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Eurovision 2016 Rehearsals: Day 5 Review

We’re into the long, gruelling days now and today we watched semi-final 2 second rehearsals and the first rehearsals for France and Spain.

The staging has come together for Finland. Sandhja retains the light blue playsuit and works the cameras well – maybe a little to aggressive in some shots. Her vocals drift during the big moments, which will be picked up by jurors and televoters, and is certainly a concern for Finland qualification backers should any exist.

We finally got to hear Greece today. Utopian Land isn’t a personal favourite, though I’ve seen much worse songs make the cut. It’s another presentation that looks half-baked, yet despite the decent visuals, the lack of interest from the rapper reflects the wider reaction to Argo’s song.

If generic, trashy euro-dance is your thing, then Lidia’s Falling Stars will appeal. The juries will hate it – as will most of Europe – and despite adding a verse in French, Moldova will be exiting Eurovision next Tuesday night. Au revoir!

_P6_4630Hungary features slightly revised staging graphics, but largely remains in national final form. The drummer wears a cowl and performs a few capoeira moves during the verses. Freddie appears more engaging and walks both sides of the stage. Could just qualify in 9th or 10th.

Still starting the song draped in bubblewrap with decorative tree motifs, Nina is joined by four monkish figures in black cloaks. This is a bizarre creative direction for a song aiming to be positive. Nina also shows off her white and silver metallic dress. Nina looks and sounds nervy, so the jury rehearsal will be essential viewing. Croatia are in trouble.

Douwe Bob hasn’t quite hit top gear yet, but I think he’s the sort of guy that will come alive during the live shows. He needs to maximise the close-up shots with some simmering stares down the lens – he does give us a Gianluca Ginoble wink, though. Netherlands is simple and charming and will be on SVT’s wish list to make the final.

Iveta still wears a cloaked leotard; the fish-nets have gone, but the overly sexual visuals remain. Vocally, she’s fine, but TV viewers will struggle to take anything away beyond what is a scantily clad woman shouting at them for three minutes. Armenia aren’t getting many votes once in the final.

_P6_4857Serhat wears a plum suit and fedora with five backing dancers in sparkling silver leotards and bodysuits. San Marino have taken big steps forward with their staging adding disco balls, starbursts and a general feeling of fun.

More problems for Russia during the first run through. This was quickly sorted, and with some graphic and lighting tweaks, Sergey gave a more assured performance. The staging is still like one of those all you can eat international buffets: loads of choice, but nothing of standout quality.

In a total contrast to Russia, Gabriela Gunčíková delivers I Stand with blissful simplicity. The staging has been toned down during the softer moments and the camera angles convey greater drama. One or two more closeups would really help the Czech Republic’s cause.

Cyprus have stripped back the most of the wolves, but added more bite to the overall presentation of Alter Ego. Francois Micheletto gives great camera and the whole performance is lifted by pyros during the final run through.

_P6_5287Austria remains the same and are still on my NQ list, but could offer better lay value in play. Estonia is much the same too, but Jüri has got rid of those awful glasses. If you thought Loïc looked like a psycho last year, then you wouldn’t want to be caught in a dark alley with Jüri.

Azerbaijan would be better off following the Spice Girls’ lead and muting Samra’s microphone. She has improved since last rehearsal, however, if the juries stay true to the marking criteria, Azerbaijan won’t be scoring well outside of their regional and oth€r allies.

Highway are all dressed in black against black staging with red tinges. The girl at the front appears even more slutty in black thigh-high boots. This is really messy. Montenegro should be fighting for last place with Moldova.

Way to turn it around Iceland! I Hear Them Calling now features a new pre-recorded special effect where Greta turns into a black puff of smoke and plunges through the floor. This is the compromise to the rather jerky link to the second verse that was causing problems on Tuesday.

