November 20, 2019

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Commotion doesn't being to describe the discussions that have been ongoing within the music industry for the past couple of days noting that the withdrawal of Saska Hunt with the track Dress Rehearsal composed by Philip Vella and penned by Gerard James Borg has raised eyebrows although rumours have said that due to exams in the United Kingdom where Saska resides, she was unable to continue her journey within the competition and therefore, the first placed individual not to make the cut, being Marilena Gauci with the song Overrated has eventually been revealed as the twenty-fourth semi-finalists in a Xarabank programme which was celebrating the festive season.

It very much seems that the artist had not even known about this decision with the host, Peppi Azzopardi saying that this was planned a week in advance but due to the show cancellation, the announcement was delayed even further. Several people unfortunately missed their chance to watch the preview of the song Overrated which is intriguingly being said to resemble the popular track Domino by Jessie J. There might be some slight similarities but one has to remember that there are only so many notes on the piano and therefore, resemblance is not really an issue. We could only denote that the track is an uptempo one, adding to the several already in the competition and somewhat seemingly written for the vocals of Marilena noting that she seems to perform it well. The live performance will definitely be a different story but the editorial team of escflashmalta.com would like to congratulate her on making it through and would also like to extend their wishes for an extremely festive season for the days which lie ahead. Stay tuned for more news as soon as it becomes available.

Source: YouTube

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dOR22A6jLZg

Published in Local Music News

Without the loud screeching at the beginning of each show that we have witnessed this week by the hosts of the 2012 edition of the Eurovision Song Contest, I would like to wish everyone a good evening with one of the most pivotal shows ready to begin in around half an hour. Following the two semi-finals, one held on Tuesday and the other last night, the full list of the finalists was revealed and despite some surprises, it should be one of the most intriguing finals in recent years and this is because, people are not sure who could actually win with a number of counties, all putting their best foot forward to take on the rest of the continent. This will be the very first final in quite some time to feature countries such as Malta and the FYR Macedonia who have been absent from the final evening for three and five years respectively. Each country had the same amount of rehearsal time and most of the production during the week was flawless with only some minor errors which will surely be tweaked in time for tomorrow evening.

There will be a total of twenty-six (26) acts competing to win this years' Eurovision Song Contest with twenty (20) having qualified through their respective semi-final, the highest contributing countries known as the Big Five (5) and of course the host country of the year which would have been the winner of the previous year. This afternoon, there was the first dress rehearsal of the final and it was also the first time that the songs were seen in this respective running order. It seems that Malta is really looking great in contrast to the songs that are found at each end of the competition, both before and after us. We would like to wish Kurt Calleja, Amber, Warren, Christian, Rebecca and Kevin the very best of luck with their performance this evening as they do their utmost in order to woo the judges and hopefully achieve a high placing for Malta this time round.

LIVE

The Show (Part 1)

The opening act of the final is actually quite noisy so to speak with a lot of people playing drums and doing what seems to be a very traditional type of folk dance. This looks nice actually but then again, we move onto the reprise of last years' winning entry being Running Scared by Ell & Nikki. They seem to be performing live and this is still a beautiful song so to speak. The hosts are trying not to shout this evening actually and this is because they must have heard of the comments in recent days. They are clad in beautiful attire and have somewhat improved. They are speaking in English, French, German and Azeri it seems.

01. United Kingdom

The very first performance of the evening is by Engelbert Humperdinck, a legend by his own standards and definitely growing old now being more than seventy five years of age. He is clad in black attire and is joined on stage by a guitarist and two dancers who perform a smooth waltz which is somewhat mixed with ballet. In the beginning, there was an extremely bum note unfortunately and this will definitely harm his chances with the jury. He does miss another one and this is sounding like one of the worst performances from the United Kingdom in quite some time. The higher notes in the meantime seem to be just right this evening and he may still amass a number of points. I am not sure that they will manage a top ten placing tomorrow night but the people in the hall do enjoy it. Prediction 12th - 18th

02. Hungary

The lead performer of the group is clad in the same black attire that he was wearing during the semi-final but it is quite an authentic look. Many people believe that this was the track that managed to scrape out the tenth position and qualify thanks to the Jury Vote because many people were surprised that it would actually make it but nevertheless, it remains to be one of the most contemporary tracks in this years' Eurovision Song Contest. The vocals are very good but I do not think that this song will stick to the minds of the viewers this time round because of the rough early draw and because of the fact that they are performing in the number #2 slot which has been doomed for a number of years as no winner has come out of it. Prediction: 22nd - 26th

03. Albania

Another semi-final one qualifier, one which has been suspect of garnering massive jury support. However, she may have qualified, she is definitely one of the best vocalists in this years' competition bringing out the best range that I have seen within a performer for quite some time. This is a candidate for the worst dressed award though with Rona wearing what seems to be a blue gown with a black circle around her neck. She impresses with her simple song and staging noting that the spotlights and the red colours are kept throughout. The audience in the arena is clapping mid-way through the performance and so are the people in the press centre. She never drops a note and that is why she is amazing. Could Albania actually better their best result of seventh place with this? It could be from the reaction this is getting. Well done Rona! Prediction: 6th-15th

04. Lithuania

This has to be one of the slowest beginnings to a final of the Eurovision Song Contest in years and here we have Donny Montell still clad in his smart black suit which is somewhat very reminiscent of something his friend Sasha Son would be wearing. He does have a blind fold in the beginning but then removes it mid-way through the song when the track becomes very much inspired by the recently deceased Donna Summer. The vocals for this one have always been strong and one cannot help feel surprised at how this managed to qualify to the final. It was a surprise but could suffer the same fate of Lithuania a couple of years back with the same aforementioned Sasha Son which is quite unfortunate. Prediction: 24th-26th

05. Bosnia & Herzegovina

Maya Sar was somewhat the second surprise of the evening last night even though Bosnia & Herzegovina boast one of the most successful records at the Eurovision Song Contest having a 100% qualification record which has been kept in tact. We believe that the main help last night for the main draw and coming after an uptempo song like the one from Norway but this time round despite crystal clear vocals, I just cannot see this song really troubling the scoreboard. The staging is just black for most of the time but then changes to dark blue and red at times to try and imagine a sunset. The piano and the violins are so beautiful but that dress is also a contender for the Barbara Dex Award with the black shoulder-pads. Perfect song but not for this competition. Prediction: 15th-20th

06. Russia

Russia have one of the catchiest entries in this years' Eurovision Song Contest and despite besides the fact that the track is quite silly actually. The performers for this one are none other than six grannies, who are quite cute in their own manner. The vocals for this one normally do not have to be astoundingly great but the people do enjoy a bit of a party and that is why, the press centre and the audience in the arena are just going crazy at the moment. This is the very first song which is uptempo and therefore, it was always going to obvious that it would be strong and in fact, they are seen to be favourties for victory tomorrow night. I would never imagine what Terry Wogan would have said to this though. This is a very good performance but I believe the juries will take it down and see it not winning in the long run. Prediction: 3rd-5th

07. Iceland

This evening, everyone is in their costume performing in front of a relatively full arena for a rehearsal and also the juries. Everyone is clad in the outfits that they were wearing in the semi-final meaning a black suit for Jonsi and a beautiful black shimmering gown for Greta. Every time he performs in front of an audience, it seems that Jonsi goes down a notch and he seems terrified performing this evening. Nevertheless, the backdrop featuring the mountains and the beautiful geography of Iceland is just beautiful. She normally carries his vocals most of the way through but I believe that she is complimenting him today and that they are managing to be on the same level. I believe that this could be a dark horse during the final because it is coming across so well. Prediction: 7th-10th

08. Cyprus

Another uptempo entry is needed this evening and this is one of the track which clearly has everything going for it including the song, the choreography and the visuals but then comes Ivi who has proven herself to be an incredible person but very much lacks the voice. She is definitely having her worst performance tonight and she just cannot seem to keep up with the tempo of the song at times. Oh My! This is atrocious from the sound of the press centre and it is quite funny how such an esteemed performer like her has managed to kill the song all on her own. They did their best to hide the vocals behind the choreography. I daresay that I could sing this song even better and interacting with the audience does not work at all. This might actually finish in the last five places if it does not improve until tomorrow unfortunately. Prediction: 16th-24th

09. France

Very good first note from Anggun considering that there have been a number of vocal issues with performances in recent days. She is clad in sexy attire including a cape which seems to flow with the wind actually. Just as she enters into the first minute though, it seems that she is very much shouting at times. She is joined on stage by a whole circus including three gymnasts who are shirtless in order for her to attract a couple of more votes and two female backing vocalists whom don't worry are fully clothed. She tries to take up this performance as light as possible and try to enjoy it but it is not coming as good as she would like it to show on the screens. The overall outcome is not bad but I think that all the high hopes that France had are not going anywhere. Prediction: 17th-26th

10. Italy

I have been telling people that Italy is my favourite and this remains to be the case as we head into this rehearsal this evening. She is wearing what seems to be a silver dress meaning that she has opted in using the dress in the picture which had seemed to be the first choice. The English/Italian version of the song is actually much better than the fully Italian as the diction does still work in this one. She is joined on stage by thee backing vocals who have a quirky simple hand motion type of choreography. This is coming across well on screen but something tells me that Nina is not doing enough in order to win this evening although the difference is that last year, no one expected Italy to finish as the runner-up. She connects with the people asking them to clap your hands and once more I believe that this could do it. This was a very good performance although I think she has had better before. Prediction: 1st-5th

11. Estonia

Ott Lepland is next on stage and this has to be the most beautiful ballad in the competition being performed by a good looking individual. The very first time he performed this song in the national final, I easily thought it blew everything else out of the water. He is still doing the vocal acrobatics during the performance but nevertheless, this is the very best I have heard them and he is definitely heading into second gear this evening as he performs to the juries all across the continent. This did get my vote from Malta last night and I just can imagine this doing well tomorrow. The camera shots are good but the interaction with the audience seems to be quite minimal but he does put in a lot of emotion. Prediction: 8th-15th

12. Norway

The first of two of the most energetic performance of the evening comes from Norway with Tooji from Iran performing for Norway. he is joined on stage by four dancers, a mixture of men and women and they are still clad in their tattered clothing. Last night, vocally this was not all that great but nevertheless, it seems that they managed to do enough and I believe that it is more a case of nerves rather than not being a good singer. Once more, this performance is looking great on screen as it did last night and they are making use of pyrotechnics to which the crowd in the audience just goes completely mad. This is just astonishing and Norway can also surprise but I just do not think they would trouble the top ten. Prediction: 11th-15th

13. Azerbaijan

This is the time for Azerbaijan to triumph at what they have managed to achieve musically because Sabina Babayeva in my opinion is miles better than both Ell & Nikki put together. They managed to find such a wonderful performer to sing a song which is also very beautiful featuring an element of a ballad along with traditional sounds. She is joined on stage by backing vocalists, females and also just one male but this staging is kept very simple with the lights show on the stage synchronised with the ones on her dress. This is an exceptional vocal delivery and the crowd inside the Baku Crystal Hall are just going mad with such a beautiful song. I believe that Azerbaijan are heading into the top ten and they could also manage a top five if lucky. Prediction: 3rd-8th

14. Romania

Honestly enough, it is just so good to hear this song being performed in the best possible way without any trouble. Elena Ionescu is a beautiful performer and she revel in her beauty by using the camera to her advantage. She is joined on stage by a five member band, all of which play different instruments. The vocal performance here is very strong and following that initial problem that Romania faced earlier on this week during the semi-final, it seems that she has overcome all of her nerves. She is definitely enjoying the time she has on stage but what is this, she lost her words and missed a line, and that just ruined it for Romania. I cannot think that the juries will like that in the long run. The pyrotechnics work well on the cameras but nevertheless, the chances are harmed and this will definitely not win after that blunder. Prediction: 5th-10th

