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Eurovision 2018: Semi-Final 1 Preview

This year’s semi-final of death has been condensed into a first-half of armageddon. There are around eight songs of qualification quality, yet since 2009 only a maximum of five songs have ever progressed from the first half. The strength of the second-half is still reasonable so we should still expect at least five to qualify; thus, a big name or two will be dumped from the first half.

In line with earlier years, I have used a traffic light system to illustrate my immediate thinking for certain songs. This will change when rehearsals start when staging concepts either enhance or reduce a country’s chances of qualification.

Making it:

My early reaction to the Czech song was muted, but I was on board after Mikolas’ live performance at the Ukrainian national final. He also performed live in Riga, and even though the footage to emerge has been poor, reports from the event were glowing. The lack of LEDs shouldn’t be an issue even though it does limit the extent to which nations can develop strong, visual branding concepts.

Mikolas will be joined by professional dancing brothers, Kristián and Marek Mensa, so it appears they will push the hip-hop break-dance theme. Provided the dancing isn’t too hardcore and doesn’t detract from Mikolas’ natural and charming charisma, the Czechs should be checking into the Eurovision final.

Right at the top-end of the BPM register, Israel lead the market for the first time since… well, since anytime I can remember. Without going into what might happen in the final, Netta’s song is simply too good and too high up in the PR cycle to fail. Juries know about the song and she will be announced as the market-leader by all national commentators. Israel will top the OGAE poll and will likely do extremely well on the EuroJury poll too. The only way I can see Israel failing to qualify is if Netta is too aggressive or the staging is too crazy and disjointed. Even then, barring a unexpected disaster of epic proportions, Israel would still qualify, yet the outright will quickly factor in what would be a false-favourite. I will discuss Israel in greater detail in our pre-rehearsal preview.

I can understand the love for Estonia: it is distinctive and boasts a USP. However, the song lacks a melody and it pales in comparison to the likes of Il Volo, who are the only popera act to do well at Eurovision. Elina’s vocals are the key component here, yet the lack of song is disguised by a staging gimmick used twice before at Eurovision. The performance is cold and Elina tends to look away from the cameras, rather than straight down the lens. Even so, the fickle public will swoon over Elina’s vocals, while the juries should be expected to reward the more contemporary entries.

Greece return with the nice parts of Watch My Dance, albeit with Yianna Terzi rather than Loucas Yiorkas. Oneiro Mou is a real fan-favourite, but it is difficult to know if that goodwill extends to the Greek diaspora, which tends to favour upbeat songs. Greece have several allies to help them meet what is expected to be around a 100-130 point qualification threshold. They have quite an attractive song for non-Greek speakers, so it should transcend their regional bloc. Even in 2015 with fewer allies, the disappointing One Last Breath finished 3rd with the juries and 9th on the televote.

Armenia offers a similar dramatic, own-language concept, yet is presented with more aggression. Sevak has a fine voice but I find him less relatable – probably due to the frowning. Qami benefits from greater build and impact, but it just doesn’t have the emotional trigger past songs of this genre boasted. The Eurovision stage should lift Qami from the basic national final format. The main question is will Sevak find a way to connect with TV viewers? Armenia are green for now, but floating somewhere around 7th on my reckoning given the lack of allies.

When comparing Finland and Cyprus in the Fuego review, I wrote: “One [song] could turn up in Lisbon and surprise while the other massively disappoints”. I think Cyprus will be the one that surprises, and as we witnessed at the UMK final, Saara could underwhelm. If there’s one thing Cyprus is great at, it’s extracting every last drop of potential from its song with clever staging, whereas Brian Friedman’s staging for Saara is likely to be as desperate and overblown as at the national final. Chuck in the pimp slot and Eleni Foureira should be strolling into the final.

