Day 2 – Shine On Aliona Moon

May 7, 2013 by

Day 2 – Shine On Aliona Moon

This is the day being billed here as the day of the suspect vocals. The 2nd half of semi 1 is rife with them… potentially.

Who See turned up in what can only be described as white industrial boiler suits that make them look like Teletubbies dealing with the aftermath of a Chernobyl nuclear incident. Nina Zizic has a powerhouse vocal that raises the entire presentation. They emerge from some smoke on 2nd run through in astronaut suits. This just gets better. Mad as a box of frogs. Officially this year’s guilty pleasure.

Nina has a monocle and what look like plastic wings and appears on the stage as if by magic from a concealed lift. This is industrial dubstep combined with hip hop elements… apparently, or maybe I just made that up. It is contemporary, compelling to watch and is definitely a strong package within its genre. There is certainly potential for it to be respected by juries far more than previous, essentially weak rap efforts at the ESC like last year’s Austrian entry. Nina lends it substance.

You could see the UK give Montenegro some decent points in this semi, and it has some reliable friends in the Balkans. This has legitimate claims to be a surprise qualifier. The high street agrees offering a best price of 11-8 now. Those who followed the advice posted here back on April 9 that Montenegro was worth a poke at 4.7 to qualify are in an excellent position and live to fight another day.

Lithuania and Belgium swapped positions which is a little annoying as we don’t see what sort of comedown Lithuania possibly endures following Montenegro. Roberto has 3 backing singers and sounds fine on 1st run through. Two female dancers shimmy either side of him.

He has big, doleful eyes certain women will surely appreciate as he gives good camera in close-up. He doesn’t have the strongest vocal but he can carry this song well enough. It is a modern tune and has a certain uptempo Coldplay feel about it. He is kitted out like Donny Montell – open collar, dinner jacket – and has the same sort of cuteness factor in his favour. He has laid down the gauntlet to Ryan Dolan here. From the penultimate slot this is in with a decent shout. Don’t forget, 18 out of 20, people. 18 out of 20…

Alyona from Belarus has just delivered a decent first rehearsal and the staging looks much better than the ragtag mess witnessed in Amsterdam. She emerges at the start from a disco glitterball. She has 3 backing vocalists helping her, and 2 male dancers try and make us all feel the beat. The Solayoh hook certainly grabbed me as an unmistakable tap of the foot was detected. Only briefly, but it was certainly felt.

Her vocal is adequate. Courtesy of Gav’s research at esctips, apparently Belarus will have the angled pyros come the semi performance that Ralf had at Melodifestivalen. The dancers bang on drums in the last minute which gives it a bit more oomph.

Aliona for Moldova follows Alyona from Belarus with a very decent vocal. Surprisingly good given what was heard in the Moldovan final and in Amsterdam. In fact, is this a doppelgänger as she soars through this song effortlessly and with vocal crispness? The staging is also very good. Blue and black with Pasha on the piano and 3 male dancers dancing in silhouetted darkness. Aliona has stolen Sabina’s Azerbaijan dress from 2012 as it sparkles in different colours throughout.

The dress gets bigger in the last minute so Aliona would even tower above Ukraine’s giant. It’s a bit gimmicky but there is no denying this is a highly effective package overall. On esctips 2nd podcast looking at the 2nd half of this semi, some joker suggested Moldova offered possible value on the ‘not to qualify’ side at around 13-8.

Whoops, that would have been me. Is that the sound of a massive screech of breaks and a change to reverse gear before hitting the accelerator? Yes. As things have panned out, my early assessment appears to have proved wide of the mark.

Ryan Dolan has 2 female backing singers, 2 oiled-up, bare-chested male backing dancers with rippling torsos in tight leather trousers, and a guy on drums. The oiled-up duo join in on the drums towards the end.

Ryan sells it well to camera but still has a tendency to fall off a few of the higher notes. This is certainly better than previous live efforts, and the drums give what is a rather average pop tune a bit more pizzazz.

