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Eurovision 2016 Semi Final 1

  • Updated 2016/05/11 with pictures and some additional commentary from my live broadcast notes that didn't make it to the writeup as I was too tired last night. The pictures are from a standard definition satellite broadcast on BBC FOUR (BBC Three has been relegated to the dustbin, it's online-only these days). The video was recorded by a Neuros OSD PVR at a medium bitrate, which means some blockiness will be evident. Rescaled from anamorphic using PhotoImpact 5. This written using Notepad++, original notes taken with Google Docs on an iPad as I was watching the broadcast on the PC using a cheap generic video capture card I got off Amazon. The satellite receiver is a Silvercrest SSR 576 A1. A backup recording was also made using the older iPodRecorder device, which makes inferior recordings, but it's better than nothing if something happens to the main recording. I think that's about all the technical gumph covered. TMI?
    Images copyright EBU/BBC.

It is Eurovision week. So if you're one of those people with an irrational hatred of cheesy power ballads, you'd better give my blog a miss for the next few days.


It's the 61st contest. A theme of "Come together", kind of ironic given that Europe is slowly falling apart and Britain is about to hold its referendum, of which hundreds of thousands of us long-term ex-pats are unable to vote in - there's democracy for you.

Off we go for the 2016 first semi final. There are clips of last year's winner Heroes as we home in on what looks like a reactor dome. It's the largest spherical building in the world. The venue is normally a big ice rink.

Then a recap of the winning song with a live person acting chalk boy's part, going on to performing with loads of children (44 in fact) dressed in orange and white.

Petra and Mans are the hosts. They'll be familiar, just think back to 2013 when the contest was in Malmo, plus who won last year?

A naff joke, Welcome to Europe! followed by a band (supposedly Europe the band) rocking out until stopped by the hosts.

The UK can't vote tonight. I don't live in the UK, so double-whammy. Instead I'll write some rubbish on my blog instead. ☺

Now for the songs.

1 Finland "Sing It Away"

It starts okay then goes downhill when the other people come in. This sounds like something from the '90s. I wasn't expecting much for the first song, and this certainly delivered my full expectations.

2 Greece "Utopian Land"

No. Rap never works. Not even Greek rap.
The only interesting point was the string instrument not unlike an Urhu (wiki/Erhu).
There's some Greek in here, but the chorus is not, so it's Grenglish at best.

3 Moldova "Falling Stars"

A good effort by a pretty girl who is then joined by a breakdancing tin foil astronaut. Perhaps against my better judgement, I like this one.

4 Hungary "Pioneer"

Interesting staging for this song, but I don't think his voice is strong enough to carry the way he wants to sing this. Not that that'll stop him. A for effort.

5 Croatia "Lighthouse"

Right - she performs the song well but I'm stuck on what the hell is she wearing, which doesn't change after the reveal. The vocal style remind me of what's her name from The Cranberries. Good show.

Advert break on lesser channels

There's a quick moment for... uh... the taxi ride from hell, perhaps?

6 The Netherlands "Slow Down"

Well, damn, this is a change of pace. Sounds like something you might get at a local Country Night, complete with Mick Jagger on the piano. Well, maybe not. Slide guitar, a ten second quiet moment before the chorus recap. Some audience participation. It'll be criminal if this doesn't pass into the final.

7 Armenia "Love Wave"

I'm expecting big things from Armenia. Their past performances have been out there. A spoken introduction for a woman wearing...not a lot. Dry ice, lasers, wind, we're straight into the power ballad chorus (the verses can come later). Um? Holographs? That's new. Well, she gave us an epic three minutes.

8 San Marino "I Didn't Know"

Okay, that's different. Girls in tin foil and a bloke with a gravel voice to beat most, like an ageing gangster that spent a life chain smoking. A lyrical dissonance that is surprisingly effective even with the tenuously rhyming of some of the lyrics. Or Leonard Cohen according to my mother.

9 Russia "You Are The Only One"

The blonde chick took Russia to second place last year. Will Sergey bring home a win for Russia?
It's an effective looking routine, that borrows so very heavily from last year's winner (interacting with a video screen) that it seems a bit too rip-offy. Still, if you can imagine Heroes taken up to eleven, twice, you'll have an idea of Russia's take on the video interaction. I mean "interaction" extremely literally. Just a shame they didn't think of it themselves first, it probably would have won.
Yes, he is in the picture. His getting there is pretty impressive.

10 Czech Republic "I Stand"

Oh, wow, that's a stage to melt the eyeballs. If it looks OTT on screen, feel for her standing in the middle of it. Competently performed, but we've only hit two digits and I think we're in danger of being power balladed out.

11 Cyprus "Alter Ego"

I had hopes that we'd get some old-fashioned rock or maybe heading towards metal, but then the pop backing track kicked in and... what genre is this trying to be? They appear to be trying to rock the joint with a soft rock ballad. Huh?

