One Month On: Looking Bak-Bak-Back at Eurovision 2018

On May 12th 2018, after two semi finals, countless national finals and months of speculation, the winner of the 2018 Eurovision Song Contest was finally crowned. Despite surging support for the Cypriot fire, Netta did not do a Francesco Gabbani and managed to give Israel their fourth win in the contest. From Austria somehow winning the jury vote, to the UK being saved by sabotage, there was a lot to talk about, hence why its taken me a month to blog about the final, but here it is: My thoughts on the greatest Eurovision Song Contest we’ve seen in years.  Continue reading “One Month On: Looking Bak-Bak-Back at Eurovision 2018”

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Eurovision 2018 Semi-Final 2: That’s How You Lose a Track Record

Creepy mannequins, crumping and a piano coffin: Just another night at the Eurovision Song Contest. Thursday Night saw eighteen nations battle it out for those lucrative ten places in the final, and with so many regular qualifiers in the mix, it was always going to be a bloodbath. I wasn’t quite prepared for how shocking the result would be though… Continue reading “Eurovision 2018 Semi-Final 2: That’s How You Lose a Track Record”

Eurovision 2018 Semi-Final 1: Pulling Out All the Props

Pikachu, the backpack dance and rose petal archery: Eurovision was back on our screens this year with a bang. 19 countries were narrowed down to 10. I was always going to have very strong opinions regardless of how the evening went, so here it is – my reaction the first semi-final of Eurovision 2018.

Firstly, this was without a doubt the worst opening to Eurovision that I can ever remember. Just loads of shots of the sea and then suddenly our four remarkably uncharismatic hosts were welcoming us. Where was the musical number? The over-the-top choreography? I know this is meant to be the cheapest Eurovision ever but come on they didn’t even try with the opening ceremony. Does it really break the bank to get a choir of Portuguese children to sing the winning song from last year? You don’t even have to pay them, that’s why previous hosts have always got kids to do it.

I guess it did mean we could get straight into the action though. After listening to the hosts shout All Aboard! about a dozen times Azerbaijan were up first to kick off the show. In an attempt to make up for the lack of LED screens in the Altice Arena, many countries have taken it upon themselves to bring their own brilliantly unnecessary props to Lisbon. One such example was Azerbaijan who opted to decorate the floor with some triangles for no reason whatsoever. This was a pretty fun way to open the show but they definitely drowned out her mediocre vocals with the backing track. The early 2000’s choreography was on point – the singing not so much. I kept remembering it as the show carried on, which is a rare occurrence for those opening numbers, but there were a many better bangers to follow (but not for another half an hour or so apparently).

Everybody knows second position is where the producers send mediocre ballads to die and my god did Iceland die. There was not a single good thing to say about this performance -even his outfit was crap. All the while I was watching Ari sing with such passion I couldn’t help but wonder if he was aware of how bad his song was. Not once did he stop to think that maybe cheesy lyrics, a painfully slow start and a funeral choir as backing singers was not the recipe for success at Eurovision? On a positive note though, with entries as bad as this, picking who should qualify became a damn sight easier.

From awful to just rather bad, next up was Albania. I’ve never seen such mismatched performers on one stage. Tell me those backing singers weren’t just random girls from the crowd who had to be stand-ins at the last minute. I don’t know what song they’d practised their choreography for but it certainly wasn’t this one. And as good as Eugent’s vocal acrobatics were, I could not have given a shit by the final minute I was so bored. This took far too long to get going and I was certain this wouldn’t qualify (how wrong I was…)

When Belgium followed, I thought we were finally in for a good song. Again I couldn’t have been more wrong. This started off so strong with this fascinating intro involving a sort of reverse Naked Attraction reveal. It seemed so classy and played to the song perfectly but then the first chorus hit and all of a sudden she started playing her arty, sultry entry to the crowd as if it was Wonderwall and everyone was going to sing along. It also seems the Belgian delegation ran out of ideas after the first minute and left her to her own devices for the rest of the song so she just wandered up and down the walkway for a bit. It was almost like self-sabotage; it could’ve been a guaranteed qualifier but live this was shit.

I almost screamed when I saw Czech Republic was up next because the show was very much due a banger, and this did not disappoint. Despite some shaky vocals to start, this was cheeky, charismatic and when he went into the backpack floss dance for the chorus I knew we had a Eurovision classic on our hands. The fact he was so fluid in his movements and so commanding of the stage less than a week after being released from hospital is incredible. His accident clearly didn’t stop his backing dancers from giving it their all and I was captivated by every movement. They were like lava lamps in tracksuits I couldn’t stop watching.

Our Portuguese hosts clearly would never let us have too much fun at once and so next up was my pre-show absolute least favourite, Lithuania. This was a surprising one for me because I didn’t hate it, I just really didn’t care for it. Her voice kept slipping from trying to do an Ellie Goulding impersonation to Shakira, all while still being really dull. The low budget photo reel in Vilnius got an upgrade in the form of holograms for Lisbon so at least it stayed classy for the whole hour this seemed to be on my screen. This exceeded my incredibly low expectations but it was still one of my least favourite songs of the night.

