Eurovision 2012: May 13 Rehearsals

Calm down dear, it’s only a first rehearsal.”

This was my mantra today. At this stage of proceedings last year, Russia looked a Top 5 contender and Georgia a non-qualifier. Had the ghost of Eurovision future told me that Eldrine would comfortably place above Vorobyov in the final, I would have shooed him away with a mocking laugh.

Today’s nine rehearsals, comprising those entries making up the first half of the first semi-final, contained three countries I had included among my previews of the leading contenders: Iceland, Romania and Greece. It is here that we will turn first.

Iceland’s rehearsal was the slickest of the lot. An impressive backdrop reminiscent of the official video, an effective wind machine, good vocals and a routine already down pat, there was nothing to fault in terms of preparation, especially as it followed the omnishambles of Montenegro’s curtain raiser.

There are dramatic hand flourishes and half-turns for Greta and Jonsi. I suspect the overall effect will reinforce what people already think of ‘Never Forget’ – many fans are drawn to its dramatic intensity, sceptics consider it overblown and pompous. Either way, there’s no doubting the professionalism they brought to the stage today.

The same can be said of Romania’s Mandinga. Their rehearsal of ‘Zaleilah’ saw a group who knew exactly what they were doing. The lead singer was vocally flawless throughout and worked the camera well.

But I do have some concerns that if this is their routine, it has lost some of its spontaneity. This wasn’t just because accordion guy doesn’t get to be epic anymore, as he was in the national final (though that did make me want to exclaim, ‘Cancel Eurovision!’ in disgust).

The movements are a little robotic, which made it look more static than I envisaged. The routine is not as fun as the song right now – there’s no need to copy the opening of Azerbaijan 2011, for example. Still, some whoops and smiles for an audience will lift it immeasurably.

It was not a particularly good day at the office for the Greeks though I think that reports of their demise are exaggerated. What we saw of the choreography was disjointed and uninspired; Eleftheria took a while to warm up; and she didn’t appear to receive enough assistance from the one backing vocalist – I had also expected the inclusion of two female backing dancers to help out here, to no avail.

This was also a problem for Armenia’s Emmy – a shock non-qualifier from an early draw in 2011, and you can see why some were drawing this comparison today. But it’s early doors yet. I still think that ‘Aphrodisiac’ will end up offering far more as a package than ‘Boom Boom’, though there’s no doubting that the Greeks will need to make the most of the rehearsal period.

Next in the qualification odds amongst those who rehearsed today was Albania’s Rona Nishliu with ‘Suus‘. It’s not my cup of ‘qaj’ at all but it is what it is. The fact that Rona keeps her eyes shut for much of the performance and looks in great pain doesn’t help make it any more accessible, but for her fans it’s all about her vocals and these are undeniably impressive.

Moving on to some of the outsiders, Latvia is all charming incompetence. ‘Beautiful Song’ opens with Anmary chatting to her friends in front of a colourful 70s-style backdrop, reminding me of Abigail’s Party. The choreography is from the era too, but her vocals were very strong. This has a million things to overcome, including ridiculous lyrics, a poor draw and few friends but I love it anyway.

Regarding Switzerland, Sinplus looked the part and sounded the part, the lead singer walking around almost a bit too cool for school, striking the appropriate rock poses and showing off his leather cuffs. The vocals were decent, and there was nothing here to change your opinion.

The Belgium / Finland conundrum continues to divide opinion. As two midway ballads that tread a fine line between elegant simplicity and soporific dullness, they are rather jury-dependent, but plenty of points are up for grabs here in a heat short on slow songs.

Belgium’s ‘Would You?’ is a straightforward number that Iris sells appropriately in her little-girl-lost way. Finland’s Pernilla Karlsson is vocally more assured though ‘Nar Jag Blundar’ has to climb the language barrier. But whilst the cellist on stage with her is the kind of thing that juries appreciate, I think the overall package that Belgium offers is far more contemporary, and that’s definitely my preferred choice right now.

I’m glad I could reach one conclusion because generally it felt like everything was as clear as mud! Do let me know your opinions of the day’s rehearsals below.

25 comments to Eurovision 2012: May 13 Rehearsals

  • Popking

    All those jumping on the “Ooh maybe Greece will not make top 10” bandwagon should remember “Dum Tek Tek” and “Popular” both of which had widely criticised first rehearsals, and went on to land a top 4 placing with poor (admittedly improved) vocals even on final night.