There is a pyro effect at the end. Have health & safety been called as those 2 oiled up dancers could go up quicker than a chip pan fire? Luckily, they survive as the pyros are a bit of a damp squib – clearly Denmark used up the best sparklers yesterday. It’s all very biker chic and quite homoerotic, dare I say. Yes, there, I’ve said it. Ireland is unashamedly looking to corner the pink vote here.

Despina is alone on stage in a stunning, long black lace dress. She gets the hairdryer treatment via a wind machine towards the end. No backing vocalists. Her all alone. It’s an accomplished effort and juries should reward such a plucky solo.

It is a simple, stripped back presentation and Despina looks beautiful. Can see her raising it a level in the jury performance too. Just a hunch. Like Nina Badric did for Croatia last year. Of course, that still wasn’t enough for Croatia to qualify, and Despina’s best efforts may not be enough for Cyprus this year but it’s not being discounted here.

Having initially thought the uptempo numbers would trump the slow ballads in this section of the draw, the ballads have held their own well.

4 backing singers help Andrius. Sadly, his eyebrows don’t help him at all, and nor does his lack of stagecraft. He just stands and smiles and looks like a little lost sheep. A little lost sheep in a leather jacket and a white t-shirt. Not that you see many of those around these days. As feared it is coming across as lacklustre, much like Amsterdam. His vocal is not the strongest today either.

This just got better, but possibly for all the wrong reasons as Andrius, on the third run through, becomes a lost sheep, in leather jacket, white t-shirt and cool black shades, possibly to conceal the eyebrows. There is also a visual effect used where his face goes all blurry. It looks like it has been taken straight from the BBC’s hi-tech televisual department… circa 1980, that is, and a sci-fi series like Blake’s 7.

3 backing singers aid Mirna, Nevena and Sara. They perform the song only 3 times. Not sure why they miss out on a 4th go. On each run through they improve the vocals and the staging looks less shambolic.

The 3 of them may well be kitted out from ‘Top Shop’  Belgrade but to Western eyes their outfits appear somewhat strange – seen here. Yes, it was a good idea to tone down the overly vampish Vicars & Tarts attire seen in the Serbian final, but this is maybe also a wardrobe mistake.

So, for the most part, the entries came across a lot stronger vocally than previously anticipated. Moldova takes the plaudits on a day when semi 1 became very interesting and tricky to call. Agree/disagree? Please do join the conversation below.


  1. Janeair

    Rob, Aliona is amazing, pretty face and body…But her song with that strange and unpleasant tune …mmm makes feel depressed. She is a good performer but she made one huge mistake … she has got wrong song)

    • Rob

      Hmm… you are our ears in the east so that’s an interesting reaction, Jane. My initial thoughts on Moldova were the same – a very average ballad, but it would appear the clever staging of it has brought it to life much more.

  2. fiveleaves

    Hi Rob,
    Cheers again for the update.
    No audio here now. It makes it even more difficult to get a sense of how the rehearsals are going.
    So the updates are even more welcome.

    I’m pleased Belgium appears to have had a good rehearsals. It’s my one bet for qualification so far @ 3.25

    I think I will hold fire on any other bets until the 2nd rehearsals, when hopefully we will get the full videos.

    As for Moldovan, I found the expanding dress rather gimmicky but I guess in the context of the whole presentation it must work well.
    All the bloggers seem to love it.

  3. Rob

    Think you’ve got some good value there, fig. Best price now 2-1 Belgium. Many doubted Roberto vocally but on today’s showing he can deliver the song adequately enough.

  4. Boki

    Hi Rob and thanks for all coverage once again!
    How do you rate Montenegro jury score btw? It still seems to me that the juries will drag them down and suddenly see a value in NQ odds from today.

