From shaky vocals in the national final to a very theatrical performance here in Lisbon. A performance that you’ll either like or think is over the top.
Belarus is competing in the first semi-final as song number 8. The country is represented by Ukrainian singer Alekseev and the song Forever written by Kyrylo Pavlov and Evhen Matyushenko.
1 First rehearsal
2 How Alekseev was selected
3 Belarus at the Eurovision Song Contest
Well… Be prepared for some big surprises during this performance. And don’t read further, if you don’t want to know. Spoilers ahead.
The performance starts very sad with Alekseev singing his heart out to a red rose. The rose is then placed just in front of the camera and it follows the picture and spins around for a while. It all end in a big red-light explosion. The rose has now transformed itself into a dancing lady in red. The lady then takes a shot at Alekseev – with a bow using the rose as an arrow. Alekseev is deeply hurt, as the rose comes through his bleeding hand. It all explodes once again. This time in a big inferno of rose petals. The lady in red keeps dancing, while Alekseev is lifted up in the air by a stage lift. At the end of the song he turns around and you realize that his back is bleeding and hurt by dozens of red roses. All in all a very theatrical and emotional performance.
The big question until now has been how is Alekseev’s vocal? But we still don’t really know because all our attention during the song was on the red rose. Even if you don’t understand a word Alekseev is singing you get the feeling it’s about love story with a very sad ending.
How Alekseev was selected
The broadcaster in Belarus received 95 potential entries for their national final. 11 of them were selected – and then the controversy started. Alekseev’s song had been performed publicly before the 1st of September deadline set by both the EBU and the broadcaster. 7 of the 11 participants openly complained about that he was able to take part despite the break of rules. One act even withdrew from the national final in protest. Both EBU and the broadcaster approved of Alekseev’s entry as it was seen to have had an advantage from this breach of rules.
So, on the 16th of February, the Belarussian national final took place – and with Alekseev winning both jury and televoting, he is representing the country this year.
See alsoAlekseev will go to Lisbon for Belarus with his entry Forever
Belarus at the Eurovision Song Contest
Some countries aren’t particular faithful in their first years of appearance if they get off to a bad start. With Belarus it is not like that. The country debuted in 2004 and they have taken part every year since despite some shaky results.
The first three years, Belarus didn’t manage to qualify for the final. They had to wait until 2007 where Dmitry Koldun sang Work Your Magic. Not only did he make it to the final, he also finished 6th, which to date is the best result the country ever achieved.
With 14 participations and only five times in the final, Belarus has had some problems finding a steady steam of qualifying entries.
“We could have died today, thanks to the pilot that didn’t happen”. A plane carrying 2007 contestants Serebro “Miraculously landed” after their plane went off radar for nearly an hour. Fortunately for Serebro they managed to exit the aircraft unhurt but were very shaken by the experience.
Lead singer of the Russian pop group Serebro told a chilling story on a Facebook post today. Olga Seryabkina told how “there was hell on board” after their plane had to make an emergency landing in Montenegro following a technical issue. Seryabkina was travelling with her band mates Tatiana Morgunova and Katya Kischuk as they were booked to perform a concert in the Montenegran city Tivat. It was clear from the post that the girls were scared for their life onboard the plane.
“Today we miraculously landed in Montenegro. Right after take-off we did not close the flaps of the aircraft and we could have crash. Our plane disappeared from the radar for almost an hour and no one knew where we were. Before landing, we circled for more than an hour. The stewardesses realized that a terrible thing was happening – all were shaking, pale. Declared an emergency landing elsewhere and asked if there are doctors on board” announced Olga Seryabkina.
She went on to admit that the group were able to keep calm thanks to another passenger who was travelling with his son. Olga explained that his calm and important words helped them while all but one of the cabin crew went into meltdown. She expressed regret that she doesn’t know who he is.
Serebro represented Russia at the Eurovision Song Contest in 2007. They came in 3rd place with their entry Song No 1. They quickly earned a fan base and became one of the biggest and most successful pop groups in Russia. There has been a few changes to the line up since then and Olga is the only original member left.
