The Eurovision Song Contest 2008
The second Semi Final
No sooner than the keyboard has cooled from my writing the web page of the first semi final do I hear dum-dee-dee-dum-duh-duuum-da-da and it is back to Belgrade for the second round of hopefuls...
This time around, the United Kingdom viewers may vote for the songs they like, along with the French I believe?
The introduction sequence is the red and blue flying paint set to a very subtle orchestral version of the chorus of Molitva. It is quite mesmerising.
More dum-dee-dee-dum women, in colour this time. Then a bloke with a horse's rear and a screechy woman. Guys with fiddles. The opening act tonight is called, according to commentator Caroline, "Serbia for beginners". Red girls, blue girls. Each colour relates to a river. Here are some pictures of it all:
The hosts finally appear. As on Tuesday, Željko Joksimović (left) and Jovana Jonković. She is a handball champion. He is giving her an apple. Go figure!
Our BBC commentators are Paddy O'Connell and Caroline Flack. This is our last time with them as "Sir Terry Wogan" will be hosting the programme on Saturday.
1 Iceland "This Is My Life"
Performed by Euroband, in English.
A poppy Eurobeat number marred by a smug "aren't I wonderful" vibe from the male singer. A classic old-school Eurovision number.
2 Sweden "Hero"
Performed by Charlotte Perrelli, in English.
You might remember Charlotte Perrelli... Sweden is doing a good line in reviving past winners. And talking of reviving, a fancy visual effect has her in monocrome in a colour picture at the start (very unflattering picture above) which made her look like a zombie in the classic Romero tradition.
It was a good performance of a worthy song, but I simply couldn't shake that living-dead-girl image. This contest has been touted as a clash of divas, and... I dunno. There is always a danger in that the entrant will be over-hyped as being a past winner will somehow make them breeze it again. Life's rarely like that... and talking of being alive... ☺
3 Turkey "Deli" (Crazy)
Performed by Mor Ve Ötesi, in Turkish.
Three guys and three guitars. Snazzy sparkly-black outfits make up for a song that isn't particularly memorable.
4 Ukraine "Shady Lady"
Performed by Ani Lorak (which is "Karolina" backwards), in English.
Guys in a plastic box and a woman in a tiny silver dress. This song? Great performance! Imagine Ruslana and Tina Karol rolled into one.
5 Lithuania "Nomads In The Night"
Performed by Jeronimas Milius, in English.
A total change of pace here. Was it really supposed to sound like this or was the bloke with the mullet and leather trousers having trouble hitting the right notes?
6 Albania "Zemrën E Lamë Peng" (Hearts Trapped In Time)
Performed by Olta Boka, in Albanian.
A confident performance of a moody song by this performer - would you believe she is only 16? There's a bit of an "Alle Mine Tankar" (1993) vibe about this song, and not just because she's a young performer. It's the conviction behind it. Not just another loud pop song, but something altogether gentler and more emotional.
I have been told that the title of this song means "Hearts Trapped In Time" and that it means "We Gambled Our Hearts", can anybody confirm for certain?
While there is a break for adverts, we are introduced to "turbofolk" which is a musical style loved and loathed in equal measure.
As we return to the contest, a wide shot of the auditorium shows that more people turned up for this semi-final. It also gives us an idea of the size of the place.
7 Switzerland "Era Stupendo" (Wasn't It Wonderful)
Performed by Paolo Meneguzzi, in Italian.
It starts a quietish vocal piece with a piano and then picks up the pace and cranks it right up. This must surely pass into the final? If we're thinking of the '80s Eurovision mindset, this would walk it. In these more sophisticated days, it is a harder call.
8 Czech Republic "Have Some Fun"
Performed by Tereza Kerndlová, in English.
Five girls in... I would like to say silver dresses, but I'm not sure these outfits qualify as much more than underwear, if even that. "Have some fun", lots of leg shots, 'booty' shaking... The song isn't up to much, they must be hoping lots of horny blokes remember them for all the other reasons.
Speaking of which, I could have sworn Paddy mentioned four girls. I guess he was busy watching his favourite girl and not the song or the others!
9 Belarus "Hasta La Vista"
Performed by Ruslan Alehno, in Russian (?).
The visual gimmick was giant glowing balls (gee, there's a bring-your-own innuendo!) and - oh look! Girls in silver dresses! Wow, we haven't seen that yet. ☺
The song was okay (in the 'good' sense, not the blah sense), but it was the dance/performance that blew me away. Great! I hope this one gets through.
