Weaver's Week 2022-05-15

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This edition was published on Saturday 14 May, before the final.

Eurovision Song Contest

We are loud. We are gorgeous. We are weird. We are … watching the annual festival of songs, performances, and general talent.


Eurovision Song Contest

RAI / EBU, 10 May 2022; we watched NPO1's broadcast

This year's contest comes live from the Stadio Olympico in Turin, and has the most marvellous kinetic stage. There are water features, a drawbridge and massive video floor. Behind the performers is a revolving semicircle, which can show coloured lights, or it can be part of the LED backdrop showing pictures.

Francesca Montinaro, the artist who designed this stage, said, "The kinetic sun, source of spectacular movements and tricks of light, rules the stage and represents our Italian attitude: always on the move, rebellious, creative, welcoming, passionate, intuitive."

Eurovision Song Contest The stage shines its lights (NR)

Except... the revolving semicircle doesn't revolve quickly enough. To swap all seven half-rings from coloured lights to LED takes about three minutes, and there's less than a minute between performances. While they aimed to keep the sun moving endlessly, it's got itself fixed for the competition. Everyone gets the LED effects, which left a lot of performances casting about for a new staging.

40 songs enter, 25 fit in the grand final, so we must lose some of you along the way. Who will be caught in the contest, who won't get out of the semis?

Tuesday's songs

Eurovision Song Contest "Sekret", that's Albanian for "cryptic" (SLB)

"Sekret" was the first entry, performed by Ronela Hajati for RTSH (shown on screen as "Albania"). We saw a lot of pink-and-blue lights last year, and that trend slipped over into the '22 contest. "Sekret" brought the topless male dancers, it brought more steamy tension than we'd expect on NPO1 at this hour. Where did "Sekret" go wrong? It's not very good. Ronela's voice doesn't fit this song, it chopped and wobbled, and came across as tacky. Eurovision is not an end-of-the-pier show.

Another poor vocal came from "Halo", Pia Maria sang it, Lum!x added a line, ÖRF ("Austria") the broadcaster. Loved the staging: it's the one with the pair in a large light-up ring. Pia had bags of energy, looked a lot like Red Fraggle. Sounded a lot like Red Fraggle, too, and Red at her most strident can be a bit of a cacophony. "Halo" doesn't have a conventional verse-chorus structure, it's all one stream of consciousness. On a night with lots of quality female vocals, "Halo" stood out in a bad way.

Eurovision Song Contest Lum!x and Pia Maria: give them a ring! (AP)

Sidebar: those large light-up rings look like a useful game show prop. If they can manufacture enough of them, they can double as life indicators in the new Fifteen-to-One, and be a natural way for everyone to keep a healthy distance.

Imagine the pounding music they'd play behind "Joust" or "Suspension Bridge" on Gladiators – a naff knockoff of "Duel". That's "Intention". Intelligent Music Project represented BNT ("Bulgaria"). Not their finest hour, it's a piece of dadrock, and not a quality piece of dadrock. The singer growled his lines, there wasn't much of a tune, and we'd memory-holed it before it had finished. First song announced last autumn, quite possibly the first song to be out.

Eurovision Song Contest Drink on pyro (CC)

"Disko" from LPS represented RTVSLO ("Slovenia"). They look like a band from high school, mostly because they are a band from high school. "Last Pizza Slice" came up through the wild-card round EMA Fres, so by the time they made the national selection, they were familiar to Slovene audiences. The song was much less familiar to the viewing public, it's one that takes a few listens to sink in.

Does that represent a failure by RTVSLO? No. The Eurovision Song Contest – and the broadcasters' selections – are not just about winning. Viewers have followed LPS come up, write a song, visibly get better. LPS have been exposed to hundreds of thousands of people, and will have thousands of new fans. It's a staging point for their career, something they've managed to achieve, a step they can build from. To be left in the semis is a setback, but it's not a defeat.

Eurovision Song Contest LPS had Ball 35's vote, but nobody else's (SLB)

Just ask Citi Zeni, whose "Eat your salad" represented LTV ("Latvia"). That group have been recording for about fifteen years, under various names, and finally got their turn in the spotlight. It's another song to divide opinion: the cheap thrill of shouting "pussy" and a minced f-word, a striking visual image with each member in a coloured suit, a lyric that might be about the environment but might also be about bedroom activities. If "Sekret" was tacky, the music explosion of "Eat your salad" was properly grubby.