_P6_5747Bosnia & Herzegovina also took a step forward if you can overlook the hyperthermia sheets and Dean’s Gestapo officer’s jacket. I actually think this is becoming more credible, in a Balkan sort of way and took some 80/1 top Balkan at Bet365 as cheap cover for Serbia. This is qualifying.

Malta makes it a hat trick of countries improving on their first rehearsal. The dodgy cape projection and Tinkara whirlpool are history and instead we have a stunning blue, watery backdrop and a smiling Ira in a flattering gold and black dress.

Amir is in his traditional svelte blue suit with white t-shirt and trainers combo. The backdrop features stars and flying planets, which is quite fitting really, as I’ve been forward in telling people for some time that they were in orbit if they thought France could win Eurovision. Amir is isolated on that huge stage, and even when he smiles, it looks strained. After three rehearsals, the supposed fan favourite received no applause from the press centre.

Spain were last up today. Barei is joined on stage by four backing singers-cum-dancers who struggle to hold a tune. The stage features blue/white triangles with the surrounding effect-lights spewing out all shades of colour vomit. It looks messy. One of Barei’s dance moves, or rather gimmicks, is to fall down with the music  and lights cutting out. It’s dramatic, but it doesn’t take genius to work out it’s faked. I can’t see the juries being kind to this, so I think Spain have already reserved their customary 20th+ finishing position.

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About Gavster

ESCtips Owner   I’m a qualified designer and dedicate a lot of my free time to keeping the ESCtips show on the road. My family routes allow me to support the UK, Ireland and Italy.


  1. So the game is turning to Russia vs Ukraine. Interesting! Now Gav what do you think about Jamala? You tweeted some ironic posts about the appeal of the song and yesterday i saw a comment like Kiev2017? Lets see, seems a nice battle 🙂

  2. Field to beat big 5 not dropped yet, with todays results in mind, fyi. 🙂

    Still excited about seeing Italy though, the top big 5 shaping up nicely too.

  3. It is official now: France is fanwank.

    I feel Russia and the Netherlands are top 2 here. Cyprus, Armenia and Malta are also safe qualifiers, I think Malta will complete the top 3.
    Czech Republic, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Hungary are also through.
    Four countries are battling for the last two slots, right now I feel Azerbaijan and Iceland are in and Croatia and Greece are out.
    The others stand no chance in my opinion.

    • Agree
      For the win Malta Netherlands Sweden Arnenia Australia Russia and even Israel are the REAL contenders

  4. Ukraine very difficult to win it and most probably would not even reach the top 5.

    Russia are more credible winners but I feel that a russian win would be completely by default.

    For the reason that no one wins eurovision by default, I think that the winner would come when everyone sees the live shows.

    Furthermore I feel that some countries are holding back for a big unexpected surprise in the live shows.

    Thus countries like Aussie Malta could contend for a win…. and maybe Latvia and Israel could also.

  5. Hopefully the French delegation listen to the press. There’s still time to fix things, but I’m not as confident in them as I was this morning.

  6. How safe is laying Croatia and backing Bosnia to qualify?

    • Hi Dave. No bet is 100% safe and it’s more about the price you get and whether you consider it to be fair and based on your interpretation of events. I think Croatia has less chance than Bosnia.

  7. Semi 1 qualifiers for me –

    Czech Republic
    Bosnia and Herzegovina

    With only that clip of France to go off I can’t add much but he looks a little small on that stage and if vocals are as poor as reported this will flop.

  8. Croatia,Bosnia wili flop in semi. No win for France. Spain will be finish like they did in 2015,2009 fan favorite who are flop in final.
    Fight for win between Russia,Ukraine,Armenia and Australia. I think juries wili be push so hard Australia and UKraine to defeat Russia and to neutralize points from televote for Russia.
    Dark horse for win Serbia,Malta maybe even Israel.

