Making Waves

May 9, 2016 by

Making Waves

Hey, it’s me. Look, I know it might sound strange, but… I’m only watching the rehearsals of semi final 1 for the first time at this dress rehearsal. I’m therefore coming in with a fresh perspective, having dodged all of the rough first and second rehearsals.

Finland opens with a fun party vibe, and in a way, is the perfect choice to open this semi. It works having Sandjha enjoying herself and interacting with her backing dancers. This concept is very similar to Belgium’s, but obviously quite inferior. Finland may well not qualify, but I don’t think it’s anywhere near as hopeless as some others are suggesting.

Argo has an effective opening with a close up of a guy playing a traditional Greek instrument. The staging concept obviously didn’t cost them a lot, but at least it develops enough to keep you interested. What massively lets it down though is the rapping part, and both rappers move around the stage clumsily.

Moldova’s ‘Falling Stars’ is pretty much everything I find offensive at Eurovision. The tin foil astronaut throws some distracting shapes, and as a concept, this is very poor. I’m hoping that this finishes last so I don’t have to fulfil my promise of running naked down Hurst Street. In its favour, I will just say that it’s quite typically Eurovision-y.

Hungary is the first country in this semi to make use of any floor effects. The backing singers do some awkward choreographed swaying like they’re waiting to use the toilet. Freddie is in fine voice and showing a sufficient amount of passion. This is competent enough, but is it interesting? I think it comes across well enough, but the running order position is a concern.

One of the main questions about Croatia is whether or not it’s stronger than Hungary. I’m in agreement with the market in that it probably isn’t. The first dress makes Nina look like a giant squid. As Alicia Silverstone says in the film Clueless: “Do you prefer ‘fashion victim’ or ‘ensembly challenged?’” The second dress is much better to be fair and the key change, as shown in the recap, is very nice. Mans Zelmerlow says something along the lines of “Croatia, welcome back to the contest. We’ve missed you!”, which may or may not give them a televoting boost.

There’s a seemingly random cameo from Verka from Ukraine in the first break, which perhaps gives them a nice little promo boost.

The Netherlands comes across very much as you’d expect. A giant clock on the floor ticks anti-clockwise for the opening. Douwe Bob doesn’t always find the cameras which he probably should be doing by now. The ten seconds of silence obviously won’t work until there’s a crowd, but could potentially be very effective. It’s an authentic burst of normality following Nina from Croatia.

Another country attempting to snatch a semi win from Russia’s clutches is Armenia, which has been one of the most talked about performances of the last week. In one memorable part, Iveta slides her hand down her bare leg suggestively. There are plenty of flame bursts, which are very fitting for the song. I’m wondering if this is perhaps a little over-rated. It won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but it’s pretty strong nonetheless. Apparently some holograms were missing in this run through.

San Marino is staged with a generic 70s disco theme. Serhat’s vocal is barely there. This is obviously getting crucified by neutral juries and is nowhere near novelty enough to attract enough of a televote. Petra cracks a joke about half of San Marino’s population being on stage.

It’s time for Sergey from Russia. Eek. I don’t really like the part with the wings at the start. This has been done at Eurovision quite recently by Austria, Georgia and Malta. It improves when the all-male dance troupe appear on stage. Jumping onto the invisible steps is quite possibly the most memorable aspect of this. It’s very slick but at the same time isn’t particularly impressive. There’s also a completely random woman who comes on stage at the end. Who is she?! Who is she?! Where did they find her?! I haven’t spoken to anyone in the press centre who thinks Russia will win.

Czech Republic is a little underwhelming to me following the visual spectacle of Russia. It’s a little bit boring, to be honest. Gabriella is just standing there, as you might expect, but is in very good voice. My instinct tells me this will qualify but get lost in the final when it will have to compete with several more memorable female ballads, from countries with plenty of diaspora.

Cyprus is very exciting to watch. This one is my favourite I’ve seen today and I think it could do very well. The vocals are the best I’ve heard from them by a country mile. The staging is very “rock” and very effective. After watching all the songs it was still my favourite.

Princess Peach has floated all the way to Yoshi’s Island. But unfortunately, this isn’t footage from the latest Super Mario game. Austria’s Zoe is standing on stage without a treadmill, which makes it less interesting than it was at the national final. Fans of Betsfactor will notice plenty of colour vomit on the backdrop. This has the kind of dance beat that juries tend to crucify, and it’s hard to imagine how this will get through.