Eurovision Song Contest Citi Zeni: zeni by name, zeni by nature (CC)

"The show" was performed by Reddi, representing DR ("Denmark"). It's the one that started out as a soft tinkly ballad, with a pleasant young woman behind a piano. Then, for no obvious reason, it turned into a pop-punk rock number, all Avril Lavigne meets Josie and the Pussycats. It's not so much one song as bits of three or four stuck into a blender and mashed up: the slow opening will have allowed some viewers to nip off for a moment, the raucous close will have turned off some jurors. We can make a case for it qualifying, we aren't surprised that it failed.

Eurovision Song Contest Reddi would have livened Saturday night (CC)

"Guilty pleasure" is the final non-qualifier, Mia Dimsic for HRT ("Croatia"). The one with the glaring bloke, the one with the interpretive dance, the one with the pink ballgown and clompy leather boots. A song about leaving your married partner for someone different, it was staged well and sung well. We suspect it didn't connect with the juries as well as it might have done, and we suspect it didn't miss out by much. In our headcanon, "Guilty pleasure" would have had something happening on the LED picture wall, if we'd been able to see it – might that have made the difference?

Eurovision Song Contest High art doesn't always get through (NR)

Through from Tuesday

"Boys do cry" is the surprise qualifier – Marius Bear for SRG SSR ("Switzerland") was widely tipped to not make it through. It's a solid song, Marius literally wears his heart on his sleeve, on his face, and on the big floor. The slow number could be used as a sorbet between two big tunes.

Three young women sung about their mental health, all three qualified. "De diepte" – S10 for AVROTROS ("Netherlands") is a very dark song, staged in a very dark way: it's another one compromised by the lack of video wall. "Die together" – Amanda Georgiadi Tenfjord for ERT ("Greece") has some pinpoint staging, and an array of twisted chairs. The main thing is Amanda's awesome voice.

Eurovision Song Contest Rosa Linn brought her own room, as one does (NR)

"Snap" – Rosa Linn for AMPTV ("Armenia") features a massive prop, a three-sides shell of Rosa's actual bedroom. The real-life Balestrand and Brusali are remade in the Pösttit range. As the song progresses, the shell rotates by 180 degrees – yes, it feels a bit queasy, and that's the effect they want to bring about. Life is strange, unsettling, and better than the alternatives.

A pair of cool tunes got through. "Saudade, saudade" – Maro for RTP ("Portugal") featured a group of women singing at each other in the round, "Með hækkandi sól" – Systur for RÚV ("Iceland") sounded like Haim playing country, had a lineup like The Corrs, and reminded one correspondent of 1976 bestseller "Mississippi". See, the final does get a Pussycat.

Eurovision Song Contest Systur, better than S!sters. (NR)

We fear both will be swallowed by bigger attractions, but that doesn't make either a failure. For RÚV, Eurovision night is a family party, literally everyone is watching. We mean, literally everyone – 95% of people watching television will be watching Eurovision. Some local interest will give everyone some extra reason to cheer. RTP continue to plough their own furrow, and will be happy to fly their banner in front of the watching millions. Many broadcasters see the Saturday night as a win in itself.

Two serious songs could have gone through in any era. "Sentimentai" – Monika Liu for LTU ("Lithuania") is a timeless performance, reminded this blog of the groovy late 60s jazz clubs. "Stefania" – Kalush Orchestra for UA:PBC ("Ukraine") is a heartfelt remembrance of the singer's late mother, veering from contemplation to rage to a rap break in the space of three minutes.

Eurovision Song Contest Difficult to comment on "Stefania" (AP)

"Stefania" is the prohibitive favourite – some bookmakers had it odds-on to win, more likely than any of the other 39 songs. We don't have it as our favourite song of the night, but it's advanced to the final on clear musical merit. If it wins, will it do so on clear musical merit? We'll have to see: we suspect the juries will be a better arbiter than the televote.

The televote tends to favour gimmick entries; while "Eat your salad" got chopped up and served with lettuce, two others progressed. "Trenuletul" – Zdob si Zdub for TVM ("Moldova") is an international friendship song, all the way from Chisinau to Bucharest. "Give that wolf a banana" – Subwoolfer for NRK ("Norway") is high art, performers in yellow masks sing an innuendo-laden piece. "Banana" stands as a quality song on its own merits, "Trenuletul" is joyful and leaves us with a smile on our face; "Salad" left us feeling grubby.

Eurovision Song Contest And øn with the müsic. (SLB)

Staging and stuff

Three hosts for the contest: Mika and Laura Pausini are best known as singers and don't have much experience hosting telly shows. Alessandro Cattelan is an experienced television presenter, he won't be singing.