  9. My finishing order for the moment after watching 2nd rehearsals:

    1. Russia
    2. Netherlands
    3. Armenia
    4. Iceland
    5. Czech Republic
    6. Malta
    7. Bosnia
    8. Estonia
    9. Cyprus
    10. Azerbaijan
    11. Croatia
    12. Greece
    13. Austria
    14. Hungary
    15. Finland
    16. Montenegro
    17. Moldova
    18. San Marino

    Wasn’t the biggest Netherlands fan before rehearsals, but the way the song comes across is impeccable and it stands out a mile. Should get a lot of jury love, and if he can build in some more smiles it has a chance to make an impact in the televote.

    Trying to find a way to justify dropping Azerbaijan out of my 10…3 days to do it.

    • I see Greece instead of Bosnia and Hungary instead of Iceland in TOP 10. And I think bottom 3 wili be 16.Finland 17.San Marino 18.Austria

  10. Anyway gav who do you think will take the crown this year ?
    I predict Russia Australia Sweden and Malta to fight.

    Also the most amazing fact that I came across is the views of the Maltese video. It racked up around 4 MILLION. This could be all in vain, I know…. but when you consider the amount of views of Maltese vids (not even 1 million), this could mean something special is about to happen for Malta.

    Remember that this is a prediction.

  11. To Ukraine’s credit, I will acknowledge that some people will find it very moving, and if the staging is showing signs of a happy ending or hope for a bright future in a clear way, that helps its case. Suus proved that there is room for audiences to be moved by tearjerkers. Spain’s Quedate Comigo is another interesting example of that, but that didn’t have the darkness 1944 does. Ukraine definitely has the most emotional song this year. Unquestionably. But I think it’s one that grows on you.

    The first time I heard 1944, my takeaway was Caucasian ethnic instruments, Michael Jackson’s “Stranger in Moscow”, and a dreadful morbid wailing, I had it down as a potential non-qualifier but knew straight away Ukraine would never allow for that possibility. I didn’t get it. Others did, and will.

    I’m relaxing my view, just slightly, that 1944 is going to split Europe right down the Iron Curtain. I think there’s potential for 1944 to get a result like Suus but be seen as a “cooler” song perhaps, but I still think it’s going to struggle in the west and most of its support will come from diaspora, especially Turkish. Others who can’t relate to Jamala’s “situation” may well assume the song is about the recent Crimean invasion and find their connection with it that way. Wouldn’t surprise me in the least if Ukraine had absolutely no problem with that misinterpretation.

    Back in 2014 when everyone was saying Conchita would never win over the east, I wished I or someone else had the balls to say “but what if she does?” If 1944 does win over the west like Conchita won over the east, then fair game. I’ve got to acknowledge that possibility.

    At the moment I’m weighing up potential contenders by trying to think of reasons why they will win and why they won’t. I still haven’t attached my sails to anyone’s mast yet. Ukraine’s position in the final running order will be telling.

    • I honestly couldn’t agree more about the Ukrane/Conchita comparison.

      • One thing to say :

        so Ukraine can’t win, never

        • I wasn’t comparing 1944 to Rise Like a Phoenix, Maros. That’s very clear if you had read what I wrote.

          I was saying the prejudices that the betting crowd had towards Conchita’s appeal in the east could also be true for Jamala’s appeal in the west.

          But it’s a theory. A possibility that I’m acknowledging. It doesn’t mean I think it will come true. I’m still not sold on 1944 as a winning song at all.

  12. I think we have things set now.Two very special songs for different reasons.Ukraine and Sweden.If all things were right these two have the win between them.Sweden have a wonderful song and the perfect singer for it.Millions of teenage girls and their mothers will love it.Ukraine just makes your heart break because they have everything perfect.Its for the purists,but its come together in a way that just defines winners.Its beautiful and makes you question yourself and run for the phone.Jamala clutching a lost child in her arms connects you like nothing this year.
    Russia has a pile of dated rubbish,and i hate the fact i have to make it green and reduce Sweden and Ukraine down a little,but it just might con enough people to win so i have to.Im tempted to keep it red for the sake of music,but i darent.If it wins though, ESC has gone back two decades.It really is utter garbage for anyone who thinks music should mean something.
    4th is tricky.Armenia could so easily fight for it but Iveta just cant lose the supermodel title and think that persona will deliver victory.The black dress from the Moscow concert would be better.Pull in Iveta,dont push away.

