Semifinal One: What did we learn?

So Semifinal One has just ended and I have takes as HOT as the pyro curtain used by La Zarra:

Pyro curtain in the arena

What did we learn tonight?

War is bad. Peace is good.

All three songs that featured anti-war messages – Croatia’s Mama SC, Switzerland’s Watergun, and Czechia’s My Sisters Crown – made it through to the final. Are voters still using the contest as a big ‘fuck you’ to Putin? Maybe. But all three songs also have exceedingly elaborate staging, with two of them having some of the best use of LED screens.

So war is bad, and peace is good, but LED screens are also good?

Not exactly.

There were a few acts that made minimal use of the giant screens – Norway (Queen of Kings), Portugal (Ai Coracao) and Moldova (Soarele si Luna) – and made it through to the final. In contrast, some acts that made pointed use of the LED screens, like Ireland (We Are One) and Latvia (Aija) did not. That could also be because the LED screen deployment by Ireland and Latvia was bad. Ireland added in a confusing hand that got submerged into quicksand, while Latvia used the LED screens to add more lights like the physical ones they had on stage. It was confusing!

Okay, so war is bad and peace is good and LED screens could go either way.

Yup. That about sums it up.

Is that it? That seems like a pretty mild hot take!

No. Here’s more:

Duets are bad.

First of all, I want to note that the Netherlands (Burning Daylight) and Azerbaijan (Tell Me More) are two of my favourite acts this year. Even without qualifying, tonight was a triumph for the Netherlands. Mia and Dion performed the song beautifully, without compromising on the vocals from the studio version. And poor Tural (or Turan) suffered a wardrobe malfunction, with his guitar strap breaking mid-song. But the problem is that the staging for both did them no favours. In the Netherlands, the attempt to create chemistry between Mia and Dion led the two to sing to each other, which left the viewers struggling to connect with them. And TuralTuranX had the weird split screen staging which was likely going for a Steve McQueen Thomas Crown Affair effect, but just ended up making them look bisected. Of course, in the past few years, duets have had a really awful track record – look at Estonia’s Verona, the UK’s Joe and Jake, Finland’s Blackbird, Germany’s S!sters, even Italy’s Brividi!

Men with instruments are also bad.

There were six acts tonight that had men playing instruments – Ireland, Latvia, Azerbaijan, Malta, Croatia, and Moldova. Let 3 didn’t pick up their instruments until 2/3 of the way through the song, after a catchy dance and a strip to their skivvies. In Moldova, the drummers are mostly used as background to Pasha’s dancing and interplay with the flautist and the backup singers. Those two acts qualified. But the four that didn’t featured a lot more time with men playing instruments.

Correction: Young men with instruments are bad.

If you were a man under 30 with an instrument tonight, you did not pass go. It was only the daddies that did.

(And don’t worry about Semi 2, friends – the “in their twenties” Joker Out will deploy those bedroom eyes and sail through.)

Isn’t that ageist? And sexist?

I couldn’t vote in today’s semifinal! Don’t blame me! But I think it’s not about age and gender, but about another important component of performance.

Pop girlies win

Okay, maybe there was a teensy bit of gender stuff toinght! I often mourn the fact that women in Eurovision often have to confirm to the pop girlie template, instead of being the next Let 3, the pop girlie bangers all had something that set them apart from others. Alessandra, Noa, and Loreen all brought bangers to the stage, each with a special weapon designed to lure in voters. Alessandra had a whistle note. Noa had a Crossfit routine. And Loreen had being Loreen in her favour. So while all of them were distinct, they also prove that in many cases, Eurovision fans just want to watch a diva do their thing.

Authenticity shines through.

The acts with the most originality made it through. What Luke Black and Kaarijaa and Let 3 and Mimicat are doing are things that aren’t being done by other artists, whereas bands like Latvia and Ireland, who are good but sort of sound like other, more famous bands, just couldn’t inspire enough people to vote.

The BBC can put on a great show

Did the show feel like there was Ukrainian involvement? Yes! Did the UK play Bucks Fizz? Much less than usual! DId anyone make fun of Eurovision? No! We made fun of ourselves (and a little bit of fun at Ireland.) It moved quickly, and even the banter bits were entertainingly cringy (although I may have been a teensy bit distracted by Hannah Waddingham’s upper arms.)

We know nothing for Thursday.

Seriously. We know nothing. I can confidently assert these stupid hot takes because the voting has happened. But Thursday’s a whole new ballgame, with new songs, new acts, and new staging. And it’s easy to extrapolate trends from existing data points, but hard to predict how the future hypothetical Eurovision voter will act. For a few seconds this evening, I was already composing my screed against people who don’t get subtext, because I was terrified some of my favourites were not going to make it. (Should have predicted it and relaxed, based on my point on authenticity above.) I mean, I hope that Voyager and Gustaph and Teya and Salena go through, but WHO KNOWS?

In fact, the only thing I would change is Rita Ora, who was okay, but it was kind of a “who? her? why?” moment. If your only connection to Eurovision is almost being a contest one year, and your name isn’t Rima Sawayama, maybe you’re not necessarily the best fit?

It’s time for bed.

I’m honestly almost falling alseep as I type this because the adrenaline of seeing who qualifies has worn off!

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