Well, why not. Let us liveblog!

The US announcers this year are Michelle Visage and Ross Matthews, which one hopes will be a refreshing change from last year's. (Ask me again at hour three.)

Sadly, Montenegro didn't make it through to the final.

We start with the parade of flags (entirely without physical flags), in which the finalists are introduced only by country name.

Our first contestant: Imre from Israel! And we get underway in full Eurovision style, with a power pop dance song, with a very impressive light back drop, blinding low power laser spots, and flames. As one does. It's ... fine? (Oh, up until Mr Israel hits a very very flat note indeed. Recovered well, though.)

Kasia Ros of Poland, with a song called "Flashlight", and a dress with an unfortunate case of the sheers. Power ballad, and she has a very strong voice, although she also hits a very flat note near the end, just as the word "Freedom" forms out of video smoke behind her which then dissolves into a flock of doves.

Belarus, performing a jaunty song actually in Belorussian. Honestly, I like the sound of it a lot. No idea what's happening on the video behind them. 800 years of buildings zooming past, I think. Oh, and they've got a floor motif ... that nobody in the room can possibly see. And then they end with a deep, tonsil-washing kiss. (Michelle: "... Well, I guess they're not brother and sister.")

(Side note: already, I want to find the producers and tell them that when it comes to extreme camera movement, less is definitely better. More is nauseating.)

Nathan from Austria, "Running on Air". He would do very well on the Voice, one suspects; he has some talent, and he's got the Voice Look. Doing his number standing in a giant sequin prop moon. As one does. The song is ... surprisingly low key for Eurovision. Midtempo balladesque songs don't seem to make an appearance much. Ah, and he's getting shouty at the end to compensate for the low-key aspect. And also going flat as a result; a surprising number of people going off at this point. They've all recovered, but it is notable.

Artsvik of Armenia, "Fly with Me." Another mostly low-key number, and their lead singer had difficulty holding the key throughtout. Apparently, 'tis to be a theme. Some key issues aside, I'm not at all sure why they would bring this song to Eurovision; it wasn't powerful enough to be a power ballad, not dance enough to be a dance ballad ... it was sort of just there.

Ogene of Netherlands, "Lights and Shadows". A song written by their father in tribute to their mother who has been fighting some sort of blood illness for a long time. Some really lovely harmonies. The words "Cry no more" on the video back. I have to admit, I'm impressed that they maintained harmony throughout, even with tempo changes. It was very nice.

Aw, one of the hosts goes out and guides the Norway section of the audience in a "Volare" sing-along. (I am not going to be able to keep these hosts straight, I can tell. They look like a Ukranian boy band.)

From Moldova, the Sunstroke Project (?) with "Hey mamma". Oh, hey, bleached blond buys in tuxes. With backup singers with microphone bouquets. Of course. (Also, if the sax player was really playing, I am very impressed; that's a lot of movement to be maintaining some sort of breath control through.) Oh, now the backup singers' dresses convert to wedding gowns, as we were warned would happen. And then they toss their bouquets into the audience. It was ... fun, but also just fine.

Hungary, Joci Papai with "Origo". Apparently he's the first of the Rom to compete for Hungary at Eurovision. Singing in either Hungarian or Romani, I know not which. Oh, and a rap section in the middle, why not. And dancing with his co-performer (well, she's not singing at all). Who then kind of gropes him at the end. Well, why not. Honestly, I liked the sound of this a lot. Not sure it has ... whatever it takes to win Eurovision, but it was really good.

Italy, Francesco Gabbani with "Occidental's Karma". Sung in Italian. I'm not sure how to describe what's going on with the video, exept that it's very colorful, involves evolution,chakras, and a guy dancing in a gorilla costume with a diamond bowtie on. As one does. (Yay! Our first low-key Eurovision WTF moment of the evening!)

Denmark, Anja (who is apparently Australian) with "Where I am". And a few small key issues right at the start, but then she stabilizes. The fireworks fall behind her was nice (and horribly dangerous, one suspects, with all that chiffon), but other than that ... it was fine.