Almost a replica of the Eesti Laul 2018. That’s what Elina Nechayeva will present in the Eurovision stage hoping to achieve the same result she did in her country’s national selection.
Estonia is competing in the first semi-final as song number 9. The country is represented by Elina Nechayeva and the song La Forza, which is written by Ksenia Kuchukova, Mihkel Mattisen, Timo Vendt and Elina herself.
1 First rehearsal
2 How Elina Nechayeva was selected
3 Estonia at the Eurovision Song Contest
After so much controversy whether Estonia would be able to finance the so desired dress, it did make its way to the Altice Arena stage and it does feature fantastic and eye-popping special effects.
Elina’s performance is quite similar to what she presented in the Eesti Laul 2018 performances and this even includes hand movements and camera angles which could steal a bit of excitment for the Eurovision stanbase as they’ve seen it and repeated the national selection performance. Surrounded by blue and red lights, the dress keeps on changing its roll of images while Elina continues to smile gracefully until the very end of the song.
Vocally speaking, there are slight differences from the national performance as Elina hasn’t yet found the perfect key for it, something she surely will pull off.
Nonetheless, the question remains: how would Estonia pull off their staging without the dress?
How Elina Nechayeva was selected
On the third of March, Estonia selected their Eurovision participant. Through two semi-finals, a total of ten entries had made it to the final of Eesti Laul 2018. In the final, three of the entries qualified for a super-final. Elina had in the first round won the 12 points from both jury and televoting. In the super-final, only the TV viewers decided.
With stunning 70% of the votes, Elina Nechayeva won a landslide victory with 2015 Eurovision participant Stig Rästa as runner up.
See alsoEstonia: Fan favorite Elina Nechayeva wins Eesti Laul 2018
Estonia at the Eurovision Song Contest
A pre-selection round in place before the contest in 1993 sorted the Estonian entry out, and as such the country had to wait until 1994 to get its debut. Silvi Vrait represented the country, but failed to reach the final. Whether or not it was due to the result, Estonia didn’t take part in 1995, but since 96′ they have been a steady Eurovision participant.
Since the introduction of semi-finals in 2004, Estonia has failed to reach the final a total of nine times. But before that, the country had already won once, in 2001 where Tanel Padar and Dave Benton made most of Europe clap and sing a long to Everybody.
In 2015, Elina Born & Stig Rästa finished 7th at the contest, but they were followed up by two entries that didn’t reach the final.
Ari Ólafsson surely is a good vocalist but that may not be enough to conquer people at home following his simplistic performance aiming for world peace and empty of special effects.
Iceland is competing in the first semi-final as start number 2. The country is represented by Ari Ólafsson and his song Our Choice, which is written Þórunn Erna Clausen.
1 First rehearsal
2 How Ari Ólafsson was selected
3 Iceland at the Eurovision Song Contest
It could easily be named the peace anthem of this year’s Eurovision Song Contest and Ari’s outfit surely follows the theme. The singer is dressed in a white suit featuring a few red details and his hair is – as usual – impeccable. Obviously, because it was the very first set of rehearsals, Ari still has a few work to do with the camera angles but his also peaceful smile allows room to ignore that detail… For now.
The performance is extremely simple without special effects, besides the lights towards the end of the performance. Before the song’s bridge, the Icelandic singer throws his microphone stand to the floor and is then joined by his five backvocalists in the center of the stage to finish the song.
Vocally speaking, Ari was quite competent and besides a few issues during the first rehearsal, specifically during the big note, he was just fine. Despite that, it is hard to say Iceland will have an easy road in front of them, especially coming after Azerbaijan’s big performance.
How Ari Ólafsson was selected
Since 2006, Iceland has used Söngvakeppnin as their method of selecting Eurovision entries. This year, the final took place on the 3rd of March in the capital Reykjavík. Prior to the final, two semi-finals had found the six entries that were to battle it out.
