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Eurovision 2021 Semi Final 2
Yesterday I spent an entire evening watching a two hour long song contest and writing some dribble about what I thought of the songs, the presentation, and the eventual winners.
And today I get to do it all over again!
So, I have my tea, and I have a plate of macarons (chocolate, lemon, caramel, raspberry, pistachio, and vanilla - guess which lemon ones are my lemony favourite).
I also have my phone hooked to the big speakers, so without any further ado, let's get to it.
But, before I start, I'd like to give a special nod to the Cypriot Orthodox Christians who, a couple of months ago, went and protested outside of the state broadcaster brandishing wooden crosses and demanding the withdrawal of the song, titled El Diablo, that they claim advocates (quoting from The Guardian) "our surrender to the devil and promoting his worship". The song's performer points out that the song is actually about an abusive relationship between two people...and I'm sure there are plenty stuck in abusive relationships that would take their chances with the devil (as in the horned mythological creature of Abrahamic religion) as he/it would probably be less nasty than the person they're currently stuck with. But, you know, the pious rarely seem to understand such subtle nuances of life.
Thus, we get to enjoy watching the crazies waving little representations of an object of torture while demanding that everybody acquiesce to their will because of their misfounded understanding that this gives greater credence to "the big bad" of their particular mythology. But, then, isn't so much religion all about oppression and thou shalt not? I'm still awaiting a rational explanation of why, with all of the imagery in the Bible, Christianity picked the crucifix as the symbol. Yes, I know Jesus was put to death on one, but still...
This is taken up to eleven by Catholics, they put a figurine of Jesus on the cross, and some of the churches around here have taken this right into horror movie territory; there's one church (I forget where, mom found it) that has his face contorted in agony and blood trickling down the cross, it's probably accurate, but I'm not sure with all the things that Jesus supposedly did, that that is the imagery that he'd appreciate people appreciating two thousand years later.
But, you know, mention anything to do with the devil (even in Spanish!) and you'll get nutjobs crawling out of the woodwork.
We start with more little rays of colour and little houses in strange places as an introduction to the song contest. A different set of locations than before. These are a selection of places that will feature in tonight's postcards.
Straight into a guy doing some sort of artistic dance routine to a woman singing a song that sounds rather melancholy, and the dance doesn't exactly match the music until we switch to a routine performed in a car park (with intense strobing - note) and then back to the main stage. Well, that performance ended better than it started.
The hosts walk out. "Yum and niggy" according to Google's automatic subtitles (it didn't even bother trying to work out what she said for the first two). "Niggy"? Is that even a word?
Whatever, it's the same foursome as before.
"and what a great start you just saw the resilience of our incredible dance talent rado with vocals by the very talented athiest officer". Yes, people, we clearly do not have to worry about any AI becoming Skynet and wiping out humanity if that's the best it can manage for a Dutch woman speaking in English. Seriously, there is so much extra (unintentional comedy) from these subtitles. The times when it actually realises that the language is English, that is.
You can vote up to twenty times. And it costs how much per vote? Hmm...
Am I missing something here? Cute-girl switches to saying the stuff all over again in French (and with a name like Chantal I can imagine she has French ancestry) and it gets a huge cheer.
More blah blah, and finally after seven minutes and thirty three seconds they make it to the first postcard.
Okay, the postcards do sort of say where things are. I'm looking at a giant UFO and the caption says "Eindhoven". So what happens if I Google for "UFO Eindhoven"?
Ah, it's called the Evoluon Eindhoven and it was built in 1966 as a science museum (so the UFO shape was intentional) and it looks as if it's an exhibition hall these days, as well as an iconic thing in the city.
So... captioning it "Evoluon Eindhoven", not so hard, huh? ☺
The subtitles inform me that the little wireframe house in front of the UFO is "vegan". I'm not sure what it heard to come up with that word, but, okay, it's a vegan house. I can deal with that...
1. San Marino "Adrenalina" (Senhit)
And the award for the best Mysterious Cities Of Gold impression goes to... a woman who manages to make her hair look like the headpiece.
High energy, rap, shouting at the crowd, dancing on a rotating platform, and pyro effects. The only tropes they're missing are a costume change and a wind machine.
Loud and colourful way to open the contest, but...
2. Estonia "The Lucky One" (Uku Suviste)
Will he be the lucky one tonight? Oh, come on, that joke was signposted from six hundred kilometres away...
A moon (I think) and lightning with Uku kneeling down to show that this is a serious love song. What's with the undone tie?
Nice performance of an upbeat serious love song, he gave that his all.
3. Czech Republic "Omaga" (Benny Cristo)
Omaga, I have an hour and three quarters to go...?
Omaga, I can't believe it's not butter?