As we've mentioned, the stage is huge. Possibly a bit too big. But they are filling it with the opening acts – Leo The Flying Machine brought a zillion dancers, Diodato had far too many people in his interval act. The Dance of Beauty featured lots of Italian dance music, including current hitmakers Sophie and the Giants.

Eurovision Song Contest Your graceful hosts: Alessandro Cattelan, Mika, and Laura Pausini (AP)

The show started with Leonardo da Vinci making a drone in his workshop, it looks a lot like Streak from Winning Streak. For the postcards, Streak flies around the land, and pictures of the next competitor are superimposed onto the landscape.

The Eurovision Song Contest aims to push the boundaries of television. Over the years, the contest's seen experiments with microwave link-ups, colour television, high-definition television, telephone voting, satellite link-ups, internet link-ups, and many many more. This year's experiment is ultra high-definition – sometimes marketed as "4K" or "Ultimate" telly. Though available in some territories, we're not getting it through the BBC – the only available feed is the one with sponsor's adverts, and that's a sharp "no" from Auntie.

Eurovision Song Contest Mika on the hedge of the green room (CC)

Sidebar: 4K may also be the reason why they stuck the sun on its "lights" side. If they'd left it on the "video wall" side, many delegations would have had to find filler images, and risk the ultra high-definition picture looking poor. On the "lights" side, all viewers get the same dark picture!

The BBC coverage has returned to BBC3, after too many years squatting uncomfortably on BBC4. Scott Mills and Rylan Clark-Neal had a few interviews, primarily during the second recap and a tribute to Raffaella Carrà, but also a recap of recent song contest highlights – nothing older than 2006, something Popmaster writers might note. All of the performances, all of the substantial interval acts were shown.

Thursday's songs

You won't be seeing these on Saturday night.

Eurovision Song Contest Brooke didn't get through? That sucks. (NR)

"That's rich" from Brooke representing RTÉ ("Ireland"). Bother. We're not going to say that Brooke was robbed, but if you know why Brooke is not in the final, call Crimestoppers now. It's an honest song, drawing from personal experience. It was staged brilliantly, Brooke and the gang reminded this column of the Spice Girls when they were first out.

The performance has been substantially revised from The Late Late Show at the end of January, it uses the much larger stage and concludes with a pyro explosion. And yet it didn't go through, and Saturday's show is poorer for the loss. We hope – desperately hope – that RTÉ missed out by a whisker, after a pair of last-place finishes in the prior semi-finals.

Eurovision Song Contest Ela, elle la. (NR)

"Ela" from Andromanche represented CyBC ("Cyprus"). It's a pretty song, with a beautiful seashell staging. The song was written by committee, no fewer than nine composers are credited, and it feels like a bit of a mish-mash – lines in Greek and English, and some international language of "aah-aah". For our money, Andromanche's voice got lost in the mix. The performance left us thinking she was moping about, lacked passion, didn't give us a call to act.

"Circles" by Andrea for MKRTV ("North Macedonia"), which proved a difficult song to like – or even to remember. Andrea's staging looks to have been compromised by the lack of LED screens, there are hands down the far sides of the stage, but Andrea is only the size of a matchstick in these long shots. The song relied on the jury vote to win the MKRTV selection, but failed to impress in the Wednesday jury final. Would not surprise us if this came stone last.

Eurovision Song Contest Necessity was the mother of invention for Vladana (AP)

"Breathe" from Vladana represented RTCG ("Montenegro"). A late late change to the staging, after the first rehearsal Vladana's outfit gained a thin parasol, which looked like a big circle behind her body. It's clearly to make up for the LED screen failure, the bits of the display we do get to see include angels and splashing water and a wall of many faces. The song is intensely personal, written about Vladana's mother who died in the ongoing pandemic; we can all imagine how the presentation might have ended.

We move on to "Stripper", Achille Lauro represented SMRTV ("San Marino"). As subtle as RuPaul's Drag Race, as in-yer-face as the "Relax" video. "Stripper" features men in cages, a bull to ride, a man playing the guitar while lying on the floor, and all of the fire they can muster. It has all of the pent-up sexual charge we saw from Måneskin last year, and somehow wrings even more from it. A trashy number, but one performed with integrity – we get the impression that Sgr Lauro means all of it. We'd love to have seen this on Saturday night, primarily because it's one of the ten best from Thursday, but also for the tea-spluttering reaction it would engender.

Eurovision Song Contest Do be careful out there (SLB)

"I. M." from Michael Ben David of KAN ("Israel"). It's the bright one, it's the one with white shirts, perhaps more dazzling visuals than a forgettable disco song. Sure, the message is important – Michael insists that life accepts him as he is – but it gets lost in the show.

