On Tuesday night, in the Altice Arena, Lisbon, 19 countries sung their hearts out in an attempt to make the Grand Final of the Eurovision Song Contest 2018. Only ten could progress in an ultra-exciting, ultra-tight semi-final, one of the best in years. There were songs who rose triumphant and songs that didn’t meet expectations and were eliminated. Here are my thoughts on who the winners and the losers of the night were.
Cyprus – Eleni Foureira – “Fuego”
When rehearsals started, Cyprus’ odds of winning the contest began to shorten dramatically and I was curious to find out why. My question was answered in spectacular fashion with a high-energy performance that gave life to the arena audience and the viewers at home. Before the live shows I thought the song was a bit safe but Eleni brought everything to that performance, including all of the pyro (yeah yeah, fire) they could get their hands on. I loved the hairography parts and that Cyprus didn’t go crazy with the staging, letting Eleni be the star of the performance, as she was. I also got vibes of a certain Helena Paparizou when she won the contest back in 2005. Is this a winner? It could well be come Saturday.
Lithuania – Ieva Zasimauskaitė – “When We’re Old”
I loved this song before Lisbon and honestly felt like it was being slept on by a large amount of the Eurovision community. When the song came on, I was so happy that they chose to keep all of the focus on her, letting the emotion flow out of her. Even the translucent couples featured on screen was tastefully and beautifully done. Then she walked on to the bridge and sung the last line of the song in Lithuanian to her real-life partner. It was one of those magical moments that you don’t see all of the time in Eurovision and I’m not smoking something when I say that I think this can, and might well deserve, to take home the trophy in the Grand Final.
Ireland – Ryan O’Shaughnessy – “Together”
Now I must admit that I slept on this song before Ryan performed on the Lisbon stage, potentially being swayed by Ireland’s dismal recent record in the contest. They hadn’t qualified since 2013, when they finished last in the Grand Final. It was brilliant to see the LGBT love story from the music video, being performed so well by the two backing dancers. That was the most effective part of this performance and the Irish delegation very smartly put a lot of the focus on that. This isn’t to say that Ryan’s individual performance wasn’t brilliant as well; singing to each and every person watching on the television screen and not missing a note, bringing the emotion into his voice. I am so happy to see Ireland back in the Grand Final, where they deserve to be.
Albania – Eugent Bushpepa – “Mall”
Another song that I really enjoyed before the live shows started, Albania is another country with a mediocre recent track record in the contest prior to this year. Eugent brought all of the fight and all of the power to his performance on Tuesday night, wiping the floor with the three countries around him in the running order. The staging and camera focus was very simple, focus on Eugent and his terrific voice, which was the strongest part of the performance. I was worried that Albania would be forgotten about due to the early slot (performing 3rd) and even voted for him in the hope that it would help. I was therefore so happy when they called out Albania’s name as one of the ten qualifiers. It may not be up there in the Grand Final but it definitely deserved to progress.
Azerbaijan – Aisel – “X My Heart”
The main shock of the qualifiers announcement is that Azerbaijan, who has not missed a final since joining the contest in 2008, won’t be joining them. In the first few years they felt like they were bringing a genuinely Azeri performance every time but then they started becoming more and more dependent on Swedish songwriters and performances. Personally, I think the staging was a real let down, coming across cold and very static with the large plastic triangles. I also thought that Aisel’s vocals weren’t high energy enough for a song of this nature (compare her vocals to Eleni from Cyprus, as an example). I think Azerbaijan needs to come back next year with a song that properly reflects their culture and music industry, rather than an emotionless one like this.
Greece – Yianna Terzi – “Oniro Mou”
This was an ultra-competitive semi-final, which contained several favourites for the contest win itself, so you had to give everything you had in order to progress if you weren’t one of those. One of the main victims of this is Greece, who misses the Grand Final for only the second time in their history (after 2016). Now I think they could have done a lot more with the staging, having read the lyrics and seen how emotional they actually are. It reminded me quite a lot of Edurne from Spain in 2015, who also bombed with a dramatic native language song; both used similar techniques to get drama. But I think a lot of the televoters were more enamoured with the storytelling of the likes of Lithuania and Ireland, as well as the power of Albania. I think they could have done so much more besides a woman waving her sleeves and smoke machines.
Belgium – Sennek – “A Matter of Time”
Hard to believe that, a couple of months ago, Belgium was pushing the top five in the betting odds. Now they didn’t even make the Grand Final. What went wrong exactly? Well, I think a lot of blame has to be directed towards the staging and camera angles. I get what Belgium were trying to do by putting her in the middle of the audience but it might as well have just been the stage with the lack of interaction. Sennek missed several camera cues in her performance and when she did look at the camera, I got a flashback to Trjntje from The Netherlands in 2015, who also covered her face at the start of the performance, wore an ugly black dress and didn’t take the performance anywhere. The performance just didn’t seem to make sense and I think televoters may have been turned off by that. Wasn’t surprised that this didn’t go through.
Macedonia – Eye Cue – “Lost and Found”
Potentially the most tragic staging came courtesy of Macedonia, who have a habit of messing up the staging for songs which could have made the Grand Final. Though this song wasn’t high on my rankings, it did have its fans. The stage show was an absolute mess though. For starters, the female vocalist of Eye Cue was wearing a horrible pink ensemble before taking it off to reveal a WTF looking thing, neither was flattering in the slightest! The backing singers looked ill at ease and the lead singer’s vocals were screechy at times. Somehow, despite having six people on stage, they were swallowed up by it, the camera angles making them look like ants. Basically, nearly everything was underwhelming and maybe it is time Macedonia took a year or two out to find a strategy to produce a good song with effective staging.
So what did you make of the first semi-final of Eurovision 2018?
Did you favourites go through or were you left disappointed?
And do you agree with my Winners and Losers?
You can give your thoughts in the comments section below and I look forward to seeing you for a review of the second semi-final, taking place on Thursday 10th May.