I've never tried writing a post that updates live, so I figured I'd do it now & see if it works. :)
These are just my notes on the Eurovision Song Competition 2021, which I decided to watch on a Saturday morning as if I had nothing better to do.
Coming into the competition, a number of solid, songs were axed from Semifinal 1 (most tearfully, Croatia and Australia.) Semifinal 2 did not, however, break my heart. The main outcome: the ballads that qualified from the semifinals are the best ballads on offer. (No "Amen"'s here.) The bops are more numerous, but more varied in quality.
Having watched neither semifinal, I'm going into this fairly blind. I don't know who has a good performance, and who struggles to hold their high notes.
Fun fact: for those of you anywhere in the world, the whole competition can be livestreamed with English-language commentary from Iceland's broadcaster here.
Click "read more" and the page should automatically update every three minutes -- approximately the length of a Eurovision song, whilst it is live.
I sat down and poured out a slightly bitter cup of coffee, and opened my browser. It is time to begin...
Love, love, love the intros. Maybe I didn't tune in early enough to see these in the past to catch these.
It is fantastic to have big country announcements with folks in costume, and random glittery dancing...
Also, I can't blame them for the message of "even though we're in the middle of a global crisis... let's forget about that for a moment and party."
Oh, and apparently, people can vote for songs a max of 20 times. That's good to know.
Cyprus: Elena Tsagrinou - "El diablo"
Commentator: "If you feel a bit evil after this, you might want to seek medical advice."
Well, I think it's pretty obvious what they're going for here, with the skimpy, frilly outfits.
Elena does her choreography with aplomb, even the whole crouching down, bending backwards, and somehow still singing bit.
And, oh man, the fire in the background is fantastic at the end.
I still don't like the song, but I'm glad the childish backing vocals and breathy noises on the backing track seem to be toned down.
So yeah, that was a great performance of a song I don' really dig.
Albania: Anxhela Peristeri - "Karma"
I'm kinda glad to see this in Eurovision, a big balkan balad. And let's be real, one that requires some belting.
The song feels rather shapeless, though, ambling between its sections, even though Anxhela, alone on stage, is in full-powered belt mode.
The continuation of the frilly, silver-colored outfit is part of a wider trend.
Israel: Eden Alene - "Set Me Free"
We are in full disco mode, and back to the one singer + five dancers formula.
I feel more and more like the chorus saps some of the momentum from the song. And, I don't think I find Alene as engaging or charismatic as a performer as I anticipated, even though she goes through all of the motions pretty well.
The outfit towards the end that made Alene look like she was wearing her own hair was... unfortunate.
Fortunately it was on stage for such a short time that it barely registered.
Okay, but those final high notes did sound on pitch to me, and kinda amazing. So, that is a positive.
Belgium: Hooverphonic - "The Wrong Place"
Hmm... can I just say I dislike the pre-recorded backing vocals?
I can also say hat I get why this made it through its semifinal. It is smooth and professional.
I still feel like the song is kinda flat and doesn't go anywhere, but I do feel like the band does have a fair amount of professionalism / star power on display.
My least favorite hook sounds smoother, less unnatural because it's a bit less emphasized or punched up I guess with the live vocals.
Russia: Manizha - "Russian Woman"
Manizha is amazing. You cannot fault the staging or the costuming of her amazing opening dress-reveal moment.
And also, I love her dance moves.
I can probably do without the backing visuals when they just say phrases like "Rise Up" and "Be Creative," but when they show icons and galloping horses I am sold.
Oh, and she can hit those notes too!
Wow, wow, wow.
"Are you ready for change? Because we are! We are the change!"
Easy fave so far.
Malta: Destiny - "Je me casse"
Oh yeah, Destiny has it too. By, "it" I mean star power.
I am not really sold on some of the staging and visual affects. I don't need to see hands waving on the top and bottom of the screen, for example.
Destiny's powerful vocals do really elevate it though. Like, wow.