15. Denmark

People in the press centre are very much bored of seeing her in this outfit even though it is a nice outfit to perform in. This is the middle of the road type of track, one which Denmark have used to their advantage on a countless amount of occasions in the Eurovision Song Contest. She is joined on stage by a number of people on stage which form her band of course. There is nothing wrong with this vocally but it is turning out to be quite dull and boring unfortunately. I believe that it is a hit outside of the world of this competition. I would also like to let you know that it did manage to climb up to number #3 in the Maltese iTunes making it the second most successful entry in our country. This is looking great on screen as well. Prediction: 13th-17th

16. Greece

Eleftheria Eleftheriou is also a very beautiful lady and she is wearing a beautiful short dress featuring three colours; orange, blue and white. She is also joined on stage by four dancers and a backing vocalist. The backdrop behind them is showing the sea and also seashells and it looks very strong visually. As I have noted this afternoon, this is one track which has had the kitchen sink through at it in order to look very Greek in terms of performance and staging. The vocals are fine this evening and they might actually be the best that I have heard thus far. I must say that Greece have come a very long way this year from looking like a complete no-hoper to a definite top ten finisher. Prediction: 7th-10th

17. Sweden

This is just one country which has managed to split the people into two groups, those who believe it can win and those who say that she will not win because it is over-rated but nevertheless, the performance is just immaculate and there is nothing to fault in this one. There is a huge applause in the arena and I do have my sneaky suspicions that this was the runaway winner during the semi-final last night and it will just increase on her lead tomorrow when all of the countries vote. The vocals are strong but I do believe she was better during the semi-final last night. She is joined on stage by three backing vocalists and a dancer. This is looking strong on screen but what really impresses me actually is the long song mid-way through the song with the black backdrop, snow falling and the lights shining upon her. This is definitely the one to beat but what, Loreen also forgets a line and could Sweden have also hurt their chances. Prediction: 1st-3rd

18. Turkey

Can Bonomo has to be one of the nicest people in this years' Eurovision Song Contest and he was also one who came to Malta during his promotional tour where he and Kurt became the very best of friends. He is still wearing his leather pants and leather jacket with flocks of sea gulls draped in the inside part. He is joined on stage by four men and this seems to be the only performance which is fully masculine. The backdrop changes a lot of weather patterns but his vocals do not change and remain good throughout the competition. The audience in the crowd definitely enjoy being included in the track so much so that they start shouting mid-way. I believe that this could do well and even scrape a top ten result but not sure. Prediction: 9th-15th

19. Spain

This is one of the simplest performances this year and that goes to say a lot actually because there have been quite a number of songs which have been performed by their own but what Pastora does is bring out her best vocals this evening for the juries. The people in the press centre and in the audience are clapping along to this one especially when she hits the high notes that very difficult to reach. There has been talk that Spain might not want to win in order not to host the next edition of the competition and it seems that this could easily happen if she continues to perform in that manner. She is joined on stage by five backing vocalists who help her within the chorus. This is just perfect, and everything is going for it. Prediction: 1st-6th

20. Germany

Roman Lob came to fame for having won the competition known as Unser Star fur Baku and since then he has become quite noteworthy with this song being a hit in his native Germany, one of the largest music markets in the world. The staging for this one is kept very simple indeed with a band joining the performance giving it more of a feel of a track from the likes of Coldplay. It is written by some of the most well known names in music and it does show actually. The vocal performance is good, he knows how to use his voice at times to tighten up the vowels or rather relax them. This is coming across quite lovely on screens and whilst this could make the top ten, it will not really trouble the top five in my opinion but it is quite an interesting year for the Big Five. Prediction: 6th-12th

21. Malta

Once more, that lovely thumping beat in the beginning is one which I love to hear as it signifies us being in the final once more. Kurt is quite smart this evening as he was last night and the vocals are very strong earlier on as he interacts with the audience very early. The band joining him on stage are also doing their utmost to show their connection on the cameras. This is really looking good as it did last but night but I just cannot believe that I am saying this but Kurt is doing an amazing job during the jury performance. It seems that the focus will be on the lead performer for tomorrow night but what is infatuating is the choreography which has got a lot of people dancing in the past couple of hours. He speaks in Azeri mid-way through the song and that just sends the crowd in a flurry. He is receiving one of the biggest applauses of the evening. Prediction: 5th-15th

22. FYR Macedonia

Honestly enough, I was very happy to see the Former Yugoslavian Republic of Macedonia making it through to the finals for the very first time since 2007 and why not especially with Kaliopi being the queen of pop music in her country. She performs what is quite an underwhelming song with perfect pitch vocals and this is definitely not one which will be troubling the left side of the scoreboard. She is joined on stage by a band and some backing vocalists and they do sound very good. The shots are also as they were yesterday and that is quite a good thing. This sounds strong and looks great but I just cannot see it impacting all of the continent into voting for it at this stage of the competition. Prediction: 15th-20th

23. Ireland

It has been decided that Jedward go for spikey hair for the final performance of the competition and this seems to be a general consensus towards the people who prefer them in this manner. The main vocals of the brothers sound somewhat low in this one but nevertheless, they seem to be very much in tune. They are joined on stage by four backing vocals, two on each side, a male and a female and there is also a fountain which is being used as the main prop of the competition. This sounds great and looks strong on screen. They have also included pyrotechnics and Ireland could be heading for their best result in years. They are still in the water at the end and thus the hair does get flat. Prediction: 3rd-10th

24. Serbia

Zeljko Joksimovic has to be one of the most experienced performers at the Eurovision Song Contest and he does show that because he oozes charm and charisma every time he performs. This track is quite inferior to Lane Moje but I believe he did want to create something different in the long term. He is definitely enjoying every second he says on the stage and he does do his best to impress the juries this evening. This is a beautiful song which is definitely going to do well tomorrow night garnering votes from all of the Balkans and also the Baltics apart from other countries who will enjoy the orchestra in the track. The late draw is definitely an additional help in my opinion. Prediction: 2nd-8th

25. Ukraine

Ukraine have always been one of the more successful countries at the Eurovision Song Contest by always making it to the finals of the competition and therefore, there had been a lot of high hopes when it comes to this track due to the fact that it is the official song of the European Championships. The vocals for this one are good but I still believe that Gaitana does shout sometimes when she performs. The choreography is lovely though and I am in love with the extra LED screens which show a whole group of people dancing to the song. This might surprise people as Ukraine did manage to do just that last year but I believe it will rank just outside of the top ten or just manage to creep in. Prediction: 9th-14th

26. Moldova

The final performance of the evening comes from Moldova who are definitely getting a vote from me tomorrow night because this is just amazing and you have to love the choreography which is funny and quirky at the same time. There is a lot of positive acclaim towards this song and you just cannot help but laugh at times. The vocals of Pasha are just amazing and he manages to carry it off in the best way he could. The outfits might not be the cup of tea of everyone but they are authentic. One think though, Moldova have a track which is very traditional featuring that saxophone which is quite lovely. This is also looking very strong on screen as well so we'll how things go about. Prediction: 5th-15th


The Stage (Part 2)

Following all of the performances, the hosts are back on stage and they introduce the recap of the performances and I have to say that there are a lot of high hopes for Malta actually with one particular blogger putting it in a top five position and I do believe that we can manage to hit the top ten. When listening to the songs in their order, I believe that it is a very strong final this time round.

The Eurovision Song Contest is a music competition which brings about the whole continent together, even when it comes to countries who have not always seen eye to eye in other matter but nevertheless, this week showed how performers from several nations interacted together to see themselves garner the most out of this experience. We head into the day knowing who the twenty (20) qualifiers from the respective semi-final actually are for the very first time in three years, we have made it into the final with our song This Is The Night performed by Kurt Calleja and his band made up of Warren, Kevin, Amber, Rebecca and Christian. This also marks the very first time since escflashmalta.com was established that we are in the final and we are proud to be covering the event once more with our team present in Baku including none other than Šira Carolyn Bezalel, Juergen Boernig, Lilian Brunell, Patrick Strouk and Eric Lehmann and of course, last but not least, our respective Head of Operations in Baku, Garrett Mulhall.

Good Afternoon and welcome to the very first dress rehearsal of the final of this years' Eurovision Song Contest which is taking place in Baku, Azerbaijan having won the competition last year thanks to the song Running Scared by Ell & Nikki. There are a total of twenty six (26) performers taking to the stage this afternoon and this will be the first of three dress rehearsals, the one this evening being the most important noting that the jury will be basing their votes on what will be staged this evening. In the meantime, everything seemed to have gone smoothly during the first two semi-finals actually with just a small issue with Romania having not heard sound through her earpiece within the first semi-final. It should be quite an interesting final so make sure to follow all of the proceedings through escflashmalta.com

LIVE

01. United Kingdom

Marc: The British representative at this years' Eurovision Song Contest happens to be the most famous one in the competition with Engelbert's career spanning decades. He takes to the stage wearing a suit performing the track Love Will Set You Free and this sounds much stronger than it did back in the initial rehearsal. He has dropped the higher notes a key and this sounds much better now. There are also two dancers and a guitarist on stage and they add to the ambient. A great opener and this could very well put the United Kingdom in the top ten.

Garrett: We couldn’t see or hear the show on the video link but from our colleagues in the arena Englebert performed excellently and hit the high notes of the song. The dancers on stage were subtle and it came across well. Good Job The Hump.

02. Hungary

Marc: Hungary might have the most contemporary song in this years' Eurovision Song Contest especially with the track sounding like it came out of a radio station. The vocals are good as they have always been but one just cannot help that this song seems to be taking up someone elses' space in the final. This is a very strong performance but this draw will definitely not help with the dreaded number #2 position never managing to really put anyone in a good final placing.

Garrett:  I really cannot get excited about this song. Sounding like a B-Side Depeche Mode Song it was performed well but lacks any real impact and following The Hump it will get lost in people’s minds.

03. Albania

Garrett: Rona puts on a stunning performance of her song. Passionate and the same wonderful vocal abaility that brings cheers from the audience as one could easily listen to now.

Marc: Without a doubt, Rona is still one of the very best performers in the 2012 edition of the competition and she is clad in the same attire that she donned during the semi-final. This is just flawless vocally and she really puts the emotion into the  track.

04. Lithuania

GarrettThe surprise qualifier for some people – Donny gets his trade mark blind fold entrance to the song and when the upbeat element to the song kicks it makes a lot of impact. As my friend Roy Delaney said – this is 2 different George Michael songs sandwiched together. Not a contender but good to see them in the final.

Marc: Last nights' surprise qualifier shows that this type of song can still be appreciated by the masses although we have a sneaky suspicion that the jury were the brains behind this qualification. This is a strong performance though and he is definitely trying to show he belongs here.

 05. Bosnia & Herzegovina

Garrett: Simple staging but we are back to another ballad. A cute song sung well but I can only see this doing well with the Blakan countries. Not a winner in my opinion though because it could get lost.

Marc: This was one of those entries which no one expected to make it through last night because it was somewhat too calm for the general liking but the juries might have had a say in the qualification of the song. Maya is an incredible singer and she uses her vocal skills in her black gown this afternoon as well. A good performance but quite forgettable so early in the draw.

06. Russia

MarcRussia remains one of the most popular acts in this years' competition but the draw is once more too early for them and it seems they have some sound problems in the beginnings. Nevertheless, this is a fun entry and one could not see it failing at this stage. The grannies might be heading for a surprise top five finish unless the juries put them down completely which could be the case actually as they are definitely not the best vocalists.

Garrett: Thankfully a fast song that really gets this Eurovision Final started. The cameras focussed in on the Pin Up Granny aka the smallest Babuschka. This had the whole stadium on their feet chanting. There is no doubt that this is going to score HUGE with the televote but how will the Juries like it. So far Russia walking all over the competition.