In the super-final up against Dagur Sigurðsson, Ari won with 53% to 47%. The song was performed in Icelandic under the title Heim, which translates to ‘home’, in the semi-final, but in English in the final.
See alsoAri Ólafsson wins Söngvakeppnin 2018 and will represent Iceland at Eurovision
Iceland at the Eurovision Song Contest
With 30 appearances, Iceland is still waiting for their first Eurovision victory. Since their debut in 1986, the country has however twice finished second. First time in 1999 where Selma won the hearts of many Eurovision fans with All Out Of Luck, and again ten years later when Yohanna represented the small island asking Is It True?.
In recent years however, things has not been good. Iceland has not been in top 10 since Yohanna’s second place from 2009. Best result in the years that followed was a 15th place to Pollapönk’s No Prejudice. From 2015 to 2017, the country even missed the final three years in a row.
Standing on a futuristic mountain Aisel starts semi final one. Her show is directed by the legendary stage director Fokas Evaggelinos and it is a strong opener.
Azerbaijan is competing in the first semi-final as start number one. The country is represented by Aisel and her song X My Heart, where X stands for cross. The song is written by Greek legend Dimitris Kontopoulos and Tim Bran, and lyrics by Swedish Sandra Bjurman.
1 First rehearsal
2 How Aisel was selected
3 Azerbaijan at the Eurovision Song Contest
Eurovision 2018 has now officially begun as Azerbaijan came on stage as the very first country to rehearse. And what an opener. The stage is with blue and sparkling light and Aisel is laying alone on stage. She wakes up and starts to sing. In the beginning she sits later in the chorus she starts running around between five white stage props that is some sort of futuristic mountains. Smoke is added to make clouds. She is wearing a white dress with plenty of fabric to feed the wind machine. In the second verse four backing singers/dancers appear and they all stand on one of the futuristic mountains. At the end sparkling animation and flash lights set in and raise the performance to a higher level. Aisel herself seems to be a strong singer and has no problems hitting the right notes.
The performance is directed by the legendary stage director Fokas Evaggelinos, who has created some of the most iconic performances in the Eurovision past – among them Sergey Lazarev’s “You are the only one” in 2016, Farid Mammadov with the song “Hold me” in 2013 and Ani Lorak in 2008. And of course the two winners Helena Paparizou in 2005 and Dima Bilan in 2008. And this show is definitely in the same league.
The message behind the performance is according to a press release form the Azerbaijani delegation to communicate that if each of us believes in himself, you could be led to a higher top. The question is, will the viewers at home cath this. We believe they will.
How Aisel was selected
Back in November, Azeri broadcaster Ictimai broke the news, that they had internally selected 28 year old Aisel (Aysel Mammadova) to represent them at the 2018 Eurovision Song Contest.
The song was released in the beginning of March with mixed feelings from the fans. Some were disappointed as they had expected more from Azerbaijan, while others praised it, and placed it in the top of their 2018 reviews.
See alsoX My Heart – Aisel releases Eurovision entry for Azerbaijan
Azerbaijan at the Eurovision Song Contest
10 years anniversary, and the country never missed a final yet. Azerbaijan is one of the most successful countries at the Eurovision Song Contest. Elnur & Samir were first on stage to show Europe what Azerbaijan could offer, and with an 8th place, they set the tone.
Six out of the 10 entries from Azerbaijan ended in top 10, and the country so far won once, in 2011 with Ell & Nikki’s Running Scared. In recent years, the country has however seen a few disappointing results. In 2014, Dilara Kazimova came in as 22nd. Last year, Skeletons performed by Dihaj ended as 14th. To date, they are however still the only country that never failed to qualify for the final.
My dearest children, the rehearsal videos, have been taken away from me. That’s how I feel on the day before Eurovision kicks off. As if that wasn’t enough reason to be grumpy, the bad weather and the long queues everywhere further add to a bad mood.
