On Saturday night, France 2 aired the first of two semi-finals, which will decide who will make the final and the chance to represent France in the Grand Final of the Eurovision Song Contest, in Tel Aviv, Israel.
In this post, I’ll be going down the nine performances and seeing what worked well and what needs to be tightened up or changed if they made the final.
Naestro – “Le Brasier”
Kicking the show off was one of my favourite songs from the studio cut. Naestro definitely brought the vocals live and delivered on the more powerful and emotional sections. However, I found the rest of the live performance lacklustre. Lacking inspiring stage presence, Naestro stood on the spot as though he was an act on a late night music show, with just a piano for company. There wasn’t any progression in that time, except from some confusing visuals that actually covered the performer, instead of complimented him. I still might buy this record, but not a great start.
Florina – “In the Shadows”
Again, this live performance was all about showcasing Florina’s great vocals, and she made a real good effort at completely hitting those high and powerful notes in the chorus. I believe the song has energy already within it, so why simply stand on the spot with the mic for three minutes, with some confetti falling from the sky? Something really creative could have been made out of it, like a backing dancer routine, or if they wanted to stick with the artistic route, take it all the way like Greta Salome in 2016 and give the audience something that will stick in their mind.
Chimène Badi – “Là-haut”
This was the first song in the running order that had all of the elements I was looking for, including a catchy song that was sung near perfectly. You almost got a feeling that it was effortless for her. But what really made this stand out from the previous two was the staging, in which the artist was performing inside a transparent box with LED screens for sides, so that vibrant colours would bubble up and around her. I did enjoy this performance for the first two minutes, though it flatlined once I got adjusted to the staging, maybe add another element or get out of the box and come towards the audience for the climax? Still great though.
Battista Acquaviva – “Passio”
Another song that I rated highly in the studio version, but sadly this did not take off at all for me. She looked stunning in her white dress and who doesn’t love a quartet of topless men doing fluid contemporary dance movements on a large structure? I still feel that so much more could have been done with the cinematic nature of the song, maybe bring the drums, period costumes. Hell, have an actual battle on the stage. The big disappointment was the live vocals. I don’t know if the mic levels were all wrong, but she sounded timid and shaky, especially with such a thunderous backing track. She was swallowed up by the music and I was saddened to watch it as quite a big fan of it before the live performance.
Silvàn Areg – “Le petit Nicolas”
I didn’t know what to expect of this entry, having only heard the first minute of the track. The staging was some of the most ingenious I have seen in a very long time, featuring some little paper sets and some good camera trickery. The best part was that it actually fitted with the rustic and fun charm of the song. He had so much charisma too and his constant gestures to the camera and audience were great. It was more a spoken word performance than a song and I could feel the battle he was having to get all of the words out (there were a lot) but he achieved it.
Bilal Hassani – “Roi”
The big favourite and winner of this semi-final, due to the modern and catchy song, coupled with his image and message of the song. I really liked the opening, where he walked from the audience and onto the stage, and the slickness of the dancers resonated well with those watching (the “crown” moment was particularly good). He also showcased some good vocals as well, though maybe not as strong as a couple seen before him. There is so much hype around this but I still have reservations. There was no “wow” moment for me in the song, but I’m sure things can be adjusted if he makes it to Tel Aviv.
Aysat – “Comme une grande”
In contrast to several of the other acts, I felt that visual identity was the main strength of this performance. Aysat looked great in a bright yellow jacket and trousers and was complimented well by her backing singers and dancers wearing red. The choreography was tight and well executed, and the energy brought a different flavour to this semi-final than a lot of the other entries. The negative for me was the annunciation of the vocals, I found it quite hard to extract certain words that I know in my basic French understanding; I was very glad that the words were also projected onto the LED backdrop.
Lautner – “J’ai pas le temps”
People who read my review of the songs themselves would know that I wasn’t blown away by this song in the studio cut. The staging is definitely unique and delivers to a point, but I did find it a distraction rather than complimenting the mood of the song. Live vocals were decent, despite a few problems hitting those falsetto notes throughout. I don’t really have much to say about this package in general, they are good looking but everything else just felt average to me.
Mazy – “Oulala”
The box was dragged back out for the final act of the night, but this time the singer was standing on top of it rather than inside. It was a decent visual gag but became quite tiresome and unremarkable after only a minute, with only the great vocals from Mazy keeping me hanging on. The sudden appearance of a drum box and her subsequent solo was a nice surprise, but I fear that and the big note at the end would come too late to excite the viewers again.
After eighteen performances (the nine competing songs for Eurovision 2019, plus the artists each performing a cover track), it was time for the panel of five international judges and the televoters to deliver their verdict. It was in no doubt that Bilal Hassani had won the semi-final by a large margin, and he would be joined in the final by Chimène Badi, Silvàn Areg and Aysat. Sadly that meant Lautner, Mazy, Battista Acquaviva, Florina and Naestro would be eliminated at this point, with each having some weakness in their performances that wasn’t to the tastes of the judges and voters.
|3||Silvàn Areg||“Le petit Nicolas”||38||21||59|
|4||Aysat||“Comme une grande”||34||6||40|
|5||Lautner||“J’ai pas le temps”||26||9||35|
|8||Florina||“In the Shadows”||0||21||21|
So what did you make of the first semi-final of Destination Eurovision?
Who was your favourite and who do you think should have made it through?
Comment in the box below and I’ll see you all for the second semi-final, taking place this coming Saturday (19th January).