effective pulsing bass line. Justs gives a copycat sound performance in every run-through. Poland was slightly improved today, with Michal in a red velvet jacket, but the staging does feel as dated as the song, title on the backdrop and all.

Switzerland’s Rykka straightened her blue hair, and was in better voice today – she only missed a handful of notes each run-through. It’s still doomed. Israel are providing a much better lesson in Eurovision staging, though Hovi Star lost himself too much in the climax on two out of three occasions. Better to do this in rehearsals than when it matters.

Belarus is visually enjoyable, and is telling a story of some kind, but the holograms are more convincing than Ivan’s vocals and stage presence. That’s not the case for Serbia’s Sanja, in a black-fringed dress, and very much the focus of ‘Goodbye (Shelter)’. The way her backing troupe are in a darker light is one of the many things they’ve got right, and this is sailing comfortably into the final.

Ireland have kept their dark, uninspiring stage, and Nicky has a slightly haunted look at the moment, even when trying a new shot interacting with the camera. Meanwhile, Kaliopi has put on a handmaiden outfit in different shades of grey, and it’s not helping FYROM’s ‘Dona’ feel any more contemporary. Lithuania’s Donny Montell tried out three different jackets, and only the white one suited him. He’s slightly lost, alone on the big stage, and the somersault didn’t do Alex Sparrow any favours in 2011. But the floor effects and angles came together for the final run-through.

Australia’s routine is getting tighter, once the crew remembered to bring Dami off her sparkly plinth on time. She’s still freestyling liberally away from the studio melody of ‘Sound of Silence’ which works well 85-90% of the time. Slovenia’s routine has also improved, though it started from a lower bar. ManuElla looked more confident on stage, as did her acrobat. Bulgaria remains a missed opportunity. Poli is carrying the dance routine and the the vocals, and it feels like both slightly suffer in the process. I can’t believe her backing singers only join her on stage for the last ten seconds.

Denmark is still exceedingly vanilla if competent. The three members of Lighthouse X look a little bit old to be doing the boyband thing, and don’t interact with each other enough until the catwalk finale. What comes after blows it out of the water. The three minutes of Ukraine’s ‘1944’ remain spellbinding, guided at every point by Jamala’s emotional performance. Norway offers something different enough afterwards. Agnete’s still better in the higher register, but her dancer is in a less distracting black bodystocking.

Georgia’s ‘Midnight Gold’ is a very pleasant surprise. It’s credible and well staged. Given a great slot in the running order, and a few voting allies, I’m seeing this as a probable qualifier right now. Albania’s Eneda is in a gold mermaid dress to match the gold stage, but ‘Fairytale’ is the most forgettable thing in this part of the draw. Belgium’s Laura brings some Junior Eurovision style fun to the stage, and I don’t mean that as a criticism. There’s a youthful enthusiasm to the whole routine. Laura’s in silver, with her entourage in white. It’s the ideal closer.

Tomorrow the automatic qualifiers have their second rehearsals, and the ‘Big 5’ should be drawing their first or second half straws. Please keep the conversation going below.

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73 comments to Eurovision 2016: May 7 rehearsals

  • TikTok

    I still don’t think that Ukraine will win. It’s way too divisive and too dark for the audience. Top 3 maybe.
    I’m a little lost because I can’t see Russia winning too. France has a killer chorus but he won’t be able to deliver it right on stage (but I think he could have won despite everyone was saying here). Australia is too cold. Sweden won’t do well with the juries.

    It’s 2014 all over again.

  • MGR

    Say no to spotify!!! Say no to cheater from Sweden!!!

  • Shai

    I have a question to Daniel( and to anyone here on this forum:

    When talking about Eurovision and chances of qualifying, we also take into account voting strength and diaspora voting. But in semi 1 we have 2 countries who are not going to give any points to each other: Azerbaijan and Armenia.

    The question is who is more exposed in this situation?Who’s chances of qualifying is becoming more difficult because it miss some points?

    • I’m sure Daniel will have something more insightful to say than I do, but asking which one of Armenia or Azerbaijan is more likely to do worse (this year) isn’t even a question that requires thought when you factor in their songs.