07. Iceland

MarcIceland return with an extremely improved performance of their entry and this is actually looking more like a contender after Russia at this stage. We have no clue why they have decided not to go with their outfits today but nevertheless, this is looking very strong on screen and Iceland may just manage to crack the top ten the way things have developed. The vocal harmonies sound very strong and one just cannot help noting that things are really positive for the small country.

Garrett: Back to a ballad but this is a quality ballad. Jonsi and Greta performed excellently and now looking good for a Top 10 place. The Juries will like this a lot and is visually stunning. Job well done Iceland.

08. Cyprus

MarcIvi Adamou has to be one of the worst singers in the competition with her vocal performance being terrible once more noting that she is shouting through the song today. Once more, they have decided to go without their outfits for the actual final as this is a rehearsal for the media. Things will definitely change this evening when the juries come into the fray. The song is very catchy and has to be one of the best ones this years' but nevertheless, I just cannot see this bothering the top ten positions in the scoreboard even though the left side is guaranteed.

Garrett: This is one that we have a close affinity to as we have befriended the Cypriot delegation. Ivi gave a stellar performance. Her vocals were spot on and we know that the delegation were having difficulties with the mixing of the vocals from the stage but they managed to get that sorted. Ivi was electric on stage. The camera angles were spot on and the choreography was slick. Ivi is having great fun and this comes across on the camera – We might be heading to Limasol next year is Cyprus wins – and this is their best chance in a long time

09. France

MarcAnggun is a celebrity and today, she took the stage with the cape ready to perform her entry and it seems that things have really improved since the first two rehearsals. The choreography is still very much like something coming out of the circus but it is definitely not looking bad on the monitors. The vocal run is very good and one has to note that she has really upped her game but nevertheless, she needs to keep things going for this evening. 

10. Italy

Marc: Nina Zilli is one of the most notable performance in this years' Eurovision Song Contest and she is definitely enjoying her time on the stage. She is joined on stage by three backing vocalists and they could be found on the left hand side of the stage. The performance is kept very simple with a number of hand movements but there does not seem to be a lot needed to make this look or sound great because Nina is really performing the song well especially the English parts. She does interact with the audience and the people will like this come Saturday night. Italy is definitely a contender and I believe that they could win.

Garrett: Well you could not have 2 contrasting performances. Nina from Italy is sensational and following the circus routine from France this looks even stronger. Nina is dressed as a Silver 60′s Diva and sounding sensational. The Boom Boom Boom’s are captured on the cameras and are striking. This just gets better every time you hear it. Italy 2013 anyone? Turin I hear is the preferred choice of the Italian Delegation should they win.

11. Estonia

Marc: The Estonian entry was the first song that I have voted for in years actually and I believe that it is the most beautiful ballad in this years' competition. I have to be completely honest in saying that I preferred it when it was staged in a simpler way when it comes to vocal acrobatics but nevertheless, it still sounds perfect but the way that he is performing it could actually go wrong. Ott just happens to be one of the most popular names in the Estonian music industry and performing in the Eurovision Song Contest is an event which he has been hoping to do for quite some time. He took his first chance and he managed bringing about a great vocal, a great song and a stunning performance.

Garrett: Ott as usual puts in a passionate performance of this simple ballad. Less is more for this song and I think this could do better than people are expecting. Keep an eye on this one.

12. Norway

Marc: There has been a lot of comments in recent hours on whether Norway deserved to qualify but nevertheless, I believe that he did his utmost in order to make sure that the Scandinavian country makes it through to the final. He has taken to the stage in same attire he did last night and with many saying that he is good looking, this might surprise on Saturday night. The staging for this one is incredible especially the tight choreography. The vocals are very good and somewhat better than last night but he has to manage to keep this up.

Garrett: This is a strange one. In the hall it sounds as if the vocals are off key but on the video feed it came across great. A complicated dance routine that executed with military percision. This has gone up in my expectations.

13. Azerbaijan

Marc: It is coming across that Azerbaijan would not mind winning two times in a row because Sabina Babayeva is performing this song in the very best possible way that she could. She is joined on stage by four backing singers; three of which are females and another one being a male. She is definitely enjoying performing for her country and the fact that she is wearing what seems to be a dress co-ordinated with the lights is just impressive. I believe that this could be another top five finish for Azerbaijan especially if they can manage to keep up this performance. The ballad is one of many this year but it should still impress.

GarrettThe host nation comes on. Sabina looks amazing and it is a very difficult song to sing but Sabina was almost 100% perfect – just one big note that was pitchy but I am sure she will be fine on the night. This song has really grown on me and I like it and expect a good Top 10 finish.

14. Romania

Marc: Romania is the only song which faced problems during their initial performance in the first semi-final with the main performer failing to listen to the sound of the song from her earpiece but today clad in a completely different outfit, she does not seem to have any problems and the group is definitely helping her get the morale up. The performance is quite energetic and fun especially when it comes after Azerbaijan which will surely be a different change than how the evening will ultimately play out. This is still a possible contender in my opinion especially after such a strong performance.

Garrett: A good upbeat song that is going to stand out from Axerbaijan’s ballad. Summer summed up in 3 minutes. Romanis is looking and sounding great. Not sure if it is a winner but heading for a Top 10 again for Romania.

15. Denmark

Marc: This has never really been my cup of tea but the issue with this song has always lied with the amount of times that one listens to it because it does become quite boring after a few listens. The staging for this one is somewhat kept similar to the very first semi-final where it is predicted that it has done quite well. The vocals are very strong but nevertheless, coming after Romania, this is sounding somewhat quite dull. Denmark have a middle of the road kind of song as they have presented on numerous occasions and they will most likely reach another mid table position quite disappointing after the past two years. 

16. Greece

Marc: This song has always been impressive in terms of staging and visuals and therefore there is not really too much of an issue going on with this one. Eleftheria Eleftheriou is actually Greek as we confirmed during the press conference for the qualifiers for the first semi-final but nevertheless, she does have better, if marginally better, vocals than Ivi Adamou. The song is catchy but then again it is quite typical especially coming from Greece. They have thrown everything into this performance and they really want to impress but I believe that Greece might just be scraping through a top ten result this year, if they manage it.

17. Sweden

Marc: Loreen clearly gave the best performance of her life during the semi-final last night noting that she managed to qualify with relative ease we would imagine. The staging for this song is kept simple with three female backing vocalists on stage along with a male dancer who comes on later on into the performance. She is enjoying the time on stage once more and she is performing her heart out. This is the track which has already been very successful all across the continent but will it be possible for her to win the competition being the main favourite ahead of Russia and even Italy coming within this draw.

GarrettLoreen is doing it when it is necessary and getting the great performances in. She was holding back on the full performance but it is coming together. The lighting of Loreen is getting better with each take and Sweden are getting themselves back into contention. A great reaction in the hall.


18. Turkey

Marc: It seems that Turkey and Malta have worked to build very close relations and we were extremely happy that Can Bonomo managed to qualify from the semi-final last night. Can Bonomo is once more back on stage without changing any of the performance as he is clad in a leather jacket and leather trousers with his backing vocalists acting also as dancers clad in black capes. The track is somewhat very catchy and easily to sing and hum to especially the bits where he says 'hope onto my ship baby, I'll make you fly' and then he also adds a 'na na na'. This will most probably be on the left hand side of the scoreboard. Very good rehearsal.

Garrett: Well this is almost like having 2 home singers performing as the local audience love Turkey. Can is singing well and his English is better than some of his European counterparts. Visually strong and with the reaction it will get in the audience it may sway televoters and bring Turkey hig in the leaderboard. Still not convinced on the capes and the boring grey colour of them but we are stuck with them now.

19. Spain

Marc: Pastora Soler is also one of the most popular artists to compete in this years' edition of the Eurovision Song Contest and therefore, one could definitely see the many Spaniards who have come to support their artist who very much looks like she could win the competition.She is pitch perfect when it comes to her vocal performance the choir that comes towards the end is just immaculate. This is definitely the best chance that the country has had in a very long time and one could see this causing an upset and ultimately finish within the top spot but will the people really go for this type of song.

Garrett: One word – “Sensational”. Dressed in pale blue, Pastora delivers a song full of passion and emotion. She commands the stage and the camera. As she was singing the press were claspping for her. She is really the true professional. A beautiful performance and simply staged this has to be a contender if there is any justice.

20. Germany

Marc: Roman Lob is said to be one of the most good looking performers in this years' Eurovision Song Contest and he brings about another contemporary track which has already set the charts alight in a number of countries including his native Germany and also Austria. The performance is very much simple with a band performing the track just behind him but the lighting and the backdrop is what give this track an edge. He is enjoying every bit of the performance and he has crystal clear vocals whilst singing. Well done Germany for a very strong first dress rehearsal. Could they managed to finish in the top ten? I'd think so!

Garrett: Roman performs adequately but for me this is a very average song and sounding like it should be on a Coldplay album. I cannot get excited about it at all and do not see all the hype about it. Feeling this will be in the bottom part of the leader board.

21. Malta

Marc: Kurt Calleja is next on stage and honestly, the people are excited that we will be competing in the final for the very first time since 2009 when Chiara had made it to the finals with the song What If We. At this stage, we can notice that the performance is very strong with everyone doing their best to make sure that it does come out well in the long run. The vocals from Kurt are just perfect this afternoon and he seems to be continuing what he managed to do last night. There is a lot of buzz going around that the female vocal could be even stronger and we believe that this is the case as well. Nevertheless, glad to see Malta back in the final and let's hope for a good result in the end.

Garrett: WOW I have been banging the drum about this song for a long time and there is a buzz growing for Malta and that they could be in for a good result here in Baku. They are looking and sounding amazing. The dance routine is capturing the imagination of people and Kurt looks wonderful on camera. Watch out for Malta.

22. FYR Macedonia

Marc: The Former Yugoslavian Republic of Macedonia have not been in the finals for quite some time and their biggest star, Kaliopi has managed to do just that. The song is quite an interesting pop/rock number which is performed to sheer excellence. This will be one of those songs which will reach the mid-table on Saturday night and this is because there are just two many songs of a very high quality this year because such a track would have done much stronger last year.

GarrettKaliopi was looking and sounding great. Passionate performance and a rocky look to the song. We really like her and this is going to do well for FYR Macedonia. She knows how sell a song and does this wonderfully

23. Ireland

Marc: Jedward are back to compete in the Eurovision Song Contest for the second year in a row with what appears to be a much stronger song entitled Waterline. The staging of this track is just incredible with a fountain making an appearance despite not being operational along with a beautiful backdrop which is depicting a stream of water. The vocal performance is good but I believe that they did perform much better during the semi-final on Tuesday. This is one of the most visually enticing performances of the evening and one could definitely see them doing better than they did last year in terms of result.

Garrett: Well Jedward were on the stage now. Vocals were on the money and thge balance between Jedward and the backing singers was better that others that performed today. They did not use the water feature for this rehearsal but were in their costumes and their hair was down. Looking and Souinding great – and I am not being biased. This will be a good crowd pleaserperformance. JOB WELL DONE!!

24. Serbia

Marc: Zeljko Joksimovic has become one of the legends of the EurovisioN Song Contest having been here on so many occasions, either as a performer or as a songwriter. This is definitely a beautiful song with a lot of orchestration which definitely picks it up as a track. I do not believe that he can improve on his result achieved in Istanbul but one has to keep in mind that he is performing very late in the draw and therefore, he could definitely place high in the final with a possible victory looming as well.

Garrett: Well this is a song that I have never really felt brough something new to the table for 2012. If this was bak in 2008 then I would have been raving about it but as it has been done before so I personally would not have it as a winner HOWEVER the International press are calling this as a potential winner. It is sung wonderfully and the stage performance is very good but I am not a huge fan of the song. Still this could be a winner.