10 Latvia "Wolves Of The Sea"
Performed by Pirates Of The Sea, in English.
The worst thing about novelty songs is when they're infectious. Well this win it? I don't know, but I can imagine this, complete with pantomime performances, crossing Europe all summer long...
It's a hei-hei-ho... oh, please!
11 Croatia "Romanca" (Romance)
Performed by Kraljevi Ulice & 75 Cents, in Croatian.
A dancing mannequin, a street band, a Godfather-wannabe singer, and a 75 year old 'rapper' (he shouted more than rapped). Way to go Croatia! Yet another performance that is arty beyond the telling of it, and weirder than words can describe. Just what I'd hope for from this country - thanks Croatia, lovely, keep it up!
12 Bulgaria "DJ, Take Me Away"
Performed by Deepzone & Balthazar, in English.
Techno nonsense and scratching 'guitars' (little picture on the right). Then a change in pace for a Denise Van Outen lookalike in a bright red dress, then back to the techno nonsense.
This song will suffer for not knowing what it wants to be.
13 Denmark "All Night Long"
Performed by Simon Mathew, in English.
This just reminded me of the sort of song Neil Diamond might have sung in his happier moments. It would have been a good song if it wasn't for the endless repetition of the "all night long" part, but for some of the more mindless viewers that would probably be an aid to remembering the words!
I'm sure this will get through, Simon is a charismatic guy...
As always, there are "postcards" in between each song. As before, Serbia doesn't promote itself, but has Serbian people doing things, wearing clothes and stuff to make up the colours of the flag of the following country.
I met a number of student nurses while working in nursing/residential homes... but were any of them this interesting? ☺
14 Georgia "Peace Will Come"
Performed by Diana Gurstkaya, in English.
An arty performance for the blind singer from Georgia. The last blind singer I remember was Germany in... 2002? 2003?
Now I'm not a fan of costume changes as I think they are hackneyed; but this song must go down in history as one of the slickest changes ever. They're wearing black outfits. Sort of leather stuff. The dancing guys drag a big white sheet over everybody and then pull it back like a second later and everybody is wearing white. You can be sure that I'll rewind the tape to try to figure out how they put that together!
15 Hungary "Candlelight"
Performed by Csèzy, in English.
An Andie McDowell-alike sings a gentle ballad. It is gentle in an early Celine Dion sort of way.
16 Malta "Vodka"
Performed by Morena, in English.
A very upbeat song from Malta squeezes attitude and 'ethnic dancing' into a package about vodka. This girl reminds me of Gabriella Cilmi, only without the distinctive voice.
Was this a song about vodka? About getting drunk? Or is "vodka" a word in Maltese?
Random people in the audience...
17 Cyprus "Femme Fatale"
Performed by Kadi Evdokia, in Greek.
The song didn't make much impression on me, but it was fun watching the pretty girl in the red dress (with a black diamond on the front) walking all over the men. Literally.
Time for a break, Paddy talks to Ireland's latex turkey. I wonder if he was thinking "I'm not paid enough for this" the whole time?
18 FYR Macedonia "Let Me Love You"
Performed by Tamara, Vrčak, Adrijan.
Perhaps this is appealing to the teenage crowd who like this sort of thing? I don't know, I just didn't like the sound of this.
19 Portugal "Senhora Do Mar (Negras Águas)" (The Sea Lady / Black Water (my translation))
Performed by Vânia Fernandez, in Portuguese.
A big lady in a huge dress give us the Portuguese take on a sort of gothic opera thing. Not my thing, but I hope Portugal does well with this, as it's been a while since Portugal went anywhere in Eurovision...
Get ready for voting
Following the songs, the voting begins with a chat with Lys Assia. She was the very first Eurovision winner, back in 1956.
Paddy talks to two of Finland's rockers, Kalomira, and Dima Bilan (the woman on the right (magenta) is a Russian translator, though Dima speaks English).
We learn that the Russian song was produced by Timbaland. Well!
While they recap again, I will provide you with my pick of who should progress to the final:
|12 ||Belarus and the captivating performance|
|10 ||Croatia, you have to respect the path less travelled|
|8 ||Ukraine's chopped, shaped, and pre-packaged men|
|7 ||Switzerland, and isn't Italian a nice language?|
|6 ||Albania, mature beyond her years|
|5 ||Latvian pirate... I'm ashamed but it is just such fun!|
|4 ||Sweden, holding out for a hero|
|3 ||Portugal's strong performance|
|2 ||Malta with attitude and more|
|1 ||Hungary's gentle ballad|
What, no interval act?