On the maybe list:

Opening the show will be better for Azerbaijan than perhaps 4th or 5th in the running order where X My Heart would struggle to standout. Since their semi win in 2013, Azerbaijan’s semi-final finishing positions have been 9th, 10th, 6th and 8th. It would appear that the more trashy the song, the higher the score! X MY Heart isn’t as punchy as Miracle, but it should be vocally stronger. Last year the dream team worked with Greece’s Demi who only qualified in 10th. This is Love was as bad as it could get for the dream team considering the vocals were off and only half of the staging concept was allowed. This year Kontopoulos has delivered a technically superior song and benefits from a more accomplished vocalist in Aisel. It is only a worry over Fokas’ staging that is keeping Azerbaijan on the maybe list – that and the obvious lack of allies.

Some might be surprised at the inclusion of Belgium on the maybe list, but Sennek’s song fails the 1-minute test and doesn’t really deliver the sort of impact to justify its low odds. Hans Pannecoucke is in charge of the staging – is that still a thing to get excited about? Calm After The Storm was a triumph, but he has since failed with both Trijntje and Manel Navarro. He’s clearly a talented stage designer, but Netherlands 2014 was one of those once-in-a-career wonders. I’m certain Sennek’s staging will be dark and intimate; I just get the feeling that in May we’ll all be shouting: “why aren’t you looking at the camera!?”

Another problem for Belgium is following Iceland and Albania, and then being followed by the Czech Republic right at the point when viewers will be craving another lift in the tempo. Then, after Mikolas we get Lithuania’s haunting song from Ieva. Lithuania has more allies and diaspora than Belgium, but does drone on and on. Another problem for Lithuania is that When We’re Old fails to build: it loses energy half way through when it should be soaring. Enhanced lighting and camerawork should compensate for what was a static national final performance, so for now it stays amber.

Alekseev is working on his diction and delivery of Forever with vocal coach, Alex Panayi. Apparently he is much more comfortable with the new piano-led arrangement, even though I preferred the original version. For Belarus to qualify, Alekseev needs a to deliver a faultless vocal performance along with a more endearing stage show that doesn’t rely on silly gimmicks. I suspect there might be one or two brown envelopes traded before the first semi-final live show.

I can see how Bulgaria could be both good and extremely messy. I’m a fan of the song, but the assembled group performing it are the weak link. The presentation is bound to be dark, and mixed with the futuristic garb from the official photography, I’m seeing lots of red flags that could prevent viewers voting for it. If viewers do get behind La Forza, which is right before Bones, a gloomy presentation will feel extremely flat and demotivating. It also doesn’t help that a promising upbeat entry from FYRoM is following.

Austria, Switzerland and Ireland are all floating around lower positions with maybe Austria and Ireland being the surprises. Cesár has great vocals and his competent, middle-of-the-road, jury-friendly song could scrape through. The only downside for me is that I don’t rate him as a frontman – he lacks star quality. Austria are usually my blindspot, hence giving him the benefit of the doubt… for now.

Switzerland is extremely well performed and is another middle-of-the-road, jury-friendly entry. Corrine isn’t as relatable as other female singers in this semi-final, but has been helped in the running order. Coincidentally, that’s another country Björkman was involved with in some way.

The real joker in the pack is Ryan O’Shaughnessy for Ireland. Logic says Cyprus should burn his chances of qualifying, but being the last authentic song, there is a chance his Ed Sheeran schtick resonates with viewers and earns Ireland their first qualification since 2013. I think the 3/1 at UNIBET is extremely generous given the lack of big songs in the second half. In 2015 Molly Sterling finished 12th with an equally insipid song, yet she was second in the running order and was followed by six better ballads. This year, Ireland has the last word and Ryan is quite a voteable chap.

Missing out:

Iceland and Croatia just aren’t strong enough to compete. The former is possibly the worst Icelandic entry ever and the latter just falls between the cracks. Albania is deserving of a place in the final, yet despite boasting many allies, Mall will struggle to garner more points than its first half opponents.

If there is a shock qualifier, Macedonia’s Eye Cue might be it. Lost & Found is a kaleidoscope of genres, yet it strangely works. Unlike last year, vocals and stagecraft don’t seem to be an issue; however, their running-order slot is far from ideal. I would love to see FYRoM make the final, but my head says they finish 13th-15th. If the delegation conveys the summery feel of Lost & Found in the staging, there is a minuscule hope of it sneaking in, or at least deciding what qualifies from around it. FYRoM will feel very uplifting coming after gloomy Bulgaria.

