Home / News / Armenia / Eurovision 2016: Semi-Final 1 Pre-Rehearsal Preview

Eurovision 2016: Semi-Final 1 Pre-Rehearsal Preview

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.

Screen Shot 2016-04-20 at 14.38.35

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!

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About Gavster

ESCtips Owner   I’m a qualified designer and dedicate a lot of my free time to keeping the ESCtips show on the road. My family routes allow me to support the UK, Ireland and Italy.


  1. I have a bit of a weird feeling about Greta tbh. Someone with far more edge and attitude should be performing her song and if her act feels like a Loreen/Måns rehash on stage, then she could finish like 12th in the semi.

  2. Great to see the traffic lights again! The colours of your Semi 1 grid look very similar to mine funnily enough, except I have Czech Rep on amber, let’s hope I’m just being pessimistic…

  3. I think I agree with everything Gav says. I’ve even got the same traffic lights. One slight difference may be to push Estonia over to green. He’s a cool dude and I think women will like him

  4. Difficult to disagree with the traffic lights.

    Of the 8 currently green,if there is to be a shock NQ I would tentatively suggest Azerbaijan,of the 5 currently red perhaps Austria have the best prospects of progressing.Of the 5 yellow,despite the impressive record and diaspora I’d suggest Greece are the most vulnerable.

    On a personal non betting related level I’d love to see San Marino qualify.It would make a perfect show opener in the final 🙂

  5. Gavster? I’m a bit confused why you put Azerbaijan full on ‘green’ and Estonia on ‘yellow’. The Estonian national final package for me looked like a very slick and contemporary performance. Jüri has a nice crooner-charisma, and the dark, brooding visuals suit Jüri’s low, deep vocals and the Adele-esque ballad.

    • Simple: voting power and running order. He’s close to being green, but I just need to see his rehearsal to confirm it.

      • Let’s be honest, since the EBU cracked down on the voting it has been shown up how friendless Azerbaijan really are. There last 2 entries didn’t qualify on the televote despite the quality of the song. There main friend Georgia aren’t voting in the semi and they have a guaranteed 0 From Armenia aswell.

        • Their last two songs were maudlin dirges. Did the EBU crackdown do anything? Maybe prevent some jury bribing. But Azer have always done well on the televote, apart from the last two years, and I’m doubtful that you can change a televote with a few phonecards.

          So maybe the reality is that Azer are a very strong country and the last 2 years are causing people to underrate it?

  6. The much loved traffic lights are back and there’s not much I would disagree with in your analysis.

    Croatia could be the shock non-qualifier in this semi because (a) as you have mentioned Gavster, even without the blue rinse, Nina’s appearance doesn’t fit the song and (b) of her apparent lack of stage presence/expertise. In the Serbian TV clip, in a small studio she didn’t make eye contact with the camera once.

    I believe Hungary will have enough to qualify. The song is quite instant and in my opinion it does have a catchy hook and the staging that developed in the course of A Dal, although cheesy, sort of works. Hungary also follow Moldova!

    Gavster, I have to say I’m not quite as excited as you with the Czech song or Gabriela’s vocal. My own trawl of Youtube revealed her as more of a Ruth Lorenzo belter rather than a Pastora Soler – good but not great and the song to me is One Last Breath standard – decent but not outstanding. The Czech Republics lack of friends in this semi and coming after the pyrotechnics of Russia (probably without the help of an ad break) could harm its chances.

    Cyprus have a song that more than deserves to qualify, but the pre-parties have revealed some vocal issues which could affect its chances. The same could be said for Azerbaijan, but the strength of the song and the later draw will probably take it through.

    If Croatia or the Czech Republic falter, then Estonia and Bosnia will probably replace them. So subject to rehearsals my Greens are, Hungary, Netherlands, Armenia, Russia, Cyprus (just), Azerbaijan, Iceland and Malta. ‘Probable’ Yellows are Czech Republic and Croatia and ‘Possible’ Yellows are Estonia and Bosnia (if only someone would shoot that bloody rapper they would be home and hosed).

    • My stats have Bosnia the biggest gainers in this semi Eurojock from the voting changes by a long way.Like you say if only there was no rapper.Rumours are that there was big falling out in the camp though between them all.Chances are its for that reason.Everytime he comes on i check for a suicide belt.
      Im torn on the Czechs as well.I think the song adds some gravitas and its position between two very shallow entries should really appeal to the purist votes (jury and televote).She is a good singer,but i agree there are a few probably better if their voices hold out.

    • However, Nina did make an eye contact more than once in her newest performance which can be seen here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P-0v_1OErXs. Conditions on the Serbian TV were disastrous.

