The first dress rehearsal of the first semi-final took place last night, and the team from WiwiBloggs.Com was inside Baku Crystal Hall as the action unfolded. Who shined? And who is still sitting in the dressing room crying? Below we offer a taste of what you can expect during tonight’s live broadcast. We also include our overall prediction of where each country will place in the semi-final. This prediction combines rankings issued by the Wiwi Jury (25%), the Eurovision press poll (25%), and the WiwiBloggs.Com fan poll (50%).
Read this ahead of the show, or follow along as the contestants take to the stage tonight at 21:00 CET. Consider this our pre-recorded commentary. Love, Team Wiwi
1. Montenegro: Rambo Amadeus with “Euro Neuro”
Memorable lyrics: “Monetary break dance.”
Prediction: 10 Wiwi Jury: 16 ESC Press Poll: 18 Wiwi Fan Poll: 5
We’ll call this song successful if fewer than 10% of viewers switch off their TVs after the opening bars. You can barely here Rambo singing: he mumbles the whole time, and frequently gives the impression he has a chicken bone stuck in his throat. It’s a shame because his rather interesting lyrics offer a diagnosis of the current euro zone crisis. He shows up in a cape, but it’s not his attire that offends us. It’s the lack of any discernible melody. Bottom line: he may be skeptical about the euro’s future, but we’re even more skeptical about his chances of making the final.
2. Iceland: Gréta Salóme & Jónsi with (Remember me)
Memorable lyrics: “Those two souls that once were parted, thanks to love.”
Prediction: 7 Wiwi Jury: 15 ESC Press Poll: 4 Wiwi Fan Poll: 7
The staging is impeccable: sweeping vistas of mountains match the drama of this emotionally-fueled number. Greta gets down on her fiddle: those back-up singers better watch out or they will get an elbow in the face. Best of all, these Icelanders can sing.
3. Greece: Eleftheria Eleftheriou with “Aphrodisiac”
Memorable lyrics: “You make me dance, dance like a maniac.”
Prediction: 1 Wiwi Jury: 7 ESC Press Poll: 1 Wiwi Fan Poll: 1
A light relief after the doom and gloom of Iceland, Eleftheria brings the sex factor in her number “Aphrodisiac.” Her hunky backup dancer literally grabs Eleftheria’s ass within the first 30 seconds of the song. Eleftheria has perfected the hair sway – she pulls that move about 10 times during the performance, but apparently it works on straight men, so good for her. We applaud her for researching and discovering that clams are aphrodisiacs. Never known for their subtlety, the Greeks have put a massive clam on Eleftheria’s LED background. If you’re voting on the basis of vocals, this isn’t the song for you. But if you vote on entertainment value—and women who match their iridescent panties to their iridescent dress—then Greece is your girl.
4. Latvia: Anmary with “Beautiful Song”
Memorable lyrics: “Beautiful song that everybody hums and everybody loves.”
Prediction: 17 Wiwi Jury: 18 ESC Press Poll: 14 Wiwi Fan Poll: 13
At the beginning of the song, the back-up singers beckon viewers to get closer. Unfortunately the sight of five Desperate Housewives singing karaoke may repel everyone watching. Those brave enough to answer their call will be rewarded with solid vocals by a pretty singer. Her song isn’t that beautiful, but she has a chance of making the final.
5. Albania: Rona Nisliu with “Suus” (Personal)
Memorable lyrics: “So just let me cry…cry…cry…”
Prediction: 5 Wiwi Jury: 1 ESC Press Poll: 10 Wiwi Fan Poll: 6
Rona is wearing a wicked witch costume in blue: think Snow White meets Queen Amidala. Her dreadlocks snake around her neck, and wind up glued to her chest. At least this eliminates the need for a necklace. Regardless of whether you can get past her sartorial and stylistic shortcomings, get ready for the best vocals of the night. Rona is a musical diva like no other, and she brings it full force to the Crystall Hall Arena. Fortunately the hall isn’t made solely of glass and crystals: if it were, Rona might shatter the ceiling when she hits her high notes. If this doesn’t make the final, we at wiwibloggs.com will go on strike in 2013. And by the way, she does not want a chai tea latte. “Chai,” which she shouts about 25 times, means “cry” in Albanian.
6. Romania: Mandinga with “Zaleilah”
Memorable lyrics: “When you love you say, everyday, everybody.”
Prediction: 3 Wiwi Jury: 8 ESC Press Poll: 2 Wiwi Fan Poll: 3
Cuban-Romanian funk band Mandinga treats us to white-suited, moon-walking instrumentalists and a sassy diva in orange. Elena’s vocals were on-point during the dress rehearsal. It has always been a bit of a question mark, but she delivered last night. Our mouths will hit the floor in shock if she lands outside the Top 4 in the first semi. The LED backdrop and lighting couldn’t be delivered more flawlessly. We heart all the hearts.