Estonia’s Juri throws his naked self into a river in his postcard, which pleases the press centre. It’s quite compelling to watch but he’s pulling some very odd faces throughout. He needs to relax. The dark colours are striking and match the tone of the song. I hope to see how the crowd in the arena reacts to this borderline case before making a prediction.

In the ad break The Netherlands, San Marino and Russia are all featured in the green room. There’s a gag in the script where Petra mentions to Sergey that he was “Climbing mountains or whatever you did”. It comes across as a bit of a dig at Russia.

Azerbaijan starts with great useage of the screens. The backing dancers are fine and definitely help to distract from the iffy vocals. I don’t know what it was like before, but it was far better than I was expecting. At the moment I think it’s more likely through than not.

Montenegro’s opening is far too threatening with loud screams and a bizarre female dancer. It’s perfectly good vocally but incredibly messy visually. There are plenty of very fast cuts which don’t succeed in making it interesting. It’s all a bit off putting and Cyprus are clearly taking the bulk of the “rock” fan votes.

What’s striking about Iceland is that it’s clearly a huge step up from the preceding four. It looks far better than it did in the national final. The vocals are great, Greta is giving it her all with plenty of smiles. I’d be shocked to see this miss out now.

Bosnia & Herzegovina is very competent and has a handy slot in the running order. Juries probably won’t be appreciating the rapper very much. But this is an enjoyable enough watch and well in the qualification mix.

Ira Losco’s face on the screen looks good for the opening. The dancer does some very odd twirly moves on the floor around her, but it’s all a bit bland. Ira is apparently pregnant but it won’t be obvious unless this is mentioned by the national commentators. This doesn’t offer televoters much appeal, so it looks like Malta will primarily be relying on the juries to take them through, as per usual.

France, Spain and Sweden performed one run through in full each in that order. Spain and Sweden were pretty much as before, but France’s Amir has definitely improved vocally, which is a little encouraging for his backers.


  1. Tim B

    The ‘Big 3’ all performed tonight in front of the crowd. I have to say Amir gave his best vocal performance yet. Perhaps the backing singers are doing all of the high notes, but this is getting better and better each time. Spain and Sweden were as before. Apparently clips from these performances will be broadcast during the semi final tomorrow night, rather than the whole three minutes for each act.

  2. Nice to read a fresh perspective on the acts when they’re all mostly polished. Thanks Tim! Looking forward to more.

  3. James

    Hi Rob & Tim

    I remain surprised that Serbia’s price has not shortened this week. Surely it will score highly with the juries, whatever its position in the running order?

    In the ‘top ten’ market, Serbia have the sixth shortest odds, and of the five countries above it, I feel that there are question marks hanging over France, Sweden & Australia.

    I believe the odds of 6/1 on a ‘top four’ finish for Serbia provide good value.

    • Tim B

      Hi James, I’m afraid I haven’t seen Serbia yet, and won’t see it until late Wednesday afternoon. I’ll let Rob answer that one, but the impression I’ve got from the press centre folks is that it’s good, but no winner. So we’ll see.

    • Rob

      Hi James,
      Serbia is looking solid and could yet push into the top 5. It’s a dark subject matter and the staging is very red and black but it is one of the strongest solo female offerings this year given Sanja’s superb live vocal.

  4. PeterNL

    Do you think there is any chance for Iceland to reach the Top 3 in this semi final? Yesterday I heard the jury rehearsal. Then I found the Icelandic song very refreshing, relieving almost, after 4 not so impressive performances from Austria, Estonia, Azerbaijan and Montenegro.

    • Rob

      Third place looks quite open & I certainly couldn’t discount Iceland. Could be worth a speculative top 3 investment around 7 or higher on BF. It comes across well towards the end.

  5. Matt

    Not posted this year much but always love Rob’s and now Tim’s analysis. On my spreadsheet Peter, I have Iceland sneaking third behind the big two. Difficult to get a proper bet down but agree it feels fresh and importantly it is a coherent three minutes unlike much in this semi.

  6. neomichael

    Hello guys! Am I the only one who find chances of san marino qualifying Of course i see that the song’s quality sucks but haven’t just funny and entertaining songs gone through to final in recent years (Iceland 2014, Serbia 2015, moldova 2011).
    In any way the current value for me its extraordinary.

    • Rob

      Hi neomichael. I think televoters could well love Serhat and it might be one that is backed in during live in-running betting.

      You can never be sure with these things and San Marino certainly has a fair chance to avoid last place in this semi imho. Good luck 🙂

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