    Not much on day 1 to change opinions, I agree. I am also in the camp of those that think Belgium could edge out Finland, and one of them could make it in on Jury votes. Albania is too shouty and I am a layer at 1.5.

    Latvia is a great quirky song, strong vocals and really well produced. Sadly the lyrical content will ensure it’s qualification failure dismissed as novelty claptrap.

  • Shai

    my link to my comment on

    Summarize what I say and agreeing with you on some of the issues.

  • Emma

    after watching the videos, I agree with most everything you said here (though I disagree in re Latvia–I think it’s dreadful 🙂 ). Iceland looked and sounded fine, but I almost feel like they’re taking themselves *too* seriously, like they’re trying too hard. The past fivefewswinners, IMO, never felt like that. Lena and Alexander were goofy and fun and the acts suited the songs, Dima and Ell and Nikki’s performances were all amusingly melodramatic that matched the high cheese factor of the songs. Never Forget is just too earnest and intense and I felt a little turned off by it.

    Agree about Belgium v. Finland. Finland’s odds to be the top Scandi country (at time of writing this) are, I believe, at 51 and frankly, I’m surprised they’re not at 510. It’s really rather dreary and it’s in Swedish–why? I know it’s an official language there (I live in Helsinki) but surely they know they can’t count on many friendly votes submitting a boring ballad, in a language no country voting in that semi speaks. Doesn’t help that Pernilla doesn’t have Paradise’s adorable charm to ensure a few extra votes. I don’t see Belgium making it on televotes alone but maybe with a nice jury boost. Love the song myself, but I know very well now that what I like is very rarely in line with what the rest of Europe likes.

    Yeah, Romania doesn’t feel quite as fun. Still reminds me of a higher quality Lucia Perez though and if they can learn to get the spontaneous summer beach party vibe back, they’ll be in a good position.

    Switzerland looks better than in NF, which makes me very happy. Several people have said they weren’t giving it their all but I thought it looked and sounded (though they may have been in playback) fine. Looking forward to seeing what happens to Denmark, Russia, Cyprus, and Ireland tomorrow!

  • It was a long day! Starting over an hour late, but the time Finland came around I was flagging.
    Daniel, our analysis of events are pretty much the same. I was impressed by Romania though – the moonwalk onto the stage was cute and hopefully it’s picked up.
    Iceland were exactly how I imagined them.
    It’s funny you compare the Greece conundrum to Armenia 2011 – I was thinking exactly the same and it is worth pointing out that Greece are also lacking friends. It is very early days though!
    Belgium vs Finland I agree! Belgium like Portugal 2010 is charming and full of innocent cuddly moments. Finland’s presentation reminds me of Slovakia 2010 – that dull green/blue lighting that nullifies any potential impact.
    On what we saw today, I would certainly suggest that the winner of semi-1 is from the first half.

  • Rob44

    i think i’m mostly in agreement with a caveat about the icelandic performance. for me they spend too much apart – it dissipates the intensity of the arrangemnt and gives the impression there is a lack of chemistry. they are in no danger of not qualifying but i doubt their ability to challenge top 3 in this sf or the higher echelons in the final. there has to be a togetherness in duets or the audience doesn’t connect.

    • eurovicious

      I did have this thought in the first half of the song. Before they came together (after which it was fine), I was surprised how static the performance was and how far apart from each other the two were. Maybe it’ll look different on TV, and the fact they come together and interact as of the halfway point largely remedies it, but I did find it slightly jarring.

  • eurovicious

    Agree wholly on Romania, Iceland, and Belgium/Finland, disagree on Greece – I reckon juries will crucify it and viewers will respond somewhat less strongly to it than to Greece’s last several entries. I think Haba Haba and Boom Boom last year were both much stronger, and they didn’t make it. I can’t believe you like Latvia and not Albania – the pain is the point! 😉 It’s superlative – 3/4, linear structure, chromatic harmonic improvisation, it’s in the same rare league as Diona Dim’s “Oce” (Slovenian NF 2007) and early Lisa Gerrard/Dead Can Dance.

    Contrary to what I felt in Amsterdam, I don’t think Switzerland is shaping up so well on stage…

  • Ben Cook

    Montenegro – amused me to see how p-ed off the singer looked throughout. He just couldn’t be bothered. What’s with the half-arsed rolling out of that banner? So strange.