12 Austria "Loin d'Ici"

Finally. A song that isn't in English or mostly in English. Pretty in peach and singing in French, with watercolour flowers swaying in the background - what's not to like?
Mom said this was a bit "meh", but sometimes simplicity works.

13 Estonia "Play"

A ballad about card playing or dating or both? I found his constant "come here" hand gestures to be, well, really annoying. I think this is trying to be "sophisticated" or something.

Advert break on lesser channels

Another ad break as Mel talks to the Latvian performer who seems to be called Yoosts. Oh, yup, there's the caption, he is called Justs.

14 Azerbaijan "Miracle"

More interaction with the video wall. Only a minor thing at the start, but still... I think this is trying hard to be a power ballad, but it never quite seems to find fifth gear, so we have to make do with pyrotechnics instead. Go watch the Czech Republic, that's how a noisy power ballad is done.

15 Montenegro "The Real Thing"

Nice rock opening, but can they sustain it? Kind of, no. Sorry, it's crossed the line straight into narm territory. Sorry guys, I'm laughing so much I nearly lost a mouthful of tea on the keyboard. I kind of hope this makes it into the semi final so I can laugh again, but... yeah... how many cliches can fit in three minutes? Or, in short, what the hell was that?

16 Iceland "Here Them Calling"

A nice start, but note yet more interaction with the video wall (lots of creepy hands). Yes, okay, Mans' song was inventive and original. Are we really going to have every other song doing that sort of thing? <sigh>

17 Bosnia and Herzegovina "Llubav Je"

Here's to the second fully non-English song of the night, beginning with some epic cello action and so much foil the woman in the red dress looks out of place. A power duet ballad with barbed wire. Subtext much? The backing singers were oddly comical, probably not the intended idea. What the hell - a stressy rapper to ruin the song? That ought to pass into the final, to everybody can wonder what they're smoking in Bosnia (etc).

18 Malta "Walk On Water"

Say hello to Ira Losco, who almost won the contest in 2002. Oh my, I remember that performance, where she was throwing stuff into the audience. What was it? Oh yes, 7th Wonder. Wow, that was 14 years ago. I can't believe how time has flown. This time, sorry, it's (yet another) generic power ballad.

Talking of not believing it, that's it. All eighteen songs have passed. Ten will qualify, eight will flunk.


My picks

  • 1 Montenegro - I know, I know, no taste - think of it as comic relief value
  • 2 Russia - video wall action to the nth degree
  • 3 Iceland - a hundred tassles
  • 4 Bosnia and Herzegovina - serious duet action
  • 5 Czech Republic - how a power ballad should be done
  • 6 San Marino - Leonard Cohen rocking a badass Fedora (wiki/Fedora)
  • 7 The Netherlands - the country song
  • 8 Croatia - the freaky dress
  • 10 Moldova - blonde and the spaceman
  • 12 Austria - just peachy

Interval act (for everybody else)

Now us unlucky British viewers drop out of the interval act and instead watch a really cringeworthy comedy skit celebrating what might be the dumbest tour guide ever.
Note that at the end she says "vote for England!". Hey - maybe next year Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland can submit their own songs? They'll all do better than England, I'm sure...

This is followed by an interview with the British act (Joe and Jake). Given what I've seen so far, I wonder how well the UK will do in the face of what we've just watched? They say that Sony is behind them, but they are just so...what's the word? Lacklustre, Insipid, Dull, Mundane, Bland, Prosaic...d'you see where I'm going with this?

Now we see Mel helping out at a meatball restaurant, then interviewing some people. I wonder if what the rest of Europe is watching now is good? On the TV in the background, it looks like there is an interview act that we're missing. Shame.

Back to the scheduled programming. Finally.


A preview of some of the auto-qualifiers:
  • A song from France, what the hell, it is in English? It's a good song, is France aiming to win?
  • More English from Spain, and what is she wearing?
  • A quieter more serious affair from Sweden.

The qualifiers

Right, so here are the semi final qualifiers. In random order, the ten qualifiers are:

  • Azerbaijan - they've always qualified
  • Russia - not a surprise
  • The Netherlands - the song with the gap
  • Hungary - hmmm
  • Croatia - this is a good pick
  • Austria - yes! Big crowd reaction for this too.
  • Armenia - the most epic three minutes of the night
  • Czech Republic - their first qualification
  • Cyprus - really?
A huge pause for the last pick, which is...
  • Ira Loscoe for Malta.

I could wonder about choosing Hungary over Moldova, but then again the picks were not too extraordinary. Most of the ones I liked made it, so let's see what happens on Thursday for the second semi final.


See you then.



Your comments:

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David Pilling, 11th May 2016, 03:01
Null points on Saturday and Brexit is certain.
Rick, 12th May 2016, 00:52
The sort of people that would hqppily deter;ine the future of their country depending on if a fairly lacklustre song does poorly are the sort of people that don't deserve to have a vote. Or be let out in public. 
David Pilling, 15th May 2016, 01:57
Yeah but the voting is not for the song. 3rd from bottom, Richard Osman got a derisive cheer. I think we know which way this is going.

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