To Die For

May 4, 2022 by

To Die For

We all had to endure a first rehearsal, press centre black out this year which means day 5 is effectively day 1 here in Turin.

Traders have tried to garner clues from the TikTok clips released over the first 4 days but, crucially, this is the first chance to see and hear how the entries are coming across on the tv monitor.

Kicking 2nd rehearsals off is Albania, and Ronela Hajati’s ‘Sekret’. After teething trouble, we see a second run through… This is Balkan banger staging 101, everything it says on the tin, bare-chested, oiled up male dance troupe and all. Vocal poor in parts and not sure this justifies a Q price of 1.2, though 11k has been matched at that price.

Latvia’s Citi Zeni with ‘Eat Your Salad’ is definitely an acquired taste. They’ve tried to re-create an ‘epic sax guy’ moment. It remains one of the great mysteries of this entire ESC season how music professionals rated this higher than Aminata’s ‘I’m Letting You Go’ at this year’s Supernova.

The nation does have previous for unfathomable national final selections. I still have sleepless nights recalling the lamentable ‘Angel in Disguise’ by Musiqq going to Dusseldorf in 2011 ahead of Lauris Reiniks ‘Banjo Laura’.

Over 1k was matched early on on Latvia to Q at 1.47 and below. After this run through it is backed at 2.26. It is with much regret I have to confess missing out on that 1.47 laying opportunity.

Also on the niche side, Monica Liu for Lithuania, who possibly offers more scope to be a Baltic qualifier this year with ‘Sentimentai’. Her bowlcut hairstyle continues to distract and while this is all highly competent, the song just trundles along somewhat forgettably.

Backed to Q at 2.4 after this, it has always had the feel of something on the cusp of qualification which is often the way with Lithuanian entries.

Marius Bear’s ‘Boys Do Cry’ is pure Louis Armstrong in feel and he has the gravelly timbre to boot. The leather jacket is not a great look and his stagecraft is lacking. It is at least the right palette for the track, the darkness surrounding Marcus suiting the timelessly melancholic feel.

Stagings appear beset with technical issues due to that broken LED screen. Not an ideal scenario at 2nd rehearsals.

Switzerland is edgy in the ‘to qualify’ market, drifting to 2.18, and Marius may require a big helping of jury love to see him through to Saturday’s grand final.

LPS for Slovenia look like they are making up the numbers in semi 1 with ‘Disko’. You’d be a proud dad if that was one of your sons up there in a ‘School of Rock’ way. And does this band have a certain Daði & Gagnamagnið charm working for them? It’s a decent enough presentation but few are impressed enough to back it to Q, matched 7.2.

There’s been a lot of talk about this next song. Maybe too much talk… Ukraine’s Kalush Orchestra are here which everyone is grateful for. ‘Stefania’ has some delightful ethno flute but that is the main highlight, in an otherwise sonically hard to connect with song. The rap sections are particularly alienating and the visuals here do little to elevate.

You could write a thesis on Ukraine’s potential to win this year’s Eurovision and the truth of the matter is, no one really knows what is going to happen, and it remains an immovable object at the top of the market.

If Alina Pash had come to Turin with ‘Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors’ Ukraine would probably be trading around 1.3 as it had far greater emotional pull. It also had a really dodgy spoken word section, people have tended to forget.

The strange, ragtag visuals of the band alone cast doubt over this entry’s ability to coalesce big Ukraine support, especially among music professionals who sit on the juries and are requested to objectively assess the songs.

This really drags on in the last minute and a hands clasped floor visual and some break dancing fail to conceal this. In any other year, this would be a confident call of missing the top 10 and it looks far too short at 1.5 to win this semi.

Bulgaria’s Intelligent Music Project with ‘Intention’ is very much dad rock brought to the ESC stage. Nothing wrong with the live execution here but its appeal looks limited. This is very much a case of going through the motions and unsurprisingly it is friendless for qualification, no takers at 6.6.

A first ray of true quality in this 1st half of semi 1, S10 for Netherlands serving us the classy ‘De Diepte’. She looks like a bonafide music artist here, in a midriff-revealing tail jacket and her vocal is pin-sharp.