25. Ukraine

Marc: The European Football Championships are not too far away now and things are somewhat looking good for Ukraine for the second year in a row noting that they did finish in fourth place last year with a song that was not predicted to do well. Gaitana is a great vocalist but sometimes, I just cannot get the hype because she does tend to shout in certain bits of the song. The idea of having the LED screens on stage is interesting and created an ambient of a football match or a flashmob. This could also scrape into the top ten.

Garrett: Well I am not sure why but Gaitana has taken the song up a key and it has lost some of the power from the vocals. I am not sure if this is because of a problem with her ear monitor but I cannot see the reasoning for going up a key. She had to pull out of the high note in the song and it just sounded all wrong. I hope they revert to the original key. Still a potential Top 5 for me.

26. Moldova 

Marc: This is the final performance of the evening and one has to add that this a very classy performance with a twist. Pasha Parfeny seems to be the Moldovan version of Colin Farrell but that does not seem to bother him in reality. The choreography is still as quirky as it had been before hand and the performance is still very strong. The vocals are spot on and I just believe that this could be the best result for Moldova with the possibility of finishing in the top five if they are quite lucky with the outcome. 

Garrett: This was a fun performance and a great way to round off a great show. Visually and vocally strong and a dance routine that is very Benny Hill. You cannot help but be caught up in the feel good factor of this song. Not a winner for me but will score well and if the rumours are right – Moldova may have won Semi Final 1.

The Show (Part 2)

The hosts are back on stage and they are still quite dull unfortunately but nevertheless they are doing the job in the best way possible and hence they open the tele-voting and also announce the recap which of course seems to still be very much in tatters during the first run but then is fixed for the second run of the recap. This is the most open Eurovision Song Contest in  years and people believe it is quite a strong edition. They will now be rehearsal the interval act and also the voting segment to make sure that all is going well, therefore, we will be returning to commentate on this evenings' dress rehearsal which will be much more crucial as the jury will be casting their vote.

Eighteen countries have one goal and that is to make it through to the finals of the 2012 edition of the Eurovision Song Contest which is being staged in the city of Baku within Azerbaijan following the victory of Ell & Nikki with the song Running Scared which won the tele-voting and came second in the Jury prompting it to finish at the top of the board overall. The fact of the matter is that the first semi-final went on last night and it seems that everything except one thing went right, with Romania having some problems in their inner-ear actually but nevertheless, this did not affect their final result with the track getting through to the finals. This evening, the juries from all across the continent will be busy once more or well, they will be busy tomorrow as this performance will be the one taped for the juries standing up in all of the eighteen competing countries as well as those of France, Germany and the United Kingdom who will be voting in this semi-final.

The first week was tense and filled with excitement with our team present in Baku taking up a number of different roles including interviewers, reporters and even photographers. These include none other than Garrett Mulhall, Šira Carolyn Bezalel, Juergen Boernig, Lilian Brunell, Patrick Strouk and Eric Lehmann whom I continuously thank for all their hard work and dedication. The earlier dress rehearsals did not go as well as planned unfortunately noting that there were some camera work issues with Belarus and therefore, had to be restarted twice in the long term but we are sure that things will be fixed for tonight. This is not an easy semi-final to be in and therefore the juries will be quite busy to see which tracks stand out amongst the rest.  It is normal that there will be some surprises tomorrow night as the coverage takes place. We will be providing live commentary during the evening with Raquela, Simon Casey and Elaine Camilleri. 

 LIVE

The hosts, the two females and the male are on stage introducing the semi-final entries and also refer to the fact that there are already six pre-qualified entries in the final coming from France, Italy, Germany, Spain, United Kingdom and also the host country being none other than Azerbaijan. In the meantime, things are set to commence for this dress rehearsal.

01. Serbia

The very first performance of the evening will be coming from Serbia and this year, they are being represented by the wonderfully talented Zeljko Joksimovic. The music of this song is just beautiful and the orchestration just work well as an opening track to the second semi-final especially following the horrendous act that opened the first semi-final. The vocals by Zeljko are spot on and the whole act just looking dapper in their black outfits. The music seems to be somewhat reminiscent of the song Paradise by Coldplay in the beginning but then takes into the form of a mild version of Lane Moje. This song will definitely qualify tomorrow night especially after that performance.

02. FYR Macedonia

This has to be one of the most beautiful songs in the semi-final especially the start which is very much focused on a piano musical background. Kaliopi as you can see in the image above is wearing a very smart black suit and she does look a true professional taking that stage. The staging in itself is quite dark with a lot of purple and blue somewhat being featured along with black and white as the title does imply in the long run. There has been a lot of talk about the future of FYR Macedonia in this years' competition. Kaliopi does give an entertaining performance and is flawless throughout, I am taking a limb out on this and saying that it will qualify

03. The Netherlands

There is a lot of clapping in the press centre as this song starts to be shown on the monitors and Joan is the first performer of the evening to use fire on stage giving her performance somewhat of an American Indian type of flair as you can see in her outfit noting the headdress. She is clad in a beautiful blue gown and gives a very good vocal rendition but I cannot help but feel that her vocals are somewhat tired this evening. The performance is somewhat weird in itself but then again, who knows what the tele-voters will think when seeing this being performed live on stage. Towards the end of the song, Joan is somewhat losing her voice tonight. I cannot see this qualifying now.

04. Malta

Kurt Calleja is on the stage and he is clad in a grey shirt, a black blazer and tight black pants. He is joined on stage by five members and we all have to note that they have a great uniting element between them. The performance is pretty much as it has always been, very sharp and tight in a number of different parts. I believe that Kurt is performing the song amazingly well this evening and his entourage is really helping him deliver a strong performance. The vocals are good as they have been in the past couple of days. The juries should enjoy this performance especially following Joan because it is fresh, funky and just plain catchy. Things are definitely looking up for Malta and I believe that we will honestly make it through and qualify.

05. Belarus

Belarus bring to the stage, a song that has been sent to the Eurovision Song Contest a million times actually noting that they have also gone for this type of song in the past with Ruslan Alenko and unfortunately did not qualify. There were a number of issues with the diction this afternoon but it seems that they have managed to elaborate a few on them and are performing this one better. Nevertheless, this song was never a favourite of mine and I believe that with the draw that they have, they would have done much better with their runner-up entry. The lads are clad in rock type of attire even when they are performing a pop/rock type of track. The lead singer is playing about with his vocals this evening and goes off key. Not good from Belarus and this will not qualify.

06. Portugal

Filipa Sousa looks absolutely beautiful in her golden glittery gown but personally, I would have preferred it if she were to go more traditional in terms of an outfit. Nevertheless, she does work the stage well and is performing her ballad to perfection. She is joined on stage by five backing vocals and this is very Eurovision by numbers with the choreography based mainly on the backing vocals' hand movements. Fado has already been in an outing to the Contest and was very successful actually with qualification in second place and also managing a mid-table placing in the final but based on the position it has in this semi-final, it will not qualify to the final.

07. Ukraine

The Official song of the European Football championships is receiving a lot of applause in the press centre just as soon as it starts and it is definitely getting on my good side as I am dancing to this on my seat. Gaitana is wearing a white dress which seems to have been shredded just before heading onto the stage. She is joined on stage by four dancers who play the trumpets but what looks amazing on stage is the fact that she has four LED screens which depict a large army of people who are all playing their musical instruments. The performance does come across very well and her vocal performance is very strong indeed. The problem is surely her dancing though she does put in a lot of energy. This is so sailing into the final with Ukraine looking to get another top ten result when there.

08. Bulgaria

The worst performance of the evening will be coming from the likes of Bulgaria as they have managed to even trump over Georgia now. Sofi Marinova has decided to take to the stage on her own and this was a huge mistake noting that a dance track will surely require choreography. The vocals used to be good but then they were just bundled out completely when the rehearsals commenced. This is a mess and a nil pointer possibly. At least, one knows that things do improve after this once more. Just in case, you have not noticed, I do not believe that this song will qualify which is sad as the country do try their best.

09. Slovenia

Eva Boto is a beautiful young lady and she does bring about a certain aura of innocence to the stage of the Eurovision Song Contest as she represents Slovenia. She is trying to follow in the footsteps of the wonderful Maja Keuc who represented the country last year and made it to the finals. She is joined on stage by five backing vocals all of whom are clad in white. Most of the performance was in tune and in sync but the second chorus was completely off key unfortunately and that is quite disappointing. Nevertheless, she picks it up quickly and this is a track which will be qualifying tomorrow night leaving people probably stunned that she managed to do it.

10. Croatia

You would easily notice that this is a Balkan performance because of the dark blue light in the beginning but then it would develop slightly different than those before them. Just after the opening bit, Nina seems to have gone down a key and it sounded very wrong unfortunately. She does not need a lot of help from Balkans where she is already immensely popular but then again, she does continue like the professional she is and swifts her short black dress. She is joined on stage by a number of dancers who keep the performance very simple and artistic. The vocals continue in a strong manner and she does manage to hit all the notes at the top. This is commendable but I believe that Croatia will just miss out tomorrow night and therefore not qualify.

11. Sweden

Loreen comes into the stage as the main favourite for the competition and despite the fact that her performances have been below par at best, it seems that she has really upped the game for this evenings' performance because she sounds absolutely divine. The choreography is artistic and works well on screen with the dark backdrop and the beautiful lighting. She is of course joined on stage by three female backing vocals and mid-way through the song and within the bridge, snow is being shown and this really gives the song a great effect. The choreography near the end is very similar to her performing with the male dancer doing his best to keep up with her. Vocals are strong and Sweden are back in the mix to win this years' Eurovision Song Contest. This will most likely win the semi-final and thus qualify.

12. Georgia

Whilst Bulgaria is just plain horrible, this is just plain mad and I just cannot believe that this semi-final has these two songs which bring down the level of the competition completely. Anri Jokhadze is performing this song, the best he has in my honest opinion but will that be enough for him to take it to the next round of the competition. Georgia have a very good record at the Eurovision Song Contest having always managed to pass through but the fact that this is mad just does not help at all. He is somewhat joined on stage by a number of people who do carry off the vocals very strongly. This looks very nice on the screens, and this will qualify in my opinion.

13. Turkey

Can Bonomo is looking like the recipient of the maximum points from the tele-voting tomorrow night considering that he made a number of television appearances in the country. He is joined on stage by four male dancers and one has to note that this is looking to be very interesting. Can Bonomo is clad in a white shirt, black trousers and also a black cardigan which seems to have a bird design on the inside. The vocal performance is strong as it has always been and you just cannot help feel excited for the Turkish performer who seems to be an adopted Maltese from all of the times that we have been hearing of him. This will definitely qualify.

14. Estonia

An extremely simple setting for this song in the beginning with a black backdrop and just one bright spotlight on Ott. This has been performed immaculately all week but this afternoon, he dipped a little bit in terms of quality as he has decided to vocally improvise his performance. He is clad in a white shirt and also in matching trousers and waistcoat combination. I just cannot believe that he has managed to nail all of the notes this evening. The jury will definitely adore this even though he is trying too hard to impress in my opinion. He receives a very warm applause in the press centre. The draw will be helping him and he will definitely qualify tomorrow night.

15. Slovakia

This is the only rock song in this years' Eurovision Song contest bu many people believe that it is too much out there to eventually make it through to the final. Max Jason Mai is definitely not bad looking and he tries to impress with his physique in order to garner some votes and whilst this might work in some small numbers, we do not believe that it will be enough to make an impact. The lyrics are actually quite interesting but instead of closing my eyes, I would definitely want to close my ears as this is just too harsh and his vocal is definitely not good this evening with his high notes being way off key at times unfortunately. This is a definite non-qualifier.

