Home / Eurovision Tips / Eurovision 2016: Semi-Final 2 Pre-Rehearsal Preview

Eurovision 2016: Semi-Final 2 Pre-Rehearsal Preview

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.

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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. 

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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. Not much I would disagree with here, Gavster. I have the same 9 greens. I have Israel as a yellow – the song has something about it and Hovi sings it well – and Belarus a red – the song is less than average and Ivan not very votable, so the staging concept will have to be quite something to save it. France had brilliant staging last year but still sunk like a stone because the song was not good enough. Last I looked Norway were around evens to qualify. Given their position in the running order and the other songs in the second half of semi two that looks good value. The problems with the song have been well aired already, but the jarring tempo change will not be apparent in the 15 second recap that televoters hear.

  2. Again, very similar traffic light grid as you there

  3. For now;

    Latvia – Green
    Poland – Green
    Switzerland – Red
    Israel – Green
    Belarus – Red
    Serbia – Green
    Ireland – Red
    FYR Macedonia – Red
    Lithuania – Green
    Australia – Green
    Slovenia – Red
    Bulgaria – Green
    Denmark – Yellow
    Ukraine – Green
    Norway – Red
    Georgia – Yellow
    Albania – Red
    Belgium – Green

    I will disagree on Israel – despite the running order I think this an almost certain qualifier. I also think Denmark is much more likely to qualify than Norway, which is a steaming pile of turd and really doesn’t deserve to get through. At least Denmark has three non-threatening males and a sufficiently middle-of-the-road song. However, coming directly before Ukraine is a concern and it could fail for this reason. If it did fail, I wouldn’t be surprised if Georgia gets through on running order + USP.

    • Classic “I hate it, therefore it will fail” argument re: Norway there…

      • It’s a very poor composition and mish mash of two different songs, which isn’t an opinion that’s unique to me. The verses are like a poor man’s Euphoria or Youniverse and the chorus is a bit like Iceland’s from last year. I think it will do very badly with the juries and won’t offer televoters very much either in the context of this semi. The singer is weak vocally and looks like a potential man eater. It also follows Ukraine which is a potential semi winner. I don’t think its chances of qualifying should be rated as high as 62.5% at the moment, but perhaps that’s just me.

        • Im with you Tim,i think Norway have one of the worst packages this year.Horrid messy song,singer with weak vocals and very little televote appeal given her plastic face.Nothing for juries.Following a jury song with gravitas and followed by a sweet girl next door in Belgium.
          The only hope is staging might con enough people to get over the line,but il probably take them on.

        • Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think Norway will do much in the final, but I just think that that crappy second half of the semi, who else will take its place in the qualifying slots?

          And Ukraine winning the semi? Pfffffhahahahahahaaaaa…

          • Well if Ukraine is quite likely for Top 3 in this semi based on running order, quality of the song, diaspora, jury appeal and staging potential etc., then surely it’s also a potential winner of the semi?

    • Finally someone who agrees that Norway will fail to qualify.

  4. I agree with most of this certainly. I don’t think I’ll be playing this semi much if at all but I do think Israel look a pretty good lay. From the first half only – Latvia, Poland, Serbia, FYRoM, Ireland, Lithuania and possibly Belarus are all more likely to qualify I feel.
    Another value lay may be Denmark. It’s a relatively Eastern semi/ countries with diasporas and Denmark have to struggle with a very weak song and poor performers. If they do just scrape through I’d bet svt would call them out last anyway giving a potential trade opportunity in play.
    On Norway, I think they’re a pretty safe qualifier if staging is tightened up. Jurors may show it some respect and appreciate what it’s trying to do. Once at the final however, another last place isn’t out of the question.

  5. As unlikely as a 7/3 split between the halves is, the changes I’d make to Gav’s traffic lights would be to swap Israel and Poland, turn Norway red and turn Ireland and Macedonia green. Since both Ireland and Macedonia are sending “names”, it feels off to me that either of them should fail. I know I’m probably wrong but that’s the 10 I think should go through. If you want a spanner in the works then take out Macedonia and give it to Georgia.

    • I’d be happy to bet you a fiver if we get more than 5 qualifiers from the first half (and no I don’t count Australia as first half anymore). There’s more chance of me getting laid in Stockholm than getting more first half qualifiers than second (in other words, next to zero).