(Huh. Apparently we're having a viewing party somewhere. Oh, well.)

Portugal, Salvador Sobral. Michelle and Ross said that his delivery was rather like Edith Piaf and ... it actually is. In Portuguese and very plaintive. EXTREMELY low key for Eurovision, but from the way the crowd is reacting, they seem to know what he's saying. And they're mostly being quiet enough to let him get this song over, which is astonishing. It was surprisingly lovely, even allowing that I understood not a word.

Aw, the Ukrainian boy banders are making fun of one of the guys' hair.

Azerbaijan, Di Haj with "Skeleton". Singing in front of a large chalkboard with a bunch of stuff written on it. Indluding "drum drum drum". Oh, and there's a guy in black with a horse's head on, standing on a ladder next to her. Well, sure, fine OK. Honestly, despite that -- and, yes, OK, the bit where she was writing on other people's backs with chalk -- it was kind of boring.

Croatia, "My Friend" by Jacques Houdek. (And, in one of the signal and much appreciated differences between this year and last, Ross got through a comment about Jacques being one of the biggest stars in Croatia without even coming close to making a joke about him being heavy. Carson would have gone for it.) I like Jacques switching between pop-tenor and operatic-baritone, and we have demented strings and exploding sparklers, as one does.

Eurofied Australia, Isaiah (he's 17! and eurofied Australia's first Indigenous contestant!) with "Don't come easy". The video backdrop is mostly just ... him in various colors and poses. (I think he may be experiencing the curse of the Video Wall. I do get the impression that a lot of contestants feel like, well, it's there, they have to do SOMETHING with it.) Oh, and he gets the shooting flames AND the sparklerfall. Which are not at all appropriate to this song. Which (oh, apart from that one dreadfully flat moment right before the end) was rather ... dull. He's got the voice, but I'm not sure that was the best song.

(The Ukranian boy banders take us on a tour of the contestant pods section. They're also experiencing the angst of making jokes and small talk in a language they do not speak. It is not, overall, going well.)

Greece, Demy, "This is love". Her intro bit featured her walking along the colonnade with a bunch of shirtless guys as well as a few other people. And ... OK, this really is a theme. I mean, I get that it's live, but I don't recall last year's Eurovision having so many people with key issues. Granted, I think she's trying something a little different with the key - I think she's trying to flex into a minor key here and there, on purpose -- but it's coming off flat. (And the shirtless guys in the colonnade were because she has shirtless guys splashing in a pool on stage. Aw, and then they form a heart with their arms behind her at the end.)

Spain, Manel Navarro, "Do it for your lover". It's very ... beach. Laid back, easy going, video of surfboards, everyone wearing Hawaiian-style shirts. And, well ... meh. 90% of the song was just them singing "Do it for your lover."

Norway, Jowst, "Grab the moment." but will they? WILL they grab the moment? Let's see. DJ has an LED mask so he looks like disco Dr Doom. We also get video effects actually fed into the broadcast camera rather than just on the video wall, which is mildly annoying. I'm really curious about what the audience is seeing, because from what we can see, the video effects are not on the video wall, which means that in the auditorium, they don't get part of the performance. Which ... OK, nobody in the auditorium is voting, so I kind of get it, but it's odd. (Ross and Michelle mentioned that Norway came in as decided underdogs but have become the favorites. We shall see.)

(The Ukranian boy banders spent the past week learning English by watching Friends and lessons from Vitaly Klitchko. Well, that's different. And hey, Mans from last year came to give hosting instructions. In a tux. Well, it makes sense that after last year's perfect Eurovision winning number, we'd have the instructions for the perfect Eurovision host. And Mans really does wear a tux well. Also gets stripped out of it rather well, but that was last year, not this year.)

UK, Lucie Jones, "Never give up". Sings the entire song in a ... mirrored clamshell? Song is a very sweet ballad that she's making more than it is by the sheer power of her voice. And more shooting flames, of course. One of the few numbers where you really see that the video wall extends out to where the proscenium would be, if it were that type of stage -- it's a LOT of video wall is what I'm saying.

