After a heartfelt and bonkers opening semi-final was there a danger Eurovision 2022 had already burned itself out?
Tuesday’s curtain-raiser had featured men dressed as wolves and singing like Justin Bieber alongside a rude ditty about eating salad. And it had seen Ukraine’s Kalush Orchestra win hearts, minds and feet with a propulsive blend of rap, folk and monster dance beats. What would the second semi-final (BBC Three) have to do to top that?
The answer was to crank up the weird factor. And uncork further surprises on the back of Tuesday’s stunning exit of hotly-fancied Citi Zēni from Latvia (the naughty salad crew green at the gills following their unexpected elimination).
Because if strange was your thing Eurovision 2022, from Turin's Palasport Olimpico, was a long way from finished – and it was soon clear Norway’s Subwoolfer – aka the Lupine Pet Shop Boys – have their work cut out if they hope to carry the novelty vote.
Malta’s entry, Emma Muscat, sang from atop a grand-piano. Finland’s The Rasmus staged a mini-tribute to Stephen King’s It, complete with creepy balloon. And Georgia’s Circus Mircus arrived dressed as steam-punk cosplayers while their lighting show featured giant wobbling eyes.
The kooky turn that really took the biscuit was Serbia singer Konstrakta, who spent her performance seated and washing her hands, while monks hovered in the background. And there before us suddenly was the answer to the question: what would Britain’s Got Talent look like directed by David Lynch?
This was Eurovision, then, with bells and whistles – and a mechanical bull courtesy of San Marino’s Achille Lauro. And, as a bonus, there were some real upsets in the voting, with Israel’s I.M making a shock exit and Ireland’s Brooke Scullion and her tune That’s Rich falling short despite a groundswell on social media. “Brooke killed it!” tweeted Years and Years' Olly Alexander – though in truth it was Eurovision that killed Brooke’s hopes of an interesting night out this Saturday.
But other favourites romped home. Sweden’s Cornelia Jakobs was a dead-ringer for Jodie Whittaker’s Doctor Who – and clocked in with an appropriately interstellar turn. And Poland’s Ochman delivered emotion by the bucketload during his hair-dryer ballad River. Definitely worth the wet.
Up in their commentary box, Rylan Clark and Scott Mills were wryly understated (presumably under strict instructions not to outshine Graham Norton, who takes over at the weekend). And there was a sweet cameo from UK representative Sam Ryder, who came out on stage wearing a broad grin and a zip-up boiler suit.
“The song is about loving the things that you already have in life,” he said of his entry, Space Man. “You don’t have to go far to realise you have everything you need.”
One thing Ryder has and that a few of the other contestants could have desperately done with is a pass to the final. He’s guaranteed his place on Saturday, alongside Italy, France, Germany and Spain. And his track is regarded as a solid bet for a top 10 finish.
But with the vittles people Latvia-bound and Brooke Scullion and That’s Rich sent home with empty pockets, who is to say if the Space Man will soar or crash earthwards?
Ukraine are widely expected to win – in recognition of the country’s suffering since the Russian invasion. Their steady progress aside, though, Eurovision 2022 has been a wild ride. And for Ryder and the other 24 finalists, the drama is surely a long way from played out.