      As for pure diaspora, Armenia’s outnumbers Azerbaijan’s hundreds of times over.

      • Shai

        I am not asking who is going to do worse.
        From the reports I get the impression that Azerbaijan is vocally shaky and not doing well at all.

        My view is that Azerbaijan is very vulnerable in this position and for them, the missing points from Armenia may make the different between qualification and non qualification. Especially if, as last year, they only managed to qualify with the help of the juries.

        • Ande

          Well, both countries are in a pretty good starting position as they still have more allies than the average country. They would’ve liked Georgia, Bulgaria and Ukraine in their semi but also have allies in Cyprus, Russia and the Czech Republic.

          It’s true that they would’ve rather been in different semis and that their draw thus is a little bit worse than usual. However the detuction compared to a generic semi final is just in the single digits.

    • johnkef

      With the new system of voting we have 20 countries voting for other countries two times= 40 different votes= 480 maximum points.

      My stats show that the magic number for a country to qualify is 22.50% of the maximum available points= 108 points. With that amount of points you are covered but even 20%=96 points will be enough.

      In the case of Armenia and Azerbaijan that 480 becomes 456 points so they still have plenty of votes to fish. Apart from that if you check all the countries voting history, you will see that every country has another country or two that has never voted for.

      It’s not that rare. It happens with most of the countries

      • Shai

        What you write make sense, though I am not sure how you got to the magic number of 22.50%, which I think is based on some statistical voting history, where I have only general information and not a full analyse.

        • johnkef

          I have analyzed all the countries that have qualified in the past and that’s the safety % for the qualification. Only Serbia in 2009 failed to qualify with that amount but because of the Jury Wild Card that saved Sweden.

  • MGR

    Now everyone knows why Sweden will be again in top 3. Just because of spotify.

  • eurovicious

    Donny Montell’s hair is fucking awful, he looks like Eurodance Yvette Fielding.

  • Hippo

    I still struggle to see a Ukraine win. I’ve seen the staging – not the actual tv view though and it’s certainly impressive. But it’s not that much stronger from the national final in terms of moving from 30-1 to 5-1. I’m open minded on it but only if the whole”good Ukraine v big bad Russia” thing gets pushed do I think it’s a winner.

  • MJ

    When I first heard Jamala’s song it was amazing, gave me chills and I was blown away. Interesting is when I showed the video to some people who generally have had really good nose what jury would like and are musically educated (singers, songwriters etc) it left them surprisingly cold. All of them. And another fact they all pointed out – clearly political. Although as much I wish to see it as a winner and I truly admire Jamalas ability to sing, the songs political statement really puts me off. People around me are sick of that Ukrainian-Russian stuff, propaganda everywhere from both sides and you don’t really need to be a genius to understand the song is a political statement. And eurovision should not be political, even a tiny bit.

    That could turn out pretty ugly when it will be used as “Ukrainian-Russian-historical” thing on big topics. EBU let this political story through and when things go nasty, it is really hard to stop the mess. If Jamala wins, it will sure divide the viewers. It would have been much-much easier when the song name is something different and all that “Tatar” story behind it would be gone.

    • eurovicious

      Was thinking this earlier. If it wins, the EBU has a problem, because of their own totally haphazard approach to the political issue and lack of consistency. Razom nas bahato, Push The Button and 1944 are OK but Don’t Deny and We Don’t Wanna Put In aren’t, FaceTime is OK (for the sole reason they wrote it as two uncapitalised words on the lyric sheet, even though everyone knows they mean the Apple product) but Facebook isn’t? “Our love will last a thousand miles, closer to the crime (Krim) a step at a time” is OK? There should be a blanket rule: no songs about grievances with neighboring states, no matter how oblique – so no Push The Button, no Face The Shadow, no 1944, no anything that’s about grievances between countries – otherwise at this rate more and more countries are going to start sending entries of this nature and the contest will get very messy very quickly.

      • Chris Bellis

        Couldn’t agree more. Before we know it Ireland will be submitting songs like “We’re off to Dublin in the green” and raking all that stuff up, just as things have settled down a bit. As for any of the former Yugo countries, that truly is a hornet’s nest. A Serbian song about the Ustase atrocities and Croatian death camps is something we don’t need in Eurovision.

