Sister Bliss

May 2, 2017 by

Sister Bliss

The first half of semi-final 2 goes under the spotlight for the first time today. It is a semi-final which has baffled ESC traders in the run up to Kiev with no less than 14 countries well backed at odds-on to qualify. So that equates to 4 value lays at least, if you can sniff them out.

Tijana for Serbia is alone on stage at song start which comes as a surprise because this uptempo song feels like it needs energy and a dance troupe to bring it to life more. A single male dancer eventually arrives and sculpts some shapes around her, but not until over halfway through the song.

Tijana’s backing vocalists take over singing the song in the last minute while she freestyles in the form of a shrieky wail, if there is such a thing. There is a nice overhead whirlpool effect late on, and she finds the camera well but the main issue here is Tijana’s vocal sounding weak and patchy, and it all has echoes of Kati Wolf for Hungary in 2010. Will the diaspora come through for her? In recent years the Serbian televote hasn’t been what it was.

Nathan is all in white and sitting inside a crescent-shaped moon with a cloudy sky backdrop and dry ice effect below him adding to the heavenly feel. Good close up on his smiling face at song start. He leaps down off the moon and proceeds to stroll and jig around singing this.

Vocally fine aided by his 4 backing vocalists who join him towards the end, flanking him on either side. He’s a likeable guy and it’s all very ‘nice’, like the song, with the moon bathed in light at song end.

Jana for FYR Macedonia is wearing f*ck-me boots and does a slut drop at one point. It looks like she is wearing a short dress and there might be a risk of a beaver sighting before you realise she is ok because it is actually shorts as she sings ‘feel the heat’. Backing vocalists overlap on the chorus with ‘go, go, whooo-oh-oh’ which works quite well.

She is giving her all up there and deserves credit for that but she is not a natural performer and it comes across as a bit amateur hour. Visuals of Jana appear behind her and there is a cityscape backdrop.

‘Dance Alone’ could be seen as an empowerment song for women, FYR Macedonia’s version of ‘I Will Survive’ – I am single, men have spurned me but I am a happy, independent woman. The worry might be, it is an overtly sexual performance with lots of grabbing, gyrating and thrusting. On the one hand she is defiantly single; on the other she is saying, ‘Come and get it guys’.

Claudia Faniello powers out ‘Breathlessly’ very competently. She wears a shimmering white ballgown and this all looks very classy following FYR Macedonia. Visual images of Claudia appear behind her including an initial one strangely of her cleavage and not her face.

It is an old-fashioned ballad but this is the sort of thing jurors could rate, and we all know Malta tends to over-perform on the jury side. Which means this cannot be discounted from possible qualification even though it’s the sort of turgid, overblown thing that could have been the X Factor winner’s single for Leona Lewis over a decade ago. It probably will have its fans with the audience swaying along with their lighters held aloft.

Romania is a colourful visual smorgasboard – a backdrop of drumming toys, music notes, cannons, the ‘Yodel It!’ logo, butterflys, confetti… – before two cannons are wheeled out, Alex standing on top of one of them, which presumably will fire confetti into the audience at song end.

They are trying to create a big party atmosphere for this and it probably works. This will certainly wake viewers up in this early section of the semi. Outside of the yodelling, Ilinca struggles a bit vocally towards the end. She is said to be suffering from a cold and she has my sympathy after being struck down by a similar bug.

The Netherlands sisters are ‘on point’ vocally on the first run through. It is a simple and effective presentation with the three of them creating some nice camera angles throughout. Their harmonies help to lift what is a pretty ordinary ballad. There is an image of an angel on the stage floor, the three of them sparkle their smiles and this has a nice wholesome feel about it.

Hungary is using the satellite stage for a female violinist and the visuals work quite nicely on the long angle shots with her in front of Joci and his gypsy dancer. Joci could risk coming across as too dour performing this but it feels like an authentic entry among the semi 2 field and, in its uniquely ethno way, it is charming.

Pyro jets circle the two of them dancing before the rap part commences. Nice backdrop of doves towards the end. Hungary has an uncanny knack of qualifying in the 7th-10th range and it would come as no surprise to see it repeat the same feat this year.