      • Thanks for the link, Jamie. This was the best live performance of the song I have seen from Nina and I suspect what we got in this version in terms of staging and costume will be something similar to what we end up with in Stockholm. The song and her vocal merit a place in the final, maybe even top 10 – but eye contact or not, (and that was a lot better although her face was often in shadow) Nina just lacks something in stage presence. The hair style, the dress, and the reveal of that massive tattoo on her back just don’t fit with the song. So, I still have it as a probable but by no means certain qualifier, and if it does make the final I don’t think the performance will make enough impact to have it on the left hand side of the board.

      • I find it amazing that in a song that has a Lighthouse as its theme, the staging is nearly dark 3/4 of the time

  7. I have layed Netherlands heavily a few weeks ago for qualification. Well, heavily……it’s nothing compared to the bigger amounts most of us in here are betting with. But my question…..is it time at this stage to back Netherlands again?

    • Well you if your opinion has changed from when you originally laid the Netherlands, then it would be wise to act accordingly.

      Another reason to back the Netherlands to qualify is if the price you laid is now higher, meaning you can buy back your exposure to profit or break even.

  8. My qualifiers in running order:

    1. Greece
    Never underestimate their potential. Especially in the staging department. If a standard, dull song like Aphrodisiac can finish in a jury top 3 in 2012 anything is possible. Even though the song is a bit weird, it’s memorable.

    2. Hungary
    I have my doubts about this song. But the singer is a good looking guy and he works the camera really well. I think sex sells and that is what he does. With Moldova performing before him and Croatia with a strangely dressed woman who does not work the camera I think Hungary can stand out.

    3. Netherlands
    I think this will be a breath of fresh air after all the crazy Finland, Greece, Moldova stuff. It sounds like a radio friendly song.

    4. Armenia
    Interesting song that tells a story and will grab your attention. Especially when you hear it for the first time.

    5. Russia
    Pop and staging potential. Enough support.

    6. Cyprus
    Though it does not really stand out for me, I think there is not too much to hate about this song so opinion won’t be too divided. Juries will make it qualify for the final.

    7. Azerbaijan
    Sounds current and as people thought their efforts in 2014 and 2015 were too boring, I think they will support a song like this that is half decent. I fear for the live vocals though.

    8. Iceland
    To me it doesn’t feel like a copy of Sweden last year. They do their own thing and the running oder draw is good.

    9. Bosnia and Herzegovina
    They always seem to surprise me. The rap part is bad. But Greece had rap in 2011. Strong diaspora will still support it so in the new voting system that will help Bosnia get over the line. Even if the juries don’t really support it, they won’t cancel out a strong diaspora televote in the combined ranking. Now the televote points will come anyway.

    10. Malta
    Pimpslot. If Moje3 can finish 11th and also only the toppers failed to qualify, Malta will definitely go to the final.

  9. Durham did you notice anything else interesting about the voting changes? And what do you think is the reason that Bosnia would have benefited most? I found that the changes will bring back more power to the countries with diasporas. I suppose all the ex Yugos have their own diasporas in each of the other ex Yugos. But have you considered that Bosnia’s gain in any previous year’s whatif scenario could just be chance and therefore needn’t be repeated?

    I should add that my research has just been casual so far. (Tomorrow I’ll try and do it properly.)

    • I think not. Personally I think it’s the 50%jury/50%televoting system during the period 2009-2012….and then times two. As simply as that.

      Perhaps one slight difference: The juries this year still need to rank all 26 songs as opposed to the jurors in the period 2009-2012, who were asked to rank in TOP 10 order. So the juries still have a difficult task….and will still be very similar in behaviour as in the past three years.

      The juries will still tackle the large demographic diaspora and ‘Alzheimer’ (televoters don’t rank all 26 songs) that is present with televoters. On the other hand, some Azeri and Belarussian judges will still suffer from nationalism.

      But it also works the other way around. Televoters will correct all that perfectionalism from the juries by simply voting more with their hearts. They let the entry win that brings them goosebumps most. Some favourable running order draws and nationalistic pride will help that aspect too.

      • No it’s actually now fundamentally different from previous years. As the public and jury vote are not combined to a single vote one cannot now negate the other.

        • I tend to disagree. Please have a look at these scoresheets I made for the 2014 and 2015 contest. I have applied the new rules on the official results of these grand finals. Have a look:

          2014 Grand Final with now voting system applied:

          2015 Grand Final with new voting system applied:

          So as you can see, the final results would be almost identical as compared to the ‘old’ 50%jury/50%televote system where both parts were ranked in TOP 10 order. And even after the slight change in 2013 where the jury component and televote component of the 50%jury/50%televote system were ranked in TOP 26 order nothing drastical changed.

