Semifinal 2: SHOW GUIDE

Good morning people who likely got waaaay more sleep than I did. I’m blearily writing this on a train from Turin to Paris after less than three hours of sleep. But I’m also on my second third coffee of the day and flying through some gorgeous Alpine scenery, so bonus, I guess?

If you are planning to watch tonight’s show, you should know that it is FULL of BEHIND THE SCENES DRAMA, some of which might just spill over into the real show.

Most importantly – the UK can vote tonight! And I have a favour to ask – please please please vote #7 San Marino. As noted below, this is an ICONIC performance and it is essential that it gets brought to Saturday’s show so that everyone who’s not smart enough to watch the semifinals gets to see it. Who is San Marino? Well, I talk about it more below, but it always helps to have a visual reminder:

Luca D’Amelio

Anyway, tonight’s show starts with Alessandro Cattelan doing a skit where here’s basically like: “Yeah, I have no idea why I’m hosting this show either.”

It’s like Diodato’s performance but in a horror film

But it’s cute! And it involves greenscreen dancers!

The show then opens up with Finland and The Rasmus, singing a song with lyrics as dated as their lead singer’s emo look. (And I say this as a former emo kid myself). The Rasmus have brought in a fabulous lady guitarist and woweewowowow she is the best thing about this performance.

EBU Andres Putting

For some reason, the Finnish staging team thought that it would be a brilliant idea to have a bunch of balloons on stage, which leads to a fantastic moment when about thirty stagehands each run out with a giant balloon like they are little kids in the park. You won’t see that, sadly.

As for the backstage drama, during last night’s jury show one of the balloons was almost popped by another prop. Let’s see if that happens tonight!

Song number two is Israel with Michael Ben David singing IM and within the first ten seconds, you’ll be going “yup, you certainly are.” The lyrics are what you would get from feeding a bot all seasons of RuPaul’s Drag Race, and I’m just surprised that there’s no “hunty sashay boots the house down mama yes god”

EBU Corinne Cumming

Is it camp? No. This is too overt to be camp.

Is it entertaining? Highly. Michael Ben David is extra with a capital X, and he knows how to dance. Spending an entire day with him would be exhausting. Spending three minutes, though? Perfect.

Song number 3 is Konstrakta from Serbia with the song In Corpore Sano. Yes, she mentions Meghan Markle. No, this song is not about Meghan Markle. It is a meditation on health and the precarious status of artists in society. Does that sound pretentious?

Well, it’s not! It’s art! And by the end of the song you will be clapping along with the chorus “Biti Zdrava/Biti Zdrava/Biti Zdrava/Moya Moya Moya!” Do not miss this.

Song #4 is Nadir from Azerbaijan with the song Fade to Black, which would more accurately be titled “I Watched Something for Three Minutes and I Don’t Remember Any of It.” Go take a break!

EBU Corinne Cumming

Look, Nadir has a great voice, but he was given this song like the interchangeable cog in the Azerbaijani Eurovision Factory that he is.

I will note, however, that a friend commented that the bleachers remind her of the film Grease, and now I can’t stop wishing for a surprise Eurovision comeback experience from the 1974 UK contestant Olivia Newton-John. Give us the Fade to Black/Long Live Love mashup we need!

Song #5 is Circus Mircus from Georgia, who are performing a Britpop influenced guitar number with frequent references to their own band name.

Just in case you forget who they are – CIRCUS MIRCUS

The LED visuals on this are lovely, which makes up for the band being largely static. And while I appreciate the whole communal ethos and invented mythology around Circus Mircus, they are essentially this meme:

Did you forget to take a break during Azerbaijan? Well, now is your chance! Song #6, which is a bland feel-good anthem about being yourself, as performed by a rich and beautiful white woman — Emma Muscat from Malta.

I get through this performance by imagining that the Master Plan she refers to in her song is actually her announcement of her candidacy for World Dictator. Also, please don’t make fun of her comfortable shoes. She’s sparkly up top, all business on the bottom!