Cyprus, Hovig, Gravity. Oh, audience chanting for him; I don't think we've really had that this year. This one ... feels very like Imre from Israel's number, in tone and presentation. Less dance-pop-like. Same black clothing. Same haircut. Same scruff. It's ... fine, I guess?

Romania, Ilinca feat. Alex Florea. "Yodel it." Well, OK, then. A mostly rap/pop song with yodeling. With a colorful music bar and notes on the video wall reading "Yodel it." YES! And gittering cannons on the stage for no reason at all, because why wouldn't you yodel with cannons! This Is The Eurovision Experience I was waiting for! (It's got no chance, of course, but it was ridiculous fun.)

Germany, Levina, "Perfect life". Generally low key use of the video wall for a high-energy rock-ish song. Fully deployed shoulder pads and very very neutral clothing overall.

(Eurovision amateur choir of the year competition in Riga, Latvia. It's either going to be relentlessly buttoned down, or utterly insane.)

Ukraine, O.Torvald, "Time". And a giant head on stage with them. As one does. (The head has its own video effects; I was originally not sure whether it was a prop -- as it is -- or part of the video wall.) And they rock OUT! Could not be more of a contrast with last year's contemplative, pointed song from Ukraine.

Belgium, Blanche, "City Lights". "She can move one of her toes telepathically." OK, then. I was not expecting that deep voice from the ethereal-looking person in the package bit. Those few times when the camera stopped swooping throughout the room and focused on her face, she looked absolutely terrified; she didn't loosen up until near the end. The song itself has issues with being both very limited in dynamic range and very limited in emotional range. Dynamic range was revealed to be a deliberate choice, since she went way up high (with a very tiny voice) for the next-to-last verse. (Well ... such as the verses were. Another song with very few words.)

(The Ukrainian boy banders are having a smile-off. OK, why not.)

(Ross and Michelle note that Ireland didn't break to the finals this time. Oddly, Ireland is listed on the finalist participants page as of this writing. Wonder what happened?)

Sweden, Robin Bengtsson, "I can't go on." Boybander fashionistas on treadmills. Seriously. And, once again, a song with seriously limited lyrics. "I can't go on because you look so freakin' beautiful." Really? Why can't you?

Bulgaria, Kristian Kostov, another 17 year old, "Beautiful mess". Slow build song that soars way up high in places. First person to really interact directly (if briefly) with the video wall. A lot of emotion in the song, so that may help as well.

France, Alma, "Requiem". Starts in French, jumps into English for the beginning of the chorus, then back to French. It's a fun song; the impression, coming after Kristian's emotional ballad, is that it's rather slight as well, which may be unfair. Lots of video wall and video floor work with Paris as the city of lights. We were told there would be yodeling, however, and I feel cheated.

(Ukranian boy banders are giving instructions in two languages which they do not speak. I feel so undereducated.)

Oh, Zverka! I remember these people from last year! They gave the Ukraine jury vote! They're very very ... Ukranian. Being wheedled by the Boybanders to open voting. It's very precious and charming.

I don't know. Last year, there were people who stood out because of performance, or because of staging, or because of emotion in the number, and this year ... not as strongly. I would guess that Netherlands and Bulgaria would make top five, and hopefully Hungary does as well. Portugal has a very good chance, I think. Beyond that, I have no idea.

Updates forthcoming as voting and other business warrant.

Ruslana singing "It's magical" in ... whatever her language is. (Michelle: "An interval act, akin to our half-time at the Super Bowl.") And another from Ukraine with a very long, but generally pretty good, number. (A notable difference this year: so far, the interval acts are just ... acts. Last year, they were very social, with an act dedicated to the refugee crisis, among other things. Completely absent this year so far. Maybe they decided that having Eurovision in an occupied and effectively partitioned country was social enough.)

The 13 year old winner of Junior Eurovision from the Republic of Georgia speaks perfectly idiomatic English. Because of course.