The staging & the song is no "Russian Woman," but the performance is pretty impeccable.
Portugal: The Black Mamba - "Love Is on My Side"
Black & white video -- and 4:3 video makes this a classic throwback. Which goes nicely with the smooth vocals, acoustic guitar, and old timey feel.
I honestly would have preferred if the song never switched to color and widescreen.
I'm not huge on the song or style, but the singer is plenty charismatic, showing off at the right moments, and sticking to the easy melody at other moments.
To be honest, he completely nails it.
I can really see why people like this.
I just wish his fake guitar solo wasn't so... obviously fake and ridiculous looking.
Serbia: Hurricane - "Loco Loco"
I am super ready for Balkan pop time. :)
Can I note that the running has just been super high-energy and entertaining so far?
Well, as far as I can tell, Hurricane are both capable of singing and shaking it.
Which is good, they definitely ought to be capable of both.
I am immediately convinced this is the biggest "hair" number of the show.
The staging is simple with just the three of the on stage, but that's all it needs.
This is a good performance of a good song, I feel little in the way of spark/extra energy until the bridge, pre-chorus, and final key change, at which point the girls really give it their all.
That ending part is fantastic, but the couple of minutes before that aren't as high-energy. Alas.
United Kingdom: James Newman - "Embers"
James Newman is... charismatic?
He stands on a platform between two giant trumpets, with four backing dancers ahed of him on stage, occasionally pretending to play brass instruments.
So yeah, I think this song does better live than in the studio, but I still don't really like it.
I'm also not really sure what James's hand gesture is when he sticks his pointer finger up. It is a bit off-putting.
I wish it had more of a fantastic finale.
(And, we note James is feeling compelled to shout, "We love you Europe!" at the end, because, well, the UK doesn't have a reputation for loving Europe these days...)
Greece: Stefania - "Last Dance"
Stefania's weird purple sparkly outfit is kinda fantastic.
As a viewer at home, the staging and use of greenscreen is fantastic.
The idea of having dancers who are green-screened out so as to be invisible is quite innovative. It works good in practice.
It is also fun to have our presenters float in the air in front of random cityscapes.
Stefania has stage presence, but I don't really get a spark out of the singing.
The staging: innovative.
The singing: satisfactory.
Switzerland: Gjon's Tears - "Tout l'Univers"
We're into god-tier ballad right here, so hopefully Gjon brings it live.
I like the staging and outfit, and the choreography. It's all rather abstract and understated. The focus: the vocals.
And in that area, Gjon delivers. What a falsetto, what a range.
And Gjon hits all his notes -- even the sustained high one, as far as I can tell before the pre-recorded backing vocals come in.
Definitely a success. I was probably hoping for a touch more, but hey, Gjon delivered on all that he promised.
Iceland: Daði og Gagnamagnið - "10 Years"
Due to a positive COVID test, the performance from the rehearsal is used here in place of live performance.
Serious hopes: that this doesn't negatively affect Iceland's chances.
It's cheery, upbat, and silly. The dance moves are fun without being too distracting.
It's a really good song -- as I said about other songs, I wish that the live perofrmance gave it a bit more of a boost in energy, but it is still fantastic.
Spain: Blas Cantó - "Voy a quedarme"
The acapella opening was cool, and a really nice touch.
My only question: will they have dropped the insanely grating backing vocals that enter part way through?
Answer: no, and in conjunction with the slightly-missed high ntos, it's a bit of a miss.
But, hey, not all that bad.
Moldova: Natalia Gordienko - "Sugar"
Sparkly-dressed Natalia cooes, "No way I'll be alone tonight" while surrounded by bare-cheasted men clad in suits and sunglasses.
Her live vocals are definitely a touch shakey, and you can certainly hear when the pre-recorded backing vocals do a lot of the work.
The choreography and dancing, and the song's drop work wonders here.
And she is definitely FLAT in her high note. Which sounds like it goes on forever. They really should have axed that one.
