After months of preparation and national selections, some of which started last year, it was finally time for the first of the shows of the 2013 Eurovision Song Contest. A reduced number of participants, mostly for financial reasons, gave those delegations who have travelled to Malmo a great opportunity be among the ten to qualify for the final.
The show started with a short video called Euphoria from Baku to Malmö, which showed different versions of Loreen’s winning song (apparently) from around the continent. The host for all three shows, Petra Mede then greeted viewers and it was straight into the postcard for the first song of the evening.
Austria – Natalia Kelly – Shine – Eighteen year old Natalia Kelly had the added pressure of opening proceedings. Ably supported by five backing singers, Natalia’s performance was nervous to begin with, but she grew into it and she sounded a contender for a place in the final.
Estonia – Birgit Oigemeel – Et Uus Saaks Alguse – Simplicity was the order of the day for the Estonians. Birgit’s gentle ballad was given a simple presentation, which started in black and white. Even the video wall was not over-used (something to be grateful for these days) showing uncomplicated yellow shapes throughout.
Slovenia – Hannah – Straight into Love – American born Hannah gave us one of the most contemporary songs of the evening. However, the harsh sounding, computer generated noises in the production meant the song could be difficult for some to listen to in places and she was one of the favourites to be taking an early bath. One or two dodgy notes didn’t help her cause.
Croatia – Klapa s Mora – Mizerja – In the current climate of over-elaborate stage shows, it was nice to see the Croatians let the song steal the show. The six members of Klapa s Mora just stood on stage and sung, allowing their Croatian folk song to shine.
Denmark – Emmelie de Forest – Only Teardrops – Going into the two weeks of rehearsals, Denmark was both the bookies and fans favourite for victory. With the help of a couple of extras from the revolution scene of Les Miserables, the presentation added to the memorable nature of the song. Surely one of the cast iron certainties to qualify for the final. She even started the song sitting on the floor a là Loreen.
Russia – Dina Garipova – What If – This is a peach of a song, at least judging by the colours present of stage! Dina won the Russian version of ‘The Voice’ and her performance showed us why, even if she was a little nervous. Hers is an anthemic ballad and appeal for everyone to love each other. How could it possibly fail?
Ukraine – Zlata Ignevich – Gravity – On the strength of what was put in front of the audience, this song did not deserve to qualify! Carried on stage by a giant (yes, really!) Zlata did her best with a messy song that lacked anything worthy of making the final. However, Ukraine is one of those countries that always seems to qualify no matter what. After all, if Gaitana could make the final, then there was no reason why Zlata shouldn’t.
The Netherlands – Anouk – Birds – After The Netherlands failed yet again to reach the final in 2012, Anouk, one of the most popular singers in her country, put herself forward to change the nation’s fortunes. Birds is a song that was always likely to go down well with the juries, so it was a question of how the public would react. Her extremely professional performance demonstrated why countries should ask an experienced singer to fly the flag instead of a talent show winner.
Montenegro – Who See – Igranka – The curse of modern Eurovision strikes! For some reason, someone somewhere thought it would be a good idea to put the two chaps of Who See in spaceman costumes! Maybe they were afraid to show their faces given what they forced on the rest of us.
Lithuania – Andrius Pojavis – Something – Few people saw this progressing from the semi-final. While it is a pleasant enough song and was given an adequate performance, it didn’t sound strong enough to make the final. Sandwiched between two much more lively songs, this one risked being forgotten.
Belarus – Alyona Lanskaya – Solayoh – Occasionally, a good song is ruined by the staging. The two performing monkeys prancing around Alyona like an ancient Belarusian mating ritual added nothing, neither did her emergence from a giant glitter ball at the start. Not that most men would have noticed as they would have been staring at what there was of Alyona’s dress. Solayoh is easily strong enough to stand on its own two feet.
Moldova – Aliona Moon – O Mie – Aliona grew in stature during her performance, literally! She maintained her concentration as she was raised into the air, her dress extending so that the bottom stayed rooted to the floor. In fact, her dress was the showpiece of the three minutes, designed in such a way as to allow lighting effects to glow through it. It was a wise move to sing in Romanian as the English lyrics are very repetitive, which slightly took the edge off a very good song.
Ireland – Ryan Dolan – Only Love – Moving away from the (probably enforced) trend of the last couple of years, the main singer of the Irish song actually sung the lead vocal instead of the ‘backing’ singers. Drums and Celtic images were to the fore for the high energy number. I wonder how long it took the backing dancers to have the body paint applied.
Cyprus – Despina Olympiou – An Me Thimase – Daring. That would be the word to describe Despina’s apparently see-through dress, although it wasn’t as revealing as it may have appeared. Safe is the word to describe the song. It is a run of the mill ballad that isn’t even particularly Greek. I bet it still scores 12 from Greece in the final, though.
Belgium – Roberto Bellarosa – Love Kills – Another talent show winner, another nervous performance! Chosen from one of the most bizarre national selections of the season, the version presented in Malmo was much improved on the version that won the final. Two sour-faced dancers surrounded Roberto, looking like they were being forced to dance for their supper. Helpfully, the lyrics were shown on the video wall in the unlikely event the viewers wanted to sing along.
Serbia – Moje 3 – Ljubav je Svuda – Serbia either goes for traditional or young and fresh when choosing its entry. This year, it was the turn of the latter as three young Serbian ladies adorned in dresses straight from a Disney film strutted about the stage coercing each other to get involved. Even though it was on last, it was touch and go whether Moje 3 would reach the final. Fingers crossed for those high notes!
While the votes were being cast and counted, there was the
obligatory recap of all the songs, followed by a video of the history of the
contest Finally, before we were told who had qualified, we were ‘treated’ to a
mini ‘mockumentary’ starring our host, called Northern Lights.
Finally, it was the moment everyone had been waiting for and
the Green Room collectively held its breath while the names of the successful
ten qualifiers were revealed. They were:
Moldova, Lithuania, Ireland, Estonia, Belarus, Denmark, Russia,
Belgium, Ukraine and The Netherlands.
There was the usual mix of surprises and cast-iron guarantees
among the successful countries, interestingly, no former Yugoslav republics won
through to the final.