Monday, April 30, 2018


Switzerland - ZiBBZ - Stones
Off to the bridge we go again and she joins in drumming (think Elitsa & Stoyan) after she's been running around the catwalk and the bridges and climbing over his drumset. Energetic for sure. And Coco's sporting some urban cowboy look and they use torches at one point to empower the shout out moment. Another pre-rehearsals non qualifier joining the game now? Hmmm...

"Good vocal", "Good energy", "Not enough attitude", "Aggressive", "Rebellious", "Sexy"

Ireland- Ryan O'Shaughnessy - Together
The lamp post is there, the bench as well (we're only missing une rue)  as are the guys dancing in the streets in the video. Sadly they seem to be only distracting by some reviewers, and some lament the piano lady gets too much air time, too. And it snows when the guys come dancing and holding hands from the bridge. Should they focus only on Ryan with his guitar who hits all the falsetto - and not only - notes and looks calm and assuring? How will the not so open minded east and south take on this? One of the finest songs this year however no doubt. Another not so sure qualifier a step closer to making it....

"Confident", "Professional", "Simple and pure", "Messy"
Cyprus - Eleni Foureira - Fuego

Eleni and her four backing dancers and a lot of HAIR! Hair everywhere! She wears a colorful skintight catsuit. Press center apparently watched in awe and started talking top-5. Hmm...  Another close up start, add lasers and balls of fire. And Eleni even handled the vocals. or someone did. 

"Wow", "Sexy", "Contemporary", "Amazing", "Incredible good"


Greece - Yianna Terzi - Oniro mou
Yianna looks like a Greek goddess in her white dress that flows in the wind (aka windmachine).  She's the second artist after Croatia's Franka to be alone on stage. One hand is painted blue (henna?) and symbolizes the Greek sea and skies. Something Finns can relate as well with our blue and white and their symbolism. Apparently there will be some augmented reality effects on screen as well as they promised some surprises and the screens in press center were turned down. 

"Intense", "Passionate", "Powerfull", "Traditional", "Safe and not challenging"

Finland - Saara Aalto - Monsters
Oh dear. Who was expecting something really new and innotative - like this blogger - is disappointed. One starts to question how good this Friedman guy really is as all we see in this revamped Monsters staging is recycled ideas and gimmicks from other acts they have done, starting from Dominö's wheel (that is the best thing of all of them anyways) and Queens's waterfall to other stunts they already did in X Factor UK, like that dropping down back first in the end. it looks like Madonna would have performed in MTV Music awards circa 1992. The backing singers sound screamy as does Saara when she gets all worked up. Shee doesn't come across likable but rather angry and aggressive - forget the Disney princess - and what's it with the military uniforms of the dancers? Did soe´meone even mention the N word?
Sigh. You can take the girl out of the countryside but not the coutryside out of the girl, or how do they say? Totally impersonal lacking any innovation or idea.

"Vogue revival", "From circus to Cirque de Soleil", "Strong vocals", "Futuristic and fabulous", "Dynamite", "Cold", "Dark", "Cheap"

Armenia - Sevak Khanagyan - Qami
Keep it simple. Sevak is alone on stage, surrounded by pillars that make a circle around him. It's all about him and his voice. And a qami machine. Press center apparently wasn't impressed. Various camera angles were tried to make it work but maybe fans wanting Saara-eesque circus think it's too little. How about sitting back and enjoying a good song for a change? Oh yes, milleium kids concentration lasts about 30 seconds.... they neeed fireworks and acrobatics.  I forgot. Sorry. 

"Intense", "Powerful", "Exceptional vocals", "Boring"


The rest of the semi-final one acts rehearse today for the first time, including Finland.

Macedonia - Eye Cue - Lost and found
Macedonia takes lead from their music video and they have a drummer and three backing singers on stage, while Marija interacts with all them with or without Bojan. Fucsia minidress for her. Another close up start apparently, and another let's walk to the stairs for the finale. Judging the comments it seems they did it all right and vocally fine. Looking good for them then. Maybe. This song is musically such a mess one needs time to digest it and an average televoter doesn't have it. But isn't that dress a bit too short....?

