Eurovision 2012: May 20 Rehearsals

Today was the last day of second rehearsals – for the final five songs in semi 2 and the automatic qualifiers. You can watch them here. Tomorrow the dress rehearsals start and the schedule changes. Look at the second page of the official document for full details – in Baku time.

This Monday, Wednesday and Friday, I will write a review of each first dress rehearsal after it finishes at 8pm local time. The second and crucial jury dress rehearsal starts at midnight local time. I will tweet any standouts or disappointments from these. Like last year, during the press conference straight after each semi-final, when the qualifiers get their draw for the final, I intend to update you as it happens in the comments section. This is a crucial moment for punters.

By Tuesday and Thursday lunchtime, I hope to post my semi-final analysis. The third and last dress rehearsal from 6-8pm local time for each semi matters comparatively less, but I will tweet if I feel that something important comes to light. On the day of the final, I will write two articles, the first looking at the top 10 and specials markets before the last dress rehearsal (which runs from 5-8pm here), and then a look at the outright market after that finishes.

Anyway, here’s my take on today’s events.

Estonia’s Ott Lepland is sounding and looking confident. He was ad-libbing occasionally on ‘Kuula’, adding flourishes, especially to the first chorus. He needs to cut this out, as the song loses its simplicity if he starts attempting Mariah Carey-style vocal acrobatics with it. He keeps his eyes closed some of the time, but is adept at flirting with the camera when they’re open.

‘Kuula’ presents a quandary in this semi, because despite its use of the Estonian language, it feels more accessible to western ears, and juries in particular, than many of the Balkan ballads it is up against. It is also better drawn than all of them bar Bosnia. On the flip side, Estonia can’t rely on the same kind of bloc voting.

Slovakia were up next. Max Jason Mai has ditched the beanie for some 80s-rock hair – think Def Leppard. He’s working the stage well today and is doing a good job of selling ‘Don’t Close Your Eyes’ – this is also something that will clearly be lifted when an audience is present. He wasn’t singing the repeated “let me get out of here” line in the bridge today. With Belarus looking geeky and boyband-ish in comparison, this is fishing in its own pond; it’s just a question of how big that pond is. I’m not ruling out qualification at all.

Norway’s Tooji and his black-clad street dancers have their routine all sorted – it’s looking very slick indeed. Tooji’s vocals are a little thin in places but adequate enough for a song like ‘Stay’. As the last fully upbeat number of the semi, and a strong one at that, this should be easing its way into the final.

Bosnia’s Maya Sar has a dress with shoulders that Ming the Merciless would be proud of. They’ve ditched the architectural backdrop and left it completely plain, which I don’t think is an issue at all. She sings ‘Kroatke ti znam’ beautifully actually, though the song itself is far from exciting. Allies, juries and a favourable draw should see this in the final too.

The last minute of Lithuania’s ‘Love Is Blind’ is a guilty pleasure of mine – it takes me back to 80s school discos. However, just when I’m getting into it, the song stops. This is because Donny Montell has spent the first half of the number looking daft in a diamante blindfold. A change of tempo is a vote killer at Eurovision, where you only have three minutes anyway. In his favour Donny has the pimp slot and his vocal prowess. Thanks to these conflicting factors, I don’t see myself getting involved with this one in the qualification markets.

Moving onto the automatic finalists, Engelbert Humperdinck was improved today but is still falling a little short on the notes that really matter in ‘Love Will Set You Free’. There’s nothing wrong with the staging, which suits the song, but the UK entry rises or falls on those big moments near its climax, and I’m afraid they’re not quite convincing enough yet.

The French gymnastics team is still warming up for the Olympics, and oh yes, Anggun is singing ‘Echo (You and I)’ whilst they do so. She was improved today as well, but all the tumbles going on around her remain incredibly distracting. They’re not adding anything to the song at all.

Nina Zilli significantly raised her game from yesterday. She’d put on a sparkly little blue dress and it seemed to improve her mood no end. She was much more animated and in better voice throughout. As with the last run-through yesterday, she provided some movement during the bridge before asking Europe to clap along. The clapping bit I’d ditch and the backing vocals need further fine tuning, but on this evidence, Italy’s ‘L’amore E’ Femmina (Out of Love)’ is shaping up very nicely indeed.

Azerbaijan’s staging looks absolutely spectacular. The way that the backdrop of clashing colours is also projected onto Sabina Babayeva’s dress creates a stunning effect. Vocally, Babayeva is in very fine form too. Today I felt that they were also giving greater emphasis to the ethnic wailing of her backing vocalist who sits on a platform behind her. If they want to give themselves the best chance of winning this contest, I would tone that down.

Spain’s Pastora Soler continues to give ‘Quedate Conmigo’ lots of welly. I still find the backing singers a ridiculous distraction when she hits top gear. They’ve been hidden up to that point, so it confuses the viewer just when the focus should be on Pastora. Their cheesy choreography continues to distract until the end.