But extra credit to Natalia for explaining in an interview that the song wasn't about sweets and diabetes.
Germany: Jendrik - "I Don't Feel Hate"
- I love that Jendrik is literally wearing a necklace that says "annoying."
I feel so conflicted, because this song is like an excessively twee trainwreck of somewhat overcooked (commonly used) elements, but Jendrik's live performance, especially with the choreography, but also just with his charisma... works so much more than it should.
It is among the best performances so far.
And I love the way in the breakdown that Jendrik just yells "Sorry."
Like, this performance absolutely works. And I feel like it shouldn't, but it totally does.
The backing graphics of insulting words shattering is maybe a touch on the nose and boring. But everything else is just joyous.
Finland: Blind Channel - "Dark Side"
What an abrasive transition into nu-metal. And Blind Channel are really excellent performers as well.
They sound good, and their energy is palpable. (I guess it's easier to swing your instruments around dramatically when they're pre-recorded.)
Not my favorite, but on the basis of the performance it deserves hella points.
I mean I'd be jumping around if I was in the audience there too.
Bulgaria: VICTORIA - "Growing Up Is Getting Old"
I appreciate the switch to a slow, mellow song, and understated staging after Finland.
The CGI imagery of VICTORIA on a litle island in the ocean with falling stars is nice.
And, she provides a very good performance.
Lithuania: The Roop - "Discoteque"
Okay these guys have it -- by which I mean, the moves, the costumes, and the song.
I still feel like the chorus is a little weak. But the appeal of the yellow suits, and platform shoes, and perfectly synchronized dance moves is strong.
Every post-chorus dance break sells it hard.
Yeah, this is kinda infectious.
Ukraine: Go_A - "Шум"
This is kinda the best song, and they also have really fantastic staging, with white trees and weird glowing lights and some nice graphics.
And it helps that she hits her high note. :)
Not bad for a song about sewing hemp.
France: Barbara Pravi - "Voilà"
French ballad # 2!
And we're back to understated staging and a serious focus on vocal prowess. Madame(moiselle) Pravi brings it.
The live energy is palpable here. It's really good.
Azerbaijan: Efendi - "Mata Hari"
Back to the singer + four dancers staging. And, the song is definitely a touch ridiculous with its incongruous blend of elements.
Efendi's vocals are strong, but the repeated "ma ma ma ma" gets a bit old.
Norway: Tix - "Fallen Angel"
Love the staging! And I love the singing -- Tix does has a lovely voice, and it sounds really good live.
Tix takes his stage name from the ticks that he has as a result of tourette's syndrome, which he hides from the audience via sunglasses and a big coat, except for the moment in which he removed his sunglasses, showing his twitch to the audience, adding meaning & whatnot to the performance.
Really nicely done.
Netherlands: Jeangu Macrooy - "Birth of a New Age"
Immediately, this is compelling af. I love the protest. I love the costumes. I love the staging. I love the passion in Macrooy's voice. I love the dancing.
I was not expecting this to be nearly as fantastic as it is.
Wow, wow, wow, wow, wow.
This is hands down my favorite performance since Manizha.
Italy: Måneskin - "Zitti e buoni"
We're into rock song #2 now. And they are also charismatic, excellent performers, clad in glam-ish red outfits.
It's a good performance, and the song works really well on stage, and the lead singer really gives it his all -- this song definitely gets a lot of extra oomph from the live performance.
It's still not my fave though.
Really, really, solid.
Sweden: Tusse - "Voices"
Extra points for Tusse's outfit: red suit, and lots of shiny silver on the nexk and the arms.
He's charismatic, but I just don't think the song is good enough.
I will be disappointed if this is in the top half of songs, not because it's bad, but because the competition is so strong.
San Marino: Senhit feat. Flo Rida - "Adrenalina"
Star power: Senhit has it. -- Maybe I've said that about too many entries, but I really mean it.
The staging, costuming, etc. is definitely reminicient of a US popstar. The song is strong. The performance, energetic.