"Sultry", "Cool beats", "Great chemistry", "Unfinished", "Not instant"

Croatia - Franka - Crazy
Another close up start? Franka is wearing a black lace dress looking like a real diva taking a full advantage of wind machines. smoke and did we see a tear? This time the staging doesn't take lead of the music video (phew... let Saara Aalto do that...) Simple and effective in close ups but she apparently disappears in the longer shots, so maybe they should fix that? They seem to underline the jazz vibe of the song and some describe also this one a sultry one after Macedonia. Guys are in for a treat then! Not exactly a qualifier before this but now some are saying Croatia is back in the game and might qualify for the final. Which only mean this semi-final was hard to start with but is just getting harder! 

"Not standing out yet", "Impressive", "Confident",  "Looks and sounds terrific", "Atmospheric", "Great lighting effects", "Mysterious"

Austria - César Sampson - Nobody but you
Another face close up start! He's got a rising platform that lowers him down to stage with lights and dry ice that have been described UFO like effect, and later the lights make him angelic. Also tricks with lights showing only his head at one point apparently in the dark. Go figure. This said it's also said it all works. He's wearing some leather/rubber shirt with baggy pants that might be fashionable but it's a question of taste. He's also featured in large on screen image at one point that looks great it is said by some and unneceessary by others. Backing singers did various things in various takes so apparently they aren't ready with the performance yet and are trying different things. Vocally on point and it seems César is delivering having been maybe a little indolent in the promo events....

"Akward", "Futuristic", "Mysterious", "Flawless vocals"


Last year's host nation Ukraine and this year's Portugal both finally release their music videos for their entries this year today. Cláudia Pascoal & Isaura's O jardim is very green and simple with faces in close ups mainly. Mélovin's Under the ladder is the opposite: dark and dramatic, a bit gothic and a bit disturbing. No wonder he looks so worried most of it! Wednesday we will know how much of this he brings to the staging in Lisbon....

Sunday, April 29, 2018


Mikolas Josef entered hospital after he hurt his back during the rehearsals this afternoon. Apparently at one point during the rehearsals he stopped the show by "Stop, stop! safety first!" when their prop didn't feel safe. Later, sadly he injured himself. He first noted on his social media channels:

“The first thing that has come to my mind is that Eurovision has ended for me, and I am terribly disappointed for the fans who sent me here. I will do my best to return to the stage as soon as possible and fight for the best place.”

Later tonight more news as it often happens; the injuries don't often come instantly but make themselves present later. This blogger has some personal experience of such, too. 

“I can confirm that I got injured during the rehearsal and the situation got worse after several hours. I cant even walk now. Got back from the first hospital and I am now heading to another one. Thanks for all your messages and prayers we are all doing our best to get me up on my feet soon.”

Currently #4 in the betting odds and truly the first Czech entry with possibilities for a top-10 finish, it would be a shame if they couldn't perform the way they intended, or at all.  Let's hope this was only a scare and Mikolas will be on his feet again soon and ready for next Thursday's second rehearsal fully recovered and more determined than ever!


While all eyes are in Lisbon and the first semi-final rehearsals Saara Aalto had one more performance of Monsters on live television tonight in X Factor semifinal, where one of her girls made it to final next week, that she's going to miss obviously. But no worries, Matt Terry will replace her.
Saara will fly to Lisbon early tomorrow and will have her first rehearsal on stage at 13.40. 


The last three to rehearse today include also two major favorites Estonia and Bulgaria, with Belarus sandwiched inbetween. In the strange twist of fate four of the major favorites are all in the first semi-final's first half....

Belarus - Alekseev - Forever

Gone is his projector shirt or whatever it was in the national final and better so, as Elina is coming right after with her dress. Innstead we have some drama with roses and some apparently rather offputting imaginary in a form a blooded shirt. He's got a rising platform and a dancer, the said real rose and some more petals in augmented reality. And the vocals are still all over the place - or maybe they simply are like that?

"Gothic romance", "Dramaric", "WTF", "Slightly offputting", "Extravagant", "Disgusting"

Estonia - Elina Nechayeva - La forza
In the end they got the money and the dreadful dress is here. But it's a good distraction for the non existing song and especially non existing lyrics or story. She's got the voice no doubt but the gimmick wears off very soon. Nothing new in here, the same old Eesti laul performance, just bigger stage and apparently bigger yet dress with brighter projections....