Omaga-ga-ga, push pineapple, shake the tree...?
If Will Smith made a Eurovision song, it would be this. Actually, I called it right - "Omaga" is a substitute for "Oh My God", as in "Omaga, you're so beautiful". There's a lot of yelling "Omaga". But it might take on a somewhat darker interpretation when you realise that what he is saying a lot is "Omaga, you're so beautiful, why don't you love me?".
And, yes, he really did reference the pandemic with "There ain't no apocalypse, 'long as you're here on my lips". That ought to be, like, a crime against songwriting, or something.
Talking about the new app that allows you to clap, likely to allow commercial channels to try to flog stuff. "Were you missold investments? You could claim that money back. Just text GIMME to 01189998819991197253 today!".
And, well done Europe, with the app you gave over thirty seven million claps. Really, we're already in a pandemic, we don't need anybody to be giving anybody else the clap...
4. Greece "Last Dance" (Stefania)
I've already finished the macarons. And the tea. And a pack of Pringles. And two KitKats. And I'm still hungry. The joy of a video ripped from YouTube is that I can hit pause and go top up the tea. And, since we're only at song four of seventeen and it'll be my third cuppa, I think a nappy might be a good idea too. ☺ Yup, it's gonna be a looong evening.
Stefania, which is just a girly version of everybody is called Steve is dressed in a purple glittery bodysuit with a lot of bits missing, to perform an uptempo song where the title is repeated a lot. Some clever video effects have her climbing up into the air, accompanied by dancing suits. It would seem to me that a lot of this is some sort of blue-screen trickery, so I'd wonder what the studio audience saw.
5. Austria "Amen" (Vincent Bueno)
Twenty five minutes in, and... what? "Dressed in black you left my neighbourhood. No, I never thought you'd bury me. And you? No I never thought we'd die. But Amen! Amen! Tell me, is this what you wanted? Is this what you wanted? Amen."
Either this is the most messed up upbeat death song ever, or this is a giant metaphor using death to mean the end of a relationship, which is also kind of messed up.
The lyrics are quite peculiar, "It all feels like you didn't even try or try or try". Okay, she didn't try, we get it. Saying it three times only works for Bloody Mary.
Well, I suppose the demise of an obviously unhappy relationship provided the narrative for this song. If you're stuck trying to put together "is this what you wanted" with "amen", amen comes from Hebrew and it means "verily true" which is often given in English as "so be it". Therefore, it's more like "is this what you wanted? well so be it" with just a touch of "and screw you" in there for good measure.
6. Poland "The Ride" (RAFAL)
A young Robert Patrick dressed in black accompanied with four guys in white suits taking the idea of "light show" extremely seriously.
Did he shout "Can't f***ing hear you!" in the middle of the song? And I'd really like to know who exactly is singing. At the above part, he's shouting out to the crowd while the song carries on, and it doesn't look like the four dancing guys are singing this. There's a guy hidden towards the back, but... hmm...
More time wasting
Video snippets from TikTok, Instagram, and a few words from Molly Sanden, who perhaps sang the best song never entered in Eurovision...
Just noticed that the contest is sponsored by "Moroccanoil", which is an oil based hair care range. Undoubtably for those times when your hair must stay perfectly sculpted in the face of powerful wind machines and overenthusiatic dancing.
7. Moldova "Sugar" (Natalia Gordienko)
Sultry woman sitting on somebody, and it doesn't take long for the carefully choreographed routine to start. Most of this is performed on a much larger rotating platform. Kind of a forgettable song, but loads of energy and pulling off stretching a note to fifteen seconds make this amusing enough.
8. Iceland "10 Years" (Dathi og Gagnamagnith)
I've written the thorn (the 'd' thing) as "th" to save looking up the character code. I think that's how it is said, though I really would not want to attempt to pronounce this.
And this... this is the geek chic band. There's a massive cheer from the audience to welcome last year's winners to the stage.
This is so nerdy, it's brilliant. The parts where they sing quickly, I can't figure out what they are saying, and the subtitles say useful things like "[Music]".
I don't think this is as good as last year's song, but power to the nerds! (of course, as a fellow nerd (albeit one that can't sing), I would be just a tad biased).
I like that they stop the song in ridiculous poses, and then after a few seconds and a bit of pyrotechnics, change positions. Just a little bit of crowd pleasing there, with the audience accordingly losing it...
9. Serbia "Loco Loco" (Hurricane)
Another song titled in Spanish, and I think this is the first of the night sung in a native language. Well, I say sung. It's basically three women shouting and not quite in time, but they're dressed like three not entirely wholesome pinups (a blonde, a brunette, and a ginger, one for every temperament) so this ought to be an easy pass into the final.
