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 6 – The Longest Day – or The Never Ending Contest!
Day 6 is the one we all have to prepare for mentally. It’s a long slog. Not only will a big chunk of Semi Final 2 contestants will be having their next set of rehearsals today, but the Big 5 and our hosts also take to the stage for the first time. So on one hand there’s the excitement of seeing some new staging – on the other, there’s the knowledge it’s going to be a looooong day and we’ll certainly feel it by the end of it. And on the other hand, after a nearly a week at rehearsals, we don’t realise we don’t have three hands… time for some caffeine I think…
According to the comments in the press centre live chat, everyone performing today is here “to slay”… if that’s the case, quite relieved I’m not in Rotterdam to witness this ritualistic slaughter and carnage… yes, I know it’s a term from Drag Race that has found its way into more mainstream parlance… but still… maybe 100 years from now Eurovision will introduce free-for-all battle-royale segment, but for now I’m quite glad our contestants only have to worry about their vocals and not their skills with an axe. Both the ratings and the mess would be massive!
The morning’s rehearsals make for very pleasant watching, as every country has tweaked their performances. Malta have changed Destiny’s frock, though would still like a little more looking down the camera from her. San Marino’s Senhit is a belter of an opener that is going to going to end up in future show reels about the contest, mark my words! Estonia gave a solid rendition of The Lucky One and Uku is connecting with the camera more which helps sell the song. Benny from the Czech Republic brought a bit more bounce with him today, still would like to see more but I suspect that’ll come when he has an audience to interact with. Stefania also seems a lot more confident in her vocals and movements, which makes the Greek show for Last Dance look all the more impressive.
Moving into the afternoon, Austria’s Vincent Bueno delivers a sublime rendition of Amen – I think this song has jumped up in a lot of people’s estimation and will do very well. Poland on the other hand are still a work in progress, though I enjoy several elements of its show. Natalia Gordienko gave us a very polished and slick run of Sugar and this is perhaps the most contemporary staging we’ve ever seen from Moldova – which in a year we were expecting dancing ice cream cones as an absolute minimum, is a bit strange! Iceland gave a similarly flawless run-through and try as I might, you can’t help but get behind this song and its quirky singers. Last of today’s second rehearsals were those of Serbia, and Hurricane never disappoint with their energy.
Then comes what for many is the main focus of the day: the first run-throughs of the Big 5 and our hosts the Netherlands. Italy were up first and there’s always an air of expectation when they have their first rehearsal. Let’s face it, Italy’s 3rd win at this contest has been expected annually by fans since returning in 2011! Måneskin give a classic rocker performance and while I don’t see it being the favourite of the juries, I suspect there’s enough rock support out there to guarantee Italy their usual spot in the Top 10. The entire team shrieked with laughter the first time we saw Jendrik’s first rehearsal. It’s Day 6 in the press centre, and as we’ve said everything is utterly hilarious as it is – so a grown man bouncing around stage with a giant rubber middle finger is both of hysterical and hysteria inducing. If this gets a late slot in the running order (i.e. when the majority of the televoting audience are tanked up on alcohol), the Germany could go from last in the televote with nothing in 2019 to 1st place in 2021… now there’s an alarming thought…
Next up are our hosts the Netherlands, with Birth of a New Age by Jeangu Macrooy. This song caught me a bit by surprise when I first heard it and love how it’s been staged. The cracks of light, the bright colours, it builds to a wonderful celebratory sound and Jeangu’s vocals are perfect – can’t fault it in any way! Barbara Pravi was perhaps the most anticipated rehearsal this afternoon, seeing as France have been tipped as a potential winner since her selection. It’s much like her national final staging very film noir and moody yet magnificent in a subdued way. I can see this winning the jury vote of Eurovision 2021, but not enough of the televote to win outright. The UK’s James Newman was onstage next, but I’ve saved him for last (take a look below). Last up was Blas Canto for Spain, who gave an emotional performance of Voy A Quedarme with some stunning visuals of the stars and a gigantic moon. It’s all very dark and sombre, but strangely compelling too. Part of me wonders if the message of the song is going to be lost though, which would be a real shame.
Now onto the UK and why I kept it till last: I’m unusual for a Eurovision fan in the sense I don’t blindly support my home country every year regardless of what it sends – strangely enough, I pick the song I like most, wherever it’s from , and hope that wins! Now, that doesn’t mean I don’t support the UK or in any way wish them ill. Of course I’d like them to do well. The Eurovision fandom is a treated like strange animal in the UK. Many still like to ridicule fans of our beloved contest and loving it is often portrayed as something you ought to be ashamed of. Is this what damages the UK’s chances at the contest? I suspect it definitely feeds into it, alongside other dubious notions that could be an entire editorial by themselves. Anyway, regardless of this James gave a very confident performance for his rehearsals of Embers – kudos for the giant trombones on stage, we said the BBC needed to include brass instruments on stage… not quite what we meant, but still! Not a bad offering at all and a good visual hook for the viewers.
Hurrah! We survived the longest day – just about! Our nerves are shot, we can’t really remember each other’s names, but we made it! And no one ended up yelling, screaming or crying – neither us nor (as far as we know!) the contestants! So a good day all around!
Tomorrow marks Day 7 of Eurovision 2021 rehearsals. An entire week of little sleep, peppered with an angel with fluffy wings, a babushka housecoat with a mind of its own and most recently, a dancing middle finger… this is why we love this contest so much! At times it’s like a fevered hallucination, but it’s still brilliant beyond words. Amongst all our thoughts this evening, there is one tantalizing one that quietly begins to dawn on us – we’ve seen all the countries rehearse at least once now. Hidden amongst all those staging ideas and performances is our winner. We’ve seen them – the question is, did we spot them?
Signing off for today – thank you Europe, and good night!
If you want a more detailed look at what the team thought of Day 6’s rehearsals at Eurovision 2021, take a look at our Live Blog of Day 6 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