Eurovision 2013: May 7 Rehearsals

Bang goes that theory. A succession of better-than-expected rehearsals this morning seemed to mock my suggestion that the second half of the first semi was full of potential non-qualifiers. However, a few less-impressive-than-expected rehearsals this afternoon helped even up matters a bit.

However, there’s now a race on for the qualification places thanks to one or two raising their game, and it’s looking more competitive than I had envisaged. This is partly thanks to Montenegro. Who See emerged out of the dry ice first thing this morning in their spaceman suits and Nina Zizic suddenly appeared from a trap door to deliver a flawless vocal.

It woke everyone up in the press centre, and gives this semi just the jolt it needs after the earnestness of the first half. Of course, ‘Igranka’ is almost as far removed from your traditional Eurovision fare as ‘Woki mit deim Popo’ and look how that did for Austria last year. I’m not calling this a qualifier by any means yet; I’m just not calling it a non-qualifier yet either.

Lithuania’s Andrius Pojavis actually performed this afternoon, in a temporary swap with Belgium, but I’ll consider him next to respect the order you’ll see them in next Tuesday. Unfortunately, I don’t think he would have impressed from anywhere in the running order today, looking lost on stage and failing to convey the strong beat of ‘Something’. I’m afraid the overall effect was incredibly amateurish.

I had my fears for Belarus’s Alyona Lanskaya too, when she emerged from a giant disco ball at the start of ‘Solayoh’. This was the same choreography team as for ‘Boom Boom’, Armenia’s doomed 2011 entry, and it showed. They’ve got one thing right though: they don’t have her moving too much and her vocals are largely undisturbed.

Three backing vocalists give her extra support in this respect but this means only two backing dancers. The new, reduced choreography has drained some fun from the package, and trashy fun is what ‘Solayoh’ is all about. The dancers, who resort to drums during the bridge, looked a little mechanical, as did Alyona herself. Maybe they’ll get into the spirit of things with this practice under their belt.

It was a good day at the office for Moldova’s Aliona Moon. She showed up in a big white dress, sung flawlessly, then got raised high on a plinth as images were projected, Sabina Babayeva-style, onto her extending outfit. Behind her three backing dancers performed some tasteful contemporary choreography and Pasha Parfeny played the piano. The press centre gushed. She could rightly be pleased with herself.

I wasn’t so convinced by the Irish staging. It’s very tribal and very busy. Ryan Dolan stands front and centre as three shirtless drummers bang away behind him, two of them doing plenty of energetic dancing. The backing singers were a little too high in the mix on early run-throughs and though the overal vocal effect improved, the visual one still looked messy.

Cyprus’s Despina Olympiou offered something incredibly simple in stark contrast to the shenanigans going on elsewhere. She just stood there in an elegant dress and sang ‘An Me Thimasai’. The only feature was a sixty-knot gale aimed at her slim frame for the final third. Unfortunately the vocal wasn’t quite flawless – she had some problems with the more demanding cracked notes towards the climax – and it needs to be for a song that is dull and dated.

She’ll be followed next Tuesday night by Belgium’s Roberto Bellarosa, who switched with Andrius to sing in this morning’s session. He was one of those to perform above expectations before lunch. Once he got over a hesitant opening 20 seconds, his vocals grew in stature, and ably assisted by three backing singers, the strength of ‘Love Kills’ as a pop song came through.

Roberto is never going to be the Belgian equivalent of Robbie Williams when it comes to stage presence. Two female backing dancers angle their limbs in various ways to help share the attention. If that was the main purpose of the choreography, it largely succeeded, though I can’t say I was completely convinced by all the moves.

The day ended as it has begun – with a press centre gasp at a costume reveal. Unfortunately for Serbia’s Moje 3, it was a gasp of horror at their unflattering, candy-coloured outfits. This and a stage routine that is far too self-involved detracted from a good vocal performance for ‘Ljubav je Svuda’.

The angel / devil storyline from the national final was at least comprehensible to a non-native audience. Without it, the new stage concept is confusing and visually unappealing: they looked like three spoilt teenagers fighting and making up with each other.

You can check out some of the action from today’s rehearsals in the official videos that I have added to my tweets. Let me know what you think of them below.



34 comments to Eurovision 2013: May 7 Rehearsals

  • Justin

    Daniel thanks again for your reports.

    Its my first time keeping track of the first rehearsals so closely. How likely is it that when an entry gets poor blog reviews – like Serbia or Ukraine – after a first rehearsal, that they change things up for the second rehearsal and beyond? Or would it generally be the case that the costumes/choreography are set in stone?

  • Daniel

    Hi Justin, good question, it does happen though not very often. There’s also a sense that we are seeing something closer to the finished article in first rehearsals this year, with most of the intended outfits worn for them.