        • RonH

          Yesterday I stated EBU will not like this song since a) it is political and b) Ukraine being te organising country next year will create a big mess.
          I think this might very well influence the starting order next saturday.

          • eurovicious

            Yeah bingo, they put Ukraine on 1st in 2014. Though the ORF producer last year tweeted that he and his team decided the final running order themselves, not the EBU.

        • Chris Bellis

          Sorry, hornets’ nest. Unless the hornet is a massive psychopath and has its own nest all to itself. Although in the gangster politics of that region, nothing would surprise me.

      • Ande

        I think it’s fine as being against deportation isn’t a big political issue any longer. A tragicly bitter lifestory being extrapolated to symbolize the suffering normal people goes through when their leaders abuse their power can’t be that controversial.

        We don’t want to ban every peace song from entering and a song about shooting Putin is much worse by comparison. Even if Ukraine wins it’s unlikely to open the floodgates for political songs.

        • That’s assuming you take 1944 at face value though isn’t it? They can say it’s a story from the past, and it is, but if people misinterpret it to be about the Crimean invasion and civil war, to Ukraine’s benefit on the scoreboard and in media coverage, they’re not gonna correct you unless it’s PR damage control.

          Between the lines, 1944 is an enormous middle finger to Russia. The Hardkiss would’ve won the NF otherwise. But it’s fine to enter it into Eurovision as long as you’re happy to fabricate some bullshit about love, peace and tolerance to the media.

          What it is doesn’t matter, it’s what you say it is that counts, or at least it seems that’s the EBU’s approach.

          • Ande

            Maybe so, but yes its easier for a rules committee to evaluate songs at face value, much less of a debate.

          • Un Calquera

            I don’t really know if relating a song to the UKR-RUS conflict really works to Ukraine’s favour.

            I mean, most people around me (and I think it is a quite extended feeling, at least in Spain) think that there are only bad guys in the Ukraine conflict and are quite fed up with Ukraine’s strategy of seeking sympathy by portraying themselves as victims (without condoning Russia’s expansionist drives at all, of course).

            I don’t really know if it is the same in other countries, or if it is a Spanish-only thing (I’d say the images of philofascists among Ukraine’s troops, which were quite of a media story over here, harmed their standing a lot in a country that suffered their own philofascist regime not that long ago), but over here the reaction to the song from people around me was “boring and desperate” rather than “ohh, poor people!”

      • Europops

        Dancing Lasha Tumbai also got through when it was blatantly obvious the lyrics were made to sound like “Russia goodbye.”

        Ukraine got dodgy pics of Jon Ola Sand or something?!

  • Lake

    The Finnish broadcaster just did one of those preview jury shows and this was their ranking:

    1. Finland (Well…)
    2. Ukraine
    3. Malta
    4. Australia
    5. Serbia
    6. France
    7. Sweden
    8. Austria
    9. Estonia
    10. Croatia

  • Ande

    Regarding Ukraine being too depressing and difficult for the average viewer…

    Having no sing-along quality is a real issue for 1944. Among my friends certain types of people also couldn’t imagine Ukraine winning Eurovision (mainly people who wants easy listening).

    One reason Ukraine might overcome this obstacle is that there’s greater preference overlap between most other contestants than with her. Ukraine would have less of a chance one on one against other top contenders but having 25 other acts in the final will benefit Jamala greatly.

    It’s a tad difficult coming up with a precedence for an aching kind of song doing well with televotes. The only one I could come up with was this thing finnishing within 0.2% of beating Malena Ernman and winning the Swedish NF in 2009…

    Is there any other examples?

    • RonH

      Ande, the argument Ukraine might win because its so different is the same used in 2013 by those who believed Anouk would have a shot at the title with Birds. The public did not reward here melancholic waltz yet chose for the happy and far simpler song of Emmelie de Forest.

      • Ande

        Maybe if the Netherlands had switched stagings with Denmark… well no, the song would’ve still been too dull.

        I can agree to the argument that Russia is a slightly more likely winner, but there’s simply no value to be found there. On the other hand at this point there isn’t much in value left Ukraine either.