Jamala, last year's winner, singing a very strikingly jazz-pop number called "I believe in U [sic]" that could not be much mroe different from last year's pointed political number. And at the beginning of her number, a streaker from the audience wearing an Australian flag got up, ran around her, and showed his bare butt to the camera. She handled it with great aplomb, ignoring him completely, and then he got tackled by security.

Jury voting begins! In early voting, Portugal is emerging as a strong performer; it hasn't been lower than second on any of the first five ballots, and won four of them. (Unexpected announcement at the top of the vote: the Israeli broadcaster of Eurovision is apparently shutting down and will no longer carry the broadcast.) Further on, it hasn't been lower than fifth or sixth, but Italy is moving up strongly. Bulgaria is holding second fairly easily at the moment. (Some adorable byplay between the Ukranian boy banders and the French judge.) Greece, somewhat astonishingly given politics, votes for Cyprus. At the midway point, a highly stratified vote, with Portugal well out in front, Bulgaria well out in second, and then a clumped ballot. If current trends continue, Eurofied Australia is on the verge of falling out of the top five for the first time in its three year Eurovision history.

And then we have a break for Ukranian comedy. As one does.

After the jury vote midpoint, Portugal continues its European domination. For the most part, it hasn't been out of the top five on many ballots, and only two or three have left it out of the top ten. Interesting thing: as this year's jury vote goes on and the shape becomes more obvious, you can generally, but not always, tell who their 12 points are going to. If Portugal isn't in the nine other ranked countries, it's getting the 12 points. If Portugal is in the other ranked countries and Bulgaria isn't, then they're getting the votes.(It's going to take a really relentlessly interesting public vote to knock Portugal out of the top spot, at this point. If they can get consistent points from the public vote, I can't quite see how it would happen.)

For no reason whatsoever, the Georgian juror greets the Ukranian boy banders in Japanese. And in the reverse peculiar politics moment, Greece takes Cyprus' 12 points. Followed by a weird glitch where the Boy banders mistakenly introduced Hungary's jury and then had to do a quick reverse to correctly introduce Romania's jury, and THEN Hungary. (At this point, they're showing Sobral of Portugal with almost every vote, and he looks increasingly tense as the vote goes on, unsurprisingly.) (And the boy banders make the UK judge just a touch uncomfortable by mentioning that they were born the year the UK judge won Eurovision.)

With the conclusion of the juried vote, Portugal leads Bulgaria by 100 points. Eurofied Australia is hanging grimly on to fourth place by five points, and not far enough from sixth place to feel even vaguely save in that top five berth.

The public vote is tallied separately by country, ranked, then bundled. Australia gets utterly clobbered in the public vote, finishing next to last in the televote. Hungary finished very strongly in the televote, knocking Australia from fourth to fifth, and vaulting from something like 20th place to do so. Italy gets another strong vote and knocks Eurofied Australia out of the top five. At this point, it's purely a question of margins. Moldova and Belgium are likely far enough back that even winning the televote probably can't win them the contest -- and a very strong fourth place put Belgium's combined jury-televote 15 points behind Portugal's jury-only vote. Moldova's very strong televote also left them finishing behind Portugal's jury-only vote. Absent an absolute landslide, Portugal getting almost anything at all wins the contest. And in fact, Portugal won the televote, so it was academic.

In one of those weird moments having to do with how it was announced, Sobral clearly thought he'd actually lost, and it took a few seconds for him to catch up with the mathiness of it all. His very brief winner's speech was ... well. It's pretty hard to read "Music is not fireworks" as anything other than a fairly pointed remark to the "we never saw a firework we didn't like unless we couldn't use it because the fire code wouldn't let us" Eurovision. Which is really odd. He then brought the song's composer up on the stage with him for his winner's encore, which was rather sweet.

Strikingly atypical songs winning Eurovision in back to back years.
Something I posted elsewhere, but I thought I might as well stick it here. Basically, a running commentary (sometimes on the running commentary) of Eurovision as televised by Logo. Edited somewhat to clarify things here and there. Additional commentary designated by NOTE.