  13. A tricky one this semi, but I have tried my best to pick the ten qualifiers as of now:

    1 Finland – this fresh opening tune could have had a chance, but the embarrassing outfits and plain stupid choreo has ruined it. Very likely NQ.

    2 Greece – the rap part is really annoying, but the visuals seems to make impact, especially a strong final minute. Misses a couple of voting allies, but has still more voting strength than many others in this semi. I think Greece is making the cut even from the dead slot.
    Borderline to likely Q.

    3 Moldova – simply not good enough. Definite NQ

    4 Hungary – who will remember this guy after 18 songs? The package is safe and solid enough and the song is ok, but nothing special. The drummer is adding nothing but distraction. In my opinion Freddie comes across as quite pretentious and too self confident for the viewer´s likings. He lacks the charm and likeability of a qualifier from slot 4, and there is a limited voting base for Hungary as well. Borderline NQ.

    5 Croatia – the song is quite good, but the staging is a disaster. The dress and outfits are horrendous, and she also looks very uncomfortable, especially in the verses where she is slightly out of tune. I get the feeling that she rather wants to go home. She is better in the choruses, but the problem is that she just exudes nothing, and she hasn´t got the slightest hint of charisma. The visuals are so off-putting and the overall impression so weak and uninspired that I really don´t understand why the market reacts so slowly. It should also be mentioned that Croatia misses 3 of their 4 most reliable voting friends in this semi (Serbia, Slovenia, FYROM), besides the general voting power of Croatia being very weak. Should still get 8-12 from Bosnia-Hercegovina and Montenegro, and probably 6-7 from Austria, but with this quite forgettable and at apparently underwhelming performance I am expecting very low points from the rest of the field. Likely NQ in my book.

    6 Netherlands – Douwe´s voice is very good, and he´s got all the charisma and charm that Freddie thinks he has. The song is quite simple, in a good way. A genuine and sincere performance. Very likely (almost definite) qualifier.

    7 Armenia – her voice is strong, although I think she was slightly out of tune in some parts of the song in the video from today. More than strong enough performance to qualify though, but she could struggle to reach top10 if both Russia and Ukraine are scraping up the eastern votes. Definite qualifier.

    8 San Marino – NQ

    9 Russia – what to say about Sergej? As soulless as Dima Bilan, and therefore he will win? Maybe not (at least I hope not), as this song is extremely dated and the staging is overblown. Hopefully Ukraine and Russia will cancel each other out. However, the product is solid and finished, and the performance WILL be very slick and professional (unless he falls off the wall again, if you think so you should consider the 49/1 bet at Nordicbet). He may get the same unfair treatment as Polina did last year (jurors in the Baltics and some countries in Western Europe countries obviously punished her just for being russian), but if he fails to win, let´s hope it will be on the basis of more deserved reasons than that. Definite Q.

    10 Czech Republic – so simple, so classy, and what a super telegenic (and beautiful) artist. Top10 in the final should be within reach, which would be very deserved. Voting strength probably don´t even exist in the Czech´s vocabulary, but if they don´t qualify this time, I fear they never will return to the contest again. Likely to very likely qualifier.

    11 Cyprus – Personally I really dislike this wannabe rock song, but I recognize and respect the support it gets from other people. As the rehearsals have shown, they are playing a quite safe game with a stereotypically rock staging concept, and the vocals seems good enough, so I think they will get through, but I don´t feel confident at all. Borderline Q.