  6. Currently I’m thinking:

    Latvia – Green
    Poland – Green
    Switzerland – Red
    Israel – Yellow
    Belarus – Yellow
    Serbia – Green
    Ireland – Red
    FYR Macedonia – Yellow
    Lithuania – Yellow
    Australia – Green
    Slovenia – Red
    Bulgaria – Green
    Denmark – Yellow
    Ukraine – Green
    Norway – Yellow
    Georgia – Yellow
    Albania – Red
    Belgium – Green

    So I share my seven greens with Gav, but I’ve got Lithuania and Norway both as yellows. Lithuania seems a little too short on the markets given their overlap with Ireland, the amateurish live performances until now, and very by-the-books song which may slightly lack a USP compared to other entries; Norway, on the other hand, have got some slightly wobbly vocals, offputting styling and the obvious genre change for the chorus. I think they’ll both scrape by in lower spots, but I wouldn’t say either one is certain.

    Israel is yellow for me; I’m tending towards calling it a NQ but I have to respect the power of his vocals, and it should be powerful in the recap assuming they choose a snippet from the climax. I’ve also taken Georgia up to yellow due to their USP, late running order and lack of anything similar in the semi; in terms of qualification chances I’d still only put them at around 25-30%, but I respect them as a dark horse.

    Meanwhile, I think Ireland is more of a red than a yellow. I can’t imagine it getting much support outside of Denmark and the UK, it’s largely forgettable, and despite the name recognition it will likely be forgotten when the similar-but-stronger Lithuania comes around.

  7. There’s so much garbage in this semi that some garbage must qualify, making lays awkward.

  8. I don’t get the support for Israel among some. Poor song, poor historical record, poor draw. They’re using pyrotechnics apparently so let’s wait and see if staging can drag this particular garbage over the line

    • Yeah, when I saw that thing about Israel using 16,000 EUR worth of pyros I was very concerned that it would be overkill, I mean I could imagine a pyro curtain in the song but that alone wouldn’t cost 16 grand! :/

  9. In 2012 Donny finished 14th. Greece finished 17th.

  10. Does anyone know if big 5 will perform in the semis? Without any score matter of course…

  11. Lat – Green
    Pol – Yellow
    Sui – Red
    Isr – Yellow
    Brs – Red
    Ser – Green
    Ire – Yellow
    Mac – Red
    Lit – yellow
    Aus – Green
    Slo – Yellow
    Bul – Green
    Den – Yellow
    Ukr – Green
    Nor – Yellow
    Geo – Red
    Alb – Red
    Bel – Green

    For me 6 qualifiers and 5 sure fails, which makes a very opening semi to consider.

    If you wanted to you could pair Ireland vs Lithuania, Poland vs Israel (as similar pairs) and Denmark vs Norway and I would favour the latter of each. Then throw in the other scandi to make Lithuania, Israel, Denmark and Norway the qualifiers.

    Norway vs Denmark is quite interesting as Norway is like a poor mans Margaret Berger this year without the austere sci fi synths to drive it, Denmark is a slightly better version of Anti Social Media and I think has a strong enough chorus to make it. The toe tappy MOR number usually does.

  12. The songs I remember the most when watching the recap are:

    Latvia (opening the semi and sounds special)
    Belarus (after two forgettable songs)
    Serbia (high quality amy winehouse)
    FYR Macedonia (classy woman with jury friendly song)
    Australia (finally a song that sounds ‘big’)
    Slovenia (happy middle of the road song. feels like ’round and round from 2014)
    Denmark (radio friendly song. not too much to dislike about it and has sex appeal)
    Ukraine (heartfelt song, sung by a beautiful woman)
    Norway (though I hate the euphoria meets iceland 2015 vibe, in the recap it sticks out to me)
    Belgium (happy ending of the show after strange georgia and meh albania)

    borderline to me are:

    Bulgaria and Belarus. Lithuania always seem to get some love and they came 11th in 2014. So I think they can make it.

    my non qualifiers:

    I don’t understand the love for poland. it follows latvia, bad running order draw, totally forgettable in televote and more memorable songs in the show. will fail.

    Ireland is no ‘only love survives’. will get lost and forgotten.

    israel never have televote love. especially if it’s a ballad. don’t think the juries will save it and the guy doesn’t look appealing to me.

    even though georgia have a good record. they failed in 2014 and now they sound a similarly strange song again. hope it will fail and think it will.

    Albania: raw original version sounded interesting. don’t think it will qualify but isn’t half bad.

    This is roughly the top 18 I hope:

    1. Ukraine
    2. Latvia
    3. Serbia
    4. Australia
    5. Belgium
    6. Norway
    7. FYR Macedonia
    8. Lithuania
    9. Denmark
    10. Slovenia

    11. Belarus
    12. Bulgaria
    13. Israel
    14. Ireland
    15. Poland
    16. Albania
    17. Georgia
    18. Switzerland

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