The contestants competing in the first semi-final have now completed the first dress rehearsal and jury performance, and are busy squeezing into their tightest pants for tonight’s live show. We grabbed a front-row seat for the action yesterday and can now report who soared—and who should consider booking an early flight home. In addition to our mini-preview, we also list where the contestant finished in our fan prediction poll and with the Wiwi Jury. To read our more in-depth song reviews, click on the country’s name.
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. Austria: Natália Kelly with “Shine”
Memorable lyrics: “But when you’re down there kneeling, there is no chance to see it.”
Natalia shines with simple staging and a bit of wind machine magic. The act opens with the camera panning up her body. Her outfit is simple but the lighting gives her the effect of glowing. What a good choice to start out the competition. If you’re lucky, you may get to see a bit of her chiseled abs like we did today!
Poll Ranking: 7 Wiwi Jury Ranking: 11
2. Estonia: Birgit Oigemeel with “Et uus saaks alguse”
Memorable lyrics: “We need the night so the day can bring us light.”
We haven’t really spent much time reviewing this one, and it ain’t a coincidence. I honestly forget this song is in the contest every day until I hear someone else playing it…and then while listening I tend to space out and think about what I’m having for dinner, what I last ate at McDonald’s, and what colour t-shirt I will wear to Euroclub tonight. It’s a productive use of time, but given that it’s spent completely disconnected from the song, I think that’s a pretty bad sign. Despite the Wiwi Jury’s reservations, we have to admit that Birgit had some of the loudest applause in the arena yesterday. Apparently people like this. Birgit is pregnant and getting close to giving birth, so there will be joy in her life after this competition is over.
Poll Ranking: 14 Wiwi Jury Ranking: 15
3. Slovenia: Hannah with “Straight Into Love”
Memorable lyrics: “Tomorrow is now”
From the Estonian snooze fest we move on to Hannah’s disco beats. The American singer is definitely in the running to be Eurovision 2013’s Miss Congeniality (if she can beat out Israel’s heart-broken Moran Mazor), but you wouldn’t know it when you see her command the stage in her black form-fitting catsuit. Her back-up dancers are the perfect mix of hot and restrained, and they’ve clearly learned something from Sweden’s Love Generation. Club songs don’t usually do well at Eurovision, but we are hoping Hannah can one-up our titty-tastic Bulgarian favourite from last year!
Poll Ranking: 8 Wiwi Jury Ranking: 6
4. Croatia: Klapa s mora with “Mizerja”
Memorable lyrics: “I have no gold to adorn your lovely form”
It’s an odd transition to go from a club hit to this, but we’ll have to deal with it (thanks, SVT!). The refrain in this song is actually quite sweet, but the rest is atrocious. I could totally see the elderly generation voting this through – it’s kind of like how every year in Melodifestivalen we see some dated folk song make it to the Final over something contemporary. Sadly, Klapa s mora’s fan base are probably too old to own mobile phones.
Poll Ranking: 13 Wiwi Jury Ranking: 13
5. Denmark: Emmelie de Forest with “Only Teardrops”
Memorable lyrics: “No shooting star to guide us”
Four songs in, and we arrive at this year’s solid favourite, even if her lead has shrunk considerably. Emmelie as a person is pretty bland, so it ain’t a shock to see her doing pretty much nothing at a museum in her postcard clip. But when it comes to staging, this is one of the best acts of the year, and certainly the best of the night. Bohemian dress, undone hair and bare feet scream Loreen (last year’s winner), the instrumentalists are Norway 2009, and the fire sparks at the end are Azerbaijan 2011…but you know what, copying former winners is a pretty smart thing to do. Look out for Emmelie’s crazy stalker eyes at about 30 seconds as she stalks the stunningly handsome flute player. If we don’t vote her through, I don’t know what kind of voodoo she gonna pull. The stoic looks on stage don’t exactly scream emotion, and I think that is this girl’s one major problem. She will need a good starting order in the Final.
Poll Ranking: 3 Wiwi Jury Ranking: 2
6. Russia: Dina Garipova with “What If?”
Memorable lyrics: “What if we aimed to stop the alarms?”
I’m surprised the postcard for this one doesn’t feature Dina cooking macaroni & cheese, because this shit is OVER THE TOP with the schmaltz factor. Look out for the clincher, when the performers hold hands at the end…or when about a minute before, two of the back-up singers through random balls into the audience. Sorry, people, but this song needs to go. Like I’ve said a number of times, this ain’t a Coca-Cola commercial from the 1970s…it’s Eurovision 2013!
Poll Ranking: 12 Wiwi Jury Ranking: 5
7. Ukraine: Zlata Ognevich with “Gravity”
Memorable lyrics: “Something happens and it seems like a strike of thunder”
Zlata is one of those girls who is always composed and perfect, so it wasn’t surprising to see the same in her postcard. When the staging starts, don’t be scared—that is a real giant that they have flown him in from the United States to hyperbolize the fairytale aspects of this song. That’s ruul ruul cute, but girl needs to take better care of her earpiece, because for the second time since she’s been rehearsing this on stage it fell out and she had to start over. Can she hold it inside, and hold it together? If so, this is bound to make the Final, and is actually second among the bookies to win the whole thing. Big Friendly Giant (B.F.G.) meets Little Mermaid here, so you better love kids’tales.
Poll Ranking: 5 Wiwi Jury Ranking: 3
8. The Netherlands: Anouk with “Birds”
Memorable lyrics: “No air, no pride”
From Disney to depressing, we turn to the dark stylings of rocker chic Anouk. The Netherlands hasn’t made the Final in ages, and we think they may pull out if it doesn’t happen this year. But no need to fear: This ballad is a sure thing, especially with help from the jury (remember, they make up 50% of the score even in the semi-finals).