16. Norway

Tooji has to be one of the most charismatic performers in this years' Eurovision Song Contest and he brings about the second most energetic performance of this semi-final following Malta. He is joined on stage by four backing dancers and the staging is actually quite interesting with a large number of yellow lights along with spotlights which are vertical on the screen. The clothing is kept very similar to the one there was in his country actually with the vest, tight pants and also leather jacket. The choreography is tight and looks very strong on stage. This will be one to look out for actually and I believe that this will also qualify as it is very similar to Popular by Eric Saade last year.

17. Bosnia & Herzegovina

This is a very simple performance noting the simple backdrop in fading blue. Maya Sar has twice been a backing performer in the Eurovision Song Contest and has decided to take the stage on her own this time round. The song is just beautiful but I just cannot see all of the countries in the Balkan region making it through to the final and I just fear that this will be the one to miss out on the final stages of the competition. The vocal performance is very strong and Maya has gone from strength to strength but unfortunately, she ranks eleventh in my list of performances this evening and will therefore just miss out on the finals.

18. Lithuania

The final performance of the evening comes from Lithuania and they are being represented by a performer who actually looks very young performing on stage. He is wearing a black suit and a white shirt and starts the song blindfolded and performing a ballad. Mid-way through the song though he removes the blindfold and does a back-flip to which he starts performing an uptempo number. The shots actually look very good on the cameras and whilst this remains to be quite borderline, I just cannot include them in my personal list as they would finish twelfth in my opinion. Nevertheless, a very good performance and he is quite better than the song.

The Show (Part 2)

The performances have just finished and the hosts are back on stage to introduce the recaps and also the voting period which is a total of fifteen minutes this year as opposed to having voting possible throughout the whole show. There is a lot of interesting comments going round round and it seems that Malta is dividing people this year, noting that Kurt Calleja and his team have done their best thus far. The juries tend to like Malta but then the problem lies with the tele-voting so we will be hoping to attract the people from over Europe tomorrow night as the semi-final is staged. Another recap is now being shown before the interval act featuring Marija Serifovic, Ell & Nikki, Lena, Alexander Rybak and Dima Bilan come on stage. The pre-qualified six entries are shown on screen at the moment.

Fake Qualifiers

01. Bulgaria

02. Croatia

03. Bosnia & Herzegovina

04. FYR Macedonia

05. Malta

06. Sweden

07. The Netherlands

08. Norway

09. Portugal

10. Estonia

The official journey for the 2012 edition of the Eurovision Song Contest started yesterday with the host broadcaster of the music competition putting up a sublime show for the first semi-final which saw a total of eighteen countries competing for the ten coveted spots. Unfortunately, eight countries did not make it through last night and were therefore sent home. There were no major surprises actually with many people still wondering about how Hungary managed to qualify even though the song is one of the most current in terms of music. Nevertheless, that is over and done with now and with sixteen finalists now officially known, preparations for tomorrow commence as the dress rehearsals for the second semi-final are set to take place today and tomorrow, even just before the show itself. 

As has been all the case during the week, I would like to sincerely thank our Head of Operations, Garrett Mulhall who has for the second year in a row done Malta proud whilst still keeping his Irish roots intact within each occasion. Apart from him though, I should and will thank the lovely Šira Carolyn Bezalel who has been busy taking pictures and attending press conferences along with the rest of our team members including Juergen Boernig, Lilian Brunell, Patrick Strouk and Eric Lehmann. I believe that the best portal this year goes to escXtra for keeping the people intact through their live chat and videos and for this we thank them and salute all of their team. They will be supporting escflashmalta.com also with the coverage of the dress rehearsals. We would like to remind everyone that Malta is competing in this semi-final.

LIVE

Clearly it seems that they are doing the introductions very much the same way that they did them during the first semi-final last night. I must say that the hosts are not as bad as they were earlier on during the week but nevertheless, they are definitely not winning the award for the best hosts ever. Yet another time, they are telling the rest of Europe about the fact that the Big Five and also Azerbaijan, the host country are already competing in the final alongside the qualifiers from the first semi-final.

01. Serbia

Marc: This is a great opener to the second semi-final of the 2012 edition of the Eurovision Song Contest and will definitely give the viewers the excitement that this will be a much better show than the first one they witnessed. Zeljko is very much still clad in the same outfits that they were in the last rehearsal meaning, very smart black outfits. In the meantime, the lighting is very much blue and dark. The vocals are very strong from Zeljko and one just cannot help thinking that this song is still in the running to finish in the top five although I am not sure that it can manage to win at the moment. With the right draw though, anything can happen!

Garrett: This is a well crafted song and sung well. I have never been overly excited by this song as I think it would have made a wonderful entry 5 years ago or so but the Eurovision has moved on since then. Saying that you cannot deny the song is good (not a winner) but a certain qualifier. It will though clear up on the votes from the Balkan countries. Will qualify and will be between 14-8 in the final

02. FYR Macedonia

Marc: Kaliopi is literally rocking the stage mid-way through the song but one has to commend the stunning vocals which she brings about to each and every performance. Today is no different and I am sure that the jury will love listening to her vocals tonight. The song is very much a pop/rock track which indeed starts out slow and then develops as it goes along. The guitar in the song is what makes it identifiable along with the perfect vocal screech that she gives away during the bridge. Many people did also like this track in English and I believe it would have had more impact in such a language.

Garrett: This was electric. She gives an amazing performance. A great rock song with that big high note. This for me is better that Slovenia  who is also in the same Semi Final and could be a fight for the final qualifying spot. A Strong Edgy performance. Battle Royale for the 10th qualifying spot.

03. The Netherlands

Marc: Joan Franka is one of the nicest people in this years' edition of the Eurovision Song Contest and she has a great accent in English. The song which she brings about to the stage is a simple pop/country type of track which might not be identifiable all across Europe. She is wearing this beautiful blue dress as seen above along with the American Indian headdress. She has never had any issues in performing this track and is not having any of them now either. On stage, she is joined by a band who seem to be carrying mostly native type of instruments. This is just a ditty little number and I must say, the best song from The Netherlands in quite some time.

Garrett: Charming as always. Joan still in her sky blue dress and Indian head dress. Her band are charming and Joan's vocals are childlike. Nothing that a great guitar stomper to get the crowd going. The Netherlands are surrounded by a whole lot of cowboys as far a song quality. This has to make the final. The Netherlands will qualify.

04. Malta

Marc: Great thumping opening beat in the beginning as has been the case for quite some time since the new arrangement was brought forward. Kurt is in a great shape this afternoon as he has been for quite some time and he is clearly enjoying his time on the stage in Baku. He is joined on stage by Kevin, Rebecca, Warren, Amber and Christian, all of whom have roles during the performance. Kurt has been getting a lot of attention in the media for his dashing good looks. One has to point out that Amber is doing a great job with her bits and she sounds flawless at times. This is another strong performance and I just cannot find anything to fault today. I do hope that he will give his utmost during the jury dress rehearsal this evening. Well Done to the Maltese Team! 

Garrett: Kurt oh Kurt oh Kurt. This is the night you take Malta to the final. As always Kurt sings this perfectly and he is just so good on camera. He is really electric and his interaction on the stage with the rest of the band is wonderful. The dance routine still has people hooked and is visually wonderful. This has to go through. Malta will make the final.

05. Belarus

Marc: There are problems with the Belarussian performance and in fact, they manage to kick off with the third run noting that the cameras were not switched on for this entry and therefore the shots were not appearing. The lead singer is clearly an energetic lad and the rest of the people on stage do compliment the performance well. The vocals are strong but then again, that will surely not be a positive when the diction is all over the place and I just cannot understand a word which he is saying. The performances over the week were not all good from Belarus but this is one of their worst unfortunately. They clearly need to up their game for the jury dress rehearsal this evening if they want to have at least a hope of making it through.

Garrett: Major problems. you knew from the first few seconds of the song starting that the lead singer was not happy – like myself as I am not a fan of the remix of this song. But it became clear that he could not hear the song in his ear monitor so the dress rehearsal was stopped not one not twice but 3 times until the band could hear their backing track. This certainly threw their confidence and they were pitchy and out of key in places. I am also opposed to hearing “We are the WEINERS” instaead of “Winners”. They have a big fan base in Eastern Europe that might help them get through. For me it is like a Madonna Song – “Borderline” for me.

06. Portugal

MarcShould have Portugal been in the other semi-final, I would have been sure that they would have made it easily bring about what seems to be their best chance of doing well in this competition. Fado has just been recognized as a heritage type of music and it is so beautiful. Filipa does enjoy her time on stage because her smile does say it all. This track is staged in a way that is very Eurovision by numbers but that does not take anything from it. She is wearing a long shimmery dress and the backdrop seems to be featuring the sights in Lisbon. The vocals are flawless and it could definitely surprise at the end of the evening.

Garrett: Filipa sings the song well and it is presented well. Simple and elegant which is what you need to do with a song like this. Unfortunately this is not really the contest for a “New World” track. I fear that Portugal will not score well with the televoters at home. Will miss out on the final.

07. Ukraine

Marc: The Eastern nation has been quite a successful competitor in the Eurovision Song Contest over the years and this year they have decided to send about the official track of the Euro competition. Gaitana is wearing the dress as seen above, meaning a ruffled white one and she is joined on stage by four trumpet players who also act as dancers. In the meantime, this is becoming one of the most visually appealing tracks this year noting that she does bring about some four LED screens which show a large amount of people. The vocals are good although I do not believe that they are at their best this afternoon.

Garrett: One of my favourites in the contest and it pains me say this but the week of rehearsals have taken it’s toll on Gaitana’s voice and she was very pitchy and hoarse. Overall this was the weakest that the song has been performed over the entire week’s rehearsals. No I am wondering if this is a sound issue following on from Belarus. Overall this should get through but not as comfortably as it should have. In the final though.

08. Bulgaria

Marc: Bulgaria have been trying to send the best possible track that they could over the years although they have not managed to interact well with the European audiences it seems. This year, they have decided to send what is a smashing dance track which they still managed to ruin due to the fact that she is performing the song on her own instead of having a full fledged choreography as the song really deserves. She looks very lost on stage and I just cannot see any thing positive about the staging. They are surely competing for one of the lower end spots in the semi-final unfortunately for yet another year.

Garrett: What is heavens name are they thinking?? The vocals were dreadful which makes me think that that the ear pieces are not fully working. But this was the worst performance so far. Off key – makes you think of Gemini from the UK – it was that off key. Now where do I start as to the styling. Content to make a dance track static with no dancing in it – they have put her in a white pvc tight jacket and ULTRA short skirt and thigh hih matching boots. It makes her look like she is Julia Roberts from Pretty Woman – the curb crawling scenes. Dreadful and certainly going home!! Last in the Semi Final

09. Slovenia

Marc: Eva Boto is officially the youngest performer in this years' Eurovision Song Contest and without a doubt, she manages to bring class and elegance despite her extremely young age. The vocal performance this afternoon goes without a hitch as she has managed each and every time. The backing vocals look very angelic actually and this is coming across very wlel on screen. A sublime rehearsal and I believe that this will be making it through although will reserve my predictions for tonight when it will really matter. If they do manage to make it, they will be quite happy noting that Slovenia is one of those countries who do not make it to the final consistently.

Garrett: Well at least this was the first in several songs to be sung in tune so thank the Lord. Not my personal cup of tea as it sounds too much like “Molitvia” which is another song that I found highly overrated. All dressed in white and all so safely staged I can now see this qualifying despite this not being my cup of tea. Looking like they are dressed as Cream Deserts it should still qualify. Now looking like it will qualify.

10. Croatia

Marc: This could have not been a worse draw for Croatia, coming back to back with Slovenia who have opted to send a similar type of Balkan Ballad. The issues lies with the fact that Nina is very popular whilst Eva is still a newcomer but based on the song, I believe that Slovenia trumps her easily. I am not sure which one of them will qualify but I am sure that not both of them will. She is the black dress as seen in the picture above whilst her backing vocalists are wearing white. The vocal performance is flawless, and daresay the best that she has given thus far. Croatia have not been in the final since 2010 and will be hoping that this is their year.