7. Switzerland: Sinplus with “Unbreakable”
Memorable lyrics: “Swim against the stream, following your wildest dream.”
Prediction: 9 Wiwi Jury: 2 ESC Press Poll: 8 Wiwi Fan Poll: 10
Finishing up the long list of powerful acts in the first half of this semi, Sinplus brings a splash of green and some brotherly love. The vocals have been a bit rocky in the opening verse as Gabriel lubricates his throat, but after that this duo are on fire. Stage presence is not a problem with these two cutey-patooties. We’re still trying to sort out pronunciation classes for them (it’s “stream” and not “zrim”), but in the meantime we hope to see them again on Saturday. A final without these two would be a travesty.
8. Belgium: Iris with “Would You?”
Memorable lyrics: “But what would you do when my house was empty?”
Prediction: 18 Wiwi Jury: 17 ESC Press Poll: 16 Wiwi Fan Poll: 15
Oh, how quickly standards drop. Iris asks the rather bizarre question, “What would you do when my house was empty?” This act would be much more interesting if someone responded, “I was taking a dump on your bed.” Barring that, nothing can save this snooze fest from elimination in the semis. Military intelligence services tell us that terrorists play music in their captives’ cells to prevent them from sleeping. We hope for the captives’ sake that this song is on the playlist, because they’ll be in for the best night’s sleep of their lives.
9. Finland: Pernilla Karlsson with “När jag blundar” (When I close my eyes)
Memorable lyrics: “Like a sea without water, like a lantern without light.”
Prediction: 14 Wiwi Jury: 11 ESC Press Poll: 15 Wiwi Fan Poll: 12
There’s something special about Pernilla’s voice. Part fairy, part chain smoker, it’s got a timbre all its own. The fact that she sings in Swedish, the nation’s minority language, is also remarkable: it’s only the second time in Finland’s Eurovision history that a singer has done so. That, unfortunately, is where the praise stops. This song is snooze fest number two. And while Pernilla has a small chance of squeaking into the final, she really, really, really needs to ditch that green shower curtain she has wrapped around her body. Because of her, water has been leaking all over the place in bathrooms all over Baku. A final warning: if that wind machine blows any harder we are going to see your poonani!
10. Israel: Izabo with “Time”
Memorable lyrics: “Time, time give me just a sign, sign, Give me just the time.”
Prediction: 11 Wiwi Jury: 6 ESC Press Poll: 11 Wiwi Fan Poll: 14
I have to be honest: in the years Israel doesn’t send a transsexual or an obviously-closeted gay contestant, Team Wiwi rarely pays attention to them. But 2012 is a new year, people! This act is among the kookiest we’ve seen this year. The playful gestures—back-up singers who faux swim, among other things—fit well with the song’s offbeat, quirky sound. It melds 1950s American Oldies with alternative rock, and I find it all rather pleasant. The wordplay is clever, too, particularly the section where Izabo attempts to seduce Time, who is relentless in pushing forward, and waits for no man: “Time, time, could you be mine?/ I will feed you songs and wine/ I’ll make you lazy, I’ll make you late/ Wait, wait, wait.” We really hope to see this in the final.
11. San Marino: Valentina Monetta with “The Social Network”
Memorable lyrics: “Do you wanna be more than just a friend, do you wanna play cyber sex again?”
Prediction: 15 Wiwi Jury: 5 ESC Press Poll: 17 Wiwi Fan Poll: 18
Fans and journalists alike have been pretty tough on Valentina, but we love her anyway. Valentina has been the butt (literally) of many a joke (white girls have junk in their trunk, too). But this woman brings a smile to our face every time we hear her sing. The EBU forced her to re-write her lyrics because the original version of her song used the word “Facebook” 11 times, which violates rules that ban songs that promote commercial interests. Perhaps the most ingenious woman of the modern era, she hit the studio and replaced the word “Facebook” with “Uh Oh”—and the song sounds even better. We love her tight body suit. We love how she jiggles her neck like a Bollywood dancer. And we love that she does all of this with a straight face. Yes, we will have cyber sex with you. Again.
12. Cyprus: Ivi Adamou with “La La Love”
Memorable lyrics: “Feel the energy, taking over me”
Prediction: 2 Wiwi Jury: 3rd ESC Press Poll: 5 Wiwi Fan Poll: 2
Ivi is the best digitally mastered artist in the competition. Unfortunately you have to sing live to win Eurovision. And that, my friends, is where Ivi falters. A great song with spunk and powerful staging (albeit with a random bridge made of books) can’t always make up for so-so vocals. She sometimes sounds like a transvestite chain smoker. I think we may have a Kate Ryan moment with this one, people!
