Watching Eurovision in Brazil
At the first of the semi finals, Emily deForest as a lego doll is pretty cute. And the solicitation and inclusion of hundreds of YouTube videos of Europeans singing the opening theme is, really, awesome.
And did I hear a kitten mewing as well?
Emily still doesn't know wearing shoes is a wise move, though.
The three presenters, as many as there were in Germany, were introduced with their Twitter accounts. That, together with the YouTube videos, and the ability to vote in-app, does show the #JoinUs theme is followed through nicely.
Also in line with the theme are the countries' opening videos, where the artists create a flag of their country, just like Europeans were asked to do in the run up to the event.
The Australian interval act in the second semi final was sufficiently cute, sufficiently Eurovision and live, but the artist, Jessica Mauboy also a tad obscure. Then again, so are many of the regular performers.
Much better, nay, hilarious, were the 'best' dancer selected through YouTube auditions.
In order of their performance in the finals.
Ukraine. Danceable and quite catchy. Not spectacular, but good enough to come in sixth. Mariya Yaremchuk certainly is the babe of both the first semi-final and final. She failed to represent her country the previous year. But, Mariya's voice falters a few times too often to stand a proper chance, even if she did a bit better in the final.
I was expecting more (political) support for this entry, even though Mariya (in the press) goes out of her way to say she's apolitical.
Belarus. Great, if possibly a bit too subtle to win, the little absurdities in the lyrics should have made this a contender. But, with a mildly absurdist video and only a cute, slightly campy, stage show, Belarus blew its chance at winning, coming in at an unreasonable 16th place.
Teo did better in the finals, but the stage show is just too timid to win.
Azerbaijan. A nice enough ballad, but one which doesn't really peak (and strongly reminds of the one the country submitted two years ago), with the indigenous background instruments really being unnecessary. Then again, Azerbaijan has a history of polling the European mood correctly. But, not this year, coming in near the bottom of the pile in 22nd place.
Dilara, who came second in her country's 2008 and 2010 Eurovision finals, does put down a decent, but not flawless, performance, but messes up in her last note.
Iceland. Terribly cute, with elements of Ska and with a message. The accompanying video is funnier, but the multicoloured stage performance is still nice enough.
Their finale, spelling out LOVE with the band's arms is cute, though it's hard to compete with a few of the other submissions and when was the last time a 'fun' submission actually won? Ever?
Norway. Pretty gorgeous, almost ethereal and very fragile, ballad. But too slow to stand a chance, even though it did make it to the final (as opposed to a somewhat similar submission from Finland two years ago). The crowd's moods favored the song, planting it in 8th position.
The live performance is better than the single.
Romania. Decent enough dance track. The duet makes it stands out a tad more.
The babe of the duet, Paula Seling represented Romania in 2010 as well, ending in third place. She has over a dozen albums to her name, probably being the most established performer at this year's Eurovision.
But, fake instruments should be banned.
Armenia. Opening the first semi, a ballad with a bit of an orchestral finale with strong rock elements, making it a proper contender. The vocals of Aram MP3 faltered at the start of his performance, though he carried the dramatic second half very well, perhaps even better than in the official single release. Fourth place overal is quite deserved.
Montenegro. Too sweet, if with a nice, orchestral, second half, a ballad to stand a chance, though Sergej Ä†etkoviÄ‡ shows off a reasonable vocal performance.
Cool: Sergej is joined on stage by a figure skater, which might be part of the reason Montenegro made it to the finale for the first time with this sixth participation.
Poland. Pretty excellent dance track. Perhaps a bit too niche to stand a real chance, and on stage not nearly as funny as the video clip.
Greece. A crossover between French-style ethnic rap and generic dance. Kind of works reasonably well. However, besides the repetition of the title of the song, doesn't seem to have the catchiness that allows listeners to sing along.
Also in its live performance lacks the strong vocals needed to stand a real chance, even though an ad-libbed section not in the single makes for a good addition to the song.
Austria. The controversy surrounding this man-performing-as-a-woman-with-a-beard was a bit overblown. The song, which could have come straight from a Broadway musical, or perhaps a Bond mobie, is perhaps a bit generic, but also quite up to par with same.
The live performance was pretty awesome, Conchita's voice is amazing. A top 5 position was deserved, winning a mild surprise, but not unreasonable.
Don't expect Turkey to return next year.
Germany. A somewhat slow song that could have been done by P!nk, but also doesn't have anything really unique to make it stand out too much.
The band's singer, ElÅ¼bieta Steinmetz, hails from Ukraine and throws in a nice ad-libbed ending.
Sweden. A ballad that takes a bit to get going. Sanna Nielsen her song is a contender, ending in third place, but it's been a while since a ballad won Eurovision (Serbia in 2007?). The first half of the song saw a few glitches in Sanna's voice (if less so in the finals), but when the drama starts, her performance is good.
And her legs are very long.
France. Ethnic-inspired rap/pop crossover. Pretty good, though the consistent choice of singing in French affects this country's chances of being a strong contender.
And the vocal performance wasn't ideal. However, last place, scoring a mere two points, was completely unreasonable.
Russia. A bit too timid a pop song, though a tad more extravagant on stage, and a bit of an over-choreographed performance by The Tolmachevy Sisters (from Kursk!), who won the Eurovision Junior contest in 2006 at age nine, making them 17 at this year's performance.