    • RonH

      Oh and about precedences of aching songs. The example you presented is about aching love, and most people can relate to that. Here we have an example where people are kindly asked to relate to:
      “When strangers are coming…
      They come to your house,
      They kill you all
      and say,
      We’re not guilty
      not guilty.”

      • dash berlin

        I often find myself singing about strangers coming to my house to kill me.
        There are dark songs every year, recently, very good ones, that had low odds, but come public voting Saturday, its not going to do well in the televote.

        • Henry VIII

          It’s so weird and depressing I think it’s even a risk to back Top 10 although I’m pretty sure it will be Top 10. As Ron says, the other melancholic ones, that have had some limited success, have all been love songs.

  • Rob4

    I was sleeping on Ukraine last night and as it is this time of year i dreamed of eurovision – sad I know. But strangely what i dreamed of was Sognu. It took me a while to figure out why this might of been triggered by going to bed thinking of Ukraine as the song bears no similarity but then I realised it wasn’t the song similarities but the situation. Sognu had a spectacular presentation and was declared the winner in the reheasal stage just like Ukraine has been – but that is where the similarity ends and why I’ve shifted a bit in my initial declaration that 1944 is too dark to win – bear with me…

    Sognu failed because it was sung in an inaccessible language by country with no voting friends. it was supposed to get a massive jury score that would overcome these handicaps but ultimately the singer was too nervous and choked during the jury run through.

    On the otherhand Ukraine has plenty of voting allies and the song is in English. Add to that this is a performer who is not likely to choke in any performance much less the jury rehearsal. We already know the presentation is blowing anything else away and it is not fishing in the same waters as any other entry. Also unlike France it will have been performed and seen before the final which will generate buzz and create anticipation for the final.

    Ultimately my initial reason for 1944 not to win of being too dark may be borne out but I’m now more in the 50-50 camp that an outright ‘this can’t happen’.

  • Ande

    So how do you guys rank the first semi?

    Here’s my list, ordered in likeliness of qualifying:

    Russia (3min action man)
    _
    Malta (good presence & singing)
    Iceland (crappy crow Loreen)
    Armenia (the cool verison of risqué)
    _
    Cyprus (generic rock drivel, has USP)
    The Netherlands (please smile a little)

    Austria (princesses will love this)

    Estonia (stalker boy is slightly endearing)
    Croatia (static, vocal needs fix, bad draw)
    Hungary (static, too safe, bad draw)
    Czech Republic (static, lacks USP)
    Finland (uptempo but lacks fun)

    Bosnia & Herz (disjointed, has diaspora)
    Azerbaijan (slutty dancers, cat vocal)
    _
    Montenegro (lacks accessibility)
    Moldova (lacks USP)
    Greece (lacks concept & vocal)
    San Marino (awesome disco version)

  • RonH

    This is my last comment on 1944. I realize the longer I think about the song, the more furious I get. Plenty of sad songs were performed at ESC and many even won (Après Toi, What’s another Year, Hold me now, Why me, Molitva even Only teardrops) but these song all had one thing in common: personal grieve.

    I am strongly opposed to exploiting other peoples grieve in order to win a Singing Contest. 1944 could be a credible song at any other occasion but Eurovision. No one should be allowed to win a SINGING CONTEST with a song that exploits victims, wether they be the victims of Stalinism, Nazism or whatever other historical conflict. Simply because it is disrespectful to all those millions who suffered or lost their lives under the most horrible circumstances.

    I therefore hope and expect that commentators and jurors of many countries will realise that this song, if not banned by EBU, should be boycotted. Televoters should be strongly advised to do the same. Eurovision was started in the fifties with the aim of bringing different cultures together and promoting respect and peace. Lets keep it that way by not giving any support to songs that pour salt in old wounds.

    • Chris Bellis

      In addition, I don’t like the song and I’m not alone in my group. None of us likes it. As you say Ron, it’s wrong for Eurovision in so many ways. I’ll say again, every country in Europe can play that game. Russia could do a song called “26 million killed by the Nazis, none of whom have every been investigated, let alone prosecuted, by the gangster puppets of Ukraine” etc. You get the idea.,

      • Ande

        If I were a victim of deportation I’d feel honored if someone wrote a Eurovision song about it. Also she’s singing about her own family destiny so it’s not like she’s exploiting anyone else.

