It was such a joy to see Eurovision back, and with a crowd – something we haven’t seen much of in these pandemic times. The hosts were professional and efficient and a great looking production. Inevitably, the results bring a mix of relief, surprise, shock and disappointment and the first semi-final of the 2021 contest certainly delivered that.
While many lockdown restrictions have been lifted in the UK, it was a smaller than usual gathering I had to watch the first semi-final – just the three of us in fact, but we still dutifully filled in our scoresheets and came up with the following top 10 (in order of our combined votes). Those in bold were the actual real qualifiers. We got 8 out of 10 so we weren’t too out of step with the combined jury/televote result.
All three of us had Lithuania as number one, and all of us were mightily impressed by Destiny from Malta. Our placing of Ukraine was interesting as we had it up high, while another group of my Eurovision friends had it placed dead last in their group! But I think that shows that having such a distinctive entry can be polarising, it gets as many people who love it as people who really dislike it – and it’s the people who love it who will be voting for it – you can’t vote a song down. Perhaps not surprising Ukraine has gone ever further up the betting – and is now the only country with a 100% qualification record following Australia’s non-qualification.
Speaking of that non-qualification, I guess Australia’s streak had to end sometime, and I wasn’t 100% surprised this didn’t go through, but I am disappointed it didn’t. I think “Technicolour” is a great song, and Montaigne does a great job with such a vocally challenging song. Perhaps just a little too avant-garde for a Tuesday night audience and while the recorded live version that they had to use (with Australia unable to travel to Rotterdam) looked good, it didn’t have quite the same feel as those songs on the actual Eurovision stage.
The biggest shock though was Croatia’s non-qualification. “Tick-Tock” felt such a strong and catchy bop, but I guess I did say that not all of the female solo bops could go through. It just feels such a pity that this is the one that missed out. Albina has remained very positive but it must be so frustrating for Croatia, who just seem to struggle to qualify no matter what genre they put in and how engaging the performance.
Going to the final in Australia and Croatia’s place are Norway and Azerbaijan. While both were low in my top 39, I have a little more understanding towards Norway going through – there’s a story behind the song and TIX is certainly someone who has overcome challenges to get where he is. Azerbaijan on the other hand has few redeeming features in my eyes. It’s a perfect example of the most cynical of entries with paper thin meaning behind it and a singer who used the microphone more as a prop than to actually sing through. But I appreciate it’s the sort of thing that many won’t analyse in that way – but does feel very frustrating that Australia and Croatia miss out due to a song like “Mata Hari”.
We never get what we want 100% though, so I think 8 out of 10 is a good result overall – and included countries like Belgium and Israel who I wanted to get through but wasn’t sure would actually make it. Now on to semi-final 2 to see if we can get as high a number of our preferred qualifiers in that too!