10. Georgia "You" (Tornike Kipiani)
Well, that's not what I was expecting. It's a complete change of pace. I mean like a slightly more powerful Amar pelos dois. It doesn't stay that way, it builds to quite a strong performance. The letdown, however, are the many wobbly notes.
We've now done the first ten, and it seems like the first semi final were the oddball songs, while this the second semi final are the ones taking the contest a little more seriously.
Is this chance, or is there some sort of planning behind which song goes where?
Just been out to feed the furries and it's really chilly out there. It's been two hours now, and we're not even half way through the broadcast. So, I'm nursing an Ovomaltine and will plough on.
11. Albania "Karma" (Anxhela Peristeri)
Another serious one in the language of the country with an interesting backdrop that looks like dancing smoke. Through in some ethnic instruments and a woman dressed (barely) in dangly silver things who belts out her song with conviction.
12. Portugal "Love is on My Side" (The Black Mamba)
Haha, brilliant. Black and white and 4:3 ratio. But that's not the most surprising thing. There's the shock of a Portuguese song in English. His voice is distinctive. And... and... it's actually bloody good.
Oh, smooth transition to coloured widescreen. As smooth as this song.
Some more time wasting
Talking to Helena Paparizou about her win back in 2005. Apparently she'll be... singing from a rooftop on Saturday? Is that like some sort of Dutch tradition?
They've put the black presenter (who is short) alongside the tall blonde (who is huge) and it's rather comical. I think they're trying to plug the app or something. I don't know, I'm not paying attention.
13. Bulgaria "Growing Up Is Getting Old" (VICTORIA)
Well, there are two ways you can take that title. Getting old as in becoming tired of something (being a grown up sucks (yeah, it kinda does)) or straight up literally as in the process of growing up adds years. It's suppose to add experience, but some people seem to miss that part.
Her name is in CAPITALS because that's how it appears on screen.
Oh, okay, it's almost a lulaby. She's a red-head and everything around is red to the point of looking almost sepia. And it looks like she's sitting on a big... it's like an iceberg.
This is quite an emotional song isn't it? Borderline goth in style, if not in presentation. Well, I quite like this. That's a surprise, huh? ☺
14. Finland "Dark Side" (Blind Channel)
Well, clearly their influences are Linkin Park and Limp Bizkit. And it shows.
But the thing is, the two bands I have mentioned are rather aggressive because that's part of the style. These guys don't have the aggression, in fact the chorus sounds like something you'd expect from any generic boy band. It's a bit of a mish mash.
Every psycho in the scene, hands up and follow me, sing it.
My hands are on the keyboard. I'm deranged, but not a psycho, and I only follow my cat.
15. Latvia "The Moon Is Rising" (Samanta Tina)
Okay, finally we got something weird. And by weird I mean What The....?
So there are three women dressed in green with black skirts wearing black face visors. They are making sort of low pitch "um urp um urp" sounds, and there's a blonde woman (in a matching green dress) who alternates between singing and screeching. There's a lot of holding hands behind the head, almost like bunny ears.
Oops, steadicam operator totally missed cue and walked right into shot.
This only got a short bit of applause, as if the audience clapped politely (in reality, not on some app!) and then were like "the hell did I just watch?".
16. Switzerland "Tout l'Univers" (Gjon's Tears)
Well, nice vocals (in a remarkably high register for a guy) set to only a piano, building into something much stronger as is the way.
The visual arrangement of this is odd, but, damn, that was a good performance.
17. Denmark "Ove Os Pa Hinanden" (Fyr Og Flamme)
So, what will "the happiest country on Earth" offer this year? Sorry, Denmark, but it's going to take a LOT to beat the sugary sweetness of the girls-on-a-giant-chair (because I can't remember the title, something like "love is everywhere").
The title begins with an O that has a slash through it, and the 'a' in Pa has a little ring on top. But I only remember the HTML glyph names for the French áccènts as those are the ones that I use. This has already taken three hours now, if I had to stop to look up all the character names...
Okay, what's going on? This song, in Danish, is from Eurovision 1985, isn't it? I mean, it's basically Buck's Fizz in Danish. This one is totally rocking the eighties vibe. The only thing they don't quite have are the hairstyles.
Oh god, he's running around with the microphone stand. Are there any more eighties clichés that I missed?
Alright then, at the end of that song they cut to a woman wearing glasses who didn't look terribly impressed.
Europe start voting!
That's it. All of the songs have been performed. Now it's time for natter, explaining the rules like nobody's heard them before, and of course, opening the phone lines for the voting.
The difference between the two semi-finals couldn't be clearer. The last time I had six songs in my picks, and I had to find four others to fill the spaces.