A similar message from "I am what I am", Emma Muscat representing PBS ("Malta"). The one where the singer dances on top of a piano: please don't try this in your school music room, otherwise Mrs. Moore will put you in detention for a very long time.

Eurovision Song Contest 99% of people cannot pay for a new piano (SLB)

"If this was in Junior Eurovision it’d win by a mile," wrote an esteemed Eurovision blog. We don't agree; if this was in Junior Eurovision, it would be tipped to win by a mile, but finish about sixth behind space pop / joyful banter / memorable empowerment anthems / whatever slice of wonderful Khabar Agency are sending this year. It's the sort of song people who don't watch Junior Eurovision would send to Junior Eurovision.

Junior Eurovision is better than you think. For some delegations (RTSH Albania, cough) Junior Eurovision is better than Senior. Junior does not host twee kiddy stuff, it's modern and interpretive and meaningful. A failed cola advert like Emma's "I'd like to be the future of the world" is reductive and clichéd and a bit naff. We'll file it with "Calon y cuiro": perfectly fine song, well performed, a thing of beauty, totally not a competition song.

Eurovision Song Contest Not exactly "Bzzzzt", is it? (NR)

GPB ("Georgia") are another delegation who excel at Junior, fail at Senior. "Lock me in" from Circus Mircus was a hard song to watch, too many colours swirling around, too much post-grunge scuzz. Zybszek Zalinsky on RTÉ Radio 1 described this as a b-side from Blur's late 90s album when they tried to be Pavement, and Zybszek is correct: it's a difficult song, it's meant to be difficult and off-putting. A fine song, plenty of artistic merit, but completely not a competition song.

Who did progress?

Big rock numbers opened and closed the Thursday programme. "Jezebel" put The Rasmus through (YLE, "Finland"). This timeless song features a yellow helium balloon, and could come from anywhere in their long career. The more youthful We Are Domi performed "Lights off" (CT, "Czechia"), a song with a lot of lights but very few of them are off. It's a softer song than "Jezebel", but that's like saying a bed of pins is softer to sleep on than a bed of nails.

Eurovision Song Contest The Rasmus in a bright yellow mac (JB)

A couple of arty performances went through. "In corpore sano" from Konstrakta (RTS, "Serbia") is an extended discussion of healthcare provision, and how society might have failed those outside the traditional employer-employee model. It features the washing of hands, and (for the benefit of those who need to hear it) is sung in classical Latin.

"Fade to black" is performed by Nadir Rustamli (represents Íctimai, "Azerbaijan"). It's a pleasantly tough ballad, more steel in this song than we might imagine. Nadir and his backing dancer perform on a matching pair of wooden steps, often mirroring each other's actions.

Eurovision Song Contest River nymphs for Ochman (AP)

A pair of MOR tracks qualified. "Hope" from Stefan (EER, "Estonia") is another soft country-ish song, this one's shot through a sepia filter and features Stefan jumping over the water feature. "Miss you" from Jérémie Makiese (RTBF, "Belgium") is a gentle soul groover.

Vigorous dancing for "Llamame" by WRS (TVR, "Romania"). "Not the same" qualified for Sheldon Riley (SBS, "Australia"), which is fully deserved. We're not impressed by how they've staged it, far too much flashing light and it distracts from the big reveal.

"The river" did well for Ochman (TVP, "Poland"). It's an excellent slow number, Ochman emotes throughout, and is joined by water nymphs dancing around the stage. Because the LED screens are missing, they've used filters and effects like a 2002-era computer movie maker. The juries will have liked it, we're getting the same vibes as "Arcade" but three parts more naff.

Eurovision Song Contest Cornelia Jakobs is going for gold (NR)

"Hold me closer" is the likely Thursday winner, Cornelia Jakobs sung for SVT ("Sweden"). It's got a big green light, subtly indicating that this is a good song. The song has a huge dynamic range, starts small, ends in a huge crescendo. It's the sort of soft rock they'd have loved at Heart FM since 1994, and probably still would today if anyone listened.

Running order and final notes

"Lights off" begins the show. Actually, no, there'll be a sponsor's logo, the EBU vignette, a pre-recorded video insert, some words from the hosts, and an explanation of how you vote (including Graham Norton's annual explanation that the BBC doesn't use SMS votes, and if you vote on the app it'll be the same as a call from your phone).