11. Sweden

MarcThe expectation of Sweden tomorrow night is inevitable and one cannot help feel like you have entered a completely different world with this track which is already dominating the digital charts all over the continent. Loreen is clad in black attire with what seem to be tassels on the arms. The backdrop features snow as it was materialized during the Melodifestivalen. She is joined on stage by three female backing vocalists, also in black who do absolutely remarkable harmonies. For the last chorus, she is also joined by a dancer who along with the performer carries out a similar routine, very modern in presentation. This is visually stunning and sounds amazing! Sweden might still be the ones to beat when it comes to this years' Eurovision Song Contest. 

Garrett: Oh this was so underwhelming it was scary. The stage is far too dark and at times Loreen could hardly be seen on the screen. Why have the Swedish delegation taken this decision. You cannot get the emotion that we all know that Loreen portrays as you clearly cannot see her!! Furthermore when it came to the snow scene it was not so much a blizzard but someone shaking their dandruff over Loreen. The entire performance needs more lighting and passion. Sorry but this is not looking like a winner at all and if the changes are not made then Sweden will be heading for a disappointing vote. Will scrape into the final

12. Georgia

Marc: I dread having to comment for this song because Anri is actually a very good singer with a ridiculous type of song unfortunately. He is wearing a black outfit with a sparkling silver shirt underneath. He is joined on stage by four female dancers who seem to be coming out of a burlesque movie. The overall outcome of this song is not that good and I just cannot believe that they decided to send this track to Azerbaijan but then again, they did not have anything better in the national selection. The camera shots though are very good and it does come across well in terms of performance. 

Garrett: This I have always thought was a very poor song but coming after the dark and dreary set of Sweden – Georgia looks fun and fresh and got a huge reaction in the hall. This was high high energy funk/pop/rock/camo and I can see qualifying. A surprise qualifier!

13. Turkey

Marc: The Turkish entry in this years' Eurovision Song Contest is one of the most noteworthy tracks actually but then again, aren't they always on top of things at this competition? They will be hoping to remove the bad memories of last year when they did fail to qualify to the finals but this time round things are different as they do bring on a different type of track. Can is on stage alongside four other men and they look much slicker this time round with leather jackets, in what seems to be a traditional format. The vocals are spot on and the performance is very quirky indeed. This will be one to watch out for in my opinion.

Garrett: Can is dressed in a black leather cap and jacket and looking more Village People. His dancers are in blankets and this is all looking somewhat dark on stage. The vocals were suspect and weak in parts. If they are going to stay with the blankest as part of the act them they need to make them in a vibrant colour. With enough friends in this final this should qualify.

14. Estonia

Marc: Ott Lepland takes to the stage and it seems that he is clad in the same outfit which he wore for the last rehearsal prior to today meaning the one which is seen in the picture. He is joined on stage by a female backing vocalist who is wearing a long white dress. This is coming across so beautiful on the screen. He has decided to include a number of different vocal ranges for the performance and he is playing around with the notes which whilst sounds beautiful might not be as effective. This should definitely qualify with relative ease though and despite me holding my predictions until tonight, I just cannot help but share my love to this song.

Garrett: If it isn’t broken then don’t change it. What have the Estonian Delegation done with their presentation. They have completely changed the melody of the song and it is ridiculous. The bridge from the verse into the chorus they have changed. They increase it up a key and it seems forced!! Please Estonia revert to the original as it was the simple presentation that made this song special and stand out from the crowd! If they do not revert to the original then Estonia will fail to qualify.

15. Slovakia

Marc: This track is the one which is very much out there in this semi-final due to the fact that it has to be the only rock song in this years' Eurovision Song Contest with Belarus having coming close in their first version of the song. Max Jason Mai is trying to show off his body in order to impress with his physique and as you can see in the picture above, he is wearing a black leather jacket and black leather pants. The vocal performance is very good and there is nothing which I would definitely change but this type of music is just not for the music competition and Slovakia might have to sit out of the finals for yet another year.

16. Norway

Last year, Norway did not manage to make it through to the final even though they brought about what was the most energetic song in the competition and also being a favourite. This time round though, they seem to note have that kind of problem because they bring a track which despite being full of energy, has already been successful. The track si very similar to the one which represented Sweden last year but it is coming across so well on the screens for having a very tight choreography. The vocals are very strong in this one and I just cannot believe that they came so far.

17. Bosnia & Herzegovina

Marc: I have just made my mind that Bosnia & Herzegovina is surely not qualifying and I am so sad to actually say that because Maya Sar is a beautiful woman and she is an amazing performer but this is looking too bland on the screens and I just cannot see the tele-voters going for this. My opinion might change this evening but the dark setting, the black dress, the piano, it is just too simple. The positive point is that it is coming after Norway and might relax the audience and put them in a good quiet mood heading into the final performance of the evening. I am still not sure about the outcome. We'll see.

18. Lithuania

Marc: Donny Montell looks like a young boy in terms of appearance but he does bring about a great vocal range to this performance. This performance is kept very simple as he does take to the stage on his own but at the end of the day, this is one which really works and it is also a borderline qualifier in my opinion. He is enjoying his performance quite a lot actually and the fact that he changes the rhythm is quite interesting indeed. This track goes from a ballad to a dance song in just a couple of minutes into the track. It is different but funnily enough works well on the cameras and that is what they wanted in the long term.

The Show (Part 2)

There are a number of recaps being shown as the televoting window is opened and following the fifteen minutes, it does indeed close as what happened last night. The interval act is now rehearsing for the very first time and the hosts do look really stiff today once more. Hoping that they will loosen up for tomorrow evening as it looks too staged at the moment. Dima Bilan is the first on stage performing Believe and the others following him immediately with Lena performing Satellite. It is important to note that all of the last five winners are performing the song with traditional Azeri music accompaniment. 

Fake Qualifiers

Bulgaria

Belarus

Croatia

Estonia

Slovenia

Slovakia

Portugal

The Netherlands

FYR Macedonia

Malta

Baku, the host city of the 2012 edition of the Eurovision Song Contest is currently brimming with confidence as it prepares to host the esteemed competition noting that despite a couple of hurdles along the way, they have managed to host a total of forty-two (42) countries, thirty-six (36) of which are competing in the semi-finals and another six (6) which are already in the final for either being in the elite range of financial backers or being the host country. Earlier this afternoon, the very first dress rehearsal took place in the Crystal Hall, one of the largest venues to ever host such a prestigious event and which was specifically built in the honour of obtaining hosting rights. The first week was tense and filled with excitement with our team present in Baku taking up a number of different roles including interviewers, reporters and even photographers. These include none other than Garrett Mulhall, Šira Carolyn Bezalel, Juergen Boernig, Lilian Brunell, Patrick Strouk and Eric Lehmann whom I continuously thank for all their hard work and dedication.

In the afternoon, there were no real problems in terms of putting up the show except at the end when some of the qualifiers popped up on the screen before they actually got round to announcing them looking extremely unprofessional but that will surely be fixed for tomorrow night. In terms of performances, it seems that everyone kept slightly back in order to impress the judges during the rehearsal this evening. This means that there will be juries in eighteen (18) countries as well as Azerbaijan and Spain voting in this semi-final. There were some performances which really improved by this morning whilst others went downhill once more and the juries will be hoping that some of the tracks will really stand out amongst the rest as they make their top ten decisions. It is normal that there will be some surprises tomorrow night as the coverage takes place. We will be providing live commentary during the evening with Claudia Faniello, Emil Calleja Bayliss and Raquela. This evening, we will bring you pictures from the afternoons' dress rehearsal and live comments as the show progresses.

LIVE

The hosts are currently on stage and they are introducing themselves as they did this morning and it seems that everything is running smoothly and on time. All of them look very smart with suits and dresses all round this evening. It is quite interesting as this afternoon, they were wearing very casual clothing. They are speaking in English, Azeri, French and even German due to the fact that Germany hosted the Eurovision Song Contest last year. In the meantime, they are also speaking about the pre-qualified entries to the final meaning those of the United Kingdom, Italy, France, Germany, Spain and Azerbaijan.

Montenegro

The first entry of the evening will be performed by Montenegro and Rambo Amadeus is wearing a black suit with a white shirt actually. He is joined on stage by two dancers dressed as bodyguards and also another one who break-dances clad in red and white clothing for some reasons. The lyrics of this song are just stupid and I just cannot imagine this to qualify tomorrow night. Behind him, one could notice the wooden donkey and mid-way through the performance, there is also the banner saying Euro Neuro Monetary Break-Dance. There are no issues with the vocal performance because the song is not difficult to perform. Definite Non-Qualifier.

Iceland

Jonsi is off key during the first few seconds of the performance and he is quickly trounced by Greta who seems to be on shape as she has been throughout all of her respective rehearsals. The stage is bathed in blue for this performance as it has been throughout the rehearsals. In fact, they are clad in beautiful costumes, Greta in a long black ballroom type of gown and Jonsi is in a black suit with a white shirt. The lighting is superb and this song is the best one in terms of creating an atmosphere. The music is just so haunting and the vocals have settled down, with the four backing vocalists really pulling in their weight in terms of performance. This should qualify with relative ease.

Greece

Greece has to have the most improved act of the 2012 edition of the Eurovision Song Contest this year having had a terrible first rehearsal and then managing to overcome that to become an endearing entry with a powerful choreography. This track is Greek by numbers and it includes all of the elements which have made the nation successful at the Eurovision Song Contest in recent years. There are elements from both Kalomira and Helena Paparizou. Eleftheria Eleftheriou is wearing a fiery dress with some blue and white elements whilst the dancers are wearing blue ensembles. There is one female backing singer dressed in a white gown. The vocals are good but slightly too screechy at times but they are better than they were in the afternoon. This will definitely Qualify due to being Greece.

Latvia

Well, it is quite interesting to see Anmary back on stage because she does put in a lot in terms of performance and the people will definitely enjoy the performance. She is wearing a blue gown and it seems that most of the team have co-ordinated well. They have decided to take it up a notch since the afternoon and everything is looking and sounding better for them. The song is quite wrong though and I do not get the point of having such a comical entry. The backdrop has also not changed lately and therefore, it remains to be quite colourful actually. I do not believe that this entry will go down well this evening and therefore, they will not qualify in my honest opinion.

Albania

There has been a lot of talk with regards to Rona Nishliu in terms of her vocal performance and this is due to the fact that she sounds absolutely stunning in each and every run that she has given thus far. She is wearing a beautiful blue gown which seems to emphasize modern and classical at the same time. The staging is very dark barring the red lighting. I cannot bring such an astonishing singer down but I believe that she is actually holding back this evening even though she does look brilliant. Nevertheless, I just cannot see the jury not going for this tonight and therefore, I believe that she will appeal to the viewers at home as well. This will be a qualifier tomorrow night.

Break

Romania

Every performance of Romania has been an energetic experience and this evening will not be any different. The main performer, the female who is known as Elena is wearing a short orange dress with black lining. There is a wind machine being used during the performance which much not really needed but it does not take away from the song. The group themselves with the instruments are clad in white attire and they seem to be enjoying carrying out their choreography. The vocal performance is good but I believe that Elena had a better one earlier on today but nevertheless, the early songs are looking like certain qualifiers. This will be another one that will definitely make it with a mediocre score with the juries and a high tele-vote. Pyrotechnics were used towards the end of the song tonight.