From bottom to top, next up was my and everyone else’s pre-show favourite, Israel. I was genuinely nervous before this started because I so badly wanted this to work live. Despite dropping off the top spot with the bookies, I still think this was absolutely brilliant. The dancing was hilarious, her vocals were killer and it just felt like a proper banger. It is admittedly a bit confused when they’ve opted for this Japanese-themed staging when it has such a strong Israeli sound but I guess it all adds to the beautiful weirdness that is Eurovision. One of my most unique, interesting and exciting performances in Eurovision history.

Continuing the crazy was Belarus who brought everything and the kitchen sink to this performance. Answers on a postcard please – what the fuck was this staging about? The passionate singing to the rose which then does a lap of the stage with the cameraman before being shot through his hand by the backing dancer. This was Eurovision lunacy at its finest and I almost wanted this to qualify for that reason alone. The song itself was dire though so I was quite grateful for such a distracting performance.

In the tough competition this year of which nation went the most extra on their live performance, this €65,000 dress from Estonia may take the crown. The thing is, unlike the performance proceeding this, the staging didn’t distract from a bad song but rather elevated an already great entry to winner calibre. This moved me, gave me chills and was the first song of the night to silence everyone I was viewing with – we were spellbound. Her vocals were in a different league to everyone else and what’s more, they must have a great dental plan in Estonia because I couldn’t stop staring at her teeth.

Song number 10 was one of the biggest disappointments of the night and it came in the form of Bulgaria. My prediction that it would just be five solo artists fighting for centre stage came to fruition. Couple that with some awful split screens and an asymmetrical line-up and you have what I consider to be a non-qualifier. The song picked up for the final minute but all I really remember is that woman with her ill-fitting wig that was clearly fresh out the bag. She reminded me of every female artist out right now whilst simultaneously sounding like none of them. I finished watching this performance feeling confused more than anything.

Speaking of confusing entries, FYR Macedonia was up next and my god was this a mess. Her vocals faltered throughout all three songs that they had squeezed into this one performance. She was clearly more fussed about winning the Barbara Dex award for worst outfit, sporting not one, but two horrendous looks. She was wearing what appeared to be a Judy Jetson snuggy first of all and then all of a sudden she had an off-camera Monique Heart reveal and finished the song in her active wear from the year 3018. This wasn’t boring or uninspired, this was flat out a bad song performed horribly.

Blessed to be following such a train-wreck was Croatia, who clearly didn’t get the memo about using everything you can on stage and decided to bring absolutely nothing with them. Franka, as amazing as her vocals were, looked so lonely up there. She was giving it 110% bless her even if the song itself was only about 80. This really needed dancers or something to shake it up, and while it didn’t die live, it certainly could have been a lot better.

We were two-thirds of the way through the show at this point and I felt we’d seen only three maybe four qualifiers. It was pretty slim pickings by the time Austria took to the stage. That’s probably why I felt this would qualify as well, because it was perfectly fine. Original staging, great voice, captivating stage presence. The only thing I could possibly fault was the outfit which even after three minutes of me intensely staring it, still confused the hell out of me. Where did it begin and end? Was it a three-piece? Was it to stop him getting a nip-on live on TV? So many mysteries.

Song number 14 was a big fan favourite which I had always suspected wouldn’t work well live. Greece proved me right for once with one of the most boring performances of the night. While a good Eurovision ballad should take you on a journey, this just kept getting lost along the way, taking steps back and ending up back where it started. It was jarring really because you wanted it to get more epic but it just fizzled out. I was bored to tears by the end and I knew even Cyprus wouldn’t throw their douze points at this.

Then along came Finland to provide the first proper banger in what felt like an hour. I was nervous for her given how hit-and-miss her other performances had been but my god did they pull out all the stops for this one. That spinning wheel to begin with – perfect for Eurovision. The backing dancers also looked like queer ghostbusters from East Germany – I was digging it. The dancing was on point, her vocals was the best I’ve ever heard from her. This was a show-stopping performance, I loved it.

Next up Armenia took centre stage, surrounded by three-foot high fencing planks for some reason. The problem with this song was even though it built up to something like a good ballad should, it was too little, too late really. I was already too bored from the intro to care and even though the instrumental was powerful and his voice was excellent, it was still just a bloke with a beard shouting ‘wind’ over and over again. There’s not a lot more to say about this entry which pretty much sums up my entire feelings for this song.

Winding down towards the end of the show we had Switzerland who clearly weren’t as tired as everyone else who had sat through the previous 16 performances and came out all guns blazing. Despite being a Swiss entry it somehow didn’t feel repetitive or get boring. Instead this was remarkably captivating and badass. This was actually the song I voted for, not because I thought it was the best of the night, but because I felt out of all of my favourite songs this was the one that needed the most help getting to the final. Turns out I was right and I wasted my vote really.

