And that’s it! Ten more countries, in addition to the 10 qualifiers from Tuesday’s first semi-final, the host nation Azerbaijan and the “Big Five”, we have our 26 countries for Saturday’s big grand final.
QUALIFYING: Serbia, FYR Macedonia, Malta, Ukraine, Sweden, Turkey, Estonia, Norway, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Lithuania
OUT: Netherlands, Belarus, Portugal, Bulgaria, Slovenia, Croatia, Georgia, Slovakia.
I think this was one of the stronger semi-finals, but that doesn’t mean it was without its surprises. A lot of Balkan countries were in the mix tonight (and more importantly voting), but these songs didn’t sweep the board. In fact some of the stronger ones like Slovenia and (dare I say it) Slovakia took a dive. We also got rid of the last of the novelty hits as Georgia hit the skids.
Some of the losers were no-brainers. Netherlands have never qualified for a final since the semi-final system came in, and they didn’t break with tradition. It was a lovely song, but the poor position in the set-list was going to scupper their chances, at least until poor Joan did it herself by totally messing up the vocals, practically every note was off-key which was a real shame.
Belarus had horrific outfits that really distracted from what would have been one of their more mainstream selections. It could have been so much better. I still loved the song (moreso than Hungary on Tuesday) and the visuals, but it somehow seemed a bit of a mess. Bulgaria’s terrible qualification record continued, but despite a sparse/non-existent stage setup, Sofi really smashed those vocals (apart from the intro), and I thought they might have done enough.
Slovenia and Croatia, some gentle Balkan ballads (I’m not sure Slovenia is Balkan but it might as well be). Slovenia I thought would have a good chance, even if the staging seemed a bit lacking after the simple but effective national final performance. Croatia did itself no favours with one of the more subtle entries (that I loved) with black outfits and out-of-sync dancers, it just didn’t work.
Slovakia screamed their heads off, and turned what would have been a dark horse of a rock song into a mess. Georgia finally started to win me over with a much-improved live rendition of their novelty entry, but Europe weren’t buying it. Send a nice lady next time.
Onto the winners now. Sweden made light work of the semi-finals, but I’m still not entirely sure they are a dead-cert. But they would be a great winner. I just wish she would stop MUMBLING! It’s a great song, please SING IT!
Two qualifiers who made great effort with the vocals as well as spectacular visuals had to be Malta and Ukraine. Both were brought to life on the stage and really put them back in contention. I was particularly pleased to see Malta (and their penguin dance) qualify, they want it so bad! Ukraine really blew me away, very colourful, like a care-free happy clubbing version of Euphoria.
Estonia really brought the vocals too, and a rather handsome clean-shaven Ott (who managed to keep it in his trousers this time) belting out his song. I had this down for the sole heir of the Baltic empire for this year’s contest, but Lithuania managed to take full advantage of its slot closing the show, a backflip and a pretty solid track with great vocals. I think it might flounder a little bit in the final, but good on him for defeating some of the more potent Balkan nations. He was very pale though, do they get a lot of sun there?
Speaking of Balkans, juggernaut Serbia really smashed it, while FYR Macedonia surprised me with a great live performance. I thought it might be a bit screechy but it worked really well. Given Kaliopi’s history at the contest I am really pleased for her. I was stunned to see Bosnia & Herzegovina through though, especially over the more rousing Slovenian entry, but they’ve never missed a final yet. It’s not a bad song, but it doesn’t have the impact of many other ballads getting through.
Oh who’s left? Norway! It was touch and go, and his vocals were a little iffy, but it’s a great song. I expect it to do similarly to Russia last year (i.e mid-table if its lucky) but I’m glad to see them qualify after last year’s injustice. Finally, dependable Turkey get back on the road after last year’s disaster. The song is really growing on me, but I think it really wasn’t communicated well tonight. They should be lucky for all those migrant workers but I’m happy to give them a second chance. The crappy cloaks weren’t worth the human boat punchline, but at least they are trying. Maybe pop open a few buttons next time, Can, and lose the hat!
BBC3’s commentary happily went for the “less is more” approach and that made for a much more enjoyable show, thank GOD. And they let us see the looked-good-on-paper interval act that united the five previous winning acts: Dima Bilan, Marija whatshername, Ell/Nikki, Lena and Alexander Rybak. It was a string of ropey reprises of their winning songs with Azeri backing (though curiously not the Azeri winning song, probably saving that for Saturday), then a very uncomfortable rendition of ABBA’s Waterloo, which Marija seemed to hate. I don’t know WHAT Dima was singing along to though!
Other than the same nonsense with the golden ticket – which I might remind you had NO RELEVANCE to the contest other than a dramatic effect for the last finalist – it was a pretty slick show, better than the first one I think!
Ahead of Saturday’s big final, click “Eurovision 2012” at the top of the page. There you can read my reviews of all 42 finalists, as well as reactions to the semi-finals, and tomorrow a preview of the Grand Final. After the big event I will do a full post-mortem of the results, perhaps on Saturday night (late!) or more likely first thing Sunday.
I have been BLOWN AWAY by the incredible support this unknown blog has received by complete strangers, and I hope you don’t all desert me after Saturday, I will be doing a lot of retrospective stuff of older contests if you are into that, as well as my usual reviews of non-Eurovision albums, singles, movies and games that this blog used to be mostly!! Please “follow” me or “like” me if you have enjoyed my coverage, it would mean a lot to me, it makes it all worth while!! ❤