"Circus act", "Vocally terrific", "Impressing", "Goosebumps", "Classy", "Polished", "Flawless"

Bulgaria - Equinox - Bones
Bring on the props and camera tricks: 3 glass platforms, split screen graphics, dry ice and wind machnes. Add black costumes, terrific vocals and simple choreography with clever camera work . This song certainly is better live. I for one find it very boring on record but everytime I hear/see it live I'm thinking it's not so bad after all. It's all about the voices. 

"Boring staging", "Terrific", "Pitch perfect vocals"


The rehearsals continue after lucnh break with threee more countries, among them two top favorites Czech Republic and Israel, still #1 in the betting odds, and this blogger's favortire Lithuania...

Czech Republic - Mikolas Josef - Lie to me
It seems one of the favorites didn't quite deliver yet as Czech Republic's entry is described a mess pretty much in unison. The colors (pink/blue/purple) are there, the stairs are there, so are the breakdancers miming also as trumpet players and having their own props: light walls, and the choreography but it doesn't fill the stage the way it's ment to do, nor the camera angles are right there. If they only get the idea and concept work on screen.... Colorful and fun, vocally no problem. This blogger believes they'll sort it all out. Mikolas himself tried different acrobatics to add to the performance, such as front flip... Let's see what he'll do in the end... 
Update: He has been taken to hospital for back injury during his rehearsal....

"Memorable", "Messy", "Colorful", "Sympathetic", "Backpack", "Marginal qualifier at best"

Lithuania - Ieva Zasimauskaitè - When we're old
Divided comments on the use of 3D augmented reality hologram black and white photos as most seem to think them unnecessary and distracting from her vocals. Her boyfriend joins her on staircase in the finale of the song sung in Lithuanian just like in the Lithuanian final and that's an emotional moment. General consensus seems to be this did great and being neglected by most is now seen a possible qualifier. Well, I have thought this as one since it won. Apparently the biggest applause yet in "press room in tears".  Now it's also clear the ad break will be after Lithuania.....

"Intimate", "Lithuania is qualifying, I was wrong", The most effective so far", "Emotional"
Israel - Netta - Toy
Israel takes the lead from the video going all Oriental. She's got her looper, wears a simil-kimono and those dancers are back and she's even got a toy boy to walk her down the catwalk in the end apparently to make those crowds go all gaga. But the real gimmick are the 56 (yes, someone counted) maneki nekos on stage screens, aka the paw waving Japanese good fortune cats. Let's see if that 56 is sufficient to bring her enough luck to win this as she may have gotten some divided reviews despite being the clear #1 in the betting odds. Is this Occidentali's Karma all over again? (Oh the irony with this Asian theme...!!!) At least she dropped in the odds immediately....

"Quirky", "Somewhat disappointing", "Sassy", "Marvellous package", "Underwheelming", "Losing impact"

To be updated....


The serious business is on. The first acts are having their 30 minutes technical rehearsals to check out the stage, the lights, the camera angles - all this has been already worked out with substitute artists and on going negotitions between RTP and EBU people on spot and the delegations at home the past few weeks. Now it's time to put the theory into practise and make the necessary changes, adjustments and final touches and see how everything looks and feels like in the real world. I will be following the rehearsals at home, spicing up the comments with those picked up from social medias and websites. Enjoy!
Azerbaijan - Aisel - X my heart
Aisel and her four backing singers/dancers, including Portuguese Rui Andrade, are working those mountains in a choreography that feels a bit too busy at times and dry ice. All dressed in white with mainly white and blue/purple backdrop it seems rather simple and traditional staging with the added props and wind machines. I suspect we will see a lot of props this year in absence of the LED wall. (Finland has a big one especially built in Portugal as there was no way to get it down to Lisbon in time across Europe...)

