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 5 – TROLL! TROLL IN THE COMMENTS!
On the 5th day in a Eurovision press centre, there usually isn’t anything new coming up. Yes, we still have the rehearsals of the Big 5 and host to look forward to, but usually that’s tomorrow. Today the countries taking part in the First Semi Final will have their second rehearsal, which means we’ve already seen everything we’ll be seeing again today. Occasionally there are differences, be it in costume or slight camera work, and more often than not the artists have got their Eurovision jitters well under control and give much more polished performances.
Although rehearsal slots are tighter, meaning less time for each country to rehearse and a quicker turn around (in preparation for the live shows next week), the number of countries is increasing. Today sees 15 of them take to the stage. As I’ve said before, even though we LOVE being here and covering rehearsals, by this point in the week exhaustion is starting to creep in big time. We’re not far off pouring coffee into cola to compensate for not having slept since the plane landed and the pendulum swings from us being shattered, asking each other how you spell words most 5 year olds have mastered, to cackling manically over literally nothing. Even in our makeshift press centres, the ricocheting feeling is still the same. Someone mispronounced “milkshake” earlier and we laughed solidly for at least 3 minutes…
While some might think watching the same songs we’ve seen earlier in the week is pointless, seeing more of them in a shorter space of time (i.e. more like the live show) you start to get a clearer idea who has a good spot, who doesn’t and more interestingly who cancels out who. This way we slowly start piecing together a likely outcome of the live shows. Before joining Eurovision Ireland as press, I like many fans assumed my favourite songs would do well because… well, how could they not?! As I’ve watched more and more contests, I’ve come to appreciate what a truly complex organism Eurovision is. You need a good song, of course, but so much more. The staging needs to be good, memorable but for the right reasons. You need to look stylish and cohesive, not like you ram-raided Oxfam on your way into the arena. You then need to be performing between songs that don’t sound too much like your own, but preferably not going on second, or after an ad break. Oh, and whatever you do, don’t perform before or after one of the big favourites…. other than that, go right ahead! Really not much to consider there at all…
Today’s run through helped us to muse on a lot of this. We’ve collectively agreed Lithuania is a cracking opening song, but poor Slovenia will struggle with The Roop and Russia on either side. Croatia, Israel, Azerbaijan and Cyprus are most likely after the same sections of the televote, which might get messy, while Belgium stands out all the more for contrasting so well. Ireland’s staging is likely to be memorable, though being between North Macedonia’s Broadway ballad and Cyprus’ dance track could prove difficult. Ukraine have a real show stopper on their hands, even with Kateryna being unwell today and a stand in doing her vocals for her (she did an amazing job too!) The hype around Go_A now is so much that other members of the press are starting to quietly mutter about Kyiv 2022… and all this is without factoring in the rehearsals from Australia, which we’ve had to piece together from 40 seconds on YouTube! And the best of it is, even with all this keen-eyed research and sage pondering, there’s still a 95% not a single one of us will accurately predict all the qualifiers! My personal best is 8 a couple of times… Albania and Denmark being the two that stumped me in Tel Aviv’s second semi final.
Another annual milestone during our coverage was reached today – the moment a fan takes exception a comment in the live blog and launches into an aggressive (20+ message) rant as to why we’re wrong, interspersed with the occasional threat to never read our website ever again. This is something we’re seeing more and more of as the years go by – fans rabidly defending their favourites to the point where anything said against them is heresy. It fascinates me how some people are so quick to savage others for expressing an opinion on a song and demand vengence… all I can say is it must be nice to feel so strongly about things! The internet is a harsh place and the Eurovision fandom at its worst can combine the toxicity of nationalism with the subjectivity of music taste – meaning no one is safe and the backlash can be instant and unforgiving. I once dared to mention I didn’t particularly like a recent winning song – and I suspect I would have gotten a more forgiving reception if I’d said “I like to punch small fluffy kittens”.
As social media platforms have expanded and sites have grown, this phenomena has reached some bizarre new heights. After a certain national selection controversy a few years ago, a well-coordinated response on Facebook saw the portal involved repeatedly reported for abuse and spam, as well as a good hammering to their star rating too – almost to the point where I wondered if said portal would rebound from this onslaught. It’s now I’d like to take a moment to share three pieces of advice from mentors of mine who have helped shape my writing about Eurovision over the years:
- “It would be dull if we all liked the same things,”
- “Not everything is good,”
- “Be constructive,”
Some people will slate artists for the sake of hits… sorry, it… but I would hope, though, that most are trying to entertain you and will do their best to be respectful when watching rehearsals, talking about artists and their works. We don’t all like the same things and a song that lifts your spirits and makes your heart soar will make another person sick to their stomach. Sometimes people make mistakes and do things that could be better, and we here at Eurovision Ireland always do our utmost to be constructive with our remarks. If a run-through isn’t great, we will suggest what needs improving while remembering that these performers are under enough pressure as it is. True, sometimes our sense humour doesn’t translate well and people take things in ways they weren’t intended. Which just proves the age old adage, you can’t please everyone!
If I read something that I disagree with, I just move on from it. I may occasionally permit myself to roll my eyes if I’m feeling particularly incensed – but then again, I’ve spent years supporting Slovakia, Andorra and San Marino at Eurovision and read more than enough hurtful comments about why they weren’t going to do as well as I hoped… so perhaps I’m just more thick skinned than most.
Day 6 tomorrow… or is it Day 93… another joy of this stage of rehearsals is it gets hard to keep track of the days… someone asked me if it was Wednesday earlier, to which I replied I had absolutely no idea!! But before I go, the next time someone suggests your Eurovision favourite sounds like a barnyard animal being reversed over by a steamroller and looks like they were dressed against their will in the dark, try applauding the inventiveness of their barb and go about your day. Go ahead! You’ll feel better for it!
Signing off for today – thank you Europe, and good night!
If you want a more detailed look at what the team thought of Day 5’s rehearsals at Eurovision 2021, take a look at our Live Blog of Day 5 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
Categories: Eurovision 2020