    12 Austria – Zoë´s song actually has the exact same beat as Cyprus´ chorus (only a little bit faster), which is not a compliment to either of the songs. What this dated song needed was a modern staging with some sort of edge/punch (not the one with the taste of peach), but we all know it didn´t happen. It´s so sweet and dull that I suspect some viewers will be wanting to throw up. BUT I think it has its audience among the girls and (of course) esc fans throughout Europe (and when I say esc fans I´m not only thinking of those in the bubble, but the type of viewer who really enjoys the show and watches it every year – not only randomly – without necessarily following the contest during the season and rehearsals). Most punters are probably insanely fed up with this song and the whole cutesy staging by now, but we have to remember that first time viewers may react and connect different to the song. It´s certainly very different from anything else in this semi, and no matter what you think of the song, you can´t deny that Zoë oozes of goodness, she connects well with the camera (at least in the nf), and I think a lot of viewers will be warmed by her stage presence. That is more than you can say about the likes of Freddie and Nina. It will still be an uphill battle, but I think Zoë can grab the 10th place. Borderline Q.

    13 Estonia – there was a lot of negative response to Jüri´s first rehearsal, but I think his second rehearsal today was promising. His weirdness has been mentioned by many, but I suspect those critics were pretty much the same who were negative to Loïc´s rehearsals last year, commenting on his serial killer looks etc. I am not saying that Estonia is reaching for top4 in the final, but I do think Estonia is qualifying on the basis of the song quality and Jüri´s quirky charm. If he comes across as genuine, the weirdness is not an issue. Opinions vary about the card trick, but I think it looked quite cool and could work well with the audience. It will for sure make his performance more memorable. Likely Q.

    14 Azerbaijan – as for Croatia, I think the market reacts surprisingly slow to this total fiasco. Azerbaijan for sure has some amount of voting power (still), but when Elnur barely managed to qualify last year (10th with 54 points from a similar place in the running order), how on earth is Samra gonna make it this year? Hour of the Wolf was admittedly not as much of a catchy and instant pop song as Miracle is, but it was very respected in the outright market when it was published, and was still around 30-40 on the first rehearsal day. There was not much wrong with Elnur´s vocals, but the staging concept was a very unsuccessful one. This year Azerbaijan has to overcome a major failure of both the staging AND the vocals. As you all know, in the second rehearsal today Samra was singing so out of tune that it is hard to describe. Daniel Kajmakoski (FYROM 2015) came to my mind, and that was not something I was happy for. And that extremely unpalatable Chippendales choreo of the backing singers/dancers will for sure evoke laughter throughout Europe come next Tuesday, but I doubt it will make many viewers pick up their phone to vote. Borderline to likely NQ.

    15 Montenegro – being a country without any voting power at all, it is quite obvious that this is not enough to qualify. Too noisy, too dark, too low quality. Useful filler. Definite NQ.

    16 Iceland – I have been quite positive about the song and performance from the beginning, even though I did recognize Greta somehow had some styling and camera connection issues. I have never doubted its qualification chances though, as Greta is a solid enough performer and her voice can be trusted. The song stands out from the masses, and the performance is memorable, no matter if you think it´s a copycat or not.

    17 Bosnia-Hercegovina – I don´t get the praise for BH today. I do respect the experts who have seen the screenings of the acts, but to me this package seems like a total mess. Who´s gonna vote for this outside Balkan? With the noble exception of the classy cellist, the visuals are indescribable horrifying, the style and taste is all over the place (what taste you may ask), and when the rapper shows up, it´s like good night and farewell. Greece benefits from having the rapper on first, giving viewers the opportunity to forget it, and in the end they may think the whole thing was quite good after all. With Bosnia-Hercegovina we get the reverse journey, which can´t possibly be a good thing. Likely NQ.

    18 Malta – Definite qualifier from pimp, but definitely not a winner. The simplier staging of today was of course a big step forward, but in my book Ira has not the performance of a winner (correct me if I´m wrong). Definite Q.