Meanwhile, Roman Lob was giving us a fashion parade. The German team were trying out different colour combinations for his beanie, vest and shirt. In the spirit of Gok Wan, the plaid shirt we saw in the national final that was used for the second run-through today was my personal favourite. Otherwise, ‘Standing Still’ is much as before: ably-performed jury fodder sung by a pretty face with a good draw.

Let us know what you think of today’s rehearsals below.

43 comments to Eurovision 2012: May 20 Rehearsals

  • Henry VIII

    I came to similar conclusions.

    I like Italy’s background, simple but works. The greater space between Nina and the backing singers looks better than it appeared to on the first rehearsal. But after doing so well last year with musicians on stage it’s a shame they were tight-fisted this time. They could have still had a couple of backing singers using all their allocation of 6 souls on stage. They had a bigger budget taking Nina around Italy.

    Azerbaijan is so in tune with what’s needed for Eurovision compared to most countries and then they stick a wailing old man on a perch. They originally stated that the song must have something home grown but I assumed it would be a musician playing an instrument like Armenia had in 2010. Did they keep him mostly out of shot on the press room monitor feed?

    Actually Dan do you watch the songs on the press room monitor or in the hall? I’m guessing that they give the edited feed for the press room monitor and this must surely be better as it would give an idea of what will most likely be broadcast.

    • Daniel

      Hi Henry, at this point I am watching everything from the edited feed in the press room. Sabina’s backing vocalist is kept in darkness until he starts singing but he is given plenty of prominence when he is doing his thing.

  • Chris aka Spanky

    Nice analysis, can’t say I disagree with anything.

    As Henry pointed out the simple monochrome background with a retro flavor works for the Italian song. I also think it provides a nice contrast to what you aptly styled France’s over the top “homo-erotic cabaret.”

    I don’t see Lithuania and Belarus in the final. Slovakia seems borderline to me.

    Just like Henry, I am curious where you see the songs? I get the distinct feeling that the You Tube clips we see give us a good feeling of the background and the feel of the song but we crucially miss the closeups and the camera work which makes all the difference.

  • justin

    The wailing man is apparently Bjork’s favourite singer – Alim Qasimov, who is one of the foremost Mugam singers in Azerbaijan. My theory is that as an ‘ancient vocal art’ the addition of the famous Mugam singer can only assist to in making this even more jury friendly without alienating their televote friends.

    Is that supposed to be a flying carpet he is sitting on?

    • Henry VIII

      If they want to win though Justin they have to go beyond their televote friends. Mugam may be great on it’s own but by using it they’re mixing two different musical styles.

      And I don’t think it works, I think it messes up her voice.

  • Rob44

    spain will have the jury vote sown up… the big note is a killer that no other competitor can match. it’s the only song that gets a cheer mid way through… i’m not convinced the televoters will warm to it tho. but i have some interest betting wise just because of the running order and jury interest. i doubt the backing singers will be terribly distracting to the general public. italy is also a class act… keith @akoe says he doesn’t think the azeris have a chance… i found that lol funny as probably the worst analysis of a songs chances ever. azeris never out of top 10 recently… get yer money on now.

    daniel you seem grumpy this year? we surely have never had a better year quality wise?

  • Mrs Shrewd

    Hi Dan,

    Great service as always. Will you also be tweeting news of the draw for the final after each semi final, or will you be sticking to the comments section on here?

    • Daniel

      Hi Mrs S, I will put the draw in the comments section here on the site. There will be one comments box which I will update each time a number is pulled out of the hat, so you will just need to refresh the page to get the information as it happens.

  • Boki

    Hi Daniel, if I understood correctly you will only tweet from semi jury dress rehearsals, so without a review. Is that correct?

  • Daniel

    Hi Boki, a summing up of the jury dress rehearsal will be contained in the semi-final or grand final analysis which will appear the following day. By the time each jury dress rehearsal and its press conference is done it will be at least 3am here, so after a sleep, you can expect this at lunchtime on the Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.

  • Ronnie

    Can someone please inform me why the old bags from Russia are so strongly fancied by our odds-making friends?

    • Henry VIII

      They’re fancied by all the people that are backing them. And that’s what drives the odds.

    • Henry VIII

      Because they’re different and cute and everybody has or had a granny. (Can’t sing though).

      • Ronnie

        If they manage to pull off a victory, the ESC will lose any credibility it has left. They are like a joke act you get in the early rounds of BGT.

        • Henry VIII

          People don’t consider that at all when they vote though. Juries probably will.

        • eurovicious

          One word: Lordi.

          And even putting them aside, Eurovision lost its credibility in 1957 when Margot Hielscher sang a gimmick song about a new-fangled device called the telephone, the Danish duo ended their song with a prolonged on-screen snog, and Austria’s entry sang a ditty about riding a pony. By which I mean to say: Eurovision and credibility are and have always been separate, non-overlapping circles in the Venn diagram of popular culture. I’ve always thought the whole concept of credibility (ie. things that are acceptable to like and things that are not acceptable to like) is snobbish, socially defined, heteronormative rubbish. The whole point of Eurovision is that it gleefully frisbees narrow notions of credibility straight out of the nearest window and, instead, is INcredible.

          • Henry VIII

            🙂 I’ve just learnt a new phrase.