Eurovision Song Contest We Are Domi will get the competition going in style (SLB)

Then we get to "Lights off", about 18 minutes into the programme. The high-energy numbers have all drawn first half, and again we wonder if a completely random draw would give us a better show. Old goths will look out for The Rasmus, "Jezebel" is song 4. First of the favourites is "Give that wolf a banana" at song 7.

They're taking an advert break after song 8, "Snap" and its wonderful house. "Brividi" from RAI follows the break at song 9, then "SloMo" for TVE – both favoured, and perhaps cancelling each other out. "De diepte" gives us the Terry Wogan Memorial Drinks Break at song 11 – we fear S10 will be lost in the rush, because "Stefania" is up at 12 for odds-on favourite Kalush Orchestra.

Eurovision Song Contest Do not leave any chairs around Amanda Georgiardi Tenfjord (NR)

Another break after song 16, "Miss you", while they set the stage for "Die together" – perhaps the dark horse for the win. "Trenultel" at song 19 will be a welcome burst of speed, with "Hold me closer" at song 20. "Space man" for the BBC is at song 22. We end with song 25, "Hope".

Then it's the Active Voting Window, estimated at 45 minutes, and they've about 25 minutes of proper content to fill that void – performances by all the singing hosts and by Måneskin. Jury results should begin around 22.50, and the big massive televote points are dumped from around 23.35. Off-air is scheduled for 23.50: your guess as to whether the show finishes on Saturday or Sunday.

Can "Stefania" win all 468 televote points? Not likely. TVM Moldova and TVR Romania will swap big votes, RTCG Montenegro will give a lot to RTS Serbia, and it only takes one duff result to spoil the maximum. Salvador Sobral's televote record of 376 came with more entries, and remains our benchmark for pan-European excellence.

Eurovision Song Contest Who wins? Tell you next week (AP)

In other news

The Chase is on! Massive congratulations to The Chase, which picked up the Daytime BAFTA, the most prestigious award on the television circuit. The Chase, which is regularly amongst the top twenty shows on television, is rewarded for thirteen years of sustained success. Elsewhere, Saturday Night Takeaway won Entertainment Programme for last year's series. The viewing public voted for Moment of the Year, it went to Rose and Giovanni's silent dance from Strictly.

The Chase Mark, Jenny, Paul, and Anne collected their awards.

See ya, byee Anne Robinson is to leave Countdown at the end of the current series. Robinson claims that she only planned to stay for a year, and to have improved the quality of guests. We beg to differ: while Richard Coles and Julian Clary were welcome bookings, the likes of Justin Webb, Kay Burley, Stanley Johnson, Alistair Campbell, and Geoff Norcott were not. There were too many bloviators from the fringes of current affairs, and not enough people who were friendly and welcoming; a similar complaint applied to the guests.

Anne Robinson hoped that the next host would be an older woman. Our dream list for the job: Dame Sandi Toksvig, Janet Ellis, Liza Tarbuck, Sarah Greene, Fionnula Sweeney, and Kirsty Young. We hope and expect that the new host will learn from Robinson's failings: be warm and welcoming, ask questions to help the contestant show their personality, and remember that we don't watch Countdown for the host. The new host can learn from Colin Murray, who will sub as presenter from July into November.

Celebrity Lingo is coming to ITV. The show, where famous people try to guess famous five-letter words, will be hosted by RuPaul. What a curious booking, it's almost as if there's something wrong with Adil Ray. Wonder if he'll host Queens of the Night, a contest for celebrity drag acts.

Persistent rumours that ITV are looking at Jeopardy! as a daytime programme. How will that work, especially as daytime budgets are tight? A tournament seems right: 27 heats, 9 second-round matches, semis and a final. Completes in 40 games, which could go back-to-back as full hour episodes for a month. £40,000 for a tournament winner feels more substantial than £1000 for a daily winner.

Star Ac Back TF1 is to reboot Star Academy, the show where talented young performers live together, train together, write songs together, find a winner crowned, and then have the careers they want. Star Ac ran from 2001-8, the most successful contestant was 2002 winner Nolwenn Leroy – eight hit albums, appointed to the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres, and had an asteroid named after her.

What show's on ITV at 5pm this week?

A new run of Just a Minute (Radio 4, Mon). Hypothetical returns to Dave (Wed). ITV spends each weeknight trying to Beat the Chasers. The Chase takes a one-week break from daytime, and they've promoted Lingo in its place at 5pm.

Pictures: We have to credit each Eurovision picture individually, so they're by EBU and...:
AP: Andres Putting, who also took the header image
NR: Nathan Reinds
SLB: Sarah Louise Bennett
CC: Corinne Cumming
JB: Jordy Brada
Credit also to BAFTA.

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