The penultimate performance was a song I had completely written off prior to the live shows but boy did Ireland prove me wrong. This is a prime example of how a dull studio version can come alive on stage. For once Ireland didn’t crap up the staging and those male dancers crossing the bridge is one of the stand-out moments of the night. The snowfall, the lamp post – even the classic Irish lass stuck behind a piano – it all worked brilliantly. I shouldn’t like this because it’s such a slow and quiet ballad, much like Lithuania’s, but it’s gay so I love it.

Closing the show was the new favourite to win the entire contest and I can 100% see why all eyes are now on Cyprus. This is the definition of a banger. It builds, packs one hell of a punch and what sells the whole package is supermodel of the world, Eleni Foureira. Beyoncé, who? Shakira, who? This woman can do it all. Her movements are ridiculously slick, in microsecond perfection with her backing dancers. She whips that weave and kicks those legs and not once does she get out of breath. I have zero doubts that this won the first semi-final and I don’t want to jinx anything but I’m looking at flights to Nicosia for next May already.

So after all the songs had performed I already had a clear idea in my head of who I wanted to go through. I thought I’d end up with over a dozen favourites but some songs stole the show and others fell completely flat so in the end it was surprisingly easy to do my own jury ranking, which would go as follows:

1 (12 points) – Israel                                                 11 – Armenia

2 (10 points) – Cyprus                                               12 – Croatia

3 (8 points) – Estonia                                                 13 – Bulgaria

4 (7 points) – Finland                                                14 – Belgium

5 (6 points) – Czech Republic                                   15 – Lithuania

6 (5 points) – Ireland                                                 16 – Albania

7 (4 points) – Switzerland                                         17 – FYR Macedonia

8 (3 points) – Austria                                                  18 – Greece

9 (2 points) – Azerbaijan                                             19 – Iceland

10 (1 point) – Belarus

 

So overall I’m a little disappointed by the qualifiers but it could be a lot worse. All of my top 6 got through which, given their qualification records, was a tall order indeed. Lithuania created a mood and there was a buzz around it so I wasn’t too surprised she qualified, I was just really hoping she wouldn’t – especially because I never imagined both Lithuania and Ireland would make it. Albania came as a huge shock to me because that had semi-final finish written all over it. It was third in the running order, it was soft rock performed in a native language and nobody ever votes for Albania (for good reason to be fair), I’m still in shock. I also need a nerdy moment to mention this is the first time Azerbaijan have failed to qualify; annoyingly in the one year I actually wanted them to make it. With that, every single nation (excluding the Big 5) has missed out on the final at least once in the past decade (albeit Ukraine, Romania and Russia all took a year out rather than failed to qualify).

Overall, despite me hating our Portuguese hosts – and not just the four women who even blink robotically, but the entire team behind the opening and interval acts – this was one of the best semi-finals I’ve ever seen. The quality of bangers is so high this year and everyone is doing so much to stand out. I have no idea what’s in store for us on Thursday in the second semi-final, but you can be damn certain I’ll have strong opinions on it.

My Eurovision 2018 Ranking #10 – #1: The Absolute Bangers

This is it! My official Top 10 songs for Eurovision 2018 (before the live show of course). I would be absolutely devastated if any of these didn’t qualify – although based on current betting odds and fan voting I’m setting myself up for a fall. But I don’t care what the bookies say because these are the 10 songs which have wowed me, entertained me and above all moved me – either emotionally or to the dance floor. When I talk about good Eurovision bangers, these are the songs I mean:  Continue reading “My Eurovision 2018 Ranking #10 – #1: The Absolute Bangers”

My Eurovision 2018 Ranking #22 – #11: The Fun but Filler Songs

The third instalment of my rankings shows the songs which just missed out on my Top 10. I happen to like all the songs on this list and I hope to see all of them in the grand finale, but they’re not the ones to watch out for. They’re just the enjoyable listens, but not quite my absolute bangers of 2018. Continue reading “My Eurovision 2018 Ranking #22 – #11: The Fun but Filler Songs”

My Eurovision 2018 Ranking #33 – #23: The ‘Could Be Better’ Songs

Following on from my 10 least favourite songs for Eurovision 2018, we have the dozen or so songs which I consider to just be mediocre. They’re not offensively bad or horrendously boring, the songs are just somewhat enjoyable to listen to but completely out-classed by whatever song follows next. In short, they could be a lot better.      Continue reading “My Eurovision 2018 Ranking #33 – #23: The ‘Could Be Better’ Songs”

My Eurovision 2018 Ranking #43 – #34: The ‘Why Did You Even Bother’ Songs

As Eurovision 2018 draws ever closer, I’ll give my detailed ranking all 43 competing songs from this year. Starting with my 10 least favourite songs – the songs that are so bad, so boring and so unoriginal I have to ask why the countries are even bothering to show up. These are just my opinions and not a prediction of how I think these songs will do in Lisbon. In fact, as you can tell by my Eurovision: You Decide rankings I’m usually very wrong and my opinion changes dramatically after hearing all the songs performed live, so this is just a bit of fun before the contest kicks off. Continue reading “My Eurovision 2018 Ranking #43 – #34: The ‘Why Did You Even Bother’ Songs”