"Nice", "Unimpressive", "Mountains will be theme of 2018?", "White", "Reasonable ok", "On-screen glitter effects", "Solid"

Iceland - Ari Òlafsson - Our choice
Ari is also wearing white, with some red embroidery, while his five backing singers are in red and black, and the backdrop seems to be mostly blue turning red/yellow towards the end. Some dry ice seems to be in picture, too, and a lot of close ups of Ari's innocent little face and pretty innocent eyes. The backing singeers won't enter the picture until the last half a minute or so and then there's some talk of fire?! Where? Here? In this staging? Hmm...  This is as old school Eurovision as it gets and with a song like this what else do you need. For the nostalgics. 

"Simple", "Back to basics", "Focus on Ari's voice", "Nostalgic", "Too tight trousers"

Albania - Eugent Bushpepa - Mall
Three tattooed rock musicians and two short skirted backing singers for Eugent, all in credible black and staples. A standard rock performance and apparently no pyros, smoke or else? Hmm, I guess some might be added later as now it seemed rather bare. He hits those high notes and according sources "fills the stage and comes across the screen"....

"Rock simplicity", "Organic", "Clever camera angles",  "Brilliant vocals", "Credible"

Belgium - Sennek - A Matter of time
Belgium is known for some questionable fashion choices (Barbara Dex anyone?) and Sennek continues the tradition with a black see-through dress that isn't a dress nor pants but both. She seems to be performing on a satellite stage à la Salvador Sobral and Anouk and it's all kept very simple and blue and some clever lighting tricks and close ups. And she's having a very pale make up, maybe even too pale, so they have something to adjust before next rehearsals as it seems it's just a matter of time before she is mistaken as a dead corpse....

"Cineatic", "Simple", "Elegant", "Vocally better", "Emoish", "Leet down", "Mysterious", "Dark", "Avantgarde", "Uncomfortable", "Dramatic", "Off-putting make-up"


Today's the day. Azerbaijan will kick off the rehearsals 11am local time behind closed doors, as it has been now for a couple of years. Even more rules have been set by EBU in the last minute this year: a maximum of two minutes footage can be published by fan sites and blogs, and if I understood corretly none in private social media pages but only on blogs and sites. Same goes for photos.... But hey, I'm all for it. Too many times "fans" have slaughtered acts even before they have got their act together on that new stage (think Belgium last year for example) making them drop in betting odds etc. It's not only question of peace of mind for the delegations and the artist and money, it's a question of respect.  Let them get their act together before you judge, ok?  If you complain have a long look at the mirror. Fandom gets what fandom deserves. Simple as that. One of the best decisions by EBU for years, the best since closed doors rehearsals actually. Now if they only also closed the screens in press center and only showed the last run through or so - or let the delegations decide whether to show anything in these first technical rehearsals.... Media has opportunities to interview the artists and get other content 24/7 so it's not like they don't have thngs to do and publish if they only want...
As an old school blogger, working more on words than videos I think this will put some new school "journalists" into test. Making a video is easy and going on for two minutes really saying nothing but try the same in written form.... Good luck with that!
This said, I hope everyone present in Lisbon will have a great time and that this Portuguese edition of Eurovision will be an awesome one - all ingredients are there!

Today's schedule:
11:00-11:30 – Azerbaijan
11:40-12:10 – Iceland
12:20-12:50 – Albania
13:00-13:30 – Belgium
13:30-14:40 – break
14:40-15:10 – Czech Republic
15:20-15:50 – Lithuania
16:00-16:30 – Israel
16:30-17:00 – break
17:00-17:30 – Belarus
17:40-18:10 – Estonia
18:20-18:50 – Bulgaria

Each country will have a press Meet & Greet after their rehearsal

Friday, April 27, 2018


Luckily Serbia, Spain, France and Hungary will be all singing in their native languages in Lisbon 2018 but meanwhile they have released also English versions of their songs. While Spain, France and Hungary just adapt the song, Serbia goes a bit further with their rework....