Switzerland

The Swiss guys have not been particularly impressive with regards to their performances over the week and this is due to the diction issue but nevertheless, it should not take away from the song but it ends up doing so due to the fact that is a frequesnt line. The matrix backdrop is cool but has got a bit boring now actually. The vocal performance is good as it has always been and the positive news about this is also that they make use of all of the stage. Now, Switzerland did scrape past at the expense of Malta last year but this time round, they will not be making it through to the final as at best, this has been a very mediocre performance.

Belgium

The small country who won the Eurovision Song Contest on that one lonesome occasion back in 1986 is currently being represented by the sixteen year old Iris who is performing a beautiful country ballad which has a nice guitar sound mid-way through. Iris is wearing a beautiful short white dress with less in the shoulder pads. She is smiling throughout the performance. She is joined on stage by backing vocals and keeps this song as simple as possible actually. The vocal performance is very strong and Iris is definitely not choking this evening in front of the juries. I have a strong feeling that this will qualify. This should qualify tomorrow night.

Finland

The first note was extremely sharp in the afternoon and she did take away a lot from the performance but she did actually start on a very good note this time round and that will definitely be difficult competition for Belgium but the Swedish is sounding very harsh in terms of a language and therefore, it will not help the juries make up their mind when they have no clue about what the song actually is. The singer is clad in a green dress, which many seem to find unflattering. The vocals are good but they are still not on par with what they were during the week. This is one of the worst cases of nerves I have seen. Like 2010, Finland will be missing out on the final this time.

Israel

There has been a lot of talk on whether Israel can actually make it to the final with a track which is quite a ditty little number in actuality. The song is really working on the monitors and therefore, it gets a lot of points from the audience at home presumably. The fact of the matter is that this is a band which includes a number of middle aged performers doing their thing. The backdrop is very impressive with a number of clocks making an appearance. Hebrew is a beautiful language and the mixture of the two is also endearing. The vocals are quite good although I believe they have also had better rehearsals noting that at times, there is a lot of moaning about by the lead performance. I believe that yes, this will scrape through and qualify

San Marino

Valentina is in great form with stunning vocals at the start and once more, I feel so bad for her that she has to perform this song. She is joined on stage by some four to five dancers dressed as sailors, doctors and pilots I believe. I have no clue what the idea behind the staging is but let's say that the people in the press centre are laughing about. Valentina loves performing the song and she is smiling throughout the entire performance. She continues performing well and I just cannot believe this but could her vocals save her performance. Honestly, I am thinking of a scenario in which this does qualify but I do not believe it will. Definite Non-Qualifier.

Cyprus

Ivi Adamou and her backing singers are completely off key in the beginning of the song and it seems that they might be continuing this very difficult twist of fate. They have chosen the wrong night to have the performance completely gone wrong and the question is whether the people will vote in high numbers in order to get this across the finish line. Ivi is a beautiful girl but she clearly has nerves this evening. The song is really catchy and I just cannot help but sing and dance to it. The choreography is extremely slick and looks very strong on the camera. I just cannot imagine myself this but this is a non-qualifier in my opinion by just missing out.

Denmark

Following that bizarrely terrible vocal performance from Cyprus comes Soluna Samay who not only has the looks but has a very strong voice to accompany her. As always, Denmark have the most middle of the road type of song in the contest presenting a typical mid-tempo track which was one of the early favourites and still finds itself in the first top ten placings. It has been decided that she will wear the same getup that she had during the Dansk Melodi Grand Prix, which was like a sailor meets hero type of outfit. The vocals are strong and the music works well. This type of song will be loved by the juries for being sweet. She will definitely qualify and will reach the final mid-table

Russia

The Russian grannies are back on stage and they do seem to enjoy every second of their time on stage. They are wearing their traditional clothing and this is just not any different than the national final when they did manage to beat none other than Yulia Volkova and Dima Bilan. The performance is quirky and funny and it will definitely not appeal to the juries this evening but it might win the public tele-vote and therefore I believe that this will qualify tomorrow night because they are Russia at the end of the day. It is quite an interesting performance and they will love it at home. I still cannot believe that this is competing in one of the most well known competitions.

Hungary

I just keep on pointing out that Hungary are bringing the most competent track to the Eurovision Song Contest this year being very much a radio hit which should appeal to all of the respective countries competing in both semi-finals and the final and this is because of the very sentimental lyrics which speak about the general discrepancies of the people when it comes to being poor or being rich. The backdrop is kept dark but Compact Disco make use of most of the stage and that is why it actually looks so good on the screens. There is fire in each chorus. This is currently a borderline qualifier in my opinion as I am not sure how the juries will be ranking it this evening.


Austria

This has to be the track which is very much out of this world, different and would not really bode well with any of the older generations which watch the Eurovision Song Contest. For the people that do not know the title translates into shaking your backsides actually and that is the reason why I do not think the juries will go for it but by the same margin, the people would definitely go for it just for the sake of being different and innovative. I just cannot fault them on the great performance with the glow in the dark lighting on the backsides really having a nice effect. I believe that like the song before this, it will be borderline and that is why I have not made a choice but personally, I would go for Hungary.

Moldova

This has comfortably become one of my favourite entries because it has a great routine and will definitely get points just for the performer being good looking. The track is absolutely catchy and you will instantly starting singing along as well as moving with the music just before the chorus. The girls on stage do enjoy their time up there and now they are clad in traditional clothing along with Pasha reminding the people that they are from Moldova in an idea taken from former representative Nelly Ciobanu. This track is definitely qualifying to the final and considering the draw, they might actually win it if played right. This was perfect tonight and should up a lot of points.

Ireland

The final performance of the evening comes from Jedward and clearly from the onset, they just fail to hit the first note but that has become characteristic of the twins actually. Nevertheless, they have flat hair once more and are wearing outfits which are being said to resemble more the power rangers than star performers. The track is much catchier than Lipstick in my opinion and they are definitely performing better this evening noting that they did do well with the judges last year. The people will definitely be on their side noting that they have become stars of this competition. Their backing vocalists are definitely keeping the performance together but good camera work, a strong backdrop and the use of the fountain is what ties this performance together making it special. Huge applause in the hall for the high fountain water and also the fireworks. The vocals are much stronger in the chorus and the backing are really helping this evening. This will definitely qualify and is looking more and more like a possible top five contender in the finals. They finish the performance standing in the fountain and therefore completely wet.

Review by Garrett Mulhall

Ok people – It is past 2am here in Baku and I have just come out of the final dress rehearsal for Semi Final 1. This is the semi final that the Jury vote on. I can say that Jedward gave their best performance of “Waterline” to date. The vocals were even better than this afternoon’s and the water feature went down wonderfully with the audience. There was nothing that the guys could have done better. 

Rumour Mill – The guys wore the same silver and gold costumes and had their hair DOWN. So that is what you will see tomorrow evening on the live show. Surprises were that the crowd really loved Albania. The audience cheered when Rona hit the high notes in her song and she actually cried at the end of her performance. This could actually just get into the final.

Russia were a favourite of the crowd and they had people dancing in the hall. Cyprus also got an amazing reaction in the hall to the delight of Ivi. Overall it was an amazing show and it will be a nailbiter. Just as an FYI - Jedward were in the green room in Leopard Print Dressing Gowns!!! So look out for them tomorrow night! 

The Show (Part 2)

This years' hosts which have been said to be so-so are back on stage to introduce the recaps of the first acts of this years' Eurovision Song Contest. They also speak about the fact that everyone can get up to twenty calls from each phone-line therefore, keep that in mind. They are now speaking about Azerbaijan and I must say that things really ran smoothly this evening. Well done for Ictimai for putting up an amazing show and one will be hoping that it goes as good as it did this evening tomorrow night. Voting has stopped. Performances of the finalists are currently being shown on the screen.

Fake Qualifiers

01. Ireland

02. Iceland

03. Israel

04. Romania

05. Switzerland

06. Belgium

07. Cyprus

08. Greece

09. Albania

10. Austria

The first week of the Eurovision Song Contest being held in Baku, Azerbaijan has passed with all of the respective rehearsals covered in the best possible way with pictures and reports being somewhat the basis of a strong team present in the country. I would like to thank our Head of Operations, Garrett Mulhall who has for the second year in a row done Malta proud whilst still keeping his Irish roots intact within each occasion. Apart from him though, I should and will thank the lovely Šira Carolyn Bezalel who has been busy taking pictures and attending press conferences along with the rest of our team members including Juergen Boernig, Lilian Brunell, Patrick Strouk and Eric Lehmann. I believe that the best portal this year goes to escXtra for keeping the people intact through their live chat and videos and for this we thank them and salute all of their team. They will be supporting escflashmalta.com also with the coverage of the dress rehearsals.

In the past couple of days, we have learnt that there have been issues with the correct starting time of the rehearsals and therefore, we hope that we are ready on time to kick off the premier dress rehearsal this afternoon before the evening dress rehearsal takes shape. That will be quite important though noting that it will be the show in which half of the result will be officially decided as the juries put forward by their respective countries will be making their decisions on who should qualify to the final round of the competition. Stay tuned with us as we follow the dress rehearsal live with our commentary about the vocal performance taking centre stage of course. We should have images for the evenings' dress rehearsal based on what the acts are wearing this afternoon. The images provided now might not be the actual outfits they will be wearing. Thanks for all of your support as always!

LIVE

As has been expected, we are running late but we are expecting the first dress rehearsal to commence very soon. It is important to point out that the hosts will be seen on stage for the very first time as will be the opening and interval act so this is going to be quite an exciting show and it should even slicker this evening. I am going to blog each song as they are performed. So stay tuned as I will be posting all of the updates and reviews of this highly important rehearsal and we have started ...


The Show (Part 1)

The hosts are now on stage and they are literally shouting out to the rest of Europe by virtue of introducing themselves, the year of birth and also where they were born. They are speaking in English, French and Azeri as expected. Following the introduction of the pre-qualified finalists, which are the United Kingdom, France, Italy, Germany and Spain as well as host country Azerbaijan, the postcard are introduced and they are more like tourism advertisements it seems.

 

Montenegro

Marc: Without a doubt, this has to be the worst song of this years' competition even surpassing the likes of the small nation of San Marino which at least is singable and infectious. This is apparently the style that Rambo performs and he has become quite popular performing this type of music. I would never buy this material personally so questionable music tastes for some people. He seems to be clad in the same outfit as he performed in within the last technical rehearsals. The vocals are good but when were they ever troubled, he does not have a lot to perform in. The staging is also the same, quite dark with a wooden donkey behind him as well as a band on stage.

Garrett: This started terribly – we couldn’t hear his opening lines and then he couldn’t put on his guitar. The dancers roll out their messages like giant toilet roll holders. A weak performance of a crazy song. Prediction: Not Qualifying.

 

Iceland

Marc: During the very first rehearsal of Iceland, there were cries of joy over how the staging was shown noting that it was looking amazing with the mountains behind it and also the clear skies. It looked incredible and sounded good and then it all went downhill with the vocals of Jonsi in the second rehearsal. Today, they are wearing the same outfits as shown above and it seems that Greta is carrying the song perfectly. Jonsi is in the meantime, doing a very good job indeed today but still not back to that first rehearsal in my opinion. The chorus behind them is stunning and this is one song which will surely be getting votes from the jury this evening based on such a rehearsal. This evening, I will be pointing out more who will most likely qualify from the semi-finals. This song is really sounding powerful and Iceland has become an outsider for the victory based on the performance that have been putting forward.

Garrett: I had high hopes for this song but there was something wrong with this performance visually. Jonsi seemed nervous and the vocals seemed to be singing behind the track. I had this as a definite qualifier but now I am not so sure. Just relax Iceland and enjoy the performance more. Prediction: Close call on qualifying.

 

Greece

Marc: Eleftheria Eleftheriou is one of the upcoming artists in Greece actually by virtue of garnering success through the local version of the X Factor but nevertheless, she has been gunning to do the Eurovision Song Contest for quite some time. She is on stage and her vocals sound very strained in the beginning, as if she does not really enjoy herself there but the choreography is apparently looking much slicker today and should definitely keep this in the running for a qualification ticket. Greece have done it well without good vocals in recent years. This is receiving a good round of applause in the press centre. 