13. Denmark: Soluna Samay with “Should’ve Known Better”
Memorable lyrics: “Should’ve known better, now I miss you, like Sahara misses rain”
Prediction: 8 Wiwi Jury: 9 ESC Press Poll: 6 Wiwi Fan Poll: 9
From bad vocals to good, we move North to recent Eurovision powerhouse Denmark. Soluna is the Anna Bergendahl of 2012. Her song doesn’t really ever go anywhere in our opinion, but apparently there’s a lot of hype about this entry. This semi-final field is strong, so I am not so sure that Denmark will finish in the Top 5 as bookies predict. It should make the final though. But please, for the love of God, get rid of that sailor cap and red / gold armour & tassle-covered top. Michael Jackson died a while ago. And take away your bass player’s crack vile: all her quivering and shaking is seriously distracting!
14. Russia: Buranovskiye Babushki with “Party for Everybody”
Memorable lyrics: “We are singing extremely strongly. We are dancing soulful, so soulful!”
Prediction: 6 Wiwi Jury: 10 ESC Press Poll: 3 Wiwi Fan Poll: 8
Along with San Marino, this is undoubtedly the most polarising entry of the year. You either love it or hate it. In that since it’s very similar to Verka Sedushka’s 2007 entry “Dancing Lasha Tumbai,” which placed second. Baking bread has never been such a feel-good experience. These grannies know how to bake their bread, and dance off the carbs too! In typical Russian fashion, a lot of thought has gone into the staging. There is one an ancient granny who never really sings but is constantly exploited in front of the camera for her withered looks and adorable smile. I just hope none of them slips and breaks a hip before the final!
15. Hungary: Compact Disco with “Sound of Our Hearts”
Memorable lyrics: “This is the sound of our hearts, if you listen this is a zeal from above and it can say it all.”
Prediction: 13 Wiwi Jury: 13 ESC Press Poll: 13 Wiwi Fan Poll: 11
Hungary delivers a clean, albeit mediocre performance. Nothing memorable about the staging or the song itself, but well sung. Not really sure I have much else to say. Conserving energy for better acts.
16. Austria: Trackshittaz with “Woki mit deim Popo”
Memorable lyrics: “The girls are dancin’, they’re going low – low.”
Prediction: 16 Wiwi Jury: 14 ESC Press Poll: 12 Wiwi Fan Poll: 17
Another memorable act, and this time the TV will transport you to a Viennese strip club, complete with a rapping duo and three neon-clad pole dancers. Austrians aren’t known for their subtlety, and this song reinforces that like no other. We love these two guys, though. They’re super sweet behind the scenes, and actually have serious brain power. We’re aware that voters won’t have that in mind when dialing in, though. And no, you can’t offer to put dollars in the ladies’ panties in lieu of voting for them.
17. Moldova: Pasha Parfeny with “Lautar”
Memorable lyrics: “This trumpet makes you my girl.”
Prediction: 12 Wiwi Jury: 12 ESC Press Poll: 9 Wiwi Fan Poll: 16
Not even Roma-haters could hate this Roma song. The staging is impeccable, especially the cute little dance moves that involve rapid karate chops and wobbly legs. Pasha’s voice is divine, and he is sexy in an oddly unsexy way. Part of Eurovision’s mission is to help us see all the cultures across this amazing continent. This song accomplishes just that in a fun and vote-appealing way. We seriously hope Pasha is back on stage again on Saturday. It’s kind of hot to think about him wearing women out. We’re not being nasty. At one point his female back-up dancers turn into canoes which he pretends to paddle. He can ride us like a canoe any day!
18. Ireland: Jedward with “Waterline”
Memorable lyrics: “I know this is bound to go down as the big one”
Prediction: 4 Wiwi Jury: 4 ESC Press Poll: 7 Wiwi Fan Poll: 4
Second time is not always a charm. Jedward are back, and their stage show seems somewhat derived from their performance from last year. There are some differences: for instance, a different coloured spaceman outfit and a song that sounds slightly different from last year’s. But that song isn’t memorable and the dance sequence still consists primarily of hyperactive jumping and robot arms. The only thing that goes down “as a big one” is the song ending with the twins getting soaked from head to toe by a water fountain that screams “discount garden accessory.”
Now that that’s out of the way, here’s a word about the show itself. The show opens with the three hosts, including last year’s winner Ell, saying the same old blah blah in very rehearsed Azeri, English and French. It was nice to hear the local language, and it’s good to see we are still pretending that Paris has influence in the rest of Europe. There was only one joke in the entire opening sequence. Rather predictably it was about a woman’s age.
As always, there’s a brief “postcard” that introduces each act. This year’s postcards don’t rival those from last year in Germany. Each clip shows a bit more about Azerbaijan and has absolutely nothing to do with the other 41 entries. I suppose this makes sense, since most of us viewers know nothing about the host nation.
Join us again for the second semi-final preview, which we will publish on Thursday, May 24. You can also vote in our poll for the second semi-final if you have not yet done so.