Way too often we have had to catch an early plane. That wasn’t the case this year for our Eurovision departure. We left in the afternoon, and had time to have a relaxing morning before heading for the airport. That went smooth – aside from that we still forgot something, which was important to me. First reason to be grumpy. Second one came as we realised that flying around dinner timer, and only 45 minutes in transit before next flight meant no proper dinner. And at 2 in the night, there wasn’t anything open near our rented apartment.
Obviously we arrived at a bad time. Not just food wise. Despite it being very late, well passed midnight, there were quite a lot of other flights that had just landed. Coming outside the airport, we were met with a loooong queue for taxis – several hundred people stood before us. First chock, but luckily it only took half an hour before we were first in line. Today however, the queues continued basically no matter what we did – like 25 minutes in queue just to get a table to get the famous Portuguese Pastel de Nata at Pastéis de Belém. They were worth it though. Surprisingly enough, we saw no queues at the accreditation centre. But tomorrow when the press centre opens we will see a new queue…
Lisbon is crowded, and the Eurovision Song Contest of course adds to it, though today it was mainly Asian and Dutch tourists everywhere. The Dutch so many that you even find signs written in Portuguese, English and… Dutch.
Arriving early so that we have an entire day for sightseeing before rehearsals and press conferences kicks off is good. In particular if you come from the cold Scandinavia, and head South fully equipped with plenty of sun protection. When Salvador won last year, didn’t we all look forward to a sunny holiday? Well, these first days in Lisbon are cloudy, cold and rainy! It shouldn’t be possible to long for a Scandinavian spring, but it is!
But bad weather and long queues are not what makes me the most grumpy: At a very late notice, EBU decided to change working conditions for the press. We are now only allowed to publish a maximum of two minutes of rehearsal videos – per day! As if that wasn’t enough, the rules are very unclear. Some read them as, after the final, we can publish all our content – as long as they aren’t full videos. In order words, we can still record it all, and then once it is all over, we can cut a few seconds of each song, and upload. Others however read them as it must not be more than two minutes recorded from the same day – also after the contest. Which one, if any, is correct, we don’t know yet.
These new working conditions come at a very late moment. Many of us media have planned our coverage a while ago. When you work with a team of volunteers, and limited accreditations, you simply need to prepare ahead. When you want to make such changes, you communicate them out in good time – and you make the rules clear so everyone understands them the same.
For me, it’s like a big personal attack. I care deeply about our videos. It’s my speciality – and I take big pride in us being able to produce great video content. Not only filmed and edited well, but also produced in extra high 4K quality and even real 3D videos, which we were the only media to deliver. It was our niche – and videos were my child. What do I have left now? I don’t know…. My biggest fear is that the unclear rules mean that we won’t be producing our good quality videos whereas others will publish videos of lesser production value – and get away with it.
People not able to go to the Eurovision Song Contest will look for the videos – and they will want to see them, no matter what. If bad quality videos is all they find, they will have to watch those. Don’t the artists deserve high quality videos to get a lot of views? And don’t they deserve the extra attention the videos add to the contest?
Us International Media face a yearly evaluation. In order to deliver a good Eurovision coverage, we need accreditations. To get those, our numbers are calculated and evaluated by the EBU. Rehearsal videos from the contest are popular – and if we lose those, it is hard not to imagine that our figures will be significantly worse. In particular because this was communicated very late – meaning it is difficult to change our plan for our 2018 coverage. We won’t have much time to plan something else, something which could turn out to be equally popular.
When we decided how to cover the 2018 edition, we selected the right people for it. We made sure that we gave our limited accredtiations to the right people. Well, it’s too late to chance this when the information comes the day before we start our work – and a long time after we had to decide who should be a part of our coverage here in Lisbon. Not everyone is equally good at everything and we can’t just easily assign people to other tasks assuming all goes well.
Anyway, rehearsals and press conferences are about to start soon. Hopefully my bad mood will go away. But for now, I will at least be grumpy for a few hours more.
But, from tomorrow we’ll give you the best coverage possible! Stay tuned.