WANTED: 10 qualifiers from the first semi-final

I have made my predictions about two weeks ago, when I reviewed this year’s contest – but a lot of things were unknown then, mainly the stagings of 39 songs (you can’t tell me you expected any surprises by Mr. Zelmerlöw!) or how well the stage works for each of them. So now, with the first round of rehearsals through and me having watched the impressions and backstage videos, let me update my qualifier prediction.

To make sure everyone, including me, remembers what the initial prediction was, here’s who I gave a final spot to two weeks ago:
Estonia
Russia
Belgium
Denmark
Romania
Netherlands
Belarus
Greece
Albania
Hungary

THOSE WHO CHANGED

There were a few changs made to my prediction, as some of the borderliners, namely Hungary and Belarus, didn’t convince me with their pictures and videos from the rehearsals. I always thought of Belarus as a rather risky choice, mainly based of the visuals in their video which I hoped they’d recreate on stage, but unfortunately, Uzari left his ears at home and Maimuna won’t get buried in sand, so a bunch of cool things to look at got replaced with a very unimaginative staging. As a song, Time wasn’t good enough for me to make the cut with a staging that offers basically nothign to distract from it.
I had my hopes for Hungary that they’d take a different path and show Boggie in a very “private” and intimate setting, dressed in something she might wear in her usual life and have her sit somewhere on stage with her instrument, but the staging they used looks rather boring and generic. Probably someone should explain to the women of ESC that they are allowed to wear something else than dresses – it gets boring.

Those two got replaced by Finland and Georgia, whose stagings are among my favourites in the first semi. The Finns made a clever backdrop choice with their brick wall and the lights behind PKN that, together with the amps on stage, make the stage look a lot less glamourous and big than it is, giving it a nice concert athmosphere. I almost forgot we’re on a Eurovision stage, and what could be better for a song like Aina mun Pitää?
While Finland goes for authenticity, Georgia did something I unfortunately can’t see in action as the video is private, but looks impressive and extremely powerful on the pics. Some said Nina comes across as a bit dumb and bitchy, but after watching her backstage video and concerning her lyrical skills, I assume it is rather a language problem – and you should probably ignore her attempts at giving Warrior a meaning, but that’s a good advice for many lyrics especially in ESC. Just don’t think too much about it. And on a little side note, while Nina is one of the few girls not wearing anything resembling a skirt she easily manages to be the sexiest of the night, which kinda proves my point about dresses.

THE QUALIFIERS

There is not much to say about some of those, especially Denmark and Greece, who did pretty much as expected – and being DK or Greece, with the songs these two have, playing it safe was the best option, as they both won’t get much more (or less) than lower top 15 anyway. Russia went more or less as expected as well, but surprised me a little bit by having musicians on stage where I expected a solo affair of Polina and her backings. Also, they managed to have one of the best backdrops so far, looking beautiful without distracting too much from the song. The fourth and last in the row of “nothing I’m too curious about, but sure qualifier” was Romania. They’d have to screw their staging up badly to miss out with a song as competent as De La Capat, especially with a Moldovan 12 in their pockets, and as expected they didn’t. However, I am not too fond of the lighting – it looks much too bright to me, destroying the effect of the backdrop a little bit.
These four get joined by my clear favourite of the semi, Estonia. It seems to be unclear what the backdrop exactly will look like for them, but it seems to be a nightish, dark affair that looks brilliant behind them. Also, Elina provides another example of “how to look great asa woman without wearing a dress” while Stig looks a little bit too formal and not cool enough for my taste. But both outfits fit the song very well. And then there’s Belgium, with a backdrop stolen from the museum of Modern Arts. Something that resembles the Belgian music video, very modern and super cool, and it ensured qualification for what was a 70/30 caase for me. It makes me wonder if anyone ever tried to just use a plain white backdrop for a whole song, because after the first pics i thought that’s what they’ll do.
The last two qualifiers are mainly there because I need to get ten. Both were previously in my list and fell off it at least partly due to questionable fashion choices: The Netherlands with their confusing Moran Mazor meets scissors dress and Albania with something resembling bags under Elhaida’s arms. Espiecially Elhaida’s dress is a pity, because for the first time the Albanians managed to make her look quite beautiful! Albania’s staging is rather unimaginative though, and the bakdrop and lighting make it not always easy not to get slightly confused. The Dutch, however, confused me on another level – they seemed to get the outfit right in the video, but somehow managed to put Trijntje in a really weird thing for the actual contest. While I really like the green/black backdrop, the dress really doesn’t work. But apparently that’s what comes out when they try to point out what Trijntje feels “comfortable with about my life and my body” – which is apparently her chest.

THE RATHER HOPELESS

With ten in, we also have six out – starting with the unlucky Daniel Kajmakoski. He was at 11 or 12 in my pre-rehearsal ranking, and with some others not being too convincing Macedonia should have been ready to take their place – but ended up being unconvincing himself. They didn’t only try to turn a nice little ballad into a weird wannabe-R’n’B boygroup thing but also threw out the best possible backdrop for this song (the drawings from the video, obviously) out for a very unimaginative architecture video. At least it has autumn leaves in it.
He gets joined by the Armenians, who went for lots of tradition, ending up looking slightly like a tourist ripoff version of it. The staging of the Armenian song looks a bit too dark with that grey clothes and blue backdrop, but the reason they stay NQ is in the song department here. Not much to save at all.
Finally, we have our two Balkan WTF moments of the year – Bojana’s clothing change thats about as weird as Cristina Scarlat’s hair ripoff and Cristina’s successor himself, the least scary Moldovan I have ever seen trying to pull off a criminal theme, my favourite slapping victim, Mr. Eduard Romanyuta. I don’t really know what to say to those performances that are just wrong on so many levels that I have to assume they simply knew they would be hopeless and didn’t even bother. Or probably they wanted to give an example in tolerance by employing more blind people.

THE WRAPUP

Qualifiers after the first rehearsal round:
RUSSIA
BELGIUM
ESTONIA
DENMARK
ROMANIA
GREECE
GEORGIA
FINLAND
THE NETHERLANDS
ALBANIA

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