    Iceland – very strong, but still unsure of whether it’s top 5 or top 15. Might depend on the draw.

    Greece – probably still qualifying but I think the competition is too strong this year for them to continue their top 10 finish streak, when the performance is this weak

    Latvia – vocally very competent but it’s so twee. Not a qualifier in my opinion.

    Albania – I think it’s dreadful myself but I have a feeling juries will like it, and it should make it over the line

    Romania – I have a £20 bet at 25/1 on it winning, but I felt a little disappointed by this. I was hoping that she would sing it in the original key, but she wimped out again like they did in the NF and I think it loses impact. Nothing wrong with the performance but it just doesn’t look like the winner. Still potentially top 5 though.

    Switzerland – it’s as good as it’s ever going to be I suppose, which isn’t good enough to qualify.

    Belgium – I think she’s very lucky she’s in a fairly up-tempo semi, so this should get enough jury votes to make it through, but won’t do particularly well in the final.

    Finland – it’s nice but I agree that Belgium before it have much better chance of qualifying.

  • David

    Interesting that most here seem to agree that Belgium is superior to Finland, while the odds indicate otherwise (although not by a huge margin). Either the market or the Sofabettors would be wrong here 😉

    I’d side with the market here. I find Belgium utterly dull, goes nowhere and that the singer looks lost on stage (dunno if “flavor” is enough to save the look of being lost). Finland, while I’m very unsure if it will qualify, has an infinitely more appealing melody imo, with even the verse being more than just a transport to the chorus. I do agree that Pernilla also looks somewhat unfomfortable, though.

    As suggested, juries might save one or both of these, as there are few jury friendly songs in this heat. But I’m not so sure. The Swedish “Inför Eurovision” panel (with five more or less industry people) aboslutely axed the Belgian entry – won’t make any qoutes here for fear of ruining Sofabets Google page rank, but maybe it would sufice to say that the grand total of the five 0-5 points given was 1 pt (of the max 25 pts possible).

  • Rob44

    i also think the albanian entry is dire… but all the pundits keep telling me its good with a superb vocal. but what do i know… i hated anything sung by whitney houston. an ability to break glass doesn’t impress me, and it won’t the voting public.

  • Boki

    I had to catch up with 1st rehearsals and didn’t see anything extreme or unexpected.

    Rg Albania and Belgium/Finland I’m with Rob from entodds. Why? Because he pays such attention to facial expressions, something I also find crucial.

    Rona is painful to watch and her televote score will be low but she has 3 countries with lot of Albanians in her semi (Greece, Montenegro and Swiss) so will get some free points. We all know that juries love strong female voices so they will propel her to probable qualification (but I’m not touching her with these odds, might even lay if it keeps shortening).

    I got really scared by sweet Iris by watching the rehearsal clip from at about 1:50 – close ups like that will kill her chances to qualify. Juries could save her by putting on top of their list but that’s unlikely. I also think Pernilla will overshadow her and find the odds about right.

  • Mrs Shrewd


    Do you think the red & black staging could see Albania as a non-qualifier? Will it have the same effect on viewers across Europe as people have suggested it has on XF?

    • Nick D

      It doesn’t seem as harmful in Eurovision, for some reason. Turkey 2009 and Ukraine 2010 come to mind as recent examples that have done very nicely on a red and black stage. Albania nearly always have a liberal splash of red and black in their staging too, as it’s their national colours, and they’ve come out with a pretty wide range of results.

    • Emma

      I don’t follow the X Factor, but red and black doesn’t seem to hurt anyone’s chances at ESC. Eric Saade’s number last year was all red and black and and he very nearly topped Az in the televotes. Jedward, another red and black act, didn’t do quite as well but they still hit the top 10 both voters and juries. Annnnnd, Dino Merlin did really well with the voters too and his stage show was red, black and with a little ugly purple, though that may have just been thanks to his fame. So looking at last year’s results alone (and disregarding Serbia’s red and black win), televoters aren’t deterred by certain colors as long as they have another reason to vote for the song (Saade and Jedward’s infectuous songs and good looks, Dino’s feel-good song and fame). Unfortunately (for Albania, I dislike the song myself), I don’t think Suus has that much televote appeal–if it qualifies, it’ll be thanks to a hefty jury boost.