Poll Ranking: 1 Wiwi Jury Ranking: 1
9. Montenegro: Who See with “Igranka”
Memorable lyrics: “Take me somewhere so I don’t crack”
Another drastic transition takes us to this hip-hop clubbing hit from Montenegro. If you’re into clean-cut guys, then you might want to close your eyes, because these dudes are rough! But doing so would be a mistake, because you’d miss the out of this world staging and choreography in this number. Practice your robot dance moves and get off the damn couch.
Poll Ranking: 11 Wiwi Jury Ranking: 14
10. Lithuania: Andrius Pojavis with “Something”
Memorable lyrics: “If you don’t know, I’m in love with you.”
This is a really sweet song, but dude’s eyebrows and facial expressions really bring it down a notch. If he could hold back, this could have a much better chance of making it through. But you never know – people loved Donny Montell’s 80s throw-back last year. And, as the Wiwi Jury pointed out, there’s a quiet sweetness to this that elevates it beyond a bad cover of The Killers. There’s just something about “Something”.
Poll Ranking: 16 Wiwi Jury Ranking: 8
11. Belarus: Alyona Lanskaya with “Solayoh”
Memorable lyrics: “A rush of excitement flowed into my ears.”
We hope you kept your astronaut costumes from Montenegro’s performance, because Belarus is about to take us to Planet Solayoh. With made-up words like “play-oh”, she brings non-stop fun and energy to the stage, and even jumps out of a giant disco ball. The staging is on point and this sizzling number should burn a path straight to the Final. Otherwise, the country will send Alyona a big bill to pay for all the gingerbread and chocolate that they’ve been handing out this week!
Poll Ranking: 4 Wiwi Jury Ranking: 9
12. Moldova: Aliona Moon with “O Mie”
Memorable lyrics: “Go away! Now, I’m done.”
Europe’s poorest country, Moldova can’t afford to mass produce chocolate and gingerbread for the press, but they did invest a hefty sum into Aliona’s ballgown, which needed to be flown separately to Malmo. And while the dress is dramatic, the interpretive dancing back-up crew simply does not gel with the song. Even so, some members of Team Wiwi adore this number, especially when it reaches the bridge. They claim it builds slowly and effectively and has the best climax of the evening.
Poll Ranking: 9 Wiwi Jury Ranking: 12
13. Ireland: Ryan Dolan with “Only Love Survives”
Memorable lyrics: “So let the world collide, don’t be afraid.”
Filling Jedward’s shoes is really difficult, and Ryan Dolan does his best. He may be straight, but he knows how to appeal to a gay fan base so he brought in gratuitously naked back-up drummers/dancers to spice up his act. The song itself is good enough, even if it will suffer from cannibalization against Belgium. Sadly this might not make it through. (Um, another member of Team Wiwi is typing now and he totally disagrees. This song is a shoe-in. This has a hardcore dance vibe, whereas Belgium is a softer, gentler dance number which will struggle a lot more to advance.)
Poll Ranking: 6 Wiwi Jury Ranking: 4
14. Cyprus: Despina Olympiou with “An Me Thimase”
Memorable lyrics: “For all I loved, I seek no pardon.”
This woman is beautiful. Her song is not. Have you put your cats and kids to bed? If not, bring them over to the TV stat and you’ll get the job done for you. With so many strong ballads, this one just blends into the crowd. The simple staging and simple outfit help her out, but not nearly enough.
Poll Ranking: 10 Wiwi Jury Ranking: 7
15. Belgium: Roberto Bellarosa with “Love Kills”
Memorable lyrics: “Through the consequence of fire comes the burn.”
Belgium: If you watch Roberto’s live performance in Belgium a few months ago, and then watch this, you will agree with me that he is most definitely Eurovision 2013’s Most Improved Performer. Put anyone in the Finnish countryside for a week at a vocal bootcamp, and he/she can learn how to sing one 3-minute song well. This is a sweet number, but it doesn’t really fit into the Eurovision mix of things. That, coupled with the Irish cannibalization effect, will likely doom this one to an early death.
Poll Ranking: 15 Wiwi Jury Ranking: 16
16. Serbia: Moje 3 with “Ljubav je svuda”
Memorable lyrics: “You’ll be waiting for him every night until the morning.”
These three girls were all finalists in Serbia’s ‘The Voice’. One would think they would have clawed each other to death by now, but instead they actually genuinely care about each other…and bring that chemistry to the stage…even if they’re dressed in candyland dress. You won’t understand what the girls are singing, but from the storytale staging you can figure out that two of the girls are trying to convince the third what to do with her lover. In any case, we love this number and its performers. We really hope it makes it through!
Poll Ranking: 2 Wiwi Jury Ranking: 10
Now that we’ve covered the important stuff, here’s a quick preview of what you can expect before all the competition.
The show opens with a major tribute to last year’s winner, Loreen. We would have thought this would be in the Final instead, but I guess they’ve got something even better up their sleeves. Loreen sings with signing deaf children, and it gets ruul ruul emotional, y’all. Yes, this is a direct copy from this year’s Melodifestivalen Final intermission act, but we don’t care.
During the rehearsals it went from beauty to beast, as host Petra Mede appeared without any make-up. It ain’t pretty, y’all. We’ve already booked her an appointment with Swedish company Oriflame to correct things ahead of the actual show.
Before getting to the first act, we get to see the much awaited postcards. An SVT crew has flown to every competing country to follow the artists as they prepare for their big day, and it’s ruul ruul sweet. You really get a sense of the performer’s daily life and environment, and it builds an instant connection. Plus, there are ruul ruul cute flag-coloured butterflies flying around all over the place.
Photo: Acts 1 to 9 and Petra Mede: Dennis Stachel (EBU); Acts 10 to 16: Thomas Hanses (EBU)