Having digested both semi-final running orders, it appears the first of this year’s semis is the most straightforward in terms of visualising SVT’s masterplan: those songs not wanted in the final have been buried, whereas promising songs from the likes of Russia and Malta have been gifted the prime slots.
As with previous years, I have used a traffic light system to illustrate my current thoughts. This will be updated throughout next month’s rehearsals until my final 10 qualifiers are presented.
Finland look to have far too great a task ahead of them to cut through the the stronger females in this semi-final. Going first will make Finland a great show opener, but by the time Ira Losco performs her uplifting, buoyancy-defying song, Sandhja will be a distant memory.
Argo will seriously test Greece’s 100% qualification record and being dumped in slot 2 signals SVT’s motives. Despite Utopian Land’s folky/ethno content, it won’t delight the Greek demographic who have tended to support fun, upbeat songs in the past. Maria’s One Last Breath was forgotten in last year’s semi and grand final, which revealed Greece’s true base support. With a lower jury vote anticipated in Stockholm, the numbers aren’t on Greece’s side.
Moldova haven’t qualified since 2013 and Lidia’s generic Falling Stars looks set to continue a worrying run of form from a nation that looks miles from its 2009-2013 best.
Pioneer is a difficult song to call with any great certainty. Being followed by the likes of Douwe, Sergey and Minus One won’t do Hungary any favours, especially when those aforementioned songs all boast better hooks and should enjoy more support from juries and televoters. In 2012, Compact Disco only qualified in 10th from 15th in the running order. This year, Hungary sends a similar, if not slightly inferior song to perform from slot 4 and Freddie isn’t a good as some some fans would have us believe.
Despite having reservations about Nina’s image, her vocal should be enough for Croatia to clamber into the jury top-10. Lighthouse is a much more accessible song for non-Balkan voters which should boost the points from regional allies. Given their qualification record (once since the return of juries), I wouldn’t be taking current circa 1.4 prices given the price will drift if first rehearsal underwhelms.
Douwe Bob’s performance in Amsterdam proved the Netherlands are still in the race. The initial reaction to Slow Down was one of disappointment, but as other countries failed to inspire, the Dutch entry has gradually been creeping up people’s rankings. Slow Down offers a simple, memorable hook combined with an easy to like appeal. This could be in the jury top-3 or 4.
I started off liking this unconventional Armenian entry, but since the release of the Eurovision album and subsequent transition to my car, it hasn’t quite built on its early appeal. After the apocalyptic opening, LoveWave fails to reach the same level of drama and instead drifts from whooo-ooo-ooo to screeched vocal to rather shouty finish. Despite remaining openminded, I still can’t see this troubling the top-10, or indeed threatening to win this semi-final.
Hoping enough Turks still watch Eurovision, San Marino will be relying on their support to send fellow countryman, Serhat, into the final. I Didn’t Know is a genuine wildcard since its transition to disco: it’s the sort of song that could inspire a guilty-pleasure/anti vote. However, the juries will likely prevent its inclusion in the final.
Russia is the surest qualifier in this semi final so we’re instead left debating if they can win the semi-final. I’m fairly certain we’ll get a Mans-inspired stage show, and depending how over the top it looks, it could be the difference between winning comfortably or maintaining a small lead owing to heavy eastern support. If the juries remain true to recent form, there are at least two songs ahead of Russia. However, Russia’s voting power in this semi could be insurmountable. One to monitor!
One that could score quite well with juries is the Czech Republic, or Czechia depending on how they are referred to in Stockholm. Maybe they’ll go all pretentious and Prince-like and instead identify as a squiggle. Anyway, Gabriela Gunčíková has the most power vocal in this years lineup alongside Justs. I Stand has a wonderfully mysterious arrangement and I have high hopes for this in rehearsals. The draw isn’t ideal, and given the Czechs have yet to make the final, one hoped for more help from SVT.
A weak Greece could benefit Cyprus, though Minus One’s radio-friendly schlager-rock should have enough widespread appeal in this semi, despite the less than helpful running order slot. Presentation will be key: anything too dark or Albania-2013-inspired will be a major red flag. If the staging is positive, the juries and televote should have Cyprus 6th-9th. I’m not involved in Cyprus qualification betting yet, as I’m keen to see how it is presented.
Last year’s last place for Austria was a real eye opener and demonstrated how low their base vote is – even as hosts they struggled to muster a single point. Under this year’s scoring system they wouldn’t have come last, but it’s worth acknowledging that it was the televote that cancelled out the jury points. Zoe’s dated Loin D’ici isn’t sort of song that is typically rewarded by the juries, so it’s difficult to see Austria being in one of the envelops drawn on May 10th.
Estonia seem to be reliant on what comes through from the first half. Personally, I can see it in the juries’ top-10, but I do agree with the less than certain opinion on Juri’s televote appeal. He appeared more comfortable in Amsterdam and the song seemed to stand out in the Eurovision length running order. Hopefully this continues in rehearsals.
As I’ve already said in the podcast, Azerbaijan’s Miracle is my favourite of this year’s Sia-inspired pop ballads. The verses have a wonderful warm quality, but the song is let down by that clunky chorus. Despite a few dodgy videos from The Voice, I was encouraged by Samra’s Russian Pre-Party performance. Unlike last year, I think Azerbaijan are safe qualifiers and could achieve a similar result.
Like Moldova, I think Montenegro will struggle to make an impact on this semi-final. Alternative styles should be applauded, but countries with poor qualification records should probably stick to the safe middle-of-the-road format.
Iceland have been helped in the running order, and given their investment in what is an eye catching staging concept, qualification should be assured. My arguments against Hear Them Calling remain, but I will be hoping for significant improvements in rehearsals.
Rap typically struggles at Eurovision, which is why the more successful outings tend to come in small doses. Balkan rap doesn’t have a great record either with Montenegro 2013 and Macedonia 2010 being two recent examples. I think rap is fine if the overall feel and delivery is positive, but I’m afraid the aggressive rap in Bosnia & Herzegovina’s song might cost them qualification. What starts as a perfectly acceptable Balkan ballad has been ruined by a silly attempt to sound relevant.
It came a little surprise to see Ira Losco in the pimp slot given Malta imported a Molly Pettersson-Hammar song with alleged help from Eurovision 2016 producer, Christer Björkman. The only other obvious pimp slot worthy songs were Cyprus and the Czech Republic, both of which also have Swedish links with Thomas G:Son the most high profile. Despite all this half-baked skullduggery guff, Malta’s song does at least have a big climax and rumoured big-budget staging concept, so could provide a fitting end to the semi-final. You have to to be pretty bad to fail from the pimp slot, and judging by what I’ve heard from my sources, I’m not expecting Malta to follow in the footsteps of Moje 3 and De Toppers.
Value bets will be flagged up in the comments section and chat room as and when the UK’s bookmakers realise Eurovision is just weeks away!