Eurovision 2015: May 14 rehearsals

The second half of the second semi-final is an intriguing mixture.

We started today with Israel’s ‘Golden Boy’ Nadav Guedj. The concept is the right one here: three male backing dancers bringing movement and fun; two backing singers who join in for the final chorus; and a blue-to-gold stage. My one problem is that Nadav is always on the move himself, and that occasionally affects his vocals and connection with the camera. I’d rather he stayed still when singing and only danced when not.

Latvia’s Aminata is still throughout, but she’s aided by some gorgeous red-and-white ethnic graphics and her vocal prowess. ‘Love Injected’ has moments when it feels a little too minimalistic and esoteric, but there’s no doubting that this is Latvia’s best entry in a very, very long time, and it deserves to qualify.

Azerbaijan has committed itself literally to its song title, with a moon and forest backdrop, and two contemporary dancers acting as fighting wolves. They’re rather off-putting, and Elnur’s vocals weren’t always secure when unaided by some excellent, hidden backing vocalists. But the backdrop, which turns to red at the big moment of ‘Hour of the Wolf’, looks gorgeous.

Iceland’s Maria really struggled early on with ‘Unbroken’, her vocals particularly suffering when going through some fussy little choreography. She looked very lonely on stage when things weren’t going well, though the northern lights and mountains backdrop was nice enough. Hera Bjork was absent from the five backing vocalists today due to illness, and her presence may help bolster confidence all round.

Sweden gave us a facsimile of the Melodifestivalen performance of ‘Heroes’. The animation looks fantastic and Mans really enjoyed himself on stage. Some felt underwhelmed in the press centre, but it’s not surprising the atmosphere wasn’t as electric without a crowd to give it an extra lift.

Melanie Rene is the best thing about the Swiss entry that follows. She’s a strong singer who engages the camera well. The staging wasn’t holding her back: a dark blue forest scene which sees her rip open a dark cape to reveal a silver dress when it’s her ‘Time To Shine’. This is a strong section of the semi; Melanie needs plenty of close-up camera shots for her best shot at qualification.

Cyprus have kept things nice and simple for ‘One Thing I Should Have Done’. A single spotlight shines through a black-and-white lens on John Karayiannis in his prom suit. It turns to colour for the first chorus and a cosmic backdrop develops. There are some nice smokey explosions for the big moments, and John has a winning way with the camera. I could do with something extra for the final chorus – taking the mic away from the stand, perhaps – but overall it was a very pleasing first effort.

Maraaya have kept things as they were in the Slovenian national final. That means a lace dress and headphones for Marjetka, Raay at the piano clicking his fingers, and an air violinist slicing the air. There are gold lights and no backdrop. It feels a little monotonous and static at times, but ‘Here For You’ is still one of the most interesting and contemporary songs in the contest.

We finished off with some cunning staging from Poland. A pink/purple spring blossom backdrop has the subliminal message of fresh and clean, the wheelchair reveal comes in the first chorus, and for the second the focus is on clips of a pre-accident Monika in her prime. It’s a very tasteful way to bring a human element for ‘In The Name Of Love’. The vocals, aided by three backing singers, were generally fine, if lacking in power.

It’s certainly a competitive semi-final that feels in flux with regards to qualification chances. Let us know your thoughts below.

31 comments to Eurovision 2015: May 14 rehearsals

  • chewy wesker

    I think Latvia, Cyprus, and Poland were best of today visually. Mans projection screen looked a little small on the big stage IMO, I agree with Daniel in that Mans needs to be playing to a full house to feel the real impact with “Heroes” I still think Sweden have it this year, it’s has the wider appeal for the voting, Italy will have to have something special to pip sweden at the post, but I must say I’m looking forward to seeing Guy and his street lighting think that will be interesting.

  • Can’t beat a good “tasteful wheelchair reveal”.

    • Perhaps I’m too cynical of X Factor’s tactics, but it smacks of them playing dirty to me. The song wouldn’t qualify if she didn’t have the story. Some randomer confronted me on Twitter earlier for suggesting the emphasis on Monika’s disability was a tactic to earn qualification.

      • Ron

        It’s a bit depressing that disabled performers can’t enter in Eurovision without being accused of playing dirty.

        • Yeah, Because that’s exactly what I said.
          Not even gonna bother.

