No, you weren’t dreaming – and luckily neither was I. It happened! Eurovision returned! Huzzah with a capital H! After two very long years we got a taste again…and much like with anything that seems/feels/is too good to be true, it was over before you could say ‘robbed’. But who was and who wasn’t? Time for a first look back.
While this review is slowly but surely taking shape, casa Dimivision is slowly turning into a Beautiful Mess – hence the opening meme. Disclaimer though: I have a week off now and I’m still in the kind of semi quarantine we’ve been in in Belgium since October, so who cares anyway? And after devouring multiple reviews from rehearsals, it was finally time to discover the entries ourselves. Cause while the teams at (ao.) Escnation.com, ESCGO.com & Songfestival.be are doing awesome work, impressions are at times overshadowed by taste and only the live experience can bring you back in check. So let’s get some sunshine, sunshine!
Leaving all major impressions for my actual 2021 review, I WILL say that the production is as top notch as ever. Mayhaps my brain is clouded by the ‘Eurovision is back’ delirium I find myself in, but there were very few raised eyebrows or curled lips over poor choices – if in fact I’m able to come up with one. Well, if there would be one remark it would be the size of the stage leaving everything else look a little bit out of proportion. Especially in an Ahoy that’s already feeling quite empty.
Only one remark? Surely not, is what you surely are thinking and my dear you’re absolutely right. Because RECORDED BACKING VOCALS, that’s why. It’s my biggest pet peeve in Melodifestivalen and even if the struggle wasn’t as real as it usually gets in MF, yesterday’s semi did have a few moments that were questionable to say the least. The irony is in the fact that most of those we will not have to sit through again on Saturday. Take a hint, powers that be! To be continued below and in the final review…
A quick word on the presenters, who did a fine job but really (again): why do we need four of them? Not only do we get to spend too little time with each of them to fully appreciate them, if one of them (even literally) sticks out then we almost feel sorry for the others. I’ve been following Nikkietutorials for quite a while now and always had full confidence she’d manage to pull something like this off. But her natural charm and charisma managed to ooze through the screen. She’s so magnetic, you can’t help but love her. And the professionalism from her YT videos translated to the Eurovision stage, almost (but surely not quite) without a breeze. Gosh, she’s so fab. She needs her own show STAT.
Speaking of show, let’s get on with it! Yesterday’s semi was a hard one to call in some ways. There were a few obvious qualifiers in there: Lithuania, Malta, Ukraine, Norway, Cyprus, Russia and Azerbaijan. Which meant there were three spots up for grabs, but by the time Malta’s last note has evaporated there were still eight question marks on our score sheet. How did we manage? Let’s find out – I’ll keep my thoughts on the qualifiers for my final review, here’s the verdict on the NQ’s from semi 1:
- SLOVENIA: Poor Ana. Her impressive vocal chords were really wasted on that random and quite generic hymn. Would love to see her back with something worthwhile. Two songs in and we got the first ‘wtf’ moment regarding the recorded backing vocals. For obvious reasons, cause an entire choir with the view of an almost empty stage: it’s weird, but not the good The Roop kind of weird. Even after all of those years where ‘hide the backing’ was the most popular game at Eurovision.
- AUSTRALIA: Loads of reviewers have been stating that it wasn’t all that obvious that Montaigne wasn’t there, and casa Dimivision begs to differ. It could have been, mind you, if it hadn’t been for the graphic tricks that colored the performance. Which, keeping the title and concept of this entry in mind, were completely justified…if only they’d been used in the right setting. Practicality aside, this looked and sounded like something I should adore. If only I didn’t have severe and acute physical reactions to Montaigne’s vocal chords. The way she circles around the notes…so frikkin’ distracting! It still managed to sneak into my personal top ten somehow. One of the besties called it Jem & The Holograms on steroids. As that’s basically describing me in drag, that’ll probably be why.
- NORTH MACEDONIA: I had little to no hope for this one before the semi started. And while I still don’t like the song, I was pleasantly surprised by the visual concept here. Even the Dotter-effect felt on the money, while the descriptions from fellow bloggers had me frowning in a way I almost cared about what would happen to this. Combined with Vasil’s powerful, if a *tad* dramatic, performance it even managed to fool me into thinking this could qualify. That’s right – my only miss in predicting was giving this a yes instead of Israel. Sometimes it pays to gamble. Sometimes it pays to stick to your gut feeling.
- IRELAND: When Ireland announced something ‘never seen before’ for their act, I was immediately thinking along the lines of something 3D – you know, France 2016 or 2017 but amplified. When rehearsal reports proved otherwise, the actual concept sounded interesting enough – even if fellow bloggers wished Lesley would just be on stage like the last part of the performance, and praised the switch from Storybook to Real Life. Well, I beg to differ. I was quite enamored by the cardboard storytelling, and the sudden switch broke the spell for me. Which was my main reason for not backing this otherwise charming entry anymore. Not even Lesley’s questionable vocals, not helped at all by the many cues she had to follow and the hopping on/off whatever construction they had to use for this to work. ‘Kill your darlings’ is one of the unwritten rules in showbizz – well, this concept was dead on arrival in Rotterdam by the look of things. Pity.
- CROATIA: Despite all of the surprise surrounding this particular NQ, its chances were already decimated after that intro carefully got strangled. A mostly playback chorus that was filled with female vocals while there was only one she/her to be seen on stage must have contributed to the failure as well. And having Cyprus almost right before it in the line-up can’t have been beneficial either. It managed to sneak in my top 10 (at 10) by chance, but its NQ position is fairly understandable all things considered. Even if that chorus on its own is a bop.
- ROMANIA: Confession time – this was one of the few entries where I did watch a bit of the rehearsals, simply because everyone was saying just how off-key she sounded. And those snippets were indeed not very promising. So imagine my surprise when the first half of the performance actually sounded…acceptable! The combo with the lighting and the fog and the choreo almost made it intriguing…and then they moved to the satellite stage and the porcelain started to crack. Nothing worked from that point on, so much so that the three minute mark almost felt as a relief. It still managed to sneak into 9th in my personal list – but that goes to show just how unimpressive this semi actually felt.
- Personal top 10: Seven made it – I had Sweden, Norway and Israel out in favor of Australia, Romania and Croatia. Which says more about my hatred for the former than my love for the latter…
- Predicted top 10: One mistake – North Macedonia instead of Israel. Couldn’t decide which MOR female pop bop would make it, so decided to go left-field instead. Oh well. I chucked in Sweden and Belgium at the last moment, which saved my predictions…even if my gut told me Belgium wouldn’t make it. Happy to be wrong, still quite doubtful about its chances on Saturday. Especially with that ‘first half’ draw – 2nd up, anyone?
Semi 1 flew by so fast, can’t wait for semi 2!
And you, how did you do with your predictions?
2 thoughts on “Eurovision 2021 Semi 1 – The Day After”
I know how much you love your harmonies, so I’m not surprised you’re as gutted as I am about the pre-recorded backings. Some countries (Croatia especially) bent those rules till they practically snapped. Kudos to Belgium for that reason alone, and our beloved Denmark has a three-person choir in c1989 jackets.
Even if Belgium does have one hidden backing 😉 The Danish backings lined up like that is a rare sight nowadays #sadface
Sure hope the pre-recorded backings aren’t here to stay. It’s bad enough the music isn’t live anymore. If shows like The Voice can pull it off, there’s no reason why it shouldn’t be able to be as live as possible at Eurovision.