It’s a wet and windy start to the week at the Fanning Mansion, but I’m wrapped up warm inside with access to the virtual press centre and a need to tell you what I think of the Rotterdam shenanigans.
It’s time for the second semi-final – one that’s front-loaded in my opinion, with many of the stronger songs rehearsing today, so there’s everything to play for.
Much muttering in the online Press Centre about whether Flo Rida would be in Rotterdam. The answer being a resounding no, given he’s busy judging an important bikini contest in Miami … but should this make the final, you just never know (or care). And will it make the final? Based on today’s tryout, absolutely. Don Jiggy proved to be a (really quite good) stand-in for the absent Rida, having brilliant chemistry with Senhit. ‘Adrenalina’ also marked the long overdue return of the Eurovision Lazy Susan, with Senhit variously lying down as it spins, being manhandled into the air as it spins and dancers in pink gimp masks line dancing … as it spins. The backing features shots from the promo video and lots of colour, shifting everything into a high energy production. Vocals stayed strong – though there’s quite a bit on tape and it’s not an ‘exposing’ song to start with. Senhit worked the camera with every shot and looked to be having fun out there – and that’s got to stand her in good stead. Really, much, much stronger than I’d hoped and an excellent start to the show. San Marino is in the running for sure. Valentina best fire up the barbie now.
PS: Asked later about Flo Rida, Senhit told the official Eurovision website: “My very talented friend Samuel was rapping with me on stage today, but if Flo Rida will come or not… we’ll discover together soon.” Sounds like she knows as much as us.
We appear to have stumbled upon Uku as he heads home from a sporting awards ceremony, turned out as he is in smart slacks and an informally unbuttoned shirt with a bow tie draped around his masculine shoulders. He starts on his knees (settle down at the back). There’s a deep blue backdrop, cloud formations and (bingo) Estonian lightning. And that’s about it. If Senhit heaped it on heavy, Uku has gone minimal. It’s a pleasant enough song, and he does an adequate job with it, but this falls flat after what just happened on stage. The Estonian delegation in Rotterdam numbers four, so the backing vocals are on tape and given there are so many of them, it actually emphasises the rule change. Had there been a few other people on stage, it might have provided visual depth. Dull song, efficient performance … I just don’t see this being sufficient.
When writing my Countdown Review, I truly rated Benny, but what I saw today let me down. There appeared to be an absence of power, and the LED effects didn’t work with the song. Things start with Benny surrounded by neon tubes, wearing a gold jacket, his hair blonde and cropped. He’s joined as he steps down stage by two male dancers and later by two women. On such a vast stage with disconnected background artwork, the stage looks bare. When they made the b-stage for the last part of the performance, things clicked better into place. The second run-through seemed brighter with additional choreography, but in both rehearsals, Benny hardly connected with the camera. All that said, he was undoubtedly using today to run through his marks and hold back on his voice (or was too low in the mix), so maybe don’t write it off just yet, but it’s not the sure-fire hit I thought. It’s marginal based on today.
The morning ended with Greece, and Stefania was in fine voice. The song is strong and this sort of means I’ll give it a free pass today. Others saw something I didn’t. There’s a lot of green screen used to make it look like Stefania is dancing with escaped laundry and she climbs an invisible staircase set against a totally uncoordinated backdrop. Not to mention the green screen filter left her top and bottom half floating disconnected. For me, it didn’t work visually, I’d even say it looks amateurish – but as I say, the song and vocals are more than enough.
Coming after the Greek song, this is an energy dip, but one that’s appropriate for a darker song. Vincent is clad in a (blingy) black tailcoat, top and trousers and silhouetted on the side of the screen. As beams of light rise, he’s shown more, but always stays somewhat in the shadows for the first half of his performance. Vocally, he allows just the right level of emotional wobble into the first verse before building to a defiant, angry crescendo. What I noticed is how much better this filled the stage and screen than Uku for Estonia. It remains a piss poor song, but the level of turd polishing (and that’s down to Vincent) makes this a surprise contender.
In which a young Suggs from Madness wakes up and dreams he’s in Footloose, wearing black sleeveless gloves and shades. It’s an 80s extravaganza with blue and purple lighting, grid graphics, four guys dancing with torches and the ladies confined to backdrop video. The vocals felt OK for the first half, but by the end, everything went to pot. It’s a sorry contender for last place. Austria changed my mind, Poland confirmed my earlier opinion. And don’t even get me started on the awkward sex-face-dancing with the steadicam at the start. Even the pyros in the final run-through seemed to signal an apology for being there. Dire.
Another surprise. This really wasn’t the car crash I expected. They’ve dialled back the sugar too much. On the plus side, there’s a decent helping of bare-chested man on Natalia’s menu. She opens sat on four men in a blue-accented silver dress, that has the unfortunate habit of looking like a full diaper when lit from behind. I’m not sure how much singing is going on here – my bet is hardly any. The verses are whispered and the backing vocals carry the chorus (to the extent she’s not even trying to mime at points), although there is one long note at the end that
someone else she hit perfectly. Natalia remains dead-eyed throughout, and the backdrop is way too similar to the one used by the Polish song right before. There’s use made of this year’s must-have prop – a small square podium that looks lost on ill-advised sweeping shots. There’s camera work to fix, but it’s a borderline finalist on this showing – more thanks to friendly fire than merit.
I’ll level with you. I don’t care for Daði and find his schtick too knowing. But the performance today was utterly refreshing. It’s not the worst song (nor is it the best) but when a first presentation is so on the mark, so professional and sounds so note perfect, it’s tough to say anything other than ‘this will qualify’. ‘Ten years’ is obviously in with a shot at the crown too. The song opens to the group in shadow, set against a clear pink wall that later bursts into stars, seascapes, bouncing cubes, boxes, rainbows and unicorns. You name it, it’s there. They’ve chosen excellent camera shots, including one from above of the three keyboard players huddled together. The nerdy chic business works well and everybody looks to be having fun. I still don’t love Daði, but if he won the whole shebang, I wouldn’t be despondent. Not at all. And just stick around for the pyros.
After all the pinks and purples, a black and white backdrop proves refreshing. The Hurricane women are all in black too, socially distanced and in strong voice. This is a fun, slick showcase for the group with the background moving in time, bouncing slogans (occasionally giving way to regulation purple/pink) with a huge disco ball at just the right moment. Let’s not forget this is a front-loaded semifinal, with some absolute stinkers to come tomorrow. I wouldn’t be surprised if this made it through.
By the way, I done a book …