Fire Power

May 4, 2018 by

Fire Power

A veritable smorgasbord of ESC 2018 ingredients today as we get a soupcon of semi 1, a dollop of semi 2, mixed with a first serving of the Big 5 plus hosts Portugal.

Nice swirly close-up of Sevak’s face during this. He emotes well, and is tailormade for this dark, brooding ballad. Fans of the historical drama series ‘Outlander’ might worry he will be transported back in time, stood in that stone circle but apparently it references a famous location in Armenia. This exudes quality and competence all-round. In a normal semi-final year, this would be trading around 1.3 for Q.

Switzerland has done as well as it can to sell this. Corinne is a good frontwoman, though her toned, bare midriff could cause a green-eyed effect in a lot of female viewers. New addition: blue beams of light enclose Stefan. The essence of this is, a guy in the background banging on his drums while a woman overly-repeats, ‘No, I ain’t throwing stones’. Despite the competent window dressing, the content overall feels lacking.

Ireland is charming in its own way. The two male dancers have quite extreme snow landing on them. While Ryan is a competent vocalist and this is nicely presented, as a ballad this meanders along and struggles to resonate emotionally for me.

Cyprus is indisputably ‘one for the dads’ and grandads – my 85-year-old dad will love this when he tunes in to watch next week. Eleni is a great dancer, slut drops and all, and will sell it to the max but it will also be worth keeping an ear out for the vocal. This could follow a similar trajectory to Israel’s Imre last year who was so clearly off-key opening the grand final, as Eleni might this year if she draws first half. This has to be the funniest interview moment of ESC 2018 rehearsals by the way. Enjoy:

May 4, 2018

Norway has been one of the most remarkable trades of ESC 2018 season during a volatile year. On word Norway ‘had something’ this year, it was backed in the low 20s. On reveal, it drifted like a barge, matched as big as 190. After Rybak’s performance in Melodi Grand Prix it started to creep back in. Since people have seen it here it has been smashed in to as low as 7.2.

Romania’s Cristina channels her inner Ann Wilson (Heart) and she has the vocal chops/stage presence to power this out authentically. This has timeless soft rock appeal but trap 2 is troublesome.

Serbia has some strong voting power in this semi (said in the past, much to my cost, Moje 3, let’s not go there again) and better outfits today – there’s nowhere else you can rock a male black cape quite as well as on the ESC stage. That said, there is still a sinister Superman II baddie-ness about Mladen especially when he hovers above the three women and turns and does his best Serbian Derek Zoolander stare.

‘Justice for Valentina’ is today’s robot placard message for San Marino. Question: who is trolling ESC 2018 more, Rybak or this?

The Danes only have a small snowstorm at the end of ‘Higher Ground’ after Ireland’s blizzard in semi 1 but there is still a chance of snowflake-gate II (after Loreen 2012) while Michael sings. This is a song that feels like it has shown its full hand ater 2 minutes. There is some chanting in Icelandic from Rasmussen’s crew.

And now for something completely different… and not heard before now, Portugal. The Outright seems to be largely turning its nose up at the quality songs this year, seduced by the bangers and the uptempo/fun numbers.

Claudia’s pink hair is even more striking than at the Portuguese national final. They have taken on board wise staging advice by getting rid of Isaura’s strait-jacketed, seated, turned, facing away from camera start. Beautiful orange spotlights behind Claudia who is otherwise in darkness before Isaura arrives and they perform it as a duet. Isaura wears cool, dark grunge-y clothes; Claudia is in a white top. This song is a delicate, nuanced gem.

SuRie for the UK is in a white outfit which, combined with her white hair makes her look like a replicant from Blade Runner… She is in a neon tunnel, there is a dry ice effect… OK, there will be the usual patriotic tub-thumping in some quarters, as there is every year for the UK, but this is going to struggle.

UK’s form figures since Blue’s respectable 11th in 2011, despite not being informed the Friday night performance mattered, are 25th, 19th, 17th, 24th, 24th, 15th. For the last time, it’s not political, there is no conspiracy against the UK at Eurovision, Europe does not hate us and it has nothing to do with Brexit. ‘Storm’ simply goes nowhere and is total wallpaper. If the UK keeps sending insipid pop songs like this, poor results are what it deserves.