  • dicksbits

    Belgium – I’m still looking for someone who’ll give me odds on this coming LAST in the semi final. I cannot see this being a qualifier. Clearly Albania was the strongest – simple back drop, amazing vocal..and I don’t even like the song much!

    Greece – this should make it – I think as it’s not as strong as previous Greek entries it’ll be 7-10th in the qualifiers.

    Finland – her horror appearance is somehow reminding me of the woman who sang for them on home turf in 2007. It’s a big turn OFF. Border line qualifier, bordering on the NO.

    I think the odds on Romania are very overpriced. It’s real Marmite this song, and far too many people are overpricing it. Comments above about it being too static are true, and singing in Spanish is not a vote winner.

    Latvia – twee is such an accurate description of this. Plus it’s very disappointingly presented – the official preview video was my favourite this year, but this is so dull.

    So from today I’d say Albania, Greece, Romania, Iceland are through.

    One note on back drops – can we be sure these are definitely the final ones? In previous years they have changed several times. I though most of them were dreadful, especially Belgium, Finland and Latvia.

  • Tim B

    Belgium – Any other song would do.

  • Bexley

    Can’t have Belgium qualifying, I find it incredibly boring, it is poorly drawn and has no voting allies. There are better songs to take the jury vote away from it. Last is certainly more of a possibility.

    Gavster I’m surprised at your comment re Greece lacking friends. By my own calculation I have them and Romania well clear of the rest as far as reliable voting allies for this semi.

    • Henry VIII

      Do you know if their friends support them as well from 3rd draw Bexley?

      I have 5 out of their 10 best friends voting in that semi, so far from friendless when you think that Greece’s 10th best friend is equivalent to many countries’ 1st.

  • Bexley

    Well Henry not without delving much deeper than I have already. However the historical voting data I am using is an average of the past results 2005-2011. I would assume the draw factor would average out over that period though in checking Greece does seem to have very good semi-final draws the last few years.
    I do take your point onboard however but Greece won’t be a song I’ll be taking a financial interest in either back or lay.

  • Martin F.

    If Finland makes it out of the bottom 3 in the semi I’ll be amazed.

    If Belgium makes it into the top 3 in the semi I won’t be the least surprised.

  • sonovox

    Daniel, I must admit I’m put on my guard every time you say a song is contemporary, which I think is a journalistic buzzword. It’s opaque. but also highly subjective, which makes it hard to tell whether we agree about the qualities of the song in question. If I recall correctly, ‘Rockefeller Street’ for Estonia last year got the contemporary tag, but I never quite understood what was contemporary about a naff stylistic mishmash sung by an overacting musical theatre starlet.

    ‘Contemporary’ does seem to mean something good in your articles. But even if we agree on what a contemporary song is, does that mean we would also agree that contemporary songs will get rewarded with televote points? Successful Eurovision songs aren’t really known for tapping into the musical Zeitgeist. Or is ‘contemporary’ geared more towards jury success? Or towards appeal across both constituencies?

    As for Belgium 2012, I’m not touching it either way. It’s too bland to be sure of its success (and it’s Belgium), and IMO it’s too ESC-bread-and-butter to be sure of its failure.

    • Daniel

      Hi Sonovox, and welcome to Sofabet. You raise some great points and I will endeavour to answer them as best as I can.
      1. When I use the word ‘contemporary’, it is positive in itself. If there are aspects of this that I feel may not work on the Eurovision stage then I will state them, as I did with ‘Rockefeller Street’ last year.
      2. But yes, ‘contemporary’ is a subjective opinion, just like many other descriptions you could use about a song.
      3. I completely agree that Eurovision is hardly the embodiment of the musical zeitgeist. With that in mind, I think viewers are generally more likely to reward more ‘contemporary’ songs. The last two winners suggest this.
      4. However, Rybak showed that you could be more timeless and far from contemporary but still run away with the event. Again, it’s all about how effectively the package comes across on the Eurovision stage.
      5. Juries are more difficult to figure out. They can seem more old-fashioned in their tastes – Lithuania’s win in the second semi and Austria’s high placing in the final are two examples that spring to mind.
      6. Right now, I’m not particularly getting stuck into Belgium myself. But there’s no doubt in my mind that it looks and sounds like it was written this century, whereas the Finnish song it is competing against feels much more old-fashioned.

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