    Zlata promised in a video interview yesterday that the giant is staying. Meanwhile, the Serbian costumes were put together by a big local name who has worked with Lady Gaga, so the sense among the press is that these will stay too.

  • Justin

    Thanks Daniel.

    My only other comment is that I have been baffled at Ireland’s price for qualification for sometime now. From what you say the staging is not pushing it any further up the rankings for juries or televoters.

  • Ben Cook

    Was Nina flawless? The clip I saw she was flat as a pancake. But obviously I’ve only got those 20 seconds to go by!

    I agree though it’s a tougher semi to predict than people were saying. It’s all very well saying “it’s only got to beat 6 songs to qualify”, but I can’t name more than 2 certain non-qualifiers.

    • sonovox

      Agreed – Nina very flat indeed in that clip. Hope it was atypical. And the boys looked to be clumping around a bit aimlessly. To pick up the right amount of zany and come across a storm, I think this’ll need to be cleverly shot.

      Despina’s vocal also seems pretty ropey – nasty edge to her voice, she should’ve been given backup. Unless she’s ill this week.

      Moldova – third year in a row that they’ve nailed the visual. Had it down as borderline, now have it as likely. Maybe at the expense of Ireland – naff to the, er, hilt.

  • Boki

    Hi Daniel, thanks again for all the amazing work!
    Rg. Montenegro, do you think that OTT space suits could bring them last place on the juries list?

    • Daniel

      Hi Boki, I have no idea how juries will take to Montenegro. Some jurors could reward it for being the most contemporary thing on display, others punish it for the staging and for being far removed from what they expect. It’s possibly one of those divisive entries not suited to the new system in that respect.

    • eurovicious

      Boki, I do.

      While I was pretty much with the consensus yesterday, I’m slightly against it today on 3 songs – Montenegro, Serbia and Lithuania. (I agree with the consensus on Cyprus, Ireland, Belgium, Belarus – Alyona’s vocals impressed – and superb Moldova.) The following opinions should of course be taken with a slightly larger pinch of salt than usual as obviously I’m not in Malmö seeing the footage, and only judging this from the rehearsal videos and the English- and German-language rehearsal blogs, of which I’m reading about 7.

      – Montenegro: everyone has been shouting “BUY!” today and the qualification odds have shortened correspondingly, but I feel like the lone trader on the floor shouting “SELL!” (ie. lay). To me it’s the safest NQ best in the semi, if not the contest, and the NQ value has only increased today. Both juries and viewers in general hate aggressive rap, and the staging is actively alienating (geddit?). Not only is the spacesuit gimmick jury poison and unlikely to attract any additional televote, it throws the song’s credibility out of the window, turning the contest’s most credible entry into a novelty curiosity that’s more memorable for the staging than the song and for the wrong reasons. Moreover, while I gather the camera angles are pretty dynamic, rap requires dynamism in movement, in gesture etc, and how are they supposed to achieve that while moving around in slow motion in spacesuits, as we see in the video? I say lay. We’re dealing with a) a genre that does terribly at Eurovision b) performed aggressively c) in a foreign language d) with gimmick-heavy staging e) from a nation that’s never qualified. (The closest Montenegro so far came – 11th in 2009 – was with a much more viewer-friendly song). This has “out in the semi” stamped all over it.

      – Serbia: I don’t get the fuss about the outfits. They’re fine, in fact a great improvement on the kitsch, jury-offputting Beosong ones. It now looks like Caroban 2.0. Superb vocals. My feelings are pretty much in line with the Wiwibloggs review here:

      – Lithuania: coincidentally, my feelings again overlap with the Wiwibloggs review: While I do understand the concerns regarding his performance, I think the appeal and relative musical strength of the song is being underestimated by the fan bubble, to which it is anathema. Lithuania has a middling track record but has qualified more years that not, especially since 2008, and its recent NQs have been a lot weaker than this is.

      • Boki

        I hate when you are so confident 🙂
        Anyway, I share your thoughts about CG while odds were to low to commit, suddenly odds changed and I will commit for sure, just thinking how much.

        • eurovicious

          I’m not as confident as I might sound, though I have put my money where my mouth is. I’m not as confident on anything this year as I was last. But confidence can be misleading too, I’ve been incorrectly confident in things before, though mostly outside ESC.