EBU Corinne Cumming

(QUICK NOTE: Apologies if the formatting goes slightly wonky here – I went through a tunnel in the Alps and had some issues!)

If you took a break, please, please, please make sure you are back in time for Song #7, which is the Italian icon Achille Lauro representing San Marino. I have seen some non-Eurovision fans suggest this is just a rehash of Maneskin, which is unfair because Achille Lauro has been shocking audiences since Maneskin were busking on the streets of Rome. 

Also, why are you complaining about MORE sexy tattooed Italians? I mean:

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Luca D’Amelio

My spirit left my body and visited Heaven during Achille Lauro’s performance last night, so I am a bit hazy on the details of what happens during these three minutes. But I can tell you it involves:

  1. Sparkly cages, sparkly cowboy hat, and sparkly mesh bodysuit
  2. Mentions of Britney, Playboy, Personal Jesus, and – a first for Eurovision – sex toys
  3. Pyro! So much Pyro!
  4. Dry ice! So much Dry Ice!
  5. A fuschia mechanical bull named Roberta
  6. A same-sex kiss on stage

Because Achille Lauro is unpredictable and a Bad Boy and a master of the spectacle, I can’t tell you what will happen tonight as this goes out LIVE to MILLIONS of VIEWERS. There is a contingent of the Eurovision community who is hoping for a (deliberate) costume malfunction, and if that were to happen, I will be looking disrespectfully. Very, very disrespectfully.

There’s some filler between San Marino and Song 8, which is Australia, because they need to move all the sparkly stuff off stage and set up some stairs. And because this is Eurovision, artist Sheldon Riley is wearing a gorgeous white ensemble that takes almost as much time to arrange as the stairs. 

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His big soaring ballad is about being autistic and being gay and being different and it’s beautiful. But the real drama comes from watching him go up and down those stairs – HOW does he do it in that outfit? 

Song number 9 is from Cyrpus and Andromache. It’s called Ela … but I think it’s more MEH-la. (I’m here all week!)

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EBU Nathan Reinds

The visuals are interesting if you like seeing projections on people’s faces, and the song is okay. I was a little shocked last night when the crowd started clapping along like it was a banger, because it’s not! It’s mellow and chill and just kind of there. 

Fortunately, we are about to be blasted back into the Fun Zone by Ireland’s Brooke Scullion, performing That’s Rich, the ultimate kiss off anthem.

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EBU Corinne Cumming

Brooke Scullion is not only a fantastic performer, but an entertaining shambles of a person off stage. She lost her passport when traveling to Ireland for one of the pre-parties, and needed to show the border police videos of her performance so they’d let her in the country. Her celebrity crush is John Mayer. She dresses – intentionally – like a Bratz doll. Brooke Scullion is what happens when you mix a Love Island personality with charm and talent, and I’m so glad to see her absolutely nailing this song and choreography. 

Following Ireland is Song #11. North Macedonia’s Circles is performed by Andrea, and there are a surprising lack of circles on stage. 

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There is a moment that made me gasp, and that’s when part of the stage suddenly rose up to reveal additional screens. Will this be visible on the telecast? Probably not! Which is a shame because that’s the one thing that might get you to remember this song (performed very well by Andrea! It’s not her fault the song is bland!)

Song #12 is Stefan from Estonia with Hope. He is bringing the Yee Haw to this semifinal, as well as providing us with the lone stunt of the Eurovision stage:

estonia andres putting
EBU Andres Putting

LOOK AT HIM JUMPING OVER THE FAKE WATERFALLS! (You can’t see them in this photo but he does!)

I like Stefan and I like this song, but I’m a little worried it won’t qualify. During last night’s jury show, Stefan got the audience to sing some of his parts for a bit, and if you aren’t performing the song during the JURY show, do you really think you’re going to advance? This is a song competition, Stefan! You should be wringing every second of microphone time you can, especially because you have a very listenable voice!