            I’ve just seen 1957 Margot Hielscher, a very sweet traditional lullaby.

            Could you have gimmicks, ditties, avant garde, rebellion etc if you didn’t have the norm (“snobbish, socially defined, heteronormative rubbish”)?

            I guess if there was no norm the gimmicks etc would become the norm.

            But then you’d have to attack them.

          • Music outside Eurovision can be pretty daft also though. Reading lyrics of The Rolling Stones or Dusty Springfield or Elvis Presley makes me sometimes think that these stars were in their own ‘Eurovision circus’.

          • Rob44

            eurovision can be quirky, gimmicky, leftfield, rebellious and outrageous without it losing musical credibility. romania manage a couple of these labels and moldovan entries often tread in these waters without (so lucky!) losing musical credibility… but the singing grannies are the nadir of novelty and have the potential to turn wonderfully bizarre theatre into circus farce…

  • David


    Personally, I’m not really into the theory that host countries purposely avoid winning again, but if I were – Azerbaijan’s wailing man would be the perfect example. But it seems to me that you are slightly less worried about the wailer, than are some other commentators. Have I interpreted you correctly here? Because I assume it’s really too late to hope for him to be ditched now…

  • Donald

    Watched allot today, some serious competition for Loreen emerging.(watched few interviews also, has Loreen had a cold? just an observation)

    The Spain edit today seemed to stay tight on Pastora towards the end after the $ note which helped at my end.

    If the backing singers were not an issue would Pastora be winning you over Daniel?

    She is nailing it and that is a really well built song, it peaks so well, with song like that, nailed on performance and the draw must have a chance, especially in a year when an artist like Adele has done so well.

    The public going to love her performance I think to the point she may get away with those backing singers and it does have an epic simple feel with a top drawer vocalist that just may stand out against all the visual chaos of watching the whole show. Look at last year, replace the firey rain with the $ note.

    Italy was great also, well delivered, looks great.

    That’s two that have some chance with Ukraine at the price.

    Anything else emerging?

    Lets see tomorrow.

    Good luck for the busy week.

    • Rob44

      donald i agree with your assessment. my fear is that the public has fallen out of love with female ballads. austria last year had the stand out vocalist and some love from the jury but was killed by the televote. pastora has a better song than that and slightly better running order but i have little faith in the public’s grasp of musical ability… they are more likely to be mesmerised by the azeris glowing dress, the eccentricly entertaining antics of romania or go ahhhhh isn’t that german boy handsome (cue moist girly parts)… lol

      • Donald

        Hi Rob, yes they may have but it is strong. Had online well impressed last night. I only checked after I posted but Pastora certainly attracted allot of the right vibe. Pastora has arrived.

        And not singing in English either.

        The German handsome boy is not Justin Bieber who in that market you either are you are not. Staging set up is bit safe and dated and as I posted before song wise they may as well have brought The Fray to sing How To Save A Life so for me Germany has too many wires crossed.

        Spain playing down the presentation of Pastora, hair tied up etc. Bet it changes for dress rehearsals.

        Certainly the song that emerged from the weekend especially online.

        We have no semi to really judge but as Fivleaves rightly says below ” is extremely impressive for a ballad”

        I liked before the weekend anyway and was one of my early small bets. Can they keep the momentum going? if they do they must be in the mix.

  • fiveleaves

    I thought Austria was impressive last year, but it’s not in the same league as Spain, either as song or a vocal.

    Some youtube stats to back that up.

    Austria’s 2nd Rehearsal last year.
    19 likes, 6 dislikes

    Spain’s 2nd Rehearsal this year.
    392 likes, 21 dislikes

    It’s rehearsal videos are whipping the arse of any other song in number of likes and views. Which is extremely impressive for a ballad and bodes well for a much better result than many expect when it comes to the public vote.
    My gut feeling has always been that it will win the jury vote easily.

    • Rob44

      hope so fiveleaves… i invested some filthy luca on the basis that i have to love something (with hard currency) each year to really enjoy it….. but lol, the hardened gambler told me to cover the russian wrinklies as well

      • fiveleaves

        I’m with those who believe that the juries will do all they can to stop the Grannies winning.
        It would make a joke of the contest.
        I’m also far from convinced it will do as well as many expect in the public vote.
        I’m sure it will make plenty smile, as it does me, but I’m not sure that will transfer into a massive vote.

        • Engelbert would make a joke of the contest. Extremly uncool, uninteresting, not marketable. On the other hand the Babushki are fresh, hip, the big thing. Everyone wants to see them.

  • fiveleaves

    btw, excellent work as always Dan.
    I’ve been reading all the updates with interest.

  • fiveleaves

    I’ve used different sites in my 1st post, so this comparison from eurovisiontv is probably a fairer one.

    Spainish Rehearsal


    1,694 likes, 145 dislikes

    Austria last year


    196 likes, 57 dislikes

  • Martin F.

    I hope Daniel will excuse the mild spamming, but if you’re looking for another take on today’s first dress rehearsal of semi-final 1, our enthusiastic editor Danny is on-site in the press centre and blogging live here:


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