          Only for the final ranking of countries that ‘suffer’ from big discrepancies between juries and televoters for a possible lower placing on the left hand side of the scoreboard, like Poland in 2014, the TOP 26 ranking wasn’t helpful. So the ‘new system’ has the greatest similarity with the 50%jury/50%televote system applied in the period 2009-2012..

          Yes, we get insane point totals for each country. But that’s the only radical change. The final official results/ranking in a particular year will be very similar to results/ranking if you apply the ‘old’ 50%jury/50%televote system. So your arguments…..or lack thereof are not so true.

          The only argument I can find to support your remark, is perhaps the fact that televoters will be influenced by the juries IF the phone lines are still open during the jury results. That could cause a bit more…discrepancy. But we don’t know that yet and such statements will hard to proof.

          • Thanks for sharing those tables. You showed them before and I forgot. So it seems it would have made no difference to the results in the last 2 years. But it has the potential to make a difference.

            You mention Poland 2014. They were not contenders but that is a good example. The British public gave most votes to Poland but the British jury negated it and Poland got 0 from the UK. The change could make a difference to more critical countries as I mention below.

          • True. But there isn’t really a Poland 2014 in this year’s line-up. Like 2015, also this year seems pretty much gimmick-free. Poland 2014 is a prime example of an entry that was poised to do well with televoters (especially the British televoter, who tend to prefer/vote for gimmicks), and to do bad with juries.

            In all honesty……I think Poland got what they deserved back in 2014. Personally, I prefer ‘quality’ over ‘fun’.

    • Mainly Henry i looked at the countries going back to the jury age who had televote/diaspora points pulled down by juries.In this semi Bosnia were far ahead on that under the new system.Of course this year they have a song that might not even appeal to their diaspora anyway.
      When i got the stats i was rubbing my hands together for a decent Balkan song that i could back top 3 in the semi at a decent price that people didnt see coming.Of course the last thing i expected was a rapper in a suicide vest.Im not sure how to play them yet on the qualify ,might come down to price,if we ever get any.

      • For me Bosnia Q or NQ is a leave alone atm, rubbish song but in penultimate slot.

        One possible change of the new system is the potential to help Russia in the Baltics. There they have large Russian populations but the indiginous rulers want to keep them down and this could extend to ESC juries. One of the Baltics, Lithuania possibly, had Russia awarded top marks from the public only for the jury to negate it and Russia ultimately got zero from that country.

  10. Finding it hard to find 10 qualifiers pre rehearsals. Have 7 that I don’t think will change.

    Finland NQ. Very lucky to qualify in 2009 with a 90’s tune not going to 7 years later.

    Greece Borderline. Only 2 countries could qualify with this. Luckily for Greece they are one of them. Diaspora vote needed big time and only reason it has a slim chance.

    Moldova NQ. Poor vocals. A dance song that I like but getting a Hannah – Straight into Love result.

    Hungary Borderline. Good song to listen to, but totally forgettable when it’s over and that’s before we hear the 14 songs that follow it. Needs a massive stage show for people to remember it.
    Croatia Borderline. Had this as a contender based on studio version but loses everything in the live version for me. Have a feeling staging is going to be awful.

    Netherlands Borderline. Not really a fan of it but can see why it could do well in semi. The older generation will like which might work for it in the semi plus juries might like it.

    Armenia Q. The hit or Miss Song of this year’s contest. It’s a hit for me but people won’t get it on the Saturday night.

    San Marino NQ. This is the reason why San Marino should stop entering. Awful crap altogether.

    Russia Q. Strong pop song .certain top 3 in semi, don’t think juries take to this but juries won the contest for man’s last year so anything is possible.

    Czech Republic Q. Juries getting this through whatever way the televote goes.

    Cyprus Q. Best rock song I have heard at Eurovision if Eldrine could qualify this defiantly does.

    Austria NQ. Totally in French enough said.

    Estonia Q. Juries will like it. It’s a song that will do well in semi but will be forgotten in final.

    Azer Q. Loads of support and not a bad song either.

    Montenegro NQ. Personally I love it but too weird for Eurovision and probably for most people in general.

    Iceland Q. Good song. Staging stands out be it a good or bad thing and 2 songs worse in the last 6.
    Bosnia & Herz NQ. Rap is killing its chances.

    Malta Q. Well produced quality song .semi winner contender and my only real bet on this semi at the moment.

  11. Just a question Gavin. Did you update your score sheets in 2014 and 2015 from the March preview articles during the rehearsals? I was trying to check what your initial predictions were for the 2014 and 2015 semi finals (around late March, mid April). Thanks ;-).