When selected for the final, boohs from the audience showed a political bias. During the voting process, this was repeated a few times.
Italy. Another chick channeling bits and pieces of Amy Winehouse, though with stronger rock components. Nice. But though the Italian is perfect for the song, it will also cost them first place. Not in the least because the vocals weren't perfect.
Slovenia. A dance track that makes an excellent progression, starting slow and climaxing nicely with a touch of drama in the live performance missing from the single.
It's the fourth time Tinkara KovaÄ tried representing her country at Eurovision and the first successful one. The first time was back in 1997, when she was at the tender age of 18.
Finland. One part pop, one part rock, with a progression to stadium rock that probably saw the song make it to the finals.
A good live performance, though, by boys dressed up like they actually are a 1980s New Wave band.
Spain. Progresses nicely from simple pop to almost operatic grandeur, but is also a tad too predictable.
Thankfully, Ruth Lorenzo does a better performance than last year's entry from Spain, but, besides a few nice vocal outbursts, the song is just too bland.
Spain hasn't won since 1969. This year's ninth place is one of their better ones.
Switzerland. Poppy, catchy, energetic, cute. What's not to like? Would have benefited from a bit more energetic stage show. And the vocals in the final were not as good as in the semis. But, still, 13th place is just too low.
Hungary. Strongly reminds me of Arabic pop music due to the singer's lamenting style of singing. The song starts of as a ballad and escalates into frantic dance music, which works very well.
The Hungarian/American András Kállay-Saunders could practice his vocals a bit more, even if on a few occasions he does a better job than on the official release, it's possibly what lost the country first place, eventually coming in fifth.
Malta. A cutesy and lovely folk song, excellently performed, though the mandatory three minutes are too short to do it justice, the song really lacking an extended overture.
The boy in the duet is a bit too slick for comfort, but not so slick that their 23rd place was warranted.
Denmark. A bit too generic but poppy love song.
Self aware, 'Another cliche long song', didn't stand out enough to be a contender.
Surprisingly, the backing vocals sang worse than the lead singer.
Netherlands. Country/blues crossover. Not too bad in itself, if timid, and a decent enough performance, but also quite out of place at Eurovision. And what's with the band's name? How many non-English speakers know what a linnet is?
I was a bit surprised to see them make it to the final, the second time after last year since 2004, and even more surprised when they turned out to be contenders for first place, eventually settling in second. Holland's best performance since 1979.
San Marino. Overly repetitive middle-of-the-road almost power ballad. And a bit painful.
It's Valentina Monetta her third time representing her country at Eurovision, this being the third year straight. This also means she sang the abysmal Social Network Song in 2012, which was quite unforgivable. But not unforgivable enough as this was the one surprise entry for the final as well as the first time San Marino made it that far in their fifth time trying.
United Kingdom. Almost feels like Christian (or should that be 'agnostic'?) rock/pop. Has a certain catchiness but also feels a bit too constructed, artificial. It doesn't really get better on repeated listenings.
What's the song about? Are we children of the universe or should power be with the people?
Countries that didn't make it to the finals
Albania. A pleasant enough somewhat gothic ballad, that also doesn't stand out too much. But, Hersi Matmuja her vocal performance was the first in the semi-finale to be nearly flawless, which should have landed her a place in the final.
Belgium. A pretty, and dramatic, operatic performance. Catchy, but, due to its format, perhaps doesn't speak to voters' imagination, though the finale is excellent.
And, actually, the more I hear this song, the better I think it is. But not according to the general audience, who kept Belgium in the semis.
Estonia. A decent enough dance track, but with vocals that start off significantly better on the official release. And that might have cost her the finals.
Tanja might be the first participant of Eurovision who was born in the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad.
FYRO Macedonia. Very nice. Catchy, danceable, energetic and a good vocal live performance, if a much less impressive show. But… didn't make it to the finals. Odd.
Georgia. Country music with a folk infusion, wut!? Very capable, but not at all within the realm of possibility to make it to the finals.
Ireland. Danceable, with some Irish ethnic influences, reminds of 1980s Bonny Tyler. Not bad, but not good enough, too timid perhaps, though I'm a bit surprised they didn't even make it to the final.
Israel. A very decent and dramatic enough dance track and performed very well. The text doesn't always flow as well as it could or should, but the song should have made it to the final, primarily for its recognisable dance and tempo changes. The halfway switch to Hebrew is unnecessary and might have been what cost the country its position in the finale.
Latvia. Folksy, funny and terribly positive, but trying a bit too much, talking about the difficulties of baking a cake. 'Tap tap to Google'.
The lead singer, Jöran Steinhauer, is German.
Lithuania. Tries to do dub step, which works somewhat. But, the song isn't nearly as catchy or impressive as it needs to be to stand a chance. And the performance, though not bad, is also really simply not good enough.
Moldova. Nice operatic overtones, but, overall, neither here nor there.
Cristina Scarlat tried twice before to represent her country. Though she picks up her song well after a shaky start, it's not enough to stand a chance. Or to make it to the final.
Portugal. Brazilian-inspired ethnic dance track. Suzy's live performance does leave a few things to be desired.
Amazingly, for the country's near-50 participations, the best they've ever done was come in 6th in 1996.