They have wisely kept it very simple for Amaia and Alfred for Spain. They wear classic evening attire and start far apart before slowly walking in to meet one another. The camera twirls around them in close-up.

Orange spotlights behind frame them in the darkness. He clasps her waist. They hold hands. Then they separate before returning to each other for their closing embrace. Vocally fine. The camera also captures them from behind – lights from the live audience glowing in the darkness might add to this shot, like Lithuania. They touch foreheads and are captured in silhouette at song finish. This has the makings of being well-staged. There is still a sense of young love but it’s not overdone.

Michael for Germany has a succession of ‘one love, two hearts, three kids and a loving mum, you made this place a home’ visual images drawn white on a black canvas behind him. Then there are a series of black and white family photos from his youth.

You can hear the emotion crack in his voice as he sings this, and he starts to tear up. What do tears make? Televote points, potentially, is the answer. It works well but then loses its way visually in the last 30 seconds as there is a bright red and black kaleidoscope of images which don’t fit the mood of the song. Finishes on the word ‘Alone’ writ large behind him.

Italy’s Ermal and Fabrizio have slogans in various languages throughout and only a trained linguist will be able to decipher them. But I guess the idea is, all or most ESC countries’ languages are covered so everyone watching will get the meaning along the way.

Trouble is, the slogans are hard to keep up with, much like the cadence of the song, and distract from the two guys. People will get the ‘stop the bombs, anti-terrorism, give peace a chance’ sentiment but the graphics are too busy. It’s very red and black up there too and not very welcoming. They move to the two bridges on either side before walking round the satellite catwalk and meeting in the middle at song climax. And we get English lyrics at the end.

The last of this year’s 43 songs to be seen is current 4th favourite on Betfair, France. The staging of this has a hint of Common Linnets about it. Emelie is deadly at finding the camera lens and it follows her as she makes her way across the bridge and onto the satellite catwalk where Jean-Karl joins in with the vocals in the last minute.

Emelie is the queen of giving good camera, with piercing blue eyes and the two of them play off each other well. She has a skip in her step, they exchange warm smiles, and there is a great close-up of Emelie before they do their flashlight hand movements which will create a sing-a-long climax with the live audience.

France remains fourth favourite with Estonia the big market mover today currently at 8.4. So who wins this year? Answers on a postcard, please. You sense a good few twists and turns still lie ahead.


  1. hemsby

    Many thanks for the regular supply of updates and opinions from rehearsals Rob,greatly appreciated.Always so difficult to gauge how things are shaping up when you’re not privy to actually seeing things yourself so good to get an opinion from a trusted and reliable source.

    It appears to be a very open year and (very unoriginally) I can only say that Israel appears to be a worthy favourite,but sorting out the pecking order for the rest seems a minefied.Netta has star quality in bucketloads with a memorable original song and the buzz of being favourite.Possible Top 3 on both sides of the vote and enough to win in an open year ?

    Estonia is polished,professional,memorable,likely to gather both jury and Televote points yet clinical,sterile and lacking in any warmth or connection to viewers.
    Norway has arguably the best “performer” in the competition who may appeal to both East and West Televote viewers,however it’s puerile,childish and almost an ESC trolling exercise.Should be killed off by juries.
    Czechia has East/West cross over appeal with a catchy,modern USP.Negatives include perhaps being too lightweight and the singers health concerns.
    France is classy,minimalistic and worthy with a rousing finish and an admirable subject matter.Can they convey that subject matter in 3 minutes of French language with no staging help ?
    Bulgaria looks too dark and cold,Cyprus energetic and fun but with major concerns given the record of strong sexual female performers (Totally different music style,but echoes of Armenia 2016 for me).
    Sweden is polished,professional,plastic and proficient but soulless and cynical.Oz has passion and a likeable performer but the song composition is too generic and the staging appears under par.

    All in all a fascinating year which may be decided by a small margin and therefore the 1st Half / 2nd Half draw plus running order may prove more important than usual.

    At their stage I favour Israel to win,Hungary and Moldova for Top 10 and unfortunately UK for last place.

    Many thanks again for the articles Rob and good luck with your investments.

    • Rob

      Thanks for posting your thoughts, hems. Yep, it’s a bit of a madhouse here this year. Could do with that ‘Keep Calm & Carry On’ picture desk-side in the press centre 🙂

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