It's a bit of a surprise that Flo Rida was actually here giving a guest rap verse, but Senhit is definitely the star. He hypes her good though.
Thoughts so far
Wow! This was a really strong set of songs. Definitely, I was most impressed by Russia, the Netherlands, and probably San Marino as far as it went, but really almost every song impresesd me in some way.
Honestly, I would be thrilled if a lot of these songs won, and I would definitely understand if pretty much any of them did.
If I had to do a tier-ranking, this would be it:
- S Tier: Netherlands, Russia, Lithuania, Norway, San Marino
- A Tier: Iceland, Ukraine, Malta, France, Switzerland
- B Tier: Serbia, Portugal, Germany
- C Tier: Cyprus, Italy, Finland, Belgium
- D Tier: Albania, Israel, Bulgaria, Azerbaijan
- E Tier: Sweden, Moldova, Spain, Greece, UK
Notes on Voting
Some notes for the unfamiliar:
- Voting is via a 50:50 split of "expert juries" and (presumably inexpert viewers), from each country. I guess this is to keep sex from selling to well, and to enforce "quality".
- Each country gives out a certain number of points. Little San Marino has as big a voice as big Russia.
- The jury and the audience from each country give out two sets of points to their top ten songs in 12, 10, and 8-1 point values. Deuce points is therefore, the coveted bit of the announcement.
- Votes cost money.
- Countries cannot vote for their own entries
- Countries do often vote for entries of their neighbors or allies, e.g. Nordic countries or Balkan countries voting for one another.
- The wait for the vote and order in which they're announced is pretty drawn out.
- In some cases, e.g. N. Macedonia in 2019, they can be pretty cruel by heaping a bunch of points on one country before it's overtaken in the name of some artificial drama in a dumb counting game.
The Results (As They Come)
After several interval acts and recaps of the 26 songs, some coordinated dancers ceme to announce the end of voting.
I'm just going to reproduce the deuce points below, and any notes of odd things. Also don't ask me why they go in this order.
- Israel - 12 points to Switzerland
- Poland - 12 points to San Marino -- that's a bit of a surprise!
- San Marino - 12 points to France -- also the first to give (5) points to Moldova.
- Albania - 12 points to Switzerland
- Malta - 12 points to Albania -- that's a surprise.
- Estonia - 12 points to Switzerland
So far -- the juries are loving the French ballads... Not a remote surprise.
- North Macedonia - 12 points to Serbia -- can you say Balkan bloc voting?
- Azerbaijan - Please stop singing. 12 points to Russia -- woo!
- Norway - 12 points to Malta! (Not Iceland!?)
- Spain - 12 points to France -- no shock here.
- Austria - 12 points to Iceland.
- London - Can't tell Dutch apart from French. No cringe there. Uhh, 12 points to France.
Man, those French-language ballads are doing well with the juries.
- Italy - 12 points to Lithuania! Well deserved for them to pop up on the board -- wasn't expecting that from Italy, and I agree with the Icelandic commentator that it's a touch surprising they gave no points to Switzzerland. Maybe they don't want to help the competition.
- Slovenia - 12 points to Italy.
- Greece - 12 points to Cyprus -- no bloc voting there.
- Latvia - 12 points to Switzerland
- Ireland - 12 points to France
- Moldova - Saxophone was almost nice. 12 points to Bulgaria.
- Serbia - 12 points to France
I'll note that the UK & Germany are at the bottom, and the current rankings certainly don't reflect mine. :)
- Bulgaria - 12 points to Moldova. Weird.
- Cyprus - 12 points to Greece. No shock there.
- Belgium - 12 points to Switzerland
It's kinda fortunate that Switzerland and France are both there to split the big ballad vote.
We then cut to the presenters bigging up the current, partial results because obviously we gotta have them pump up the French-ballad singers before they're potentially deflated.
"If you take the win home, what's the first thing you're gonna do?" Hmm..