Garrett: Don’t tell me how Greece have done it but they have managed to pull it out of the bag and actually do a great performance which they have failed to do it all week. Still need to tighten up the dance but looks like Greece are in the final. Qualifying for the final.

 

Latvia

Marc: Anmary is really enjoying any time she gets on the stage in Baku and despite having a fiery scary smile on her face, she does perform the track well. I am just not in love with this song and I just cannot believe the level of disturbing songs that Latvia had in their national selection considering the gems they had in previous years. They did everything possible with the staging in this one including a very colourful backdrop. They are closely knit together and this does not look well on the screen because the stage is enormous. She does manage all of the high notes and the vocals might be just enough to help this qualify but I am not sure.

Garrett: Change of costumes for Latvia. They are no-longer looking like they are women of the night but instead they are looking like they should be working on the cosmetic counter of a large retail store or a Secretary Pool. Vocals were shrill at times and I personally find this a gimmick. This will most likely just miss out on the final.

 

Albania

Marc: The best vocal of the competition comes from Rona who is representing Albania and she is the one who has decided to take the stage all on her own. She sounds immaculate as always and is managing to hit all of the notes especially the ones in the bridge she manages perfectly. The staging is kept very simple in this one. I am not too sure that this will be making it due to the fact that it might be too out there, but then again, I really wish she would make it because she is just amazing and deserves to be in the final. Once more, the media enjoy the performance quite a lot actually and they clap as if there is no tomorrow.

Garrett: My ears are still recovering. This song is sung wonderfully but it is not a song that is ideal for Eurovision. Dressed like a cross between Lady Gaga and a Star Trek character – blue dress with black lapels – it just looks all wrong on stage. The lighting was far to uninspiring and I have found my first toilet break of the night. Unless the Jury saves this then I am afraid Albania are going home early. This is not qualifying actually.

 

Romania

Marc: Great opening beat from Romania with the drums and then the beat. In recent days, this track has become a contender for victory actually and without a doubt, one would definitely note why. Elena is clad in the outfit as seen in the picture above and she is clearly enjoying herself out there. The group are doing a number of funny dance moves as they prance around the stage. This looks great on the monitors and will definitely not need any more help. The vocals are strong and sound very on key as she has managed all week. The chorus of the group is a great help to the performance. This is sailing into the final for sure, without hearing their rendition this evening. It might also trouble the voting board for the victory on Saturday night. 

Garrett: Comes after the tv ad break and a welcomed relief to Albania. One MAJOR shock – Don’t wear a MINI skirt and then have a wind machine blowing. As Monica from “Friends” would say – “You could see her lady garden”. Please tighten up the dress and then add some more red to the lightening as they have changed to primarily a white stage. Great dance routine.

 

Switzerland

Marc: Switzerland are now on and Maltese surely remember them from coming to the national selection back in February and they have been quite the centre of attention at times for their good looks. In the meantime though, the matrix screens are back on in a number of colours and the group is very much smart casual in their outfits for this performance as expected for a pop/rock number. I do not find anything wrong with this except the diction issues where the main artist says 'strim' instead of 'stream' otherwise, this could be a qualifier but because of that, I just cannot see them in the finals. The vocals are on point as well and the performance does work on screen.

Garrett: By far the BEST performance of the night. The guys really rocked the stage and used every inch of it to effect. No pyrotechnics were used which I hope they do in the second rehearsal. This had great camera angles and vocals. It has all come together for Switzerland at the right time.

 
Belgium
 
 
Marc: The sweet vocals of Iris are just lovely and you cannot help but gush watching her perform this simple ballad in the same way that people enjoyed watching Tom Dice sing his entry Me and My Guitar just a couple of years back. Iris is one of the youngest competing performers in the competition but she has not been intimated and she has come a long way to battle her nerves that she faced during her national final when the choice of the song went to Iris. The song is interesting but we believe it is too calm to impress this evening or tomorrow evening unfortunately. The end note is very beautiful and I reckon that this will be the one to qualify instead of Finland as I believe one will do it.
 
Garrett: One cannot believe that Iris is only 16 as she sang with confidence that most other singers would love to have. Dressed in a short white dress thatlooked like it had some bubble wrap on it. Her vocals were amazing and her interaction with the camera was sublime. I really like this song and her performance. Just might qualify as the Jury are bound to like it.
 
 
Finland
 
 
Marc: It seems that Pernilla has been encountered by a case of nerves because she starts off extremely nasal and then she just cannot hit all the notes in the right way. Very uncharacteristic of Pernilla actually noting that she was strong in all of the other rehearsals. The Swedish language when not performed well sounds very wrong and this ballad has just been hit by a troublesome performance. I can see Iris and Belgium walking all over this. How disappointing indeed especially after how beautiful the song really is. One will hope that she gets her act together in time for tonight.
 
Garrett: I personally love this song but I am afraid that it will not have the wide enough appeal to qualify. They have also made the faux pas of shining a red spot light on the singers red hair and then put her in a very unflattering green dress. The dress is an awkard length and has massive coat tails. It all looks wrong. This will go home early.
 
Israel
 
 
Marc: I have always had a soft spot for Israel having presented some of the most beautiful songs in the competition over the years. This will surely be one of the tracks stand out during the evening just for being abysmally crazy and different at times. I absolutely adore the ticking clock background with some of my friends actually thinking it was real. The vocals are strong and the performance does look well on the screens. This is looking very much in the balance at the moment but I believe they have enough help for them to qualify. A well performed entry and should do well.
 
Garrett: They must have been reading my blogs all week as eventually they they decided to smile on stage for once. It looked great and sounded great. It got a great reaction in the press centre. A funy little ditty. This will go through to the final.
 
San Marino
 
 
Marc: Valentina Monetta is one of the nicest performers in the competition this year but it is quite unfortunate that she has been given such an entry to perform. She is wearing what seems to be a sailor outfit but they just happen to be the colours of San Marino. She is keeping the performance very simple actually but it does work on screen except when she is typing on the laptop as it looks extremely stupid. Nevertheless, the vocals are good but still this is competing with Montenegro for last place in my opinion. She is joined on stage by a number of backing vocalists who carry out a simple routine. 
 
Garrett: I love this song but it will not have a wide enough appeal. Some may find it childlike and the Juries will not be over joyed by it. I think it sounds fun and the dance routine is cheeky. The visuals are great but I think they will not progress. This will most likely just miss out.
 
 
Cyprus
 
 
Marc: Ivi Adamou takes to the stage for her dress rehearsal and indeed she does look like she has been wanting to do this for a very long time. She is joined on stage by a number of dancers whose choreography is very slick. The vocals in the beginning of the performance sound extremely strained but they do improve and the performance goes forward. The thing is that Cyprus had somewhat of a lead over Greece in the beginning but this has been overturned despite the commercial success of the Cypriot entry in both nations. This will most likely qualify to the finals of the competition.
 
 
Denmark
 
 
Marc: The people tend to enjoy the performance of Denmark in the Eurovision Song Contest and last year they were saved by the juries but this time round, I think that the tele-voters will enjoy this. The vocal performance is quite strong, this entry is kept very simple in terms of performance but nevertheless thus work very strongly on the screens due to the fact that the band enjoys the performance and looks extremely authentic. They will be hoping to save their record on two consecutive top five placings.  
 
Garrett: This sounds like every other Danish song from the past few years. It brings nothing new to the table. It is a middle of the road sung well but people have liked that from Denmark each year. It will qualify but I can see this in the bottom half in the final and will qualify.
 
Russia
 
 
Marc: The Russian grannies are exceptionally cute actually but I just cannot really imagine them winning the Eurovision Song Contest as it would be a sham to the competition. It will be quite interesting to see how their performance will go this evening when the juries will be voting for the entries in the semi-final. The vocals are still well performed actually but nevertheless the music is still very much stupid. This is the track which also managed to beat Yulia Volkova and Dima Bilan and their song. 
 
Garrett: What happened? This has been great all week but seemed a little flat. Maybe it needs a big audience. The camera angles were a little roaming and failed to capture the smallest of the Grannies – who is the star of the show. This will still qualify easily but will the Juries like it.
 
Hungary

 
Marc: I must say that this is a very current track and the worry was actually actually they could not manage to hold onto their English diction well but they did manage that and this has become one of the most interesting tracks to compete this year. Many people believe they will make it through to the finals. The track is just beautiful when you listen to it and the staging does work. The camera work is very much well staged and one will be hoping that this will make it.
 
Garrett: Hungary just seems like it is making up the numbers. Very forgettable and I think they are in trouble. Not a lot to say about this dreary performance except Good Bye. They will be flying back home.
 
Austria
 
 
Marc: Austria has to be one of those tracks which are very much out there and whilst the people are bound to like it, I am not sure by some of the most conervative juries including countries like Italy. The idea of this performance is to see the asses shaking in very colourful staging. The graphics were not working too well in the final rehearsal but nevertheless, this has not stopped the group from doing their best rehearsal thus far today. I must say this is quite good though not sure it will make it.
 
Garrett: Austria were fantastic. Sounding like fun with a good visual show. The guys know how to put on a show and it looked a lot tighter on the camera angles. People tuning in for Jedward will like this song. I can see this making the final and will probably scrape into it.
 
 
Moldova
 
 
Marc: Moldova went from a non-qualifier to a definite qualifier during their time in Baku actually with a very quirky performance of a very strong entry which features a lot of nationalistic influence. Moldova are well known for their love of the saxophone and the song is very much in cue with what is normally expected. The vocal performance is very strong and the choreography is really funny and works so well on the camera. This could get Moldova their best result thus far which is going a long way if they are to better their sixth place result.
 
Garrett: What a great performance. The vocals are great and the visual effects add to the song and the performance.  The camera angles were spot on and they made a great show. This will appeal to a large number of people. This will qualify for the final with ease. 
 
Ireland 

 

Marc: Jedward have to be the most popular act competing in this semi-final and they are currently on stage performing their entry Waterline. They are clearly enjoying their time on stage and they seem to have really tightened up their vocals this afternoon just prior to the evening rehearsal. Their harmonies along with the backing are working  well and they are being carried by the backing at some parts as otherwise, it would sound horribly round. The song is very catchy indeed and I prefer it to Lipstick. I believe that this is into the final and will reach the top ten whilst there. It is interesting that they are in gold suits and their hair is actually down people! Huge applause in the press centre for them.

GarrettThe time has come and what a lot of changes have come to the performance. First Jedward are in their stage costumes which are like funky gold and silver power rangers. They come onto the stage WITH THEIR HAIR DOWN – like we had predicted all along!!! Vocally they have taken the main vocals and dropped it by half a key and what a difference it has made. It sounds much better and they have also changed the key of the backing vocals which lifts the entire performance. The dancing is energetic and only how Jedward can do. They leap about the stage with such confidence. THE MONEY SHOT – comes at the end of the song. The water feature is much higher and for the end of the song the twins jump into the waterfall and hold their hands aloft. The water comes crashing down and it looks amazing!!! This is what people have been waiting for and it leaves the viewer with the WOW factor. Jedward have done it again and pulled it out of the bag.


The Show (Part 2)

The hosts are back on stage and tell the people that only twenty votes per line are allowed. They also introduce the recap which is making it's first appearance but will be re-worked to include the performances during this evenings' rehearsal which will be for the juries. There is the interval act performing but we are going to focus on the performances and therefore, we will let you know how the mock voting goes.

Fake Qualifiers

01. Iceland

02. Ireland

03. Moldova

04. Montenegro

05. Cyprus

06. Hungary

07. Russia

08. Greece

09. Austria

10. Latvia