Learning On The Job

May 13, 2015 by

Learning On The Job

The duets take centre stage today in the shape of Lithuania, San Marino, Norway and Czech Republic all in the first half of semi 2.

Early disclaimer: My rating of Lithuania in this semi is a lot lower than many pre-rehearsals, largely because the performance has felt like it is trying to paper over a waifer-thin song, and the stage interplay between Monika and Vaidas has come across as too contrived…

… Vaidas has at least toned down his self-love here which is a good thing as previously he has overdone it and become very punchable. We still get the wink to camera. They hold hands, they skip gaily together across the stage, they obviously kiss, there’s an overhead shot of the pair… It is all very twee.

The lighting is kaleidoscopic and could induce epilepsy. They are aided by two male and two female backing singers. Their vocal harmonizing is better than expected. We get a ‘Come on Eurovision’ shout from Vaidas. My nauseated response is a purely personal thing and this sort of trite, overtly happy effort probably appeals to the wider ESC public much more. If so, a strong televote may transpire but jurors might not be so impressed.

The main issue with Ireland is that Molly is sat side-on and she never finds the camera with her eyes. Vocally she is fine and the stage lighting and the intimate band set for this is just what the song needs. A cello player, a double bass player, a drummer and two female backing singers join her.

Lovely forest backdrop and autumn colours on the stage floor. Molly closes her eyes too much and doesn’t engage with the camera lens enough but shows improvement on last run through.

It looks like she is learning on the job here understandably as she is only 16 and an inexperienced performer. She is a relatable teenager, and someone who encourages the viewer’s empathy. If national broadcasters mention her age, like Israel’s Nadav, this might help boost her televote next week.

Two more young teens follow in the form of Anita and Michele from San Marino. And they can earn some empathy too. Their harmonising tightens up on each run through and they sound fine with some clever backing vocal support.

Anita has a cute, expressive smile; Michele’s sculpted quiff is a bit too Brylcreem Boy. Yet more planetary imagery behind this. ‘If we all light a candle’ is crying out for audience participation and a Bergendahl moment.

Knez’s song intrigues me this year. If the composer, Zeljko, was performing it, you would probably conclude it was sailing through to the final.

Unsurprisingly, Montenegro has taken Serbia 2012 as its template staging-wise. At its outset the song is very Poldark theme tune and pleasing to my ear. Violinist front and centre, 4 women kneeling on stage. Everyone in black. They all form a circle for a Balkan moment of dancing.

Zeljko, of course, had good looks to spare; whereas Knez, bless him, has a face more like a bag of spanners. A song to encourage jury support but televoting-wise it might be more of a struggle. Good vocal and lovely blues for background which then switches to some red and black lighting and a backdrop of X Factor assassination levels later on.

Amber gets the green light to start rehearsals post-lunch break but receives a red flag on the visuals as she appears to have an unsightly piece of decay visible on a front right tooth… which is apparently a gemstone but does nothing for her look. She really tries to power this out but gets carried away in places and she is far from note perfect.

There is a real danger, especially late in the song, of her getting shouty. Also, there is a sense of a karaoke performer in the way she delivers this pretty much throughout.

Craving some genuine quality at this point so just as well Norway is next. Morland and Debrah have taken on some of my advice styling-wise regarding Debrah. She is altogether more soft and feminine with her hair down.

Not convinced by her outfit though which exposes her midriff. They are both in white when it really needs Morland in a black dinner jacket and Debrah in a flowing red dress to provide contrast and give her the look of a seductive femme fatale.

Their harmonizing is fine and Debrah, in particular, has improved on the Norwegian final. It could do with some staging effects, ideally a gothic amphitheatre behind them, and some dry ice, as it looks a bit too plain and spartan up there. Nice camera angles throughout but it is a song that needs a dramatic canvass to really come alive.

Leonor’s backing crew look like hesidic Jews in their wide-brimmed black hats. A flowing black gown for Leonor. She tries her best to lift the song and her vocal is adequate enough. Overall, it is all a bit too wallpaper.

Marta and Vaclav have the vocal prowess. The disappointment here, like Norway, is how they have failed to utilize the backdrop enough in bringing the song to life.

The only ‘moment’ is when Marta takes off her shoes and tosses them away. In the process of doing this she cracks a wonderful smile like she is having the time of her life up there and doesn’t care what anyone else thinks. If this stays in, it may actually help them win the tv audience over for its shambolic charm. These 2 do have natural likeability on their side.

A really subdued and somewhat disappointing day, leaving a sense of being underwhelmed which perhaps tells us the main strength lies in the second half of this semi. Feel free to add your thoughts below.


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