Last night’s jury rehearsal cleared the fog for most of us, yet there are still one or two frustrating ambers on my list. I suspect it will be incredibly close at the bottom end of the qualification threshold.
So in no particular order, here are my 10 qualifiers:
The semi-final win looks set to revolve around a top-3 of Armenia, Portugal and Sweden. As I mentioned before rehearsals, I do think some of Sweden’s shine will be dulled by Moldova and Greece on the televote, though I wouldn’t be surprised to see Sweden finish slightly higher with the national juries. The semi win looks like a straight fight between the stylish Armenia and enchanting Portugal. My own portfolio favours Armenia, but I’ll be happy with either winning.
Seeing all of the performances in running order, it’s remarkable how effective the Moldovan song is. With Greece falling slightly flat, the Sunstroke Project are the only fun act in this semi-final. Moreover, #EpicSaxGuy gets a green room segment during the show, so the producers are keen to make sure Moldova makes the cut for Saturday’s Grand Final.
Even though Greece has disappointed, the vocals were great during last night’s jury rehearsal; and they got to perform twice due to technical issues, thus taking the pimp slot away from Latvia. This is a friendly, diaspora-heavy semi-final for Greece, and with only a few upbeat songs for viewers to group around, Demy should standout enough to make the cut in around 4th-6th place.
Straight after Greece, Kasia Mos grunts the hell out of her dated and cliché Flashlight and could have done enough to push Poland over the line at the cost of one or two better songs. The worry was always whether juries would punish the lazy writing, yet once again, Poland have polished another hefty dollop.
Hovig has come a long way since that wooden, lip-sync performance during the Greek national final. Cyprus‘ balancing-act stage concept did look a bit clunky at first rehearsal. Hovig now looks comfortable on stage and sells the song incredibly well. Based on the jury rehearsal, I see Hovig as a comfortable qualifier.
Despite the esoteric staging concept featuring a bloke on a step ladder wearing a horse’s head, Azerbaijan has tightened up as a visual and vocal package. They’ve even corrected the spelling mistake on their blackboard mini-set! Viewers will still think ‘WTF’, but there’s enough here to suggest that Dihaj makes the final, though it is worth taking cheap lays on Betfair. However, we have to factor in Azerbaijan’s adeptness for allegedly securing jury votes from certain nations.
That’s eight qualifiers and now it becomes trickier to separate the borderliners from the no-hopers. I’ve had to leave Belgium out, as Blanche looks too panicked and lacks the charisma for TV viewers to warm to, even if the jurors do show some sympathy. Furthermore, the song is so uneventful on stage it’s crying out for an experienced, confident performer to compensate for the static camera angles and bland LED backdrop. I’ve heard the “on song alone” argument a few times over the last few weeks, but the staging and performance is so undersold, Belgium would need the juries to mark on backing track alone – and they won’t. Blanche was better at last night’s jury rehearsal, but she still murdered the final chorus, and that segment is shown in the reprise as if to remind jurors of the worst part. The same will happen during tonight’s live show, so Belgium could be a much longer price for qualification given these issues.
Slovenia feels like the real end to this semi-final. The impact of Omar’s song feels very close to Filipa Azevedo’s Há dias assim from 2010, which boasted similar Disney characteristics and multiple, climatic key changes. The 9/1 qualification advertised last week was a gift and the circa 4/1 is still too high given the chance of a shock.
That leaves a choice between Finland’s Norma John and Australia’s Isaiah Firebrace. Bold, I know. Both songs have their failings with Australia lacking a call to action moment for televoters and Finland being about 20-years past its sell-by date. Finland’s strength is its ability to elicit an emotional reaction and Blackbird is the sort of song people believe should do well at Eurovision. Don’t Come Easy, on the other hand, is a competent radio song that rather falls flat on the Eurovision stage. Isaiah struggles to emote and the turntable staging with messianic backdrop images of Isaiah lacks cohesion. Also, Australia doesn’t boast any regional allies and will be reliant on their expat communities in Italy and the UK, as well as name recognition in Sweden. Finland boasts a solid expat population in Sweden, in addition to populations of 10,000+ in the UK, Norway and Australia. I also believe Blackbird will travel better than Don’t Come Easy in eastern nations. Having said that, lead singer Leena, did sound a bit rough in today’s rehearsal, so these two are interchangeable depending how they perform tonight.
Enjoy tonight’s show and good luck with your bets. If you haven’t had a bet yet, you can sign up for new accounts and receive free bets here.