This time? I have a complete set of songs. So, these are my choices. Not ones I think will go into the final, but ones I would like to see go into the final.
|12||Bulgaria - my inner goth said it would kill itself if I didn't give this 12|
|10||Iceland - nerds are awesome|
|8||Portugal - smooth as f.....udge icing|
|7||Switzerland - unexpectedly good|
|6||Greece - and the dancing suits|
|5||Moldova - bounce with your hands in the air|
|4||Albania - and conviction|
|3||Serbia - colour coded crazy|
|2||Austria - you're dead to me|
|1||Estonia - the lucky guy|
Interval act - Close Encounters of a Special Kind
A bloke in a long skirt dancing while somebody does bicycle stunts, and now loads of people dressed in red and black, and... that was quite impressive. I'm not quite sure what the BMX champion has to do with what looks like a Turkish whirling dervish taken up to eleven, but he's pretty much a scene stealer.
Now a quick plug for the official CD and DVD
I can understand wanting a CD in order to have the best possible sound quality of the songs you like, rather than YouTube rips that have gone through who knows how many lossy transcodes... but a DVD? Why would people still buy a DVD when you can watch it in far higher resolution on YouTube (and the quality isn't bad either)?
More looking back
Whoo, Ruslana (2004, Wild Dances), and she doesn't look that much different. And Nicole, who not only won for Germany in 1982, but who also got 12 points from Israel.
There's so much history that Eurovision has not only been a part of, but has also created. In this respect, it's a shame that there are those who see this as nothing more than a gigantic object of much mockery. Sure, yes, some of the stuff that happens on the Eurovision stage is utter madness, but then didn't Katy Perry release a song last week where her new best friend is Pikachu? It's not about the insanity, it's about what it means. About getting all these countries that used to hate each other now enjoying a peaceful rivalry, and in some cases, utter collusion in voting (hello Greece and Cyprus giving each other dooze pwah). In its way, it's like a small, noisy, and very colourful microcosm of what the European project is all about. There is a way that doesn't involve conflict, wars, and suffering. Sure, it's not perfect, but it's trying to be better, and it's a hell of a lot better than the alternative. What alternative? You don't need to go back far in history to see. And a little further back, and a little further back... it's time for a new refrain, and I think part of why Eurovision has endured for so long is because people would rather argue over who has the best song or who managed to slip in political points, rather than... the fighting and infighting that has defined Europe for much of its history. This way, the only thing that gets hurt are egos, and ultimately cooperation and friendship is better for everybody. Sure, there's some need for compromise, but then there's compromise on both sides. An argument sorely missed, hard, in 2016.
You need.... backing dancers and helpers and... yeah... and what about those who won by themselves? Where were the backing dancers for Conchita Wurst? I only recall her belting out that iconic song.
Sometimes, if you're just that bloody good, you don't need help.
Talking to the French performer, which is a traditional style of French song (think Pfiaf). You'll get to know the word voilà in an over-the-top bundle of emotion.
Now the UK performer. Uh... with giant suspended trumpets. It's... like most UK entries. You have to understand that, often, it's the enthusiastic Message Song that wins. Love Shine A Light, Molitva, Rise Like A Phoenix...
Finally, the Spanish performer. Another Moon, but this looks like a giant suspended Moon. Brilliant - I want one! As for the song, it seemed okay until the screechy bits, so we'll need to see what it's like in full. Tomorrow.
I almost got the name. It's Jon Ola Sand, and yup, he has been replaced by a new director with a new catchphrase. You're good to go...
As always they're presented in a random order:
- Albania - the conviction song
- Serbia - colour coded
- Bulgaria - yes! my inner goth almost smiled
- Moldova - bouncy hands up
- Portugal - and a big cheer from the audience
- Iceland - of course, come on, nerds rule!
- San Marino - well, okay...
- Switzerland - of course, with a performance like that
- Greece - yup, this one was worthy of a place too
- Finland - well, between them and Italy it'll be a rowdy night
This time, I called eight of them correctly. The ones that didn't qualify that I picked were Estonia and Austria, which were my lowest two, funnily enough.
It might be interesting to see a ranking in how much each country was voted for to see if their placements resemble mine? Well, okay, probably not as it's Iceland or Portugal up top rather than Bulgaria. But, hey, I only lost two to San Marino and Finland, so it's good. Most of my picks made it through.
It's ten to midnight, so I'll check this one last time and upload it, and then wander off to bed. I think I might have the quiche that I missed yesterday because, hell, it's Saturday. It's not like I have to get up at any time before about 8pm (when the Grand Final starts... or is it 9pm French time? I'd better check!).
Bye for now.
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Last read at 21:32 on 2022/01/26.
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