          Another thing to bear in mind is some western fans/punters backing Montenegro to qualify are partly basing their stance on the slightly lazy assumption that “it’s a hit in the Balkans”, just as some Bonnie backers are over-optimistically relying on the fact that “she’s big in Europe” (as some UK fans incorrectly assumed with Engelbert last year). You and I know a) how crowded the “Balkan” musical marketplace is, particularly with club music and rap, to the extent that a track like this hardly makes a dint, and b) that it’s not likely to get high points from Slo/Cro or Austria (whose Serbs will vote for Serbia). The similarly lazy argument of “this is what young people like” doesn’t apply either, as a) since when do the cool kids watch Eurovision semis, let alone vote in them? b) a language barrier applies #popo. It’s a song in a highly niche genre.

          Does anyone think Ireland looks too gay? It looks like a Dejan Milicevic production. The dancers so clearly scream “this song is for a gay audience” that I feel it might be a little offputting to mainstream voters and to a certain extent juries. They should have ditched the faux-traditional elements (bodhrans, non-sequitur Celtic backdrop) and gone all-out dance to maintain as much credibility as possible. As it is, it’s more Malta 2007 than Sweden 2011

          • eurovicious, interesting reasoning on Montenegro. Regarding their supposed Balkan star status, is there even anything backing that? I’ve been looking for some hard data on it, but have yet to find any.

        • What do you refer to with “CG” here, Boki?

          • eurovicious

            Crna Gora (Montenegro, “black mountain”)

          • eurovicious

            Hi squall – they’re certainly not a “name” act. They’re an underground act, I don’t think they’re even that widely known. The leading rap acts in Serbia and ex-Yu in general in terms of sales, radio play, club play etc. are MC Stojan, Cvija, Sha, Elitni Odredi, MC Yankoo and various others, all with a much more commercial Pitbull-esque style. Who See simply don’t register, they’re an underground act not a mainstream act, and as such just don’t get the exposure. Your average diaspora kid growing up in the west loves MC Stojan but has never heard of Who See.

          • Boki

            Ev kindly explained already. I’m the wrong person to judge their Balkan star status btw since I hate that type of music so not familiar at all with the scene despite my roots.

            Rg. Ireland: it is indeed too gay, should struggle with Balkan/Eastern votes imo.

  • I’ve enjoyed following the rehearsals thus far. Now that semi final 1 rehearsals are done for now, I feel like I’ve got a pretty good handle on who will and won’t qualify.

    Austria – NO
    Estonia – NO
    Slovenia – NO
    Croatia – YES
    Denmark – YES
    Russia – YES
    Ukraine – YES
    The Netherlands – YES
    Montenegro – NO
    Lithuania – NO
    Belarus – YES
    Moldova – YES
    Ireland – YES
    Cyprus – NO
    Belgium – YES
    Serbia – YES

    Belgium/Lithuania are the two countries I’m least sure on. I don’t care how good Montenegro looks – it’s not going to qualify.

    Really looking forward to Azerbaijan, Bulgaria and Iceland tomorrow!

    • eurovicious

      I’m basically with this (especially your comments at the end), except I have uncertainties regarding Ireland. If Ireland comes over as kitsch – and those oiled-up, tribal-tattooed tight-trousered drummers, the Celtic backdrop and the cheesy arms-outstretched “love” choreography don’t help – something could take its place despite Ryan’s better-than-I-expected vocals. Similarly, while Belarus looked and sounded stronger and more polished than I’d expected today, I also don’t see it as certain. CHA CHA!

  • dicksbits

    Belgium and Ireland most disappointed me today. Belgium is very static, the backdrop is dull and highlights the worst line in the song in large letters (“waiting for the bitter PILL”), and his dancing women were less than convincing. They looked silly rather than sexy and chic around him. I think this is a miss, and with Belgium’s poor qualification record, I wouldn’t be putting any money on this.

    I agree Ireland looked ‘too busy’. I think his vocal will crack on the night and not hold all the notes. There was a a great fuss about him in Amsterdam, and I’d like to see Ireland in the final, but I think this could just miss out.

    At current standing, I can see Netherlands really standing out with its haunting tune and simple staging, particularly if there is a commercial break straight after her performance. Time to reflect.

    I do think Lithuania could come last in this semi-final.

  • dicksbits

    I agree with a comment above that Ireland looks NAFF on stage sadly.

    • eurovicious

      Yeah, the song is fine but the question is whether the visual package will go down well outside of the wooftersphere.

  • eurovicious

    In advance of tomorrow’s SF2 rehearsals, my 10 qualifiers at present are: Azerbaijan, Malta, Bulgaria, Greece, Israel, Armenia, Norway, Albania, Georgia, Romania.

  • Montell
    Hey, in this video Ukraine looks much better than I thought right after rehearsals. Actually I really like it and that giant doesn’t look so bad when you watch this video. I think it’s no suprise Ukraine is the 2nd favourite to win the title. They already made a remix of their song which is very good. IMO Ukraine is moving to the right direction.

