It’s that time of the year again; that magical time of pageantry, drama, excess, and singing. Yes, it’s time for Eurovision. This year we jet off to Israel because of last year’s winner, the banger Toy by Netta. But if you were hoping for a bop as purely appealing, tightly written, and cleanly performed as that this time around, I’m afraid it will have to wait for the second round of semi-finals. In fact, when they announced that 10 of the 17 performers from the first night would be moving on, my first thought was, “Well, why don’t we put a few on hold and see how everyone does in round two…” Semi-finals round one was a little lackluster, with only a few standout performances. Let’s take a look:
Cyprus (qualified for final) – “Replay” performed by Tamta
The first of many blondes to perform tonight. This is exactly what the opening act should be. It’s a generic europop song, competently but unimpressivly performed, with a single costume change. However, the fact that this performance qualified for round two tells you about the quality of what’s to come.
Montenegro – “Heaven” performed by D mol
After blondes, the next trend to begin is the “I’m at a school talent show” caliber performance.
Finland – “Look Away” performed by Darude feat. Sebastian Rejman
These guys are clearly more comfortable being DJs than actually singing. The guy on vocals is very flat, and this Eurovision isn’t stoking my confidence…
Poland – “Fire of Love (Pali się)” performed by Tulia
This. Is. What. I’m. Here. For. What happens when you mix Bjork, a girl group, and your middle school cultural fair? You get Poland in this year’s Eurovision!
Slovenia (qualified for final) – “Sebi” performed by Zala Kralj & Gašper Šantl
Welcome back to the school talent show. The vocalist sounds like she has stage-fright and the guitarist looks like he’s constantly trying to initiate a slow dance. The second-hand embarrassment is strong with these two.
Czech Republic (qualified for final) – “Friend of a Friend” performed by Lake Malawi
Okay, these guys, while not “good”, are entertaining. In fact, they are clearly Europe’s answer to the Oneaders/Wonders. And! And they actually move around and look like they’re having fun! I loved the weirdness of Poland, but do not expect them to make it through. I might follow the Czech Oneaders and root for them, though.
Bonus: They’re representing with the inadvertent pansexual pride backdrop.
Hungary – “Az én apám” performed by Joci Pápai
The vocals are actually pretty good. The problem is that the song and performance don’t really go anywhere. The trick with “ethnic” music at Eurovision is to have some sort of strange juxtaposition with either performance or genre. I hate to say it, but this is too earnest.
Belarus (qualified for final) – “Like It” performed by ZENA
Straightforward pop, performed a little flat. None of the charm of Naviband from two years ago. A forgettable entry this year.
Serbia (qualified for final) – “Kruna” (Круна) performed by Nevena Božović
The song and stage show are a disappointment, especially in light of how good the singer is. I also keep waiting for it to turn into a Colbert segment making fun of Melania.
Belgium – “Wake Up” performed by Eliot
The singer is a child. He’s also incredibly flat. They have no business pushing him out on stage and embarrassing him and his nation like this. Let him go home and study for his exams.
Georgia – “Keep on Going” performed by Oto Nemsadze
Is it possible to take gothic chanting and a stage full of smoke and fire and make it dull? Yes. It is possible.
Australia (qualified for final) – “Zero Gravity” performed by Kate Miller-Heidke
Australia has done better. The song only kicks it up right as it’s ending. The performance had a fun element of the performers on bending poles, swinging around the stage, but the effect was largely wasted due since they hid them behind special effects. Mixing pop and opera, they could have done something along the lines of The 5th Element‘s Diva Dance. Instead we get… this.
Iceland (qualified for final) – “Hatrið mun sigra” performed by Hatari
Frakking balls out insane. This is why people in America sometimes hear about Eurovision every few years. If Randy Rainbow and Rammstein had a baby, it would be this show.
Estonia (qualified for final) – “Storm” performed by Victor Crone
Another flat performance. But this time it’s performed by Rodger from the Estonian production of RENT.
Portugal – “Telemóveis” performed by Conan Osiris
I love this. Is that shirtless guy his pet bird? His submissive lover? Who knows? Why is he wearing a plastic beard? I don’t know! What I do know is that the dancer is performing a very specific interpretive dance to a completely different song. 10 out of 10 stars.
Greece (qualified for final) – “Better Love” performed by Katerine Duska
Wasn’t too impressed with the performance, but for some reason kept thinking she should tour with Florence and the Machine.
San Marino (qualified for final) – “Say Na Na Na” performed by Serhat
I have thought for a while now that San Marino is not really a country, but rather a cleverly disguised yacht. This entry does nothing to dispel my theory.
And that ends our coverage of the first round of semi-finals. Join us for our next installment, covering the second round and announcing the winner!