    • Rob

      I think the opposite, Boki. In a semi laden with solo female ballads there are going to be losers among them. Montenegro stands out at the start of the 2nd half & I think juries will respect it – certainly the Balkan ones, and possibly a good few Western ones too. It’s contemporary & Nina is A-MAZ-ING 🙂

      Perceived minnows often get a jury leg up in the semis imho when they offer credible efforts, & ‘Igranka’ certainly is credible in its genre. They are supposed to be music professionals with their finger on the pulse of ‘relevant’ modern music, so I see no reason why they won’t reward it.

      • Boki

        We’ll see Rob, I don’t want to counter your views too much since I’m afraid I’m going to jinx my MN lay 🙂 but going to lay for sure. Those spacesuits are as ridiculous as the giant and Nina is not Zlata to save them from disaster.

  5. Roach

    Great review once again Rob, thank you. I’ll post my full further thoughts in the morning when I’m feeling a little less tired (I’m not in Malmo… just had a few glasses of wine!) – but I have caught up with today’s videos and Moldova was impressive indeed! Have duly backed e/w for the Semi, as well as qualification.

    Unlikely, but I do think the relative failings of Ukraine & Serbia, along with the possible weak televote for Anouk *could* let either Moldova or less likely Croatia sneak onto the Semi 1 podium. Fingers crossed…

    • Rob

      Yes, it could easily pan out that way, Roach. Denmark & Russia both look pretty solid in this semi but not beyond the realms that even one of them misses out on top 3 – still have this nagging feeling both are too calculated & juries could, just could punish them for this. Even if they are in there, both Croatia & Moldova appear to have legitimate top 3 claims.


    Thought Belgium and Ireland disappointed the most today. Belgium looks very static on stage, with a dull backdrop and two women doing silly, rather than chic prancing around him. I think this is a miss. Ireland too is a miss. I think when it counts his vocal is going to let him down, the staging doesn’t particularly help this song, and he’ll come 11th. Moldova is OTT, will qualify, but the inflating dress just makes her look silly. There are an awful lot of gimmicks in this semi final. Many more than I thought possible. I reckon the delegations are spending the reduced delegation fees on their stage acts.

  7. Rob

    Thanks for posting, Richard. Agree Aliona’s inflating dress is rather silly but strangely I think Moldova get away with it in an effective set. Bottom line is, Aliona has the vocals & brings this ballad to life.

    Take your point about Belgium staging but sense the song is contemporary enough to do well from the penultimate spot. For me, it has edged alongside Belarus & Ireland on yesterday’s showing, & along with Montenegro, these 4 are scrapping away for 2 or 3 quali slots. I also wonder if Ryan Dolan might struggle on the big nights ahead… all to play for 🙂

  8. geoff,aka pimp

    Thanks for all the updates rob, you guys are our eyes and ears at this stage.
    From the small videos ive seen moldova looks absolutely wonderfull. It takes last years azerbaijan style staging and crushes it, ive took a bit of top 10 on her and also a touch of top3 in the semi.
    I also had a small bet on cyprus to qualify im not overly confident with that one but i thought it was a nice classy performance the wind machine looked like it worked really well, it looked a nice understated classy performance plus the draw is very nice.

    Im not sure whether all the serbia bedwetters have anything to worry about. the song was always just a diaspora magnet with a crackin draw . And that hasnt changed so maybe the top3 in the semi bet everyone has isnt really dead ? Im not on serbia in any way myself though.

    I look forward to hearing from you on day 3. It should be a really interesting day

    • Rob

      I give Cyprus a sporting chance, Geoff in an open looking semi. Some here are less optimistic but as you say, it was a classy performance juries could reward well.

  9. Roach

    I see only Moldova & Serbia as *certain* qualifiers from the 2nd half of the semi, which for me takes us to a total 7, and as Rob’s said in the previous comment, we then have Belarus, Ireland, Montenegro & Belgium fighting over a likely 3 spots. Belarus you’d expect to do well on televote, but Ireland looked a mess to me… making Montenegro & Belgium value for me. At least at yesterday’s prices!

    • Rob

      That’s it exactly, Roach. Semi 1 very much still up for grabs in terms of those last few qualifying spots.

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