Well ladies and gentlemen, it’s that time of the year again, where the world gets to witness the weird and wonderful contest that is Eurovision. If you don’t know what Eurovision is, it is a song contest dragged out over a week in order for Europe to hit pause on everything that is happening over there (Azerbaijan and Armenia still fighting over land, refugees taking over Europe, Greece’s economic crisis … the list goes on). Fortunately for us, however, the Eurovision Song Contest has provided us legendary acts such as ABBA, Celine Dion (yes, she is Canadian but she represented Switzerland in the 80s), Conchita Wurst (the world’s most famous drag queen aside from RuPaul), and Lordi (the Finnish version of Gwar). This is the first of a trilogy for I Probably Hate Your Band, and since I have a mixture of European blood in me and cheesy pop songs are my jam, I feel like I have some authority to represent IPHYB for Eurovision. I, Khaleesi, will be looking at the non-qualifiers of each semi-final before I team up with Ilija Stajic (yes, the kebab remover himself) to review the grand final performances.
‘Sing It Away’ by Sandhja (Finland)
Being the first performance in the Eurovision Song Contest is never a good thing. Not only do you have to make sure you put on a damn good performance so people remember you, you also essentially have to set the tone for the night. Sandhja didn’t do a terrible job of getting the crowd somewhat pumped up with an upbeat song, moving around the stage and dancing with the backup singers. However, the song itself was pretty average and unmemorable to begin with, even with her powerful, Jessie J-like vocals. Using the same word English ‘gangsters’ use to make the sound of a gun going off during the performance probably didn’t help her in terms of Eurovision’s political correctness, either.
‘Utopian Land’ by Argo (Greece)
While naming their song ‘Utopian Land’ is quite ironic considering the current situation in Europe, Argo’s performance was pretty good if I’m going to be honest. It was like Greece was going back to their musical and cultural roots with traditional instruments performed live, Greek lyrics (for the most part), and some Greek choreography. Despite this, I felt the male vocalists made more of an effort to really give an amazing performance. Their chemistry whilst they were rapping was great, whereas the female vocalists were very much ‘just stick to the routine and hope for the best’. It was nice to see something which really showcased the traditional side of Greece, but it’s also a shame they didn’t make the final for the first time in 42 years of participation. Considering Argo performed second in the whole semi-final though, they were definitely a victim of the order.
‘Falling Stars’ by Lidia Isac (Moldova)
Honestly, I was more impressed with the dancing astronaut. I knew this song wasn’t going to be memorable right off the bat. There isn’t anything to be impressed by here. The instrumentation was so generic I swear I’ve heard this song a thousand times before. While the vocals weren’t bad, there wasn’t anything to be totally impressed by. I didn’t get goosebumps at any point of the song whatsoever. I was also a bit distracted by Lidia’s costuming. The dress looks unfinished and I feel like it should have related more to the ‘star’ aspect of the song considering YOU HAD A DANCING ASTRONAUT. Moldova just simply cannot top Epic Sax Man from the 2010 contest.
‘I Didn’t Know’ by Serhat (San Marino)
Okay, I just got really uncomfortable. I know San Marino has a small talent pool, but the best they could do this year was get a pimp off the street? His vocals sound so seedy that it was hard not to feel awkward listening to this song. It’s bad enough it’s disco, too. The performance was average to say the least. Serhat is just standing there while these poor women are dancing all around him and acting as though they are so in love with you when he’s really, like, double their age (he probably has a lot of money though let’s be real). I guess the only redeeming quality were the backing harmonies. Everyone knew San Marino would not advance to the grand final this year, and they were right.
‘Play’ by Juri Pootsman (Estonia)
I am actually surprised this didn’t make the final. Prior to the contest, everyone was absolutely frothing over this song and believed Estonia would at least make the grand final. The song itself isn’t bad, although it isn’t something I would personally listen to all the time. Juri’s deep vocals really suited the theme of the song. It was almost like I was watching the beginning of an Estonian version of Casino Royale. The card trick he did during the song was a good way to connect with those that are watching at home or streaming it online. I genuinely thought Juri would make the final, but I guess he’s just another victim of the order too.
‘The Real Thing’ by Highway (Montenegro)
I’ll start with the positives on this one. It was cool to hear a fusion of rock and dubstep; it was definitely something different to the other performances. The vocals weren’t too bad either, but with the random female backup singer being so glorified on camera, it seemed a little strange considering the only female in the original music video was just a dancer. You didn’t hear any female vocals whatsoever. The performance itself wasn’t terrible, but it wasn’t exceptionally good either. Saying that, the song is one big, fat innuendo to me. With lyrics like ‘Inside you take me little closer’, ‘Feel it I’m the real thing yeah’, and ‘I’m gonna feel what my body knows’, if you were to play innuendo bingo and had to listen to this song, you wouldn’t last 10 seconds.
‘Hear Them Calling’ by Greta Salome (Iceland)
This is one of several acts that decided to use a similar idea to Sweden’s winning entry last year – having the performer interact with projections. Greta’s interactions with the projection screens were appealing to the eye, especially when a silhouette ran towards her then exploded into birds upon ‘impact’. The song itself was pretty catchy, though I found myself paying a little more attention to the male backing harmonies which were a nice contrast to Greta’s vocals. It was a pretty good performance, but I feel like it was one of those acts which got really close to advancing but just fell short.
‘Ljubav Je (Love is)’ by Dalal & Deen featuring Ana Rucner and Jala (Bosnia and Herzegovina)
‘Ljubav Je’ was one of the few Eurovision entries that wasn’t performed in English, so it was refreshing, considering the majority of entrants have performed completely in English. The song, despite not understanding the lyrics, was very impactful, and didn’t include any synth or EDM elements at all either, which was nice. The performance between Dalal and Deen was very theatrical. I had to laugh at Deen because he was over-acting, making the performance more humourous than it should have been. Jala’s rapping didn’t ruin the vibe of the song, his style went well with the theme of the song. However, when you’ve got two main vocalists, a rapper, and a live musician all featuring in the one song, it just seemed a bit much. As well as this, there was no real climax of the song, no point where Dalal and Deen showcased the very best of their vocals, nor was there an instrumental solo from Ana Rucner, which was rather disappointing in the end.
Congratulations to Hungary, Croatia, The Netherlands, Armenia, Russia, Czech Republic, Cyprus, Austria, Azerbaijan, and Malta for progressing to the Grand Final. Stay tuned for my review of the second semi-final non-qualifiers to see if Dami Im manages to progress to the Grand Final in her quest to beat the Europeans at their own game.
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