Polina Puts Down A Marker

May 12, 2015 by

Polina Puts Down A Marker

The 2nd half of semi 1 is very much a mini-battle among the solo females as today we see Serbia, Hungary, Russia, Albania and Georgia all rehearse for the first time.

Bojana gets things underway wearing, well, what can you call it… a shimmering silvery cloak that is a bit Zena: Warrior Princess after she gave up going to the gym. Her hair is big and wild, like that episode of ‘Friends’ when Monika’s hair struggles with the humidity. Not a good look.

The colour scheme is distinctly white before the transformation into a disco stomper when her four backing vocalists rip off their outfits to reveal bright colours underneath. They freestyle disco moves. They wear masks that are very Tom Cruise in Vanilla Sky prior to this, carry white flags and also sign language at one point. Right, ‘it’s different and it’s ok’.

She sings well, gives it plenty of charisma, and doesn’t get screechy on the key change. But as much fun that they are trying to demonstrate you still get the sense they are trying to mask a weak song here, and the masks funnily enough just look odd and seem superfluous. Is there a Mary Byrne-type vote that could kick in here and help Bojana? The fanboys in the press centre certainly love her.

Boggie has lovely blue eyes but is rather too emotionless singing this. A green field and tree is the image at song end. Prior to this they work with solar system and planetary imagery. Do viewers pay attention to the lyrics?

Two male backing vocalists, two female. It is a worthy effort and juries could respect this. At the same time, there is a danger it could pass televoters by. So in the mini Bojana vs Boggie battle, Bojana maybe takes it on the televote, and Boggie on the jury vote, but is there room for either, or both, to sneak into the top 10 in this semi? Not sure.

Uzari starts in darkness. It is a decent opening when he becomes spotlit. Good looking guy, well dressed and unlike some past Belarussian performers his enunciation is fine. Uzari has some backing vocal assistance but ‘him’ or ‘they’ are concealed. It is just Uzari and Maimuna up there, who is wearing a beautiful long white dress by the way.

They have decided less is more here. The violin gives this song a veneer of quality which is maybe why they have decided to shun any staging gimmicks. The lighting effects will help elevate this too but the pair of them need to interact in a more dynamic fashion which actually they do in the final run-through with Maimuna smiling more.

Entirely subjective and largely inuitive but this feels like it offers slightly more than the 3 songs previous to it. We have a good few songs this year with very repetitive choruses but this one just about gets away with it.

Russia is as solid as expected. Polina has the pipes, she is joined on stage by two guitarists, a drummer and two female backing vocalists. It is an effectively designed set. This is a demanding song to sing but she can handle it, improving on each run-through with an impressive power note late on. Slight issue with her enunciation of ‘fading’ in the line ‘So if you ever feel life fading’ line which is just about the only blip.

She freestyles a little towards the end which is maybe unnecessary but hints at her vocal confidence. The stage lighting is evocative with a planet projected behind her at the end of the song. She smiles and has an expressive face throughout. Some nice swirly lights and a halo effect which frames her and also circle her flowing white dress on the stage floor. An all-round highly competent package.

Denmark is already well polished. Lead singer Philip’s vocal is absolutely fine but he has had a ‘break out’ and will need some PanOxyl ahead of next week, or a good make-up artist. Two pretty backing singers in red cocktail dresses lend vocal assistance. Shots to the audience which will obviously look better in the live semi-final with a full arena crowd.

Is this McBusted effort simply too anodyne and derivative? The same accusations could have been levelled at Basim last year, and probably were by me, verbatim, but he did well enough, making the top 10 in the final though he didn’t have to qualify from the semi-final.

Albania needs to work on the sound mix as Elhaida is not harmonising well with her 3 female backing vocalists. She improves on later run-throughs but you can tell this song stretches her in parts and she waivers slightly on occasion.

She is in black; her backing vocalists in white. Camera focuses on Elhaida. Some nice sepia lighting as background and rolling close ups of her as she finds the camera well.

Romania brings home the message of the song cleverly through having suitcases placed on the stage along with video images on 2 projector screens behind with images of Romanian workers abroad from the official video.

Calin is a solid vocalist and this comes across as a professional band performing a song well. There is a sincerity to his delivery. It looks and feels like ‘authentic’ rock to use one of my favourite words and this perhaps ‘out-worthys’ other efforts in this semi such as Armenia and Hungary.

Atmospheric lighting for Georgia and a feisty warrior outfit for Nina, dressed in black with knee-length boots. Vocal is fine but she looks a bit lonely up there. Memories of Sofi Marinova but actually, no, this works much better than Sofi’s solo staging in Baku as that was an uptempo stomper whereas this is about a defiant, independent Nina standing up for herself.

Some lovely visual effects in this – lightning, smoke clouds, and crying eyes as a backdrop towards the climax. Nina’s styling suits her. You can argue the chorus repeats too much but for me it’s a powerful riff and you end up rooting for her up there.

It is a strong finish to this semi for sure. That’s day 2 done and dusted. Feel free to add your thoughts below.

3 Comments

  1. Gert

    Hello Rob. I’m not going to do bets this year. I’m just in it for the fun this time. And predicting is fun. After today I’ve made my first TOP 10 ranking, in which I only mention: “Room for improvement”:

    01. RUSSIA: Solid, simple staging devoid of cheese
    02. ESTONIA: Room for improvement, but wunderfully staged
    03. GEORGIA: Wunderful camerawork, unique entry
    04. ROMANIA: Best band in this semi final
    05. GREECE: Bond-esque, makes the most of the weak song
    06. DENMARK: Underestimated, fun and catchy, 60’s vibe
    07. BELARUS: Fun but not special song, nicely staged
    08. ARMENIA: Only song that’s elevated by staging
    09. BELGIUM: Room for improvement here in next rehearsal
    10. NETHERLANDS: Room for improvement, dress discussion exagerated

    Other ones for 8th, 9th or 10th place: FINLAND, ALBANIA. Above ranking can change off course after the 2nd set of rehearsals. What do you think Rob?

    • Rob

      Hi Gert. I am still holding off before committing to a possible order in semi 1 but in terms of qualification I couldn’t have Netherlands in the top 10 in semi 1. Other than that I think you’re in the right sort of ballpark πŸ™‚

  2. Ben Gray

    Hi Rob. SF1 feels pretty clear to me, so here’s my list after 1st rehearsals. Of course I haven’t seen exactly what you have seen. Going to avoid watching 2nd rehearsal videos for anyone who isn’t on my grand final winner’s radar just so I can enjoy the show more. Here’s my qualifiers list for SF1 after first rehearsals:

    My qualifiers after all of SF1 has had first rehearsals:
    β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”
    Qualifying
    β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”
    Belgium
    Estonia
    Russia — Winning the semi, hands down.
    Greece
    Finland
    Georgia
    Romania
    β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”
    Probably qualifying:
    β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”
    Armenia β€” Tricky song but well performed.
    Denmark β€” Follows Russia. A little vulnerable.
    Albania β€” Needs improvement live.
    β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”
    Might qualify instead of Armenia, Denmark or Albania:
    β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”
    Hungary β€” Strong identity, but Boggie needs to STOP STARING!
    Macedonia β€” Broadly appealing song, but incongruous, dated staging.
    Netherlands β€” Bizarre, funereal staging concept jarring with happy song. Qualifying for memorability?
    β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”
    Down and out:
    β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”
    Belarus β€” Tacky, Eurovisionny, lacking in identity.
    Serbia β€” I doubt they can work miracles here.
    Moldova β€” Sleazy, dated, on first. Juries should neuter the televote support.

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