    In other words, the ten qualifiers I think of at the moment are Greece (slot 2), Netherlands (6), Armenia (7), Russia (9), Czech Republic (10), Cyprus (11), Austria (12), Estonia (13), Iceland (16) and Malta (18). In that case there will be a 4/6 split between the halves, while 3 of the last 6 qualifies. 3 of the 5 male acts are in, 5 of the 9 female acts, and 2 of the 4 group acts, which sounds quite likely to happen. The streak of 5 qualifiers from slot 9 to 13 seems a bit out of place though.

    I think it is very difficult to pick a winner this year, especially as I just don´t get the attraction of Ukraine. The heavy movement of Ukraine in the market and the concur praising of Jamala´s performance is of course very disturbing, but I try to keep calm and eat a cookie.

    We haven´t seen Italy yet, but I don´t think the ice queen stands a chance unless she thaws up.

    It is of course impossible to exclude the possibility of a victory to Russia, but at the moment I am thinking that Sweden or Australia will take it, with Israel, Belgium or Latvia as the candidates of being a potential shock winner.

    • I would agree with most of your post. Regarding the winners now: Russia as you mentioned cannot be excluded. Ukraine for me will not do well at the televote. Sweden after so negative comments after Melodi has no chance on my eyes. Australia yes and Latvia yes they can have a possibility to win this. But Belgium and Israel are too far away to win, no chance at all. Of course, that is my own opinion.

  14. Malta and the Czech Republic are my picks for surprise top-3 of the semi. Now that they have their act sorted, Ira has great confidence and command on stage. The dancer, IMO, adds to the performance- it would be too empty on stage with Ira alone. The Czech Republic, however, do benefit from being alone on stage. Dress choice aside, everything is in place for qualification. If Lithuania could get third in their semi in 2011, the Czechs can do the same this year with a superior song.

    Sergey, while I actually don’t mind his song, is coming off as increasingly try-hard with each rehearsal. It will be a close race to the top, and most likely the jury will make or break Russia and their semi win.

    P.S.- When you say France looks empty on stage, are camera angles taken into account? If they don’t have the final shots, the performance can still come together in the next week.

  15. I’m immensely curious to see which way the juries go. The beacon of quality is coming from Ukraine and Sweden, two original, contemporary numbers with distinct core messages and succinct productions. With the French missing the mark, Armenia being too aggressive, and Italy perhaps being too subtle, I’m inclined to feel as though Jamala and Frans should be our Jury top 2, and should contend outright with Sergey.

    With Sweden you have an entry that divides fan opinion but is valued by the betting community. Russia similarly divides fan opinion, and although standing as the market leader, is not valued by the more experienced punter. However based on the recent reception to 1944, Jamala seems to be winning over the hardcore fans, the press, music snobs, a majority of punters, and has gone from being something macabre and esoteric, into an entry with astounding universal appeal, a support system no other entry has this year.

    Jamala’s 1944 is a remembrance of her Grandmother, and more generally is a lament for the dead. What strikes me is that on a Global level, music in 2016 has undoubtedly been tied to that of remembrance, with the recent deaths of David Bowie, Prince and many more icons within the industry (Billy Paul and Merle Haggard too). My point is that this Ukrainian entry may well connect with a wider audience thematically, since the world has become familiar with the act of lamenting the dead within a musical and sociopolitical context in 2016. Just food for thought.

  16. “The staging is still like one of those all you can eat international buffets: loads of choice, but nothing of standout quality.”

    Brilliant analogy for the Russian presentation. If you think of the juries as the food critics, they wouldn’t go near such a place, but ordinary punters queue out of the door. Who will hold sway on Saturday night?

    I find the focus on the perceived overt sexuality of Ivetta surprising and OTT in a world where Madonna and Miley Cyrus are such mega stars. I think Ivetta falls more into the Beyonce mould. Her outfit doesn’t look in any way slutty to me, she’s not showing any cleavage whatsoever. Perhaps there is something on the monitors that doesn’t come across on the view we have seen.

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