Germany’s Cascada

In recent weeks Team Wiwi have dumped praise (and thrown a lot of shade) on this year’s Eurovision contestants. But given the nature of Eurovision rehearsals, the Big 6 haven’t received quite as much attention from us. They rehearse later in the week, and working out access with their publicists can be a real nightmare. In any case, it’s time to right that wrong with a preview of their stage acts one last time. For an even more in-depth review click on the country’s name.

Germany's Cascada
Germany’s Cascada

Germany: Cascada with “Glorious”

Postcard: Natalie teases us by strutting through Cologne and working it on the beach. It’s an ambient start that leads to a GLORIOUS finish.

As the beat drops, you know we’re headed to clubland. Cascada cranks up the volume with this dance stomper. Yes, it rings of “Euphoria”, but the staging lifts this above so many of the contenders in this year’s Final. I’m being literal: Natalie Horler stomps it out on an elevated glass staircase, y’all! Her dress is couture extraordinaire, and unlike her peers in ballgowns, she can MOVE! The unison handclaps encourage audience participation, and you get the whole feeling of being on top of the world. When Natalie descends from the stairway of heaven, she manages to keep up the vocal belting while working every inch of the runway. Although I wasn’t madly in love with this during the Wiwi Jury review session, it has improved a great deal on repeat. Germany aren’t relying on being part of the Big 5. Once again, they’ve earned their keep this year. (Watch our interview with Natalie by clicking here.)

Marco MengoniItaly: Marco Mengoni with “L’essenziale”

Postcard: Marco Mengoni does his thing. Shot after shot, he owns the frame, forcing you to focus on him rather than the stunning Italian scenery. This postcard is nothing but a HOT teaser of what’s to come.

For the next three minutes, Marco Mengoni relies heavily on his sultry looks, which get even sultrier owing to his jazzy flourish. His craft is his voice and he commands the stage like a lone wolf. He smacks of GQ Classified, and his Salvatore Ferragamo suit exudes pure Italia Modella. I’m not a fan of this song—neither is the Wiwi Jury— but Mangoni gives a flawless performance that’s totally engaging and mesmerising. No wonder he won our Big 6 poll.

France's Amandine Bourgeois
France’s Amandine Bourgeois

France: Amandine Bourgeois with “L’enfer et moi”

Postcard: Amadine pops to a Parisian salon so she can give all y’all FACE at Eurovision. She dashes down the subway, only to emerge at the other end waving for a taxi. Lady is on the move. The postcard closes with her strumming a guitar in a bar.

She opens the show, and holds no prisoners in this performance. She gives it her all and is pitch perfect. The anger of her song comes through strongly, and I would think twice about cheating on her. It’s not lucky that she has to open the show, but at least she comes before Belarus’ Alyona Lanskaya: They’re wearing the same dress, people! This is a sophisticated number, and it nods to the blue note offerings of the jazz greats. The LED could be much stronger, but Amandine makes up for production shortcomings with a CRAZY CHICK performance.

The U.K.'s Bonnie Tyler
The U.K.’s Bonnie Tyler

United Kingdom: Bonnie Tyler with “Believe in Me”

Postcard: Bonnie invites us to share in her success. She lives in a beautiful castle with plenty of platinum and gold discs on the walls. There’s also a beautiful garden, presumably next to a beach. She is flanked by her husband who has clearly enjoyed life with this diva.

Bonnie is a big star, and Desmond Child, her songwriter on this project, can do no wrong. Sadly, ‘Believe In Me’ doesn’t shine. Her position in the running order gives her an edge over Englebert Humperdinck (he opened the show in Baku). But the U.K. is a major downer coming after Cezar, the Romanian entry who delivers an eye-catching (if divisive) performance. Things do improve when she connects with the audience in the latter half of the song. The elevated platform which is timed with the key change, gives this a stadium-rock feel. That translates well on television.

Spain's El Sueno de Morfeo
Spain’s El Sueno de Morfeo

Spain: El Sueno de Morfeo with “Contigo hasta el final”

Postcard: This montage is tastefully compiled. It shows off the group’s jetset lifestyle, which includes trips to the beach, photo sessions and long days at the recording studio.

Yes, this entry smacks of drying paint. It’s incredibly boring, and that’s brought into sharper focus because it follows the high-octane Finnish entry. However, EDSM have made the best of their staging given the material they have to work with (think bad Enya). The stage show starts with Raquel del Rosario’s Celtic wailing from a pool of dry ice. Then the LED screen takes us on a visual journey as the beat changes. The staging is beautiful, and probably the best thing about this song. The yellow accents from Raquel’s dress, the guitars, and the ceiling lanterns give this entry a much needed lift. Yellow is the new black….for EDSM, anyway.

Sweden's Robin Stjernberg
Sweden’s Robin Stjernberg

Sweden: Robin Stjernberg with “You”

Postcard: Robin takes photos with young fans on his way to a theme park. Yes, it’s fun, but SVT could have done much better. I mean…he lives in your country for God’s sake.

I must admit, this is starting to grate on repeat listens. But then again, viewers at home will only hear it once (and yes, that does mean there will not be a winner’s encore with this one). The blue background against his white costume smacks of a Greek yogurt commercial. The choreography doesn’t propel the story or the song forward. Sure, Robin can sing. He’s part of the Big 6 this year. Sack the dancers and make him go solo. What’s even more annoying is that when the recap comes on, we’re yet again reminded of the poorly constructed choreography. Sweden is determined to pullback from Loreen’s success. (Watch our interviews with Robin by clicking here.)

Photos: Vanity Fair Cover: Vanity Fair Italy; all others:  Thomase Hanses and Sander Hesterman (EBU)

You can read our song reviews on the Wiwi Jury page. Then read the lyrics to this year’s entries on our contestants page. And then vote for your favourite contestants in our various polls.