  12. Here’s how my traffic lights currently look;

    Finland – Red
    Greece – Red
    Moldova – Red
    Hungary – Yellow
    Croatia – Yellow
    The Netherlands – Green
    Armenia – Green
    San Marino – Red
    Russia – Green
    Czech Republic – Yellow
    Cyprus – Green
    Austria – Red
    Estonia – Green
    Azerbaijan – Yellow
    Montenegro – Red
    Iceland – Yellow
    Bosnia & Herzegovina – Yellow
    Malta – Green

  13. Greece is an obvious non-qualifier after this live performance

    • It already was once it got #2 in the running order. This performance ensures they do it in style. The fact they did no promo what so ever (A first from Greece) indicates the confidence ERT have in the package…but then again they could just be saving up money, who knows.

    • Actually I was pleasantly surprised by this. Way better than I expected. Can see them qualifying now!

  14. #2 is not that bad. Russia qualified in 2010 with ‘Lost and Forgotten’ from this slot. They came 4th with the televote… I don’t think Greece will repeat that result (obviously) but with their usual base support and a catchy song that is different from the pack, I don’t think they will fail. I think it could be a televote-jury split like Armenia had in 2011 but Greece will qualify.

    • Similarly Jack, I’m of the opinion that Greece are either just in or just out (no that’s not the EU I’m talking about). I could make an argument for Greece coming 9th and them coming 14th and there not being a lot in it points wise. I’m expecting them to finish top ten in the semi final with the public. The big question is whether the the juries will feed it to the dogs, like Finland’s PKN, by virtue of the entry being complete and utter crap regardless of the country that’s entering it.

      • Don’t you think that Greece’s unprecedented string of qualifications is clouding the fact that Greece simply has the worst entry since….since 2003’s Mando? I mean, Greece really sends good (enough) entries that were scoring enough points from every part in Europe (Although 2012, 2014 and 2015 shows Greece isn’t up to the task anymore). I know…….Albania, Hungary, Cyprus are voting in this semi final, but one could also reason that Netherlands usually gets a more or less fixed support from countries like Estonia (fact), Hungary (Hungary and Netherlands have always been buddies), Iceland and Finland. Especially Denmark (not in semi 1) has been giving more points to Netherlands over the past years than Belgium. In fact, Denmark is Netherlands’ best buddy.

        My point really is: I can’t see enough base support this year for Greece. And results from the past are by no means a rule for the present. The only reason some people put Greece on ‘green’ or ‘yellow’, is because of the image it has as country for not missing out the final since 2000. Greece will miss out.

    • Walrus if you’re putting money on this you should follow the Betfair Exchange forum too. I posted that idea with that clip there days ago.

      • It looks like you’re keeping the Russia thread warm, it’s clear that you’re fancying them to win by a landslide. Did not see the clip here, thought it could be food for thought 😉

        • Well it’s good to repeat stuff in other places I guess. Sergey is doing some kind of strenuous stuff so I can imagine hanging off rising ropes, he’s done that before.

          Do you reckon a rising stage would be a good thing? I think it adds to the power. It’s a bit cheesy but then that’s in the nature of the song too 🙂 Go for it I say.

          • It has been done by Romania and Moldova in the same year, with Cezar And Aliona. It limits your movement, but it could be done in the last minute. But then it becomes very complicated, if Russia uses other advanced technology.

            You would have tech+rosing stage+physical movement. One would have to balance it right in order to not alienate the viewer.

          • The biggest problem of this year’s Russian entry is this: The song. Because whatever elements makes up the total package, it’s all slightly dated. The box, the choreography, the bits of projections (augmented reality?). Russia’s entry lacks a bit of….soul, purity, sincerity.

  15. “Lacking soul, purity, sincerity…”
    That sounds just like a description of Russia 2008.
    I´m not saying that I disagree with your description of Russia 2016. I think it’s very accurate. I just want to point out that in the whole history of Eurovision I cannot think of any other winner who fits this description better than Russia 2008 (with Azerbaijan 2011 as the only challenger), whose staging and stage presence was totally soulless, generic, overblown and exaggerated in the extend that it got pathetic IMO. Still it won.

    That was then, but then it´s true.

    Although history does nothing but repeat itself, I really hope it won’t this time, because then the competition would walk backwards into the future, and the consequences would be fatal. Imagine Iceland sending Paul Oscar next year, telling and selling a love story for all that it´s worth, while trying to escape a volcano eruption on stage. Or maybe he would just try to walk on water. In both cases I would probably be running scared.

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