Bulgaria - Equinox - Bones
After placing 4th and 2nd the past two years Bulgarian tv created a super group for the occasion: Bulgarian Zhana Bergendorff, Georgi Simeonov and Vladimir Mihailov with American Trey Campbell and Johnny Manuel. Zhana (32) is Bulgarian X Factor winner 2013, also Georgi is known from XF, Vladimir had his taste of Eurovision by being one of Kristian Kostov's backing singers. Johnny made himself known in America's Got Talent and Trey has written songs to several global stars. Bones is one of the main favorites this year but even if I adore the vocal harmonies and their voices I'm not that into the song. And truth to be said even the vocal harmonies are very American. Also, being a specially created group should they win it would be kinda wasted one (think Tanel Padar and Dave Benton) as most likely they won't continue together and have success (think Bucks Fizz) so we wouldn't see them any gatherings and celebrations where the winners mingle for the decades to come.....  But all that put aside I like this one when I hear it but so far it hasn't really hit home with me and it still feels a bit manufactured and artificial. 6/10

Armenia - Sevak Khanagyan - Qami
Sevak (30) is another ex-Sovjet made star (think Alekseev): he has been in The Voice of Russia 2015 in Polina Gagarina's team but was k-o in the knock out rounds, then he won X Factor Ukraine in 2016 before becoming one of the coaches in The Voice of Armenia in 2017. He's half Russian and has also lived and studied in Russia. I liked this one the first time I heard it and I was so pleased it won, and finally we have Armenian in the contest. The melody is great, he's got a voice I like and it all comes together nicely and the chorus sticks to your head. Love it. 10/10

Montenegro - Vanja Radovanović - Inje
Vanja (35) first tried to get to Eurovision in Beovizija 2006 but placed 21st.... This year he returned and won. I am a sucker for Balcan ballads but compared to Zeljko, Hari Mata Hari, Sergej, Knez sadly Vanja doesn't quite made an impact in me. I don't even quite know why and where's the problem? I should love this but yet.... 5/10


Saara Aalto has been around forever but international debut comes in a form of Wild wild wonderland album today. The album's cover is pure 80's Stock-Aitken-Waterman! (And not only the cover...) Thirteen songs in total, including all her UMK2018 entries Monsters, Queens and Domino, as well as her UMK16 runner up No fear as a bonus track. One song has curiously Finnish title, HÄN
After being the runner up in Talent Suomi, The Voice of Finland, twice in the national final for Eurovision and X Factor UK she was internally chosen by YLE to represent Finland this year.
This is her her fifth album following Blessed with love (2011), Christmas album Enkeleitä - Angels (2011), You had my heart (2013) and Chinese language compilation album Ai De Zhu Fu (2013).
Her only sales chart appearances so far are the You had my heart's one week at #43 in album charts, and Monsters peaking at #14 in the singles' chart and dropping to #15 the week after before vanishing. In 2015 she released with her ex-boyfriend and Tango King Teemu Roivainen album Tonight, that was based on musical tunes, film music and epic love songs

Thursday, April 26, 2018


Azerbaijan - Aisel - X my heart
Aysel Mammadova (28) aka Aisel is jazz and blues singer,  pianist and songwriter but for this Eurovision adventure she goes all pop. There are so many reasons I shouldn't like this one but this has grown to be my guilty pleasure this year aka Slavko vol.2. These lyrics are priceless. She's got the honor to open the contest this year and set the tune so let's hope she delivers vocally and being Azerbaijan they must have come up with some staging gimmick. And qualify. I may have liked the original version better though. Can't help it but 9/10 (blush)

Australia - Jessica Mauboy - We got love
Jessica (28) is Australian Idol runner up 2006, and the hint of things to come for Australia in Eurovision as she starred in the interval act in the 2014 contest and the rest is history, Australia has taken part in the contest ever since.  She may have not quite shined vocally in Copenhagen but apparently she's got it. The song is anthemic radio pop and made for Eurovision. This will be getting points from most everywhere but how many and how deserved? I suppose this ends more like Isaiah rather than Dami. 7/10

Finland - Saara Aalto - Monsters
Saara Aalto (30) aka the eternal runner up: Talent Suomi, The Voice Suomi, Euroviisut, UMK, X Factor UK. Will she score a runner up in Eurovision as well? That's most likely what YLE thought when throwing the already launched UMK 2018 out of the window with its 300 submissions and internally chose her instead in thei illusional bubble. She (and YLE) have put themselves in a tricky situation, anything but real success will be a failure, especially for her. YLE aims for qualification, but she has to win to prove herself finally. And it's not going to happen. And the Finnish media will crucify them both. The song isn't just strong enough, the staging in UMK was a disaster and while it is reworked totally same people in charge will have done it. It's all over the top, aimed for LGBT audiences way too much. She's vocally great no doubt about that but if I put all feelings towards her and all the mess aside and just listen to the song it's rather entertaining three minutes. Borderline qualifier for me. 8/10