And then we have Saara Aalto from Finland. In studio form Monsters is a passable radio-friendly track, but when performed live with all the Brian Friedman staging nonsense going on, it looks like low-grade cabaret fodder. It is jury-repellent in its purest form. And despite winning over the UK public on the X-Factor, I don’t think Saara is that voteable. She appears desperate, needy and there’s a distinct absence of warmth and humility. Her team says the staging will be totally different, but it will still probably feature a massive prop with homoerotic dancing.

Our semi-final 1 podcast will be published next week, so make sure you subscribe to our YouTube channel and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Share your thoughts and bets in the comments section below.

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. Azerbaijan – AMBER
    Iceland – RED
    Albania – RED
    Belgium – AMBER
    Czech Republic – GREEN
    Lithuania – AMBER
    Israel – GREEN
    Belarus – AMBER
    Estonia – GREEN
    Bulgaria – AMBER
    FYR Macedonia – RED
    Croatia – RED
    Austria – GREEN
    Greece – GREEN
    Finland – RED
    Armenia – AMBER
    Switzerland – AMBER
    Ireland – AMBER
    Cyprus – GREEN

  2. Azerbaijan – Amber
    Iceland – Red
    Albania – Red
    Belgium – Green
    CR – Green
    Lithuania – Amber
    Israel – Green
    Belarus – Red
    Estonia – Green
    Bulgaria – Amber
    Macedonia – Red
    Croatia – Red
    Austria – Green
    Greece – Green
    Finland – Amber
    Armenia – Green
    Switzerland – Red
    Ireland – Amber
    Cyprus – Green

  3. Azerbaijan – AMBER
    Iceland – RED
    Albania – RED
    Belgium – AMBER
    Czech Republic – GREEN
    Lithuania – AMBER
    Israel – GREEN
    Belarus – AMBER
    Estonia – GREEN
    Bulgaria – AMBER
    FYR Macedonia – RED
    Croatia – RED
    Austria – AMBER
    Greece – GREEN
    Finland – AMBER
    Armenia – GREEN
    Switzerland – RED
    Ireland – AMBER
    Cyprus – GREEN

  4. Azerbaijan- Amber
    Iceland- Red
    Albania- Red
    Belgium- Green
    Czech Republic – Green
    Lithuania- Red
    Israel- Green
    Belarus- Amber
    Estonia- Green
    Bulgaria- Green
    Fyr Macedonia- Red
    Croatia- Red
    Austria- Amber
    Greece- Green
    Finland- Amber
    Armenia- Green
    Switzerland- Red
    Ireland- Red
    Cyprus- Green

    Overall, I have it as a fight between Azerbaijan, Austria and Finland for two of the last three qualification spots. The rest feel safer or less likely.

  5. Prediction Outcome Semi Final #1:
    (in order of qualification chances, behind brackets possible placing)

    GREEN ) Israel (1ST – 2ND)
    GREEN ) Czech Republic (1ST – 3RD)
    GREEN ) Austria (2ND – 4TH)
    GREEN ) Estonia (3RD – 5TH)
    GREEN ) Belgium (4TH – 6TH)
    GREEN ) Greece (6TH – 8TH)
    GREEN ) Bulgaria (6TH – 8TH)
    GREEN ) Cyprus (6TH – 9TH)
    GREEN ) Armenia (7TH – 10TH)
    AMBER ) Lithuania (9TH – 11TH)
    AMBER ) Azerbaijan (9TH – 11TH)
    AMBER ) Albania (10TH – 12TH)
    AMBER ) Belarus (10TH – 13TH)
    RED ) Ireland (11TH – 15TH)
    RED ) Croatia (13TH – 17TH)
    RED ) Switzerland (15TH – 17TH)
    RED ) Finland (16TH – 18TH)
    RED ) Iceland (17TH – 19TH)
    RED ) F.Y.R.O. Macedonia (17TH – 19TH)

    I saw this first live performance of Cesar Sampson during an Austrian schlager show (check YouTube), hence I think we’re underestimating this charmer.