* * * *

And the grand final! It has begun!

List of contestants in order of performance, with qualifying videos. Sadly, Belarus did not make the final, so we will not get to see a live performance of Naked Man With Wolfpack. (NOTE: he remained dressed for his semifinal performance and the stage remained entirely free of live wolves at that time. He did, however, rehearse the song naked with wolf. Sort of.)

The hosts, Måns Zelmerlöw and Petra Mede, who basically introduce the show and then largely disappear for big chunks of the next three hours, were kind of adorable. Especially the part where she remarked that the Eurovision crowd was the most polite she'd ever seen, because she was in the parking lot surrounded by men and not one had made a pass at her, and what did Måns think about that? At which point he very scriptedly (but still adorably) changed the subject to avoid saying, "Because they're all gay, of course." (I've no idea who Petra is; Mans is last year's winner.)

Update 1: So after half an hour of this, I'm guessing that Eurovision is just a festival of dancepop, big ballads, and dance ballads. And also interesting lighting effects, fireworks of various sorts on stage, and a surprising number of people in hoops.

Update 2: Bulgaria's contestant is allegedly wearing "the most expensive clothing outfit in Bulgarian history." I'm ... not quite seeing how that works, even though parts of it light up quite a bit. She's also apparently favored to do very well, I guess based on previous rounds. (NOTE: she did not do well.)

Update 3: Sweden's contestant is also apparently heavily favored. Kind of ... not seeing that, either. I mean, his song is fine, it's just not all that interesting. On the other hand, he is talented, and he has the sort of face that would keep him alive on Idol (if Idol itself were still alive) or The Voice regardless of talent, so. (Also, from what I understand, Sweden is probably devoutly praying he doesn't win, because they really don't want to host this again.) (NOTE: he did somewhat well with the jury, but tanked in the public televote.)

And this is followed by Germany's contestant, who got swapped in for their original winner when they discovered that he was connected to neo-Nazi groups. And her costume is ... um ... kind of j-pop/k-pop falls into a pile of bow-shaped barrettes. Also, sadly, I think her nerves are getting to her, because she keeps wandering noticeably off key, in a song that doesn't have enough instrumentation to hide that.

Update 4: I'm ... not sure I can tolerate three-plus hours of Carson Kressley/Michelle Collins commentary. (NOTE: I survived. Somehow.)

Update 5: France's song was both annoying and catchy. And Australia is back again this year, with a powerful bridal ballad! (...Well, she's wearing a wedding dress. Sort of.)

Update 6: Well. Cyprus rocks out! In cages! (Seriously, they've put the drummer and bass player in cages.) Also, I'm surprised nobody is screaming, "MY eyes! my eyes!" because that is a LOT of low-power lasers and high power spotlights, that is. Oh, and a moment of fireworks, as one does. (NOTE: Sadly, putting your drummer and bassist in cages is not a way to win votes and influence people, either in juries or the public at large, as Cyprus also tanked badly.)

Update 7: I ... genuinely think that Croatia's contestant is costumed to echo a lighthouse. (The title of her song is "Lighthouse".) Or rather, she starts out that way. And then a couple of the background singers -- who are all dressed in monks robes, more or less -- rip off the gigantic lighthouse exterior to display the interior. Which is sort of ... silvery piano attacked with feathers. And also huge. (NOTE: dressing as a lighthouse may or may not influence juries somewhat -- albeit not enough; it does not win favor with the general public. At all.)

Russia's contestant directly follows Croatia. The audience was expressly forbidden to wave rainbow flags during Russia's performance. There may not have been the masses of rainbow flags that there were last year, but there were one or two. That aside, the light show part was very VERY cool, and I want to know how they managed parts of it. (NOTE: Russia won the public vote, and, frankly, that is not even vaguely a surprise.)

At the current pace (19 of 26 finalists performed in 90 minutes), I guess at least half the show is devoted to ... voting? Half the show. OK, then. (NOTE: Yes. Half the show. Really.)