United Kingdom - SuRie - Storm
Susanna Marie Coek (29) aka SuRie is no stranger to Eurovision: she's been the backing singer for Belgium both 2015 and 2017, finishing 4th both times. She certainly wants to better that now that the spotlight is on her. Over the past months she has become the Eurovision class'18 social media queen with her funny tweets and adorable sense of humor and enthuasism for the contest. She has released remix and acoustic versions. Somehow I'd like to like the song a lot more than I actually do. I do like it when I hear it but right after do I remember it? Not really. It leaves me quite indifferent so... 6/10


Today sees the release of a new book on Franco Battiato. The 320 paged one is written by writer and musician Fabio Zuffanti. Filippo Bardi has created a detailed Franco Battiato discography section in the book.
Battiato, who represented Italy in the Eurovision song contest 1984 with Alice and I treni di Tozeur enjoy's a living legend status in Italy with his over 50 years in the Italian art scene. He has written music from experimental to pop, opera and films, being also a painter, writer. movie director and a lot more. This book tells his story from a little Sicilian village to the biggest Italian pop phenomenom that exploded in 1982 with his La Voce del Padrone album, one of the most sold albums in the Italian music history. The book also digs deep into his collaboration with Alice and his other female collaborators, most notably Giuni Russo and Milva.
Still active in his various forms of art he's retired to his home by the mountain Etna and recovering from a broken femur and hip bone, that forced him to cancel his tour last winter. 
Below some of his most stunning songs....

Wednesday, April 25, 2018


Romania - The Humans - Goodbye
Cristina Caramarcu (30) fronts the band that includes also Alexandru Cismaru, Alexandru Matei, Alin Neagoe, Adi Tetrade and Corina Matei. They have been together only for a year but already here they are! The song is sort of radio friendly pop-rock and I was a bit surprised it won the Romanian national selection. The performance was rather shaky and I never cared for the song either. And it still gives me nothing. It leaves me totally indifferent and that's propably worst that can happen in Eurovision, isn't it? 2/10

Serbia - Sanja Ilić & Balkanika - Nova deca
Sanja Ilić (67), a composer, keyboardist and architect created Balkanika in 1998 but he started his career already at the age of 12 when his first composition was released, sung by Dragan Laković. His first Eurovision link comes when he was 16. In 1976 his song placed 3rd in the Yogoslavian national final. Now, 42 years later he is finally here with Balkanika. The mission of the group is to preserve, revitalize and modernize Serbian medieval and byzantine music traditions and that's what Nova deca does. Like Greece this is old school ethnic Eurovision pop at its best. For me this is a qualifier, love it and the melody's been playing in my head since I heard this. I only wish the beat would have been a bit more daring and modern but this is my cup of tea. 8/10

Hungary - AWS - Viszlát nyár
Ants With Slippers, or simply AWS as they like to call themselves these days is formed by Bence Brucker, Dániel Kökényes, Örs Siklósi, and Áron Veress and they have been together already for 12 years while Soma Schiszler is a later addition to the line up. Three studio albums to their credit so far. The live version leaves one breathless with so much energy. I wouldn't propably normally listen to this but here it sticks out and makes me wanna go headbanging to the rhythm and scream along a little. English version doesn't really add anything to the mix but makes clearer the song's message. Thumbs up for Hungary for being again adventurous and going for its own way,  and once again I believe it will pay off and this will go quite far in the final. 8/10

Georgia - Ethno Jazz band Iriao ირიაო - For you 
(Sheni gulistvis შენი გულისთვის)
David Malazonia leads Iriao, the band known for their unique style due to the combination of traditional Georgian polyphonic singing and jazz. The band has seven member and only five are in the promotional photos and only three performed in the promotional events.... Let's see what they come up in Lisbon. This certainly needs some digestion being totally different from the rest with its unusual way of singing for our western ears. I have no idea where this will end up....? Being in the second semi this has a chance of qualifying though. Not sure how much I like this but no means I dislike it. Therefor 5/10

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