      • That performance was playback

        I think he’s a very good singer anyway

        • Even playbacks can tell you quite a bit though. For instance body language, interaction with the audience, the way he emotes with camera and audiences………..

          Having said that I think Cesar Sampson as a performer is quite underestimated. The song itself: I just don’t understand why so many people don’t take notice of it. It’s one of the better songs in this contest. It’s modern, has a great rousing gospel-esque bridge and invites for a very nice staging concept.

  6. what is the ‘official’ reason for no visual LED screens this year?

    • It’s Salvador’s fault:

      • LOL LOL. I wondered if it was a vain attempt to keep costs down…

      • Hehe………it does tell you something that Eurovision really has changed. Every day when I open esctips for a read I see Verka’s mad face. But the fact is that quality, uniqueness and authenticity have become more important on Eurovision in recent years. “Calm After The Storm”, “Love Injected” and recent winners “1944” and “Amar Pelos Dois” introduced Europe to less streamlined, overproduced songs, and slightly more ‘arty’, ‘different’ entries.

        But that’s Eurovision. It goes with the time. Mid/Late 90’s were considered pretty good as well, and then we had that 100% televoting-era (1999-2009) in which Eastern-Europe dominated with the cheesiest schmalz of schmalz.

        Or the infusion of UK’s happiness and fun in the late 1960 contests and the happy disco era of the 1970’s. Quite interesting really :-).

  7. I think there’s always the possibility that viewers will like Estonia and vote for it, and despite the potential ‘gloomy’ entry from Bulgaria coming straight after it, think ‘that’s solid’ and put it through too.

  8. I think FYROM is a competent and interesting enough song to go through so long as the vocals are good and the staging isn’t a nightmare. Would also love to see it qualify

  9. Catriona Colville

    Gavin’s what would it realistically take for you to get behind Belgium as a safe qualifier and serious victory conte Der?

    • An amazing staging triumph. However, I don’t think the song has the ingredients for victory and it needed more help to guarantee qualification. The first day of rehearsals should tell us if Belgium has enough in the tank for qualification.

  10. I think that despite all the hype amongst fans in the UK, Finland will miss out on the final. Often the bridesmaid and never the bride (except 2007), there’s nothing to think they won’t fall again. Mix in hardly any allies and I think the writing’s on the wall. Austria is more likely to qualify than this – the song is more relatable, modern and relevant. Saara’s ‘Monsters’ is WAY too quirky.

    • Catriona Colville

      Since most of my favourites this year are either in semi 2 or the final, as long as Belgium and Armenia qualify, I can sit back and watch the fan community explode when at least a couple of their favourites get knocked out. Finland not qualifying will be all the popcorn fodder I need. Ditching UMK for the Miley famous Saara was a big risk that doesn’t look likely to pay off.

  11. Tbh I’m quite surprised by how highly rated is the Greek song this year and that’s being a Greek myself.
    It’s a song that its fate will probably be decided on the presentation and the latest reports are not so promising, suggesting a simple and esoteric performance without dancers and a unique self-inspired and not-yet-designed white dress for Yianna, that awakens memories of Croatia 2016. I don’t really see any potential to appeal outside the Greek diaspora and the hardcore ESC fans, that also supported Finland 2017, or Estonia 2016, to name a few examples of songs that failed due to their inability to connect to larger audiences.
    Still, given that televoting alone could easily provide 50-60 points for Greece, it probably remains a good bet for qualification provided that the juries will not “kill” it, but I would be very cautious about the real potential of the song before the May rehearsals.

    • Hey Thorn,

      It’s why I have Greece currently ranked this way:
      GREEN ) Greece (6TH – 8TH)

      It will qualify, thanks to a more stylish, higher quality song, and a stage director who has more leverage to make something nice from this (Evangelinos). Personally, I really like this more folk-oriented entry from the Greek. But my personal taste doesn’t matter.