Denmark’s Anya is in fine voice here. Better control than the Danish final. She has hidden backing singers helping her and it might have been better to have them join her on stage.

The camera circles her up close at song start. She makes the most of her telegenic looks, finding the camera well throughout. This is all about her, belting it out, as she falls to her knees at one point to lend it more gravitas on the big money shot power note, which is accompanied by a pyro curtain. This is rumoured to be her big match kit – a tasteful blue and pink trouser dress.

Ireland’s Brendan has a hot air balloon as a prop but it remains grounded. That balloon’s helium, his critics would suggest, is the fuel for his squeaky vocal. But he has a certain likeability as a pint-sized Harry Potter lookalike standing there belting this out.

He finds the camera well and his vocal is good. It’s a surprise his 5 backing vocalists are not revealed on the big key change as this might have helped give the moment more impact, and the staging somewhat stalls at this critical juncture.

That’s stumps on day 3. The baton is handed back to Tim B tomorrow assessing the 2nd half of semi 2.


  1. Matt

    Nice write up Rob. Denmark interests me a lot here. Not to my personal taste but a pretty girl belting out a relevant song with decent staging. Not a million miles away from what Dani Im took ‘almost’ top a year ago. I have it second in this semi which means a decent draw on the Saturday and solid top 10 possibilities. Plus we need a female ballad in the top 10 and though I prefer the UK’s version of the genre, this seems better equipped to score on both sides of the scoreboard.

    • Rob

      Hi Matt,
      Denmark is certainly a contender for top 3 in this semi. She can deliver the song well. My doubt is the quality of the song. I didn’t rate ‘Sound Of Silence’ last year so it might be a bit of a blind spot. Like Dami she at least has the big power note to impress with.

      • Matt

        I didn’t like Sound of Silence either but there is definitely a market for this sort of thing and for me Denmark is a better song than SoS. Plus Anya feels more voteable and has the Scandi block on her side. Not for a minute saying she is a contender as it all feels a little generic/bland, but as a top ten concern, think this has legs. Cheers Rob

      • The things that lifted up Australia’s chances for a firm TOP 3 result were in my opinion:

        –> Rousing, belting vocals from Dami-Im, that for me sounded more crisp, and that came to live thanks to more quiet verses. With Denmark it’s basically one large 3 min belt, albeit a good one, but it makes the song feel a bit flat.
        –> The staging from Australia really told a story and developed in such a wonderful way. That is something that’s completely absent with Denmark. And when it comes to tasteful vocals in this semi, one has to say that Netherlands outweighs Denmark here.

        • Matt

          cheers for the reply Gert. Always enjoy reading your views – especially as you are happy to stand up for your convictions (even when that is Spain 😉 Yep staging and delivery elevated the studio version massively and I agree Denmark are not on that level that but as a top ten shout? I think we both think a female ballad will make the T10 but for me the Netherlands is too clean, too crafted, too polished. Leaving aside its old-fashioned nature, It’s singing for the sake of the art and as such its lack of soul leaves me a little cold. That said, I want to see it properly on the stage though as a performance song, i am sure it is a lot more moving.

  2. Cathal

    Really disappointed with our staging, I like the idea with the balloon which I can see working but a lot needs to be changed by rehearsal 2 (namely the lighting). Unlike last year I think this can be fixed but after all the talk of how good the staging would be this is disappointing.

    • Rob

      Hi Cathal. I have to agree. I don’t know who is making the staging decisions for Ireland but they have got it wrong again. The lighting is wrong, while the key change needs to be highlighted, and elevated, in a much more evocative way.

      It’s a mistake not to have the 5-person gospel ‘choir’ appear on stage with him imho and having him stand under a hot air balloon that does nothing seems a bit feeble. Let’s hope, for the sake of Ireland’s Q chance, they make some significant changes for the 2nd rehearsal.

      • Cathal

        They Nicolina Refsing in to do the staging so I thought for once we might have good staging but no, there is potential for this to really work if they make the right changes so hopefully they can do it by 2nd rehearsal. Personally I can’t see the backing singers idea changing as while Brendan has explained the reasoning for the balloon the big reason it’s there I feel is to make the act more memorable, my only hope at this stage is they change the lighting because right now it’s far too dark to make it stick out in anyone’s mind in this part of the semi.

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