        • Bianca from Electro Velvet has cystic fibrosis. Not narrativised in song or staging or in the promotional campaign. Similarly we’ve had umpteen blind singers in Eurovision over the years, and apart from Corinna May their disability was never touched on in the song or staging. What Ben’s talking about is entries where the disability is being sold as a story, as in the case of Poland, Finland and arguably Serbia (the European Court of Justice having ruled last year that morbid obesity can be classed as a disability). At least with Finland and Serbia, the song and performer are linked, and the songs have an empowerment angle – Poland’s song is just a generic ballad with no particular theme that they’re using Monika’s story to try and sell.

          • That’s exactly right.
            That’s what I said to this geezer on Twitter and he accused me of dictating that she “hide her reality for the comfort of others.” I said no – just don’t use it to spring a surprise on the audience and follow up with backdrop videos of Monika on her feet.

            Then he goes “so you’re saying she should come with an “I’m disabled” disclaimer and have the chair in shot from start to finish?!”

            Jesus F’ing Christ, you can’t win with these people.

          • There’s a disabled schlager singer on German TV sometimes and her chair’s always in shot from the start, just as an able-bodied singer’s legs would be in long shots. No big issue. Whereas we’re getting slightly into 2 Up 2 Down territory with Poland.

            I think Poland could have done a better job of this by actually having a touching first-person song about Monika’s life/reflections, then the visuals and direction would seem sincere rather than cynically grafted on to an existing unrelated song.

        • I don’t think its’ that exactly, but everyone on here already knows that backstories are something the X Factor milks for all its’ worth (just go and check the X Factor section of this very site) and as Eurovision as a production becomes more and more influenced by Mr Cowell’s cash cow, it’s a logical question.

  • Guildo Horn Forever

    I really enjoy the Swedish production, though it thrills me less over time, inevitably. And if it ain’t broke don’t fix it, especially when it doesn’t appear to have a weakness.

    But, in saying that, I do worry about the widespread claims about it being very derivative. I was already aware of the Avicii “influence” but not the David Guetta one, that commentators all over YouTube have been making.

    I recall Georgia being one of the favourites for Semi 2 a couple of years ago. It just scraped through to the final, where it finished miles down the leaderboard (despite a prime draw). I was aware it had direct copy moments from Quedaté Comiga (one of my all-time favourites) of the previous year’s ESC. I forgave it that but others obviously (consciously or unconsciously) didn’t.

    Last year the fancied Cliché Love Song (again, despite a prime draw) finished well down the pecking order. and one of my faves, Malta, finished 4th from bottom in the final. Both were widely criticized for being “copies”.

    I think other entries have been hammered with the Euphoria copy label, and I would guess those songs prospects diminished accordingly.

    It could be that charismatic Mans, his striking poses and his cartoon graphic army are just so engaging that they thrillingly sweep over and above any such qualms, but under 2/1 for Sweden looks plenty short enough.

    • Ron

      Given how old the juries are this year (average is is 40), is it likely that many of the older members would be familiar with popular electronic dance music, enough to recognise a Avicii/Guetta influence, enough to be bothered by it?

  • Ron H

    Hi Daniel,

    Thank you very much for your comments on the first round of rehearsals for the two semi finals. Do you perhaps know if during the second round of rehearsals starting tomorrow we will be allowed to see how the acts will appear on screen? If so I believe Trijntjes Walk Along will be the act to look out for tomorrow morning. Not for the (too much discussed) dress but the visuals of the act itself. I’m not a video expert and therefore could be wrong, but do think there is reason to expect the Dutch (as has already been rumoured on this site) are using ‘augmented reality’ to create a completely different, yet unknown environment for the song.
    The Dutch team mentioned on several occasions they were planning to bring a ‘dynamic video clip’ instead of a stage performance to the screen and explicitly told they would not focus on how the act will look like on the stage.
    On the physical stage only one primary backlit colour is used most of the time, while the singers are dressed in black and white. It seems the entire stage could easily serve as a giant Chroma Key screen.
    Revealing Trijntjes dress (especially this dress) in the first run instead of the dress rehearsals also indicates a more complex visual plan that needed testing. In an interview earlier this year Trijntje confirmed the visuals of the act would need testing on stage ‘to see if the plan works’ and added to this she ‘never knew all this was possible’.
    The present physical staging doesn’t seem to have enough meaning and looks static for this song. Given the fact Hans Pannecoucke is engaged, makes it very hard to believe there isn’t a hidden concept. He would simply loose too much credibility if he doesn’t come up with something remotely close to the job he did for TLC.
    Finally Trijntje (repeatedly) sings ‘Walk Along’ but sticks to one place on the huge stage. The only logical reason I can think of is she will indeed be edited into a different environment.
    Unless I’m wrong, we literally ‘ain’t seen nothing yet’ off the Dutch performance. Even Trijntjes ‘widow veil’ (or her decolleté for that matter) could suddenly ‘fall in place’ once we learn where she will be wearing it next Tuesday. Can’t wait to see if this makes any sense or turns out to be the well known ESC trap of wishful thinking.