Anyway, after Stefan we get Song #13 from WRS (pronounced like it’s spelled). WRS is Romanian but he is bringing the Spanish heat with a song about forbidden love – Lllamame!

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This performance is ON POINT. WRS is an excellent dancer, and includes a very quick, very charged moment with one of his male backup dancers. There is a costume reveal in this performance, which might be the most underwhelming one I’ve ever seen, but the vibes are so much fun the audience will gasp at it anyway. 

Song #14 is Poland, with Boston native Ochman performing River. He’s a Sadboi who was coached by Sergeant Pepper’s Loneliest Heart Michael Szpak, and yet I still love his song? It’s a ballad with swooping vocals that adds a drum track and it’s somehow great. 

I wish I could tell you what this was going to be like on television tonight. Live, in the arena, it’s fantastic. But on television? With camera angles and visual effects? The exclusive rehearsal clip released last week was … not promising! There’s lightning and weird dancers and on purpose shaky camera angles. It was a LOT for a song that only needed a little. 

At least it’s spawned some fantastic Eurovision memes:

Song 15 is Vladana from Montenegro. She’s a lovely person who has an impeccable fashion sense and an absolute dirge of a song inspired by COVID. I’d suggest a pee break once you get a chance to look at her light-up back piece. (See, North Macedonia, THIS is how you do circles!)

EBU Corinne Cumming

Song 16 is Jeremie Makesie from Belgium, and his voice screams “JURY WINNER” – at least it did until he missed a note yesterday.

 

EBU Corinne Cumming

The problem with this performance is that Jeremie’s backup dancers are dressed in all black and are performing against a black background and it all kind of flattens out. Belgium, we know you can do better with your staging. Don’t pay your artist dust next year!

Song 17 is potential winner Sweden, with raspy-voiced Cornelia Jakobs belting out a night-before-the-morning-after self-aware ballad. It’s great, BUT…

 

EBU – Corinne Cumming

…this is where the background drama comes in. During the jury semi-final, there was some sloppy camerawork, along with a moment where a stagehand is clearly visible spinning a prop. The overly excitable Eurofan community (including myself in that description) has gone nuts. “It’s sabotage by the Italian broadcaster!” some yell. “It ruins the performance!” say others.

The truth is, Cornelia Jakobs still delivers. The pain and sorrow and longing are all still there, and I bet if you’re watching it for the first time tonight, you won’t even notice anything is wrong.

And the competing entries close with We Are Domi, the Czech Republic representatives, with the song Lights Out. But boy oh boy, do they turn the lights ON:

For a song about the ennui of modern life, Lights Out is a banger, and if Domi nails the vocals, it’s sure to qualify. (We need more bangers in the final!)

Once the competing acts are done, we get a recap and then a duet from celebrated musicians and our hosts, Mika and Laura Pausini!

…who cover Sting. Okay I guess? That segues into a performance of Patti Smith’s People Have The Power. I guess this might be a reminder to go vote, but it feels more like a contemporary Christian Sunday service. Very Justin Bieber at Hillsong!

We then get a return performance from popera trio Il Volo, the televote winners from 2015’s Eurovision. They perform their hit Grande Amore, but it’s not quite as Grande as it could be, because one of them has COVID and is phoning in the performance from home.

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And it’s weird. It’s a solution, but it’s still weird! A handsome Italian man looms over the proceedings from one part of the giant LED screen. And when he’s not singing, he’s still there, staring mournfully off into space.

We then get some more filler – a piece about the Sounds of Beauty which is essentially a YouTube ASMR clip reel with the added sounds of babies crying – and awkward interviews with Spain, the UK, and Germany.

And then they wheel out the podium of death and (depending on who qualifies) either send me into a frenzy of cheers or a spiral of depression.

Thank you for reading and please watch and enjoy tonight! And VOTE #7 SAN MARINO!

 

EBU Andres Putting

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