(Petra apparently has very firm opinions about the Eurovision merchandise. Reasonably sure you can't get a Eurovision straitjacket.)

Update 8: Ukraine's contestant has a very ... pointed, shall we say, song called "1944". I suspect it will not go over well in Russia, somehow. And it really desperately needed for Carson and Michelle to shut their damn mouths about it, which it did not get. (They said that her song was entirely in Ukrainian. Pretty sure that the verses were actually in English, what with the entirely comprehensible parts about knocking on your door and raping and murdering your family, and then saying that they're not guilty of doing anything wrong. Either that, or I've acquired a miraculous understanding of Ukranian!)

Update 9: And we finish the contestant portion of the evening with Armenia.

Following that, we get video of Ian McKellen and Derek Jacobi as their characters from "Vicious", commenting viciously (of course) that they hope someone from "one of the more attractive countries" wins. And the voting begins! (Good lord, for most of Russia, this is nearly past the wee hours into almost dawn. People from east of Moscow -- including in Australia, assuming they get to vote (NOTE: they do) -- have to be seriously devoted to stay up to vote for this.)

Maybe it's just me, but it seemed a touch ... buttoned-down this year. No lascivious milkmaids from Poland, no drag queens from Austria (or, indeed, anywhere). Kind of disappointing, really.

No idea who's going to win. I think, based purely on performance, Russia deserves it; I also think, based on the fact that Eurovision voting is relentlessly political, he probably won't.

Update 10: And now, randomly, Justin Timberlake shows up to be interviewed and later perform a song that the US is not allowed to see, for some reason. (NOTE: I've no idea where the song landed. One of the pre-taped segments, I guess, but since those segments were also announced by Mans and Petra to the in-house audience ... I've no clue.)

Update 11: And now, "The grey people", Eurovision's modern dance statement about the world-wide refugee crisis. One of those things which, when you hear it, seems like a possibly very bad idea, but which worked surprisingly well.

Update 12: "Love Love Peace Peace", the "ultimate Eurovision winner" as "scientifically determined" was absolutely, cynically perfect. More Eurovision than any in-competition song this year. And it included lascivious milkmaids, shirtless drummers and a guy in a giant hamster wheel. Måns and Petra sang together, with their initial clothes being tear-aways that revealed her costume at the beginning, his white pants at the start, followed by his top half getting gradually more and more undressed throughout the song. (He semi-undresses very nicely.) And apparently, all of the performers were members of past recent Eurovision competitors and winners.

Update 13: It's going to be fascinating to see how this comes out. So far in the juried voting (about halfway through at the moment), Australia has won only three of the 21 jury votes, but has been no lower than fifth on any ballot, and usually either second or third, which means that they're basically stomping the competition. Ukraine has won more of the juries outright, but has very few top five votes by comparison, so they're not getting a lot of overall support. (Also, there could be nothing more precious -- in every possible sense of the word -- than the way the Ukraine jury spokespeople dressed.) (Also, quoting the head of the Swedish jury: "We booked two arenas because we could afford it. After all, if there's room in the heart, there's room in the butt." ... OK, then. I'm guessing that there's a pun in there relating to the second arena that I didn't get.)

Update 14: And Ukraine, by finishing second to Russia in the public vote, manages to overtake Australia (first with the juries, fourth in the public vote) to win! It looked, for a brief moment, as though the final order of finish might have Russia overtaking Ukraine, which would have been rather excessively symbolic for Eurovision.

Oddly enough, the winning song pretty much did NOTHING that was listed in the Perfect Eurovision-Winning Song Formula. Pointedly political, a relatively dressed-down performance, and it still won.

Theoretically, next year's competition will be in ... well, probably Kiev, assuming that the war allows. I wonder if Eurovision has ever had to deal with the issue of a host country having an active war going on?


Despite not being nearly as over the top as past Eurovisions, still fun to watch. I do hope that, if it's televised by Logo again next year, they find different commentators. Either that, or get Carson and Michelle to button down the snark a bit and PAY FUCKING ATTENTION!
.

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