Let’s face it… the last 18 months have been anything but ordinary!! And in these strange times of COVID, social distancing and frantic hand washing, even Eurovision has undergone massive changes to ensure the event we know and love can go ahead. We all knew it was going to be a contest unlike any other – but just how different will it be?
In this diary series, Eurovision Ireland regular James will give you his daily personal thoughts about the goings on backstage at Eurovision 2021, both through the lens of a contest being hosted during these unprecedented times and as someone following rehearsals from afar. Will it be The Weirdest Eurovision Ever? Quite possibly!
Day 4 – “So, can you tell us a bit about yourself?”
By Day 4 in the press centre, we’ve seen more countries rehearse than we haven’t and there’s usually at least one performance left that has been earmarked as a potential winner, but we haven’t seen it yet. This means there is always at least one rehearsal today we’re all impatiently waiting for. As we often spend 10 hours + in the press centre everyday, Day 4 is also the point in the week when you notice your colleagues taking a break from the live blogs just to stare off vacantly into the distance in a moment of bewildered exhaustion. The upside to this is that now everything is utterly hilarious, so we’re all laughing at anything and everything and are having great time… even if we are more caffeine than human by this point. This mood has found its way into our homemade press centre and bodes well for a morning of emotional ballads…
Georgia’s Tornike seemed to feel our malaise too during his rehearsals this morning and was having none of it. Although there are some beautiful elements to the Georgian show, Tornike looked, understandably, frustrated. Eurovision is a massive stage and while it can (albeit rarely) be a gateway to international stardom, it seems more and more artists just find themselves on the receiving end of “opinions” from so-called fans that are little more than snide comments and bullying masquerading as having a personality. Tornike has reacted strongly against criticisms of You on social media and at this point it seems like he’s just waiting out the clock at the contest… as long as there has been Eurovision, there have always been singers that state they didn’t enjoy their time at the contest. I really hope that’s not the case for him though.
Albania were up next and the revamp of Anxhela Peristeri’s Karma is a rare thing for me – a revamp that doesn’t completely trash the song! The staging with its splashes of coloured smoke is an interesting idea and Anxhela commands the stage effortlessly on her own. Silver seems to be very much this year’s colour at Eurovision, that’s for sure, and I’m so glad she ditched the backing dancers she had at FiK! Portugal’s song is growing on me and The Black Mamba give us an understated and gentle performance that would have most likely won any Eurovision before 1970. In Eurovision 2021 though, I fear it might be too mellow to attract much televote clout, but I’m sure the juries will respond well and it might be enough to see it through.
I love the staging concept for Bulgaria’s Growing Up Is Getting Old by Victoria. Perched on a cliff edge, singing softly to a sea of stars and the waves, I think it suits the feeling of the song beautifully. It left me rather emotional, if I’m honest. Accidental winner? Maybe! From quiet and angsty to VERY VERY LOUD, Finland’s Blind Channel certainly know how to perform and I’m sure their rock anthem Dark Side will storm the televote. I’m also confident they’ll whip the audience into frenzy and I’m happy they’ll get the chance to do so – especially as even a few weeks back, I was so sceptical of an audience being at the contest at all! I only saw the first run through for Latvia and didn’t really pay too much attention as I was preparing. I remember lots of green and screeching… honestly, I was already thinking about the job at hand for the afternoon – interviewing!
Interviewing contestants in the press centre is always one of the highlights of being at Eurovision. But for all the excitement of those minutes up close and personal with your favourite singers, there’s an awful lot of waiting around outside the interview room first. Other websites, newspapers and fan groups mill around in near silence, preparing in their heads, glancing down at the press passes of new comers to see who you work for. Occasionally someone comes over and asks “Is Croatia in there?” (at which point I’m resisting the urge to say “What, the whole country?”). You also usually get at least two people comparing their newest pieces of tech and expensive cameras. Any chatter falls silent every time the door to the interview room opens and everyone’s heads snaps round in anticipation. You can usually tell when the door is minutes away from opening as you’ll hear the contestant sing the bridge of their song… and depending how long you’ve been stood there, this could be 5 or 6 (or more!!) times… come to think of it, that might be the reason I was told when I first joined Eurovision Ireland not to ask people to sing when interviewing them! Of course, 2021 doesn’t see any of this happening. Instead, we’re interviewing through Zoom. Which in many ways is fantastic for convenience… when it decides to work!
Interviewing is a unusual skill and one you have to pick up by doing. Some interviews go really well, there’s instant rapport and connection, the talking flows and it feels more like catching up with someone that a formal meeting. Other interviews feel more like pulling teeth, whether its a prima donna with a raging attitude, background noise that results in your clip sounding like you it filmed underwater or the ever-fun technical problems (“What do you mean I have to turn the microphone on too!?!”). Everyone who does interviews will have their own horror stories and anyone who doesn’t is lying – period 😛 Oh the stories I could tell… but for all the potential pitfalls, interviewing is a lot of fun and I enjoy it. Today we spoke with Natalia Gordienko from Moldova and she is such a professional that mine and Sarah’s job was made very very easy. It’s one of those interviews that feels very natural and relaxed and our time wizzes past. It’s funny, because the last in-person interview I did for Eurovision Ireland was with Natalia, moments after she won Melodie Pentru Europa 2020. That trip was also the last time I left the country before COVID-19 seized the world, so that whole trip holds a strange nostalgia and feels like a lifetime ago. Still, things are looking up and hopefully next year we’ll be back to national selections in person and open up more travel. Goodness knows I’ve missed it!
As we were interviewing Moldova, we missed Switzerland’s much anticipated rehearsal. This happens often in a press centre, with so much going on you miss things. I didn’t see Austria rehearse once in 2018, and the first I knew about Cesar’s platform was when I was sat in the arena! From the clips uploaded to YouTube later I can see some potential for Switzerland this year and Gjon’s voice is undeniable. I know a lot of people are touting this as a potential winner, but I’m not convinced just yet. Mind you, I said the same about Arcade and Toy right up to the moments they won – just shows you that even being in the press bubble and having your own Eurovision instincts doesn’t always add up. Such is the chaotic and unpredictable nature of our beloved contest! Denmark rounded off today as I prepped the interview to go up on YouTube, so was again a little preoccupied but was a solid rehearsal from what I saw. Denmark’s song this year strikes me as the kind of thing that could come Top 5 or Bottom 5… can’t wait to find out which!
Signing off for today – thank you Europe, and good night!
If you want a more detailed look at what the team thought of Day 4’s rehearsals at Eurovision 2021, take a look at our Live Blog of Day 4 to see what the team made of those countries and their performances.
Author: James Scanlan
Source: Eurovision Ireland
Banner Image Source: Adapted from realireland.ie