- Germany - 12 points to France
- Australia - 12 points to Malta
- Finland - 12 points to Switzerland
- Portugal - 12 points to Bulgaria
- Ukraine - 12 points to Italy
- Iceland - 12 points to Switzerland (or a song not in the running, hard to tell...)
It is really a game of see the bottom 9, and note which one is missing. Malta isn't in the bottom 9? Well, then...
- Romania - 12 points to Malta
- Croatia - 12 points to Italy
- Czech Republic - 12 points to Portugal
Boy, some of these country representatives like to go on about hoping people have a lovely evening...
- Georgia - 12 points to Italy
I do have to say Italy is doing better so far than I expected.
- Lithuania - 12 points to Ukraine (woo!)
- Denmark - 12 points to Switzerland
- Russia - 12 points to Moldova (wtf again)
- France - 12 points to (please stop singing) Greece (what?)
- Sweden - 12 points to (please stop thanking me and telling me how we're united with the power of music that changes hearts and lives and then going on about your life story... oh my goodness) Malta
- Switzerland - 12 points for France (oh yeah French ballad competition
- Netherlands - 12 points for France
Switzerland wins the jury vote. (No shock.) I'm a tad surprised at Italy, and definitely surprised at how well Moldova did just because Natalia did not hit her long note well.
Spain, Germany, and the UK are the bottom three.
Norway, San Marino, and Lithuania are wayyy lower in this partial ranking than they deserve.
Oh boy, the points from viewers all around Europe...
- UK - 0 points. James seems to be taking it well. I guarentee if this same entry was from Sweden it would have done better.
- Germany - 0 points. Still also sad, but at least they have three jury points.
- Spain - 0 points. Man, the bottom group here is a bloodbath.
- Netherlands - 0 points. That is heartbreaking. This is such a low result for such a wonderful number. This is a real shock to me, because it was such a powerful performance.
- Norway - +60 points. Still way lower than it deserves.
- Serbia - +82 points. Wow.
- Albania - +35 points. Ok.
- Azerbaijan - +33 points. Deservedly middling.
- San Marino - +13 points. What?! How is this so low!?!? What!?!?!
- Sweden - +63 points. Why is this so high? Undeserved.
- Cyprus - +44 points. Deservedly kinda low.
- Moldova - +62 points. Again, this is high.
- Lithuania - +165 points. Woooo! Good for them to hop up in the rankings.
- Belgium - +3 points. (Hahahaha.)
- Israel - +20 points. Ok.
- Finland - +280 points. Wow, that skyrocketed.
Many of my favorites are firmly in the back-half at this point.
- Greece - +79 points. Still kinda a lot in my opinion, but whatever.
- Ukraine - +267 points. Well deserved rise to the top. But of course, it is unlikely to stay there. :(
- Russia - +100 points. Definitely deserved a lot more. Aww.
- Portugal - +27 points Middling public result, unsurprisingly, but they performed really well.
- Bulgaria - +30 points. Commentator: "The public this year are really not going for the slow songs." Yeah.
- Iceland - +180 points. They now skyrocketted to the top of the rankings...
- Italy - +318 points. Man, that is a ridiculous sum of points.
Can they be surpassed? It is hard to say. Let's milk this moment for audience tension. I'm kinda rooting against Italy, because I think of it as the most boring of these songs.
- Malta - +47 points. Well, I was expecting more than that..
Will the split French-ballad vote keep these from surpassing Italy? Let's milk this moment for all it's worth.
- France - +221 points -- that puts them about 25 points behind Italy.
If I was good at math, I would already know the winner, since I'd know the sum of remaining points, but shhh. Please, Switzerland.
- Switzerland - +160 points.
Italy has won.
Italy won. Man, they did not have my favorite song. The overall results really don't reflect my opinon, but at least Italy won because the audience loved them.
Still, I do think it's a rather boring song. Meh.
Well, that was a lot of energy to put into something only to be disappointed in the end. See you next year!
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