        Ofc many will think it doesn’t belong in Eurovision, but they wouldn’t be the target audience for it in the first place. Difficult to tell if juries will mark it down but I think most won’t.

        Among my acquaintance sphere most right wing and conservatives doesn’t like it while many left wing and progressives loves it. Noone who loves it have expressed any particular resentment towards Russia either, it’s more about feeling empathy and/or thinking “she looks like a cool witch”.

    • Henry VIII

      Ron I think your reaction will be shared by many viewers. They won’t have done any analysis oc, they’ll just think – “What is this political wailing in my Saturday night ESC?”

      Many seem to think that the anti-Russian feeling that the western press have created will help Ukraine. There certainly has been that feeling created. I don’t think the negativity is as strong as it is among the mostly gay ESC press (they may have their own good reasons, but they won’t be felt by the majority veiwer), but I really can’t judge western European public opinion. So I’m all ears to anybody’s opinion…

      • RonH

        Henry, I believe the present anti Russian sentiment in western Europe goes beyond the gay community. Therefore I stated here earlier this might help France in getting more popular support, especialy with the recent terrorist attacks in Paris in mind.

        I don’t think that this will bring much extra support for Ukraine though. May I remind the recent referendum on the association treaty between the European Union and Ukraine that was held in the Netherlands. This referendum was lost with more than 60 percent of the popular vote, although the anti-Russian card was played during the campaign by political parties in favor of the treaty. The main reason for the outcome, according to pollsters, was many voters found Ukraine too corrupt.

        • Chris Bellis

          My coterie of left leaning friends don’t buy the “Ukraine good, Russia bad” argument at all. Since this coterie includes Montenegrins, Bosnians, Serbians, Bulgarians, Hungarians, Poles, Latvians and a fair few others you might reasonably expect to be anti-Russian (if you believe the right wing press) then I really do believe the argument is best discounted. People voted for Russia in the past and will do so again if the song hits the right note. Everybody in a Christian Orthodox country knows that they are told to think a certain way, but they will vote for whom they like. Conchita got loads of votes from supposedly homophobic countries, including Russia, despite what some people on this forum said. I’m not saying those countries don’t include an awful lot of homophobic people (Patriarch Kyril for one), just that they don’t tend to vote in Eurovision.

      • eurovicious

        “the anti-Russian feeling that t̶h̶e̶ ̶w̶e̶s̶t̶e̶r̶n̶ ̶p̶r̶e̶s̶s̶ ̶h̶a̶v̶e̶ ̶c̶r̶e̶a̶t̶e̶d̶ Russia has created by invading neighboring countries”

        Fixed it for you.

    • Rob4

      Christopher Plummer sang Edelweis in a song contest… oh wait that was a movie…

      • Chris Bellis

        Bit late to reply …but he didn’t sing it. It was covered, and Christopher Plummer often moaned that he would have sung it better.

  • Which song do we think juries and televoters will rank most similarly high? Not necessarily top of the scoreboard but top 6 or so for both sides.

  • RonH

    Does anyone know what time today the big five will be assigned to first or second half of the final?

  • RonH

    Amir did a much better job in second rehearsal. He’s my clear favorite again.

  • Dani Intercity

    Yes it’s defo today. On the red carpet tonight as countries are entering the opening ceremony (from 7pm CET) RonH 🙂

    http://www.eurovision.tv/page/news?id=watch_live_the_red_carpet_opening_ceremony

  • Milton

    From the video that we have seen and the comments from those at the arena, I think the word for Ukraine could be spellbinding. You can’t apply that to any other song that has ever appeared in ESC.

    • Ande

      Yes, that fits with what two of my friends who liked ‘1944’ called Jamala. One likened her with a “cool witch” the other with an “occult priest”.

  • TommyBarnes

    As a Netherlands Top 10 backer, I am disappointed that they didn’t bring the bar to the stage. The nation of Barney and Van Gerwen should have brought a dartboard too.

  • TommyBarnes

    I know I am being childish but I am surely not the only one who sniggers at the end of the first verse when Jamala sings our souls.

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