Since Romania’s expulsion from the Contest, semi-final 2 has a slightly different dynamic, and having lost that powerful vocal early on in the second half, it has shifted the qualifying balance towards the first half. Using the customary traffic light system I have detailed my current pre-rehearsal thoughts below.
Wanting to open the show with quality, SVT opted for Latvia’s contemporary Heartbeat. Justs will qualify, but we’ll have to wait until rehearsals to understand Latvia’s true impact on this year’s Contest. Heartbeat is extremely jury friendly and is much more accessible than last year’s Love Injected, which finished 2nd with the juries and 3rd on the televote.
Despite being consigned to the coffin slot, Poland should have enough support to qualify. Michał Szpak’s Colour Of Your Life has never been on my list of favourites and I don’t buy the Kuula comparisons. Michał’s problem is that his slushy ballad belongs in the 80s and his over emoting limits his likeability. Nevertheless, Michał won his national final with a comfortable margin against two big favourites which has to be respected.
The Swiss national final and subsequent pre-concerts have proven Rykka will struggle at Eurovision. With a rather crazed look and suspect vocal, I fear Switzerland will be bottom of the pile in this lineup.
The switch to ballad was wise, but Hovi’s Made of Stars still takes way too long to hit home. I thought the pre-concerts would shorten Israel’s odds, especially given Hovi’s impressive vocal showing and apparent fan love, but they are still available at over 250.0 on Betfair and around 1.9 to qualify. I’m leaning towards non-qualification because there are more competitive songs to come and Hovi’s position in this running order isn’t helpful.
As mentioned in our third podcast, Ivan has taken massive strides for Belarus, impressing in all of the pre-concerts. A member of the SVT crew has already commented that Belarus are one of four nations employing hi-tech staging concepts which could be key to building on their regional influence in this semi. The song is still weaker than many others, but with Romania gone, that 9th or 10th qualification spot is up for grabs.
Following the three act tragedy, Sanja Vučić raises the bar with her Amy Winehouse-inspired Goodbye. I had little confidence in Serbia after Sanja’s selection, but she has tamed those garish facial expressions and now looks a genuine top-10 act and potential top-3 finisher in this semi-final. Hopefully Serbia give us their traditional instrument-focussed staging, which should tick more jury boxes for authenticity and presentation. On the back of this video, it appears they’ll have four backing singers and a male dancer.
Back to mediocrity now and a song that would likely finish 5th in Dansk Melodi Grand Prix circa 2010. Ireland looked strong at first, but Nicky has struggled to perform Sunlight live and SVT’s running order hasn’t helped the former Westlife chart-topper with five stronger, more deserving songs in this half alone. RTE are expected to prop up Nicky with backing singers, so Ireland remain amber until rehearsals.
The first of this semi’s returnees, Kaliopi, will once again grace the Eurovision stage for FYR Macedonia. Unfortunately, she’ll fall victim to the law of diminishing returns, as Dona lacks the nuance and vocal artistry of Crno i belo. FYR0M are among friends, whereas Ireland aren’t, so if six acts qualify from the first half, it could be to Kaliopi’s benefit.
Our second returnee, Donny Montell, will be aiming to beat his 2012 result of finishing 17th in the final. I think it’s safe to say he won’t be finishing 3rd in this year’s semi-final though. Even so, Lithuania are well represented, so should find a route to the final barring any hiccups. During their exhaustive national final Donny always performed the song with solo choreography, and as a Melodifestivalen-influenced song, it is desperate for more movement beyond Donny’s rather amateurish moves.
I’m not sure whether Australia have been officially promoted to the second half of the semi-final, though I don’t think it really matters. What Dami Im’s song lacks in those plodding choruses, is more than compensated for by her live vocal and final minute climax. I’m not a huge fan of the song, but have to acknowledge that it’ll be there or there abouts in a weak year, plus Australia are another of those countries listed as employing hi-tech staging. Sound of Silence is chart worthy and will attract plenty of support in this western leaning semi.
As Panos suggested in the podcast, it’s easy to forget Slovenia are taking part. The Taylor Swift arrangement and styling probably won’t make the final. It’s a nice song though and one of my guilty pleasures.
There has been a huge gamble on Bulgaria over the last 24 hours, which also coincided with the sudden shortening of Italy. Clearly our podcast guest,Tobias, has more market influence than I! Poli hasn’t really delivered a convincing live performance of If Love Was A Crime to date, so until we get see rehearsals, it’s pure madness to back sub 20/1 prices. In fact, I think 30/1 is too short given it took a few listens for Bulgaria’s hook to really infect my mind. It’s a catchy tune, but with a classy, bluesy ballad from regional rivals Serbia, Poli might find her song lower down the pecking order.
Oh Denmark. Their broadcaster wanted Anja, but the public didn’t fall for the VOTE ANJA signals and instead voted for three lads who appear to have undergone a charisma lobotomy. Soldiers of Love is so vanilla and inoffensive it is merely background noise. Denmark are amber on my table, but in reality, they are much closer to red.
1944 is the musical equivalent of travelling to Moscow and defecating in Putin’s morning coffee. One lump or two Mr President? In spite of that, it is likely to do very well with the juries, especially in this semi-final. It’s Jamala’s introverted performance style and the lack of a feel good moment that will ultimately prevent Ukraine challenging for Eurovision victory, but in this semi, Ukraine shouldn’t finish outside of the top 3. If the delegation can make Jamala more voteable in Stockholm, Ukraine could challenge the final top-4.
Forced to choose between two songs, Agnete thought f*ck it, I’ll take them both. That’s effectively what Icebreaker is and Norway adds to Scandinavia’s woes at this year’s Eurovision. The Sia box won’t be the only box at this year’s Eurovision, but in Norway’s case it was a poor imitation. At the national final, Agnete lacked the star quality and passion needed to sell this song and appeared to just pace around in a way that matched the song’s anaemic writing and arrangement. Norway’s chances of qualifying are better than Denmark’s, but I don’t expect it to make the left hand side of the scoreboard in the final.
Georgia deliver some rock for the musical purists, though even this song has G:Son’s fingerprints on it. Midnight Gold sounds great in my car, but like Albania, I suspect its position towards the end of this semi-final is designed to make Belgium sound better.
I didn’t expect to like What’s the Pressure as much as I currently do. But at the end of this semi-final Belgium acts as a course of Prozac after a five-song visit from the black dog. Laura Tesero’s childish energy and her bright, crisp vocals will likely mirror the effect of Donny Montell’s Love Is Blind from 2012 and the near qualification of Quero ser tua in 2014.
Value bets will be flagged up in the comments section and chat room in due course.