Backlit very effectively and at song end she conveys the emotion really well with her broken delivery. It’s a goosebumps moment despite most of Europe not understanding a word of Dutch.

‘Oh my love what do I do. I am deep and I don’t want to let you go,’ are the translated lyrics. This looks sure to earn strong jury support and could connect with televoters. Not surprised to see this drop to 65 on the Outright, if only briefly. Market believes a top 10 finish is the ceiling, being matched at 2.12.

Moldova’s Zdob si Zdub are fondly remembered for their 2011 entry ‘So Lucky’. ‘Trenuletul’ is a respectable follow-up, and a fun, toe-tapper. Moldova has an uncanny knack of staging these madcap numbers in an endearing manner at ESC, and this somehow gets away with it despite some terrible sartorial choices.

Growing confidence in this entry’s Q chance has seen over 2k matched at 1.41 though it does drift slightly today.

A delay for Portugal’s 2nd rehearsal after a positive Covid test among its team. It has moved to the end of the day, after Greece.

Mia Dimsic’s ‘Guilty Pleasure’ is a guilt-free pleasurable listen to these ears. Croatia’s qualification record is pretty wretched but this entry is deserving of respect. Mia now has 3 dancers when she might have been better served alone on the b-stage, just her and her guitar.

It’s a trap you often see at ESC – filling the stage with superfluous elements and this is a big shame when Mia and her harmonious ditty could have done without such pointless distractions.

Denmark’s Reddi offer an early chance to ignore the upper case names many ESC artists are eager to present these days. I’m letting Slovenia off the hook earlier because LPS is, at least, an abbreviation of Last Pizza Slice.

The piano ballad intro, which is over a third of the song, is quite lovely but it feels like the transformation into a rock tune is to its detriment, no matter the zeal the Danish rock chicks bring to the stage performance here.

Some are ‘reddi’ and willing to back this at 5.3 to Q. Sorry, couldn’t let that one go begging.

Austria’s Lum!x feat. Pai Maria turn the energy up a notch with ‘Halo’ which is pure 90s house. Trouble is, the lousy record at ESC of these type of DJ-led tunes – Darude feat. Sebastian Rejman, NQ in 2019, Gromee feat. Lukas Meijer, NQ in 2018.

Slightly different, but Latvia’s Triana Park was another NQ in 2017, Germany’s Cascada in 2013 also bombed out in 21st place, and Trackshittaz NQ-ed in 2012… just a few off the top of my head there.

This does look like the sort of set you might have expected to see at a Home Counties wedding reception circa 1994. And in a drunken state I may well have found myself making a beeline to the dance floor when this came on, though in fairness, I was more of a N-Joi ‘Anthem’ and Moby ‘Go’ man back in those heady days.

Pai Maria is struggling here even in an adjusted lower key, but there are plenty of optimistic Austria Q backers in operation as it’s matched at 2.18 after this. Weirdly, many of these entries have looked and sounded like 1st rehearsals today.

Greece has swapped places with Iceland. Amanda Tenfjord is an eagerly awaited moment as ‘Die Together’ has some unique qualities in this year’s field, and partially stealing from Russ Abbot, ‘I love an ESC entry with an atmosphere’.

This is a visually arresting 3 minutes. The a cappella intro really does the trick in drawing you in. Amanda looks like a Greek goddess and Fokas has done a clever job in getting the viewer engaged and emotionally invested throughout, with excellent use of camera angles, imagery and lighting.

Amanda is compelling performing this and looks like someone viewers will be rooting for. ‘Take my heart and rip it out’ has to be the best bridge of any song at ESC 2022 building to the crescendo which has real bite in this context.

Greece is matched at 16 on Betfair, before the drift back out to double that price. I thought a degree of sanity was being applied to this entry at long last after the Outright went gaga over the last month.

Maro promised staging changes for ‘Saudade, Saudade’ and this is a marked improvement on what we saw at Festival da Cancao. Wise use of the b-stage. This is one of those less is more entries. Two words: intimate and classy, but it’s another one trader folk only want to consider as a possible top 10-er, matched at 2.9.

What a full on first day. Back tomorrow with 2nd rehearsals for last part of semi 1, first part of semi 2, and a first outing for the Big 5, though that looks like being back on TikTok-only.

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