Words by Hass Yusuf, images by David Ransted. This blog will be constantly updated throughout the day.
Today we have the first set of rehearsals for the first part of Semi-Final 2. But first let’s catch up with the Meets & Greets from yesterday.
Demy from Greece: Demy has visited Ukraine many times before – especially in Odessa, where there is apparently a big Greek connection. She really wanted to go on the promo-tours that many performers did before coming to Kyiv, but she was too busy. She comes from a family of lawyers and is still studying, but her music comes first now. (Her dad is a bit disappointed.) She’s a successful singer on stage appearing in ABBA’s Mama Mia. Here favourite ABBA songs are Waterloo and The Name Of The Game. The message of her song to love yourself first and except your unique identity. She feels it’s more important to participate in Eurovision rather than to win it. She has a little tattoo of a shield on her wrist. This she sees as a guard against the bad things in life.
Kasia from Poland: She’s a very good talker and comes across as a very nice person. She’s very much into animal welfare – she’s adopted five dogs and two cats! She had a successful period in the US as part of the Pussycat Dolls for six months. She was asked to do a photo-shoot for Playboy, which she initially turned down, until it was agreed that abandoned dogs would be included in the shoot. One of the dogs featured was eventually adopted, so feels her message about animal welfare was successful. The message of her song is that she wants the world to be safe for all creatures.
SunStroke Project: These lot annoyed me when they appeared in Oslo way back in 2010, but they seem to have matured since then – which they admit themselves. Now they’re fathers with families. But they still regard themselves as three positive but crazy guys. The group have founded their own record label to protect the rights of artists in Moldova. The guys actually come from the Russian speaking part of Moldova, but have wide appeal from the entire country
Svala from Iceland: Svala entered the press conference room with her backing singers singing her entry. She’s a big science fiction fan which explains her super-heroish outfit on stage. Her father entered the national selections a number of times, but it was her husband who convinced her to try for Eurovision. But she’s here to represent her country rather than herself. She’s a judge on The Voice and loves mentoring new acts. The message of her song is too never give up – as there is always light at the end of the tunnel.
Martina from Czech Republic: Martina really loves to live, and would prefer to have a band playing behind her. She tries very hard to connect with the camera. She realizes that Eurovision isn’t that big in her country – but everyone knows about it! It’s probably a guilty pleasure. She has no great expectations, and is just proud to represent her country. Her experience in musical theatre has helped her act out her songs on stage. She says the message of her song is for everyone
Hovig from Cyprus: Hovig really appreciates the support he’s getting from the fans. There isn’t a big music industry in Cyprus – even though they have good singers, there aren’t enough composers which is wide they cast their net wider. That explains why their entry this year is again written by Thomas G:son from Sweden. In Cyprus, Hovig is known as the ‘music messenger. He feels it’s his mission to spread music around the world. His message to his fans and the listening public is to dream on dreamers!
Artsvik from Armenia: Artsvik wanted to thank all the technical staff for a great first rehearsal. The movie, The Bodyguard, was a big inspiration to Artsvik – she considered Whitney Houston to be the best singer in the world. She inspired her to further her musical career. Her other inspiration was her grandmother who she was named after. She also had a beautiful singing voice but was never a professional. Artsvik’s act is very creative – she said she wanted to express Armenian culture. The message of her song is that it suggests that the world is a challenging place, but if the people are united all problems can be solved
Omar from Slovenia: Omar didn’t quality for the contest in 2005, but is more hopeful this year as he is more mature and knows what to expect. He knows it’s very important that you need to work hard. He actually wrote his song about ten years ago, but only now feels it was right to perform it. The subject was very personal to him when he composed it at the time. He wanted to appear alone on stage to reflect the intimacy of the composition
Triana Park from Latvia: The group formed over a number of years. Two of them met as volunteers at a music festival. They thought their first rehearsal went well. The stage looked amazing for them – it felt performing in a spaceship. It was like a celebration of colour.
Back to today.
First up on stage in the arena is Serbia where Tijana Bogicevic singing In Too Deep. This isn’t your usual Serbian sound. It’s very poppy, and I rate it highly, but there doesn’t seem to be any special about this act. Tojana’s backing singers are hidden away at the back of the stage, but she joined on stage by a rather dramatic male dancer. I have to admit it’s rather under-whelming. Perhaps a more dramatic opener to the show is needed. But nevertheless I do like the song, which is the main thing.
Next on stage is Nathan Trent from Austria singing Running On Air. I have to admit that this was a song that might have struggled to get through to the Grand Final – bit not now. This act by Nathan is so engaging – as he is (with his cheeky smile) – that brings out the charm of his pleasant mid-tempo ballad. Nathan spends a lot of time standing on a crescent moon construct with a nice simple dusk backdrop. And there’s a nice bit at the end that goes well with the title of the song. Very nice indeed.
Next we have one of my favourites, Macdeonia, Jana Burceska sings Dance Alone. Oh dear… something just isn’t right. The backing track is too faint and Jana isn’t fluid enough on stage. Hopefully these are teething problems, as this is one of the best Macedonian songs ever in my opinion. The beat of the song is wonderful, but the energy and spirit of her video needs to be translated to the stage. The second run-through is better. But her movements suggest she’s performing in a strip-joint rather than Eurovision! I still love the song, and hopefully things will improve with the next set of rehearsals.
But I am happy with the next act on stage – time for Malta. Claudia Faniello sings Breathlessly. Her performance and voice is what this act is about. Claudia just stands there and belts it out. And she looks lovely in her elegant silvery white gown. It’s just a simple classy three minutes with a singer who can and does deliver. This is by far one of the best ballads in the contest. It certainly deserves to be in the Grand Final.
Next up is my guilty pleasure – Romania. Ilinca & Alex Florea performed Yodel It! And boy, do they perform it! This is pure Eurovision – a fun and bright performance that combines rap with yodelling. It shouldn’t work, but it does.The duo have great energy on stage. And wait until until you see the prop at the end. Alex has just had a little accident with it. But it should be okay on the night. Immense fun – but not in a silly way. This acts restores your faith in life!
Netherlands is on next. O’G3NE sing Lights And Shadows. This act is made up of three sisters – and they all sing in perfect harmony. Girl groups haven’t traditionally done that well in Eurovision, but this a really slick performance. The song may sound a bit old-fashioned, but it offers diversity to the contest that is important.
Time for Hungary. Joci Papai sings Origo. This really has an ethnic feel to it, sung in Hungarian. Unless it’s a fun rap, the genre hasn’t really done well in Eurovision. But no one seems to remember that! Nevertheless, this is a serious song. Joci is joined on stage by a female dancer and a violinist on a small island that sets up the right atmosphere for the act. It’s very lively and passionate act, but not sure if it will have much appeal to a wider Europe.
Denmark is next with Anja Nissen singing Where I Am. This is all about Anja and her presence on stage. Her backing singers are hidden away so Anja is going on a walk-about around the stage trying to fight off the wind machine. Now she’s on her knees belting it out with a pyro waterfall behind her. This is a lively act, but difficult to know how well it’ll do. But top marks for Anja’s voice!
The last act of the day is from Ireland. Brendan Murray sings Dying To Try. Young Brendan is standing beneath a hot-air balloon waiting to fly off. Not sure if he’s going to take off at his semi. The song is a favourite of mine, and Brendan delivers it well, but I do worry about his stage presence. Nevetheless, it’s an impressive ballad.
And that’s it for today. It’s been another long day. Back tomorrow with highlights from today’s Meet & Greets and the second half of Semi-Final 2 rehearsals.