    • Ron

      There were no reports of this sort of animation from those who saw the camera feed at the first rehearsals. Rather than using a green screen background (or similar), the Netherlands have an animated background of two lovers.

    • Ron H

      Well perhaps you are right Dash and Guildo. I still haven’t written it off for a top ten ranking though. We are talking about one of the best and most experienced singers in the competition. She will definitely impress vocally. And although she most definitely isn’t a topmodel, she is very well capable of connecting emotionally to the public which is what music is about at the end of the day isn’t it?

      I agree the song is repetitive. But from what I’ve heard from the rehearsals, the vocals have been work on to create more excitement during the last minute. The reviews on Youtube still are very positive, opposite to TCL last year also from eastern Europeans. A like-dislike ratio of 10 is not bad at all! In fact I must admit I like Walking Along more than Calm after the storm myself. Three minutes also might just be long enough to stick a melody in peoples minds instead of boring them to death.

      The final outcome therefore in my opinion will depend on the quality and attractiveness of the staging. My gut feeling tells me the blurred animated background of two lovers – like watching a 3-D movie without the glasses – can’t just be all we are going to see on screen. The stage after all is Dutch design, so i’m quite sure they will use all its advantages.

      • Dash Berlin

        Hey Ron, we all have different opinions and I’m not one to say anyone’s opinions is the correct one.
        You make some good points about the Netherlands, but I still see it as a NQ and if it snuck into the final, it would definitely not trouble the top 10, purely because the juries will mark it down.

        Just to pick up the point of being an experiences performer, be careful with that, remember when the UK sent Bonnie and Humpleding…

        • Ron H

          Can’t argue with that Dash 🙂 In fact I was expecting the Brits to bring Vera Lynn to the stage this year. And believe me, I would have voted for her.

  • Regarding Sweden, I think the change to a red, black, red, white and more red colour scheme says it all.

    So much red.

    I spotted a few other subtle things thanks to my background in animation, too, but I might be getting too technical at that point.

    • This raises another interesting X Factor crossover question. Is there any evidence to suggest that some of the staging tricks used in X Factor – eg. Red & Black, Gold, Golden Showers (stop that at the back), Colour Vomit, etc.have a bearing on the scoring at Eurovision? For example, do songs with Red & Black staging generally do worse?

        • I regard Molitva as, for the most part, an exception to the rule. I don’t need or want to write another essay about meeting one of my three main critera, hit-potential, timeless high calibre and accessible novelties. Moltiva ticks the second one.

          But it’s an exception to the rule because the final of 2007 was not only 100% televoting, but it was also a year where there were only three, yes, three, non big-4 western countries… and all the western countries sent songs worthy of 17th place or lower. Eastern tastes absolutely dominated, leaving the west with only Verka Serduchka to latch onto. No wonder 2 semi finals and ‘bowls’ came in the following year.

  • Boki

    Hi Daniel, any new clever usage of the floor tiles in semi2? Iceland has some golden cracks, that we know but for the rest…

    • Daniel

      Hi Boki, if my memory serves me, the following had floor LEDs:

      -Latvia continued the theme seen on the back wall on the floor
      -Iceland’s floor went from cracks to gold
      -Cyprus, like Latvia, continued the wall theme, with smokey explosions centered on John
      -Poland had grass on the floor to continue the spring meadow theme.

  • dicksbits

    It wouldn’t surprise me if countries were trying out backdrops and these will completely change for the second rehearsals.

    • Dash Berlin

      I’d agree, same with outfits – previously it was thought Israel would be in a gold suit, and I doubt Romania wear the painting overalls on TV
      Some of the backdrops were a bit jarring

  • Alen

    you can see the tv screen version of russia and it looks stunning:

  • Chris Bellis

    Just a thought – the number of different pastiches of the Slovenia entry on YouTube suggests the song itself has legs. Some of them are better than the entry itself. Pity about the staging.

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