They count down to zero in Serbian, and the BBC pop up a very subtle notice. This is perhaps a reaction to the psychological cleansing that followed a serious of phone-in scandals on British television (you know: audience or crew quickly picked as winners in case of technical problems, phone-votes when a winner had already been chosen, etc).
Now it is over to the UK contestant, Andy telling us how his week has been so far. Rehearsals, breakfast TV Serbian style...
There is a recap of Tuesday's show, as well as some behind the scenes stuff. Here are some people in the lobby of the arena. Your starter for ten: which country do these two represent?
And here are the Bosnian performers at a press conference:
The final picture is one I really like. The commentator Caroline Flack bopping away to a song in the commentary booth, Paddy playing with the light. It's nice to see her getting into the songs. Somehow you can't quite imagine Sir Terry enjoying it this much.
A preview of the auto-finalist entries
There is a brief preview of the auto-finalists:
I'm not sure how well this will do without hearing more.
Unlikely. We need Sandrine Françoise back.
Not a hope in hell unless the other 24 entrants get a sudden severe case of nerves (or bad food) and spend the entire three hour period on the toilet...
Apparently this is a strong contender. Sounds like it might be, but without hearing the whole song...
A quick visit to the Green Room, then the envelope lady appears.
You know what this means. It means the votes have been counted, checked, and it is now time to learn which ten of the nineteen songs will progress to the final.
Time for the results
And now, the winners, in drawn order:
I rather expected this.
That's nice. Well done.
Oh well. (Stephanie and Sportacus would have been better)
Now everybody can try to figure out that costume change.
Yes, I could see this getting into the final.
Again, this was rather predictable.
Mmm, I don't get the attraction of this one.
Last to perform, last to be picked. Just so long as they aren't last in the final.
And that's that. We have a quick chat with Paddy and Caroline as the contest actually finished a minute early.
Time to hand over to EastEnders (again!). Don't these two look happy with life? I really don't get why people want to watch this. Is it spooky? No. Is it exciting? No. Cute girl? Not in my opinion. Makes you feel better? I'd be surprised, unless you feel better by proxy watching severely dysfunctional fictional families going at each other...
Is it just me, or does the quality of songs seem better in this semi-final? A very strong female performance.
My prediction this time around was 60%, which is slightly better than my picks for the first semi-final.
Of the songs that didn't pass into the final, I can't say that I am particularly surprised by Lithuania or the almost soft-porn from the Czech Republic.
It is a shame about Belarus, though I accept that while the performance was good, the song may have been lacking. On the other hand, I'd easily swap it into the final instead of Turkey or Iceland.
I would be interested to see how the Bulgarian entry fared, score-wise. I did predict that its clashing styles wouldn't go down well.
While not a part of the second semi final, it would have been nice to have seen the teddy bear and the bouncy Belgian in the final.
Predictions of an eventual winner (aka REALLY sticking my neck out)...
Now the contest is going to be split into four.
- The serious songs
Into this category we can place the UK, probably Serbia.
There will be a lot of hype surrounding Charlotte Perrelli, though
I predict that like last year it will do well but not a winner.
The winner out of this lot may well be Russia.
- The gimmick songs
I think we can discard all pretenders. This is going to come down to a battle between
Bosnia and Latvia. Out of these, I
think Bosnia has more merit, but Latvia is a
whole lot easier to understand (and I'm not talking about what language it is in).
- The arty odd songs
You know, like Croatia.
- The no-hopers
I won't name names, but I think these will be pretty obvious. Let's just say that some
countries are being complacent about their entries. Perhaps if they had to pass a
semi-final they might put a bit more thought into creating a song that will captivate
When it comes down to choosing an actual winner, it depends an awful lot on which direction the voting will go in. The two contenders, I feel, are going to be Russia (most likely) and Latvia. I'd be happy to see either of these win.
I'll await Sir Terry talking about eastern bloc voting if anybody to the right of Iceland should win... ☺
The final word? A wish. I would actually really like Croatia or Bosnia to win it. Just to have something unusual be recognised and awarded. That would be nice.
Continue on to the Grand Final
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Copyright © 2008 Rick Murray
Images copyright © 2008 EBU-UER
Broadcast in widescreen by BBC Three.