Words by Hass Yusuf, images by David Ransted. This blog will be constantly updated throughout the day.
Let’s catch up with the Meet & Greets from yesterday. Unfortunately there isn’t enough time to view rehearsals on screens, go to the Meet & Greets, makes notes and type them up because everything overlaps each other! But the next issue of Vision magazine will feature all the highlights from Kyiv – and more. If you haven’t received your pre-contest edition yet, fret not, you’ll get it within the few days.
Anyway, a word of warning. You may have noticed that every song seems to offer a deep-felt personal message, usually to do with battling against adversity. We must feel for our performers this year, as many have seemed to have suffered traumatic experiences in their lives – usually involving some sort of relationship break-up…
Tijana from Serbia: Tijana was internally selected to go to Kyiv – she was previously a backing vocalist in 2011, but was now delighted to be centre stage. Her entry was written first and then a search was made to find the right performer to sing it. The organisers chose wisely. She loved going on the promo-tour and meeting all the raving Eurovision fans! She’s just released a Serbian version of her song as a ballad – she gave us a little teaser that sounded very nice. And let’s wish her luck with her new album. Tijana currently lives in the USA and performs with her husband who is also a singer. The message of song? Well it’s a love offering, but sometimes it’s best not to fall into a relationship that isn’t good for you.
Nathan from Austria: So what was the symbolism of the moon on stage? Well it’s a big point in the sky that everyone looks at – it should make you believe in yourself… Nathan actually went to the USA to develop the structure of the song. He was a point in his life where he really needed something to focus on. He says he’s usually in a good mood (he certainly seems to be a likeable guy) and is currently living his dream. He loves it that he’s representing his country at Eurovision – and hopes his journey will evolve. But he realises that hard work is needed, but is inspired when people support each other. He asks people to believe in him. I’m sure we do – as his bright personality really stands out and should result in a place at the Grand Final.
Jana from Macedonia: She admits she was a bit nervous on stage, but improved with each performance from these first rehearsals. The message of her song is to make good use in the time of your life. Her act is meant to represent a lot of energy, but it should remind us to seek out some one to love, some one to dance with, otherwise you’ll be dancing alone. But then again on the other hand the song is meant to symbolise an independent woman, hence the rather sexualised choreography (which by the way hasn’t gone down well with most commentators in the Press Centre). Anyway Jana must be commended for her work she does with UNICEF where she promotes Schools Against Violence. She’s a huge Harry Potter fan. It’s helped her to advocate that reading is important. She says she very picky about the words she uses. It’s important for people to correctly understand each other. Jana has performed with Kaliopi, previous Macedonian contestant), who was actually her mentor on Macedonian Idol.
Claudia from Malta: The first rehearsal was everything that Claudia had wished for. After nine attempts to get to Eurovision she finally made it! Her mother always taught her to be resilient! And just as well as her career has been a bit of a roller-coaster. Fabrizio Faniello who represented Malta is her brother. What a talented family. Claudia actually sang a bit of Fabrizio’s first entry, Another Summer Night. But Breathlessly is the better song in my opinion. Her entry is very close to her heart and is something that everyone can relate she says. It’s important that she understands and feels a song to bring out the right emotion. Besides performing, Claudia is a Learning Support Assistant, where she feels she can make a positive impact to the lives of young kids. Music is very important in Malta, and as the country is quite small most of the artists know each other.
Ilinca & Alex from Romania: Alex brought along his brother to the Meet & Greet as he also appears on stage as a backing singer – who was also on X Factor at some stage. Ilinca and Alex were also on that show, as well as The Voice – but at different times. It was the song’s producer that brought them together just a few months ago. They both agreed that they had a fabulous time at the London Eurovision Party in April (you can see my interview with them elsewhere on this website). The whole concept of yodeling is a shout for freedom. The prop on stage, and I may as well reveal is a canon, is meant to symbolize an explosion – an explosion to break free! See, there’s a message in everything this year! Alex fell off the canon in one rehearsal as he had to stop it running over Ilinca. She said she saw the canon heading towards her face… Ilinca revealed that as a child she was tone-deaf and had to battle to talk properly. The duo say that their song fits in well with the diversity thing as it offers yodeling, rap and rock. How very fab.
O’G3NE for Netherlands: The sisters thought the stage was amazing – a real magical feel, but they need to make a few adjustments to their act. Their song is extremely personal to them as it reflects a family illness – their mother is battling cancer. The name of the group comes from their blood type, O, and the genes that connect them. Very clever. The sisters are keeping everything within the family as their entry is written by their father and one of the girl’s boyfriend. Eurovision is the biggest event they’ve ever done. Well let’s be honest – and this goes for every performer who enters Eurovision – everything must be downhill from now on.
Joci from Hungary: Joci is from Gypsy stock and a musical family background. His father headed a Gypsy orchestra. He’s been playing a guitar since he was four – and was taught by his elder brother. He says the stage in Kyiv is the biggest one he’s ever been on. He’s been so busy with his own music that he hasn’t listened to any other music for a year now. It took him a long time to find his own musical style. His entry, Origo, offers a diversity of style. The song has many messages (here we go). It offers hope. Wandering – finding your own place in your mind. Unrequited love. A connection with God. Ahem to that.
