I woke up this morning dreading having to write this preview. Semi-final 2 is a confusing melange of diaspora-heavy nations with mediocre songs, countries with decent qualification records who have sent beige nonentities and then those with less than perfect strike rates that deserve to make the final but probably won’t.
Starting with the sure qualifiers from Australia, Belgium, Israel, Latvia, Serbia and Ukraine.
Australia took a major step forward in last night’s jury rehearsal. Dami Im added a few more freestyles to her vocal which really lifted the impact of the song. The stylist also eased off on the normally heavy eye-liner, making eye contact much easier for the TV audience. The staging is still too static my liking, but on vocal alone, this is top-3.
Jamala will be competing for the semi-final win alongside Australia. However, Ukraine has a narrative and Jamala delivers 1944 with the sort of authentic emotional connection Dami Im lacks. Both artists have a winning vocal, so it’s a straight fight as to who connects with the televote most.
Justs and Sanja also tick the vocal box, but both are let down with overly dark staging concepts. Serbia has the regional support, whereas Latvia should enjoy a good level of jury support. What will be apparent to all tonight is that Latvia failed to sufficiently craft the staging to maximise Heartbeat’s potential.
Israel on the other hand have deliberately elected for dark staging, but this is accented with stunning constellation graphics and the disc-dancers. It’s gentle, yet dramatic and Hovi should be getting a slice of Saturday night’s action.
As I said in our second podcast and the daily rehearsal reviews, Belgium are a bright spark at the end this semi-final and should have more lasting impact than Austria’s Loin d’ici. Laura would have won Junior Eurovision with What’s The Pressure and could do surprisingly well in the final.
Somewhere in the middle we have our big diaspora nations in the form of Poland and Lithuania. I have been very vocal about my loathing of Michał Szpak’s Colour Of Your Life. For me, it’s the musical equivalent of having teeth pulled without anesthetic. I don’t think the juries will rank it highly at all, which means the diaspora has to push it over the line. The loyal fanbase didn’t turn out in 2010, but the margin between 10th and 13th was just eight points and Michał isn’t joined on stage by five women dancing with apples in their gobs.
From downright detestable to potentially punchable. Donny Montell has come a long way since 2012 and he returns with a sort of David Lindgren Melfest reject. The staging is over complicated and lacks direction, but to his credit, the vocals are good and the somersault is memorable. Unlike Poland, Lithuania is much more demo-delighting and should make Saturday’s final.
Now we’re looking for scraps from Belarus, Ireland, FYR Macedonia, Slovenia, Bulgaria, Denmark, Norway, Georgia and Albania.
Despite throwing loads of visual gimmicks at Help You Fly, Belarus just lacks credibility and won’t attract enough votes from neutral nations. Albania is too dull in comparison to other ballads in this lineup and is the rather bland filling in a Georgia/Belgium sandwich. Georgia look the more likely qualifier at this end of the running order: they’ve turned an alternative song into a kaleidoscope of colour and should qualify 7th-9th. They performed four times during last night’s jury rehearsal, effectively taking over the pimp slot and are still 2.38 at BETFRED.
Kaliopi wasn’t at her best during the jury rehearsal and I’m not expecting non-Balkan nations to throw her a televote lifeline, so FYRoM are out. With two more Balkans in the mix, and with Serbia dominating the vote in that region, it’s an either or between Bulgaria and Slovenia. My head tells me Bulgaria, but my heart sides with Slovenia. The latter is contemporary with heavy Taylor Swift influences, in addition to a Danish gymnast (expect points). Bulgaria hasn’t lived up to expectations, and despite being an infectious dance floor banger, it is somewhat trumped by Belgium. Therefore, I’m going against the grain and all logic in adding Slovenia to my list of qualifiers. I think the foot-tapping country-esque vibe will appeal to the western audience.
The Scandies have really underperformed this year with Sweden being the only nation with an international hit on their hands. Denmark is bland and Norway’s two songs for the price of one ballad is trumped by Ukraine and Australia. There is slightly more regional support for Norway, but I just can’t see them making it wedged between Ukraine and Georgia.
Lastly we have Ireland and the worst of Westlife’s former members. On a positive note, Nicky has improved and delivered a solid jury rehearsal last night. That performance may have been enough, in addition to the planned advert-break interview in the green room during tonight’s show. BUT will it be enough to prevent that polish dirge making the cut? On the basis that I loath Michał’s song, I’m including Ireland in my 10.
Slovenia were at 6.0 on Betfair before last night and could be a great play in-running. Ireland will be backed in by Irish and British punters, so a current 4.5 offers trading potential.
Our chatroom unearthed some value today which is still available at UNIBET: Bulgaria NOT to finish top-3 in semi-final 2 @ 1.45.
Those of you who backed Ukraine to win the semi final may want to cover with Australia on the back of last night’s performance.
Good luck with tonight’s semi-final and the subsequent first half/second half draw!