Usually, I skip the Eurovision semi-finals because I like to dive into the final completely fresh. For a variety of logistical reasons, I’m doing it differently this year, and I’m glad I did, because I am really enjoying my TOTAL OUTRAGE that Malta didn’t make the final. Was the song good? No! Was the recorded version better than the live version, indicating that sure, maybe there’s something there? No! But they leapt around on-stage singing about feeling great in their sweaters, WHILE WEARING SWEATERS, and executed a costume change on-stage that included a glittering saxophone. The spirit of that performance is everything I want in Eurovision, and I am very sad that some weird zombie bullshit from Serbia made it and Malta has to sit on the sidelines. Apparently the second performing slot is a bit of a curse, and if true, it held.

A few notes: 

– Hannah Waddingham rattled off some voting instructions in French before winking, “See, Europe, SOME of us Brits do bother to learn the other languages.” She got a big ovation for that. Viewers think it’s a dig at Amanda Holden, of Fug Nation’s beloved Amanda and Ashley, who apparently presented the vote tallies one year by saying, “Bon soir. Goedenavond. That is ‘good evening’ in French and Dutch although I’ve got absolutely no idea which is which.”

– The show opened with a haunting cover of “Together In Electric Dreams,” with two kids doing a mirror dance before clasping hands and walking to the back of the stage together… and that’s all well and great, but the point is that “Together In Electric Dreams” is one of my favorite 1980s songs and I just wanted you to have it in your heads today. Skip the cover; go straight to the real thing

– The intro packages for each act, which I assume will be repeated on Saturday, are a neat idea. Usually they place the acts in a variety of locations in the host nation, but that’s not possible this year. So what they did is pick a common theme — similar cathedrals, colorful homes and buildings, or in Malta’s case, buses — and show first one in Ukraine, then one in the U.K., and then one from the act’s own home country. It was a great way to see a glimpse of where each of these bands comes from, because so many of these countries won’t ever host. I highly recommend you check some of them out, if you can.

– Alesha Dixon pulled an Ariana DeBose with a short interstitial rap number about Eurovision, but… it kind of worked?!? Angela Bassett may not have done the thing in this one, but Alesha did.

– Rita Ora performed during the voting, and apparently she holds the record for most Top 10 singles in the U.K.? Good for her.

– Alesha spoke to the Ukrainian broadcaster who’s covered Eurovision for 18 years, and they had footage of him doing the show FROM HIS BUNKER last year when Ukraine won. It was pretty great.

– Alesha, vocally, gives off Juno Temple vibes, so it’s a bit like Rebecca Welton and Keeley Jones hosting the show together.

– I’m saving my thoughts about the finalists for that post, but overall — Malta aside — this semi-final was a victory for weirdness. Or at least specificity: Some of the stuff that went through felt true to the country of origin in a way that I think makes Eurovision more interesting than, say, the Netherlands’ breathy ballad.

– I don’t know if it was my TV, the Peacock feed, or the show in general, but when I watched live the audio was TERRIBLE. The mix was off, so I could barely hear the vocals over the backing tracks for most of the acts, and some of the mics would fade in and out midsentence. I went back and watched the Eurovision YouTube Channel’s feed and it was a million times better — but I don’t know whether that’s because they’d already sweetened it in post-production by that point, or that Peacock just messed it up, or that my TV in my office is cheap and terrible (this is a true fact regardless). Anyway, if it sounds off to you if you’re watching on Peacock, bear that in mind (and maybe seek out another option).

[Photos: Eurovision, Anthony Devlin/Getty Images]