Anja from Denmark: Poor girl’s been too busy to eat since she arrived in Kyiv. But she’s unbelievably happy. She’s looking forward to the show and says it’s going to be a fun night. How can Eurovision be less? She says she will be very nervous on the night but to calm down she’ll jump up and down to get the blood flowing. Well her tight dress isn’t helping her circulation that’s for sure. Anja was born to Danish parents living in Australia. As a kid she always dreamt of representing Denmark at Eurovision – remember that Australia have only been in the contest for a few years. As a youngster she could scream and practice her singing anywhere – as where she lived was sparsely populated. Her backing singers in her act are hidden away because the focus had to be on a solo performance for the style of the song. Anja offers some good advice – this industry doesn’t come easy so It’s best to be humble. Enjoy the moment as it could soon disappear.
Brendan from Ireland: The young man was born the last time Ireland won the contest – back in 1996. I’m sure most of you remember that. He grew up knowing about Eurovision – Ireland still hold the record of seven wins (grrrr…), but he really doesn’t feel the pressure to win again. He comes from a musical family – his father performed in cabaret bands. Brendan himself was part of a successful band in Ireland, Hometown. He’s also worked with Eurovision winner Linda Martin. To keep his voice fresh – to hit those high notes – he takes breaks with tea and water. The message of the song is that life is full of many knocks, but you have to keep trying.
Okay, that was all the stuff from yesterday. Back to rehearsals.
First on today representing San Marino and singing Spirit Of The Night, we have the return of our favourite red-head, Valentina Monetta, who this year is duetting with American singer Jimmie Wilson. The song is written by our old friend Ralph Siegel and as you would expect has a old-fashioned feel to it. It harkens back to the days of disco. The act is very nice and colourful, who both performers dressed in black. It great that Valentina can reinvent herself everything she appears on Eurovision – her fourth time now. It’s a bright and bold act with the two having good chemistry between them, but it may struggle to get through to the Grand Final because of it’s old-fashioned style. But Valentina is one of the nicest people to ever be in Eurovision, so fingers crossed for them!
(Just watching the last run-through and Valentina is making kissing signals to the camera – she knows that were watching her and Jimmie on screens in the press Centre.)
Next on we have Jacques Houdek representing Croatia singing My Friend. You’re all in for a treat. Absolutely brilliant. Jaccques is a big lad, but there’s plenty of room for his backing group (it’s nice to see some on stage). This is one act I’ve been looking to see and how he switches to singing from pop to opera in a single breath. He manages it ease – a turn of the body and there he goes. This is another guilty pleasure for many fans. It’s what Eurovision is really about – a fun, but serious effort.
Norway are next with JOWST performing for the country. JOWST is actually music producer Joakim With Steen and he’s joined on stage with vocalist Aleksander Walmann. Joakim likes to wear a lit-up mask. He’s a shy boy. There are also another masked performers on stage – keyboard player and drummer. The act is held together by Alexsander’s excellent vocals. He’s a man of many tattoos. The whole act is simple, but well staged with a purple backdrop. The song, Grab The Moment, is a well-constructed synthpop/rock effort. It should do well.
Switzerland, on next, has a colourful act all in yellow and pink. Timbelle perform Apollo. The lead singer, Miruna Manescu, is dress in nice yellow outfit with a very yellow fluffy tail which merges with the small staircase that she starts singing on. But down she comes, carefully, to meet up with her co-stars Emanuel Daniel Andriescu (pianist) and Samuel Forster (drummer). The lads are in smart pink-coloured outfits. The imagery will certainly enhance this performance. The song is decent enough mid-tempo rock ballad.
Time for Belarus. Naviband perform Story Of My Life. This is another favourite of mine. The duo are standing on a boat – it’s fixed, but all the movement comes from their backdrop which features kinetics images of cities. I think it’s meant to convey a journey around the world and life. And what a fab experience it is. This fast-moving folksy song is really well performed by Naviband – they have such great chemistry between them. It’s such an uplifting performance. You just want to clap and tap along. If there’s any justice in the world this has to sail in the Grand Final!
Following on stage we have Bulgaria with Kristian Kostov singing Beautiful Mess. Kristian is one of the youngest singers in the contest, but his powerful voice commands the stage. In a way the backdrop could be described as a beautiful mess – it’s all very kinetic and full of electric effects. The poor lad must be full of static! This song has always been highly placed with the bookies. Not entirely sure why. It certainly is a nice ballad, but maybe it’s because Kristian is highly regarded. Nevertheless, it certainly deserves to go through to the Grand Final. It’s about time Bulgaria won the contest!
Next we have Lithuania. Fusedmarc sing Rain Of Revolution. It very well performed by the group – all very jazzy – but it isn’t really my cup of tea. But objectively the sound does offer diversity to the contest that it certainly needs. The lead female singer however sings with much conviction. She’s certainly a charismatic performer. It’s a simple classy act that gets its message across really well.
Estonia is now on stage. Koit Toome & Laura sing Verona. This, to me, is one of the stand-out songs of the contest. It tells the story of Romeo & Juliet that was set in Verona. The song is an impressive up-tempo synthpop offering that really has to be in the Grand Final. The act on stage is well presented with nice graphics. The duo probably need to connect a bit more on stage, but then again, it is a sad story.
Last to perform today is Israel. Imri sings I Feel Alive. We could do with a bit of life in the Press Centre – everyone looks worn out. But we’ve just been woken up with this performance. Imri has get energy and performs his up-tempo song really well. And how nice to see on stage his full set of dancers and singers. Many acts could do with that support. Mind you, the graphic backdrop to this performance is excellent. Definitely an upbeat way to end Semi-Final 2!
And that’s it for today. Back tomorrow with highlights from today’s Meet & Greets, and a report on second rehearsals for Semi-Final 1.