  • trollgirl

    So last night I actually had my first eurovision related dream: Zlata’s giant was dressed as shrek. that was the surprise.

    And had this thought. When 2 years ago Mika Newton started rehearsing with the sand artist most of us were pulling our eyebrows a bit. I think even on sofabet it was considered it will hinder rather than enhance her chances (because it had nothing much to do with the song and would distract and cause confusion… i think these were the reasons) And in the end I think this rather silly gimmick had much to do with her good result. (yes, her running order was also lucky… but the sand artist was definitely a memory locker)
    So however silly the giant might look and seem for Zlata, I think we should consider that a lot of viewers don’t desire that much refinement and do actually fall for rather silly gimmicks.

    • eurovicious

      True story: I dreamt we lived in a world where everyone was economically compelled to spend their lives working for companies they had no stake in, that there was this huge annual song contest on the planet’s most developed/affluent continent that was rubbish yet costs millions, that it was some people’s actual job to commentate, choreograph, produce, perform in or otherwise work on this event, and that I and a small cabal of others tried to circumvent capitalist society’s economic compulsion by using our expertise to bet huge sums of money on the outcome of this stupid event.

      Then I woke up and it was ALL A DREAM.

    • eurovicious

      When I first saw the sand artist (who I was already familiar with) during the first Ukrainian rehearsal, I immediately thought “whoa, that’s gonna do well”. It was novel, highly artistic and touching. Zlata’s gimmick is none of those things. (Mika’s song was also better.) It may be memorable but for the wrong reasons.

    • eurovicious

      Besides, as gimmicks go, Ott was more “like a butterfly” than Zlata ever will be. It’s all in the proboscis.

      • chewy wesker

        Your totally right ev, I love zlata to bits. I even marry her tomorrow, I think the her singing is the best vocal this year, however the song is not a winner and the giant is wrong I feel. It’s almost like Ukraine are saying how can we win this?(get the elephant man in that’ll do it) no as much as I feel Denmark’s a weak favourite this is just making me think can anything challenge Denmark?

  • I’ve been pouring over the first semi the last few days and come to this conclusion.

    Austria – no friends, drawn 1st, nice song but voice not great. NQ
    Estonia – This is one of a few I think have a shot at taking 2 Q spots, Estonia have decent voting allies and that will be the difference for 10th place.
    Slovenia – Don’t like the song, voice isn’t great, however its hard to overlook the 5 voting allies. Will Q
    Croatia – Voting allies, nothing to not like about performance. Will Q
    Denmark – Will Q, don’t think I need to say more
    Russia – Again, certain Q
    Ukraine – Despite the awful staging, it should still Q
    Netherlands – The song is fine, juries will like it, but Netherlands don’t have any voting allies other than Belgium, the 12 from Belgium might be enough
    Montenegro – Its a RAP mess, it could Q, but I doubt it
    Lithuania – Voting allies give it a shot at the last couple of places, but the juries won’t help it
    Belarus – A certain Q
    Moldova – Certain Q, top 3 in this heat. Vastly underrated
    Ireland – The staging is awful, it visually looks a mess, the song is less than average. Battle for final Q places
    Cyprus – Has no allies and the song would be instantly forgotten if not for late draw. NQ
    Belgium – No allies again, even with good draw its another song that the juries won’t mark up.
    Serbia – Allies, pimp slot, Will Q

    Will Q – Slovenia, Croatia, Denmark, Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova, Serbia

    2 from – Netherlands, Estonia, Lithuania, Ireland
    Personally think it’ll be Estonia and Lithuania

    Anyone to convince otherwise?

    • eurovicious

      Only thing I majorly disagree on here is re: supposed Slovenian allies – it was in the Yugo semi last year and still came second to last. Slovenia’s like Milhouse, nobody likes it. Ditto Montenegro.

      The best albeit thoroughly flippant analogy to the ex-Yu voting situation I can come up with is if the British Isles were to enter as 6 nations – England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland, the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands. The first 4 would be so busy voting for each other that no-one would vote for the Isle of Man or the Channel Islands (Slovenia and Montenegro).

      • From what I can see, that’s not really correct… according to my stats, all of Croatia, Montenegro and Serbia give Slovenia way over average points (5-7pts over other voters’ avg). Montenegro I don’t really know, they don’t seem to have been in same semis as the others (with the odd exception). What do you base your assessment of Montenegro’s chances of Balkan love on?

  • DashBerlin

    Thats a fair point euro, I judged allies not on a lazy geographical vicinity, but when a country votes for another country out of line with the masses (top 3).
    I see its the outsider of the Semi to qualify, so I might be off base.
    I guess if I’m thinking Ireland and Netherlands struggle to qualify, I think it has a shot

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