      Hence why I think that once in the grand final it will -sadly- struggle to place high in the TOP 10. Well, taken into account the diaspora for Greece -which to me is negligible- it could do slightly better.

      On the whole, I’m quite flabbergasted how the TOP 12 at the bookies are rated at the moment. If one did some proper research, then some of the heavy hitters in the bookies should be placed lower, and some lower placed entries higher. Then again, as we say in The Netherlands, it’s ‘komkommer tijd’ :-). All songs are released but only today the real ‘rehearsals’ start with the fan parties. Until then the bookies reflect a bit what fans think.

      Current odds on Oddschecker:
      01. ISRAEL:
      (probably about right, but the odds are excessively short, because of some fan favouritism? Great performer, but still “2-songs-in-1”)

      02. ESTONIA:
      (from the info we have, this should be lower, around 6th to 11th. Bit fan-favouritism sneeking in the odds here, but vocally superb. Prepare to lay?)

      (probably about right)

      04. BELGIUM:
      (from the info we have, this should be lower, around 7th to 12th. Bit fan-favouritism sneeking in the odds here. Prepare to lay?)

      05. BULGARIA (from the info we have, this should be lower, around 6th to 10th. Bit fan-favouritism sneeking in the odds here, and overreacted promo-campaign. Prepare to lay?)

      06. AUSTRALIA:
      (from the info we have, this should be higher, around 1st to 3rd. Bit of “Ozzie Angst” slipping into theese odds”. There is this mild ‘what the hell are you doing at Eurovision’ anger reflected in the odds? Prepare to back a bit more?)

      07. SWEDEN:
      (from the info we have, this should be higher, around 1st to 5th. Bit of “Tired of, ughh, Sweden”-mood taking the better of this nation. Fans getting bit annoyed by this plastic, yet effective machine? Prepare to back a bit?)

      08. NORWAY:
      (probably about right)

      09. FRANCE:
      (probably about right, 2 places up. But this is a fan favourite that could actually translate in a good result as per current odds)

      10. GREECE:
      (probably about right Thorn. From the info we have, this could be bit lower, around 11th to 13th. Bit fan-favouritism sneeking in the odds here. Prepare to lay?

      (from the info we have, this should be higher, around 2nd to 6th. Bit of “fear of the unsuccesful rock genre at Eurovision”-fear slipping into this nation. Fans dislike it, yet it could energize a populist base a la Lordi. Plus it was released shortly before a string of heavy-hitters, like Belgium, Norway, Sweden, Israel, thus people ‘forgot’ about it. Prepare to back a bit more?)

      12. SPAIN:
      (from the info we have, this should be higher, around 6th to 10th. Personally I hate it, but I can see the appeal of this “Glee”-like performance. I have to agree with Gavster a bit. Prepare to back a bit more?)

      • Commenting on Gert’s post (maybe because I’m too unoriginal and slothful to initiate my own post atm).

        1 Are Israel’s odds “about right” (I agree) or “excessively short”? Little slip there as they can’t be both.
        2,3,4 Agree. But Czech maybe over-rated as it’s a bit thin.
        5 Bulgaria – Song, while having some quality, has problems regarding what does well at ESC and we have no idea of the final production. The fact that they couldn’t even get a video together yet is a red flag. Price receiving strategic publicity investing, along with the odd internet pro-comment imo which are supposedly from the public.
        6 Australia was a fairly “big hitter” on entry to ESC, more so with Danny Im’s stand out vocals, but last year got just 2 points from the public. This year’s song is a – “this is weak and unoriginal but it’s what ESC likes (15 years ago) so we’ll enter it, divarish dance stuff particularly being liked by the fanboys”. The public will see through it.
        7 Sweden do well from their block vote but never do that well when they send bland.
        Traders thinking both this and Aus will get a good SF result as they are both in a weak semi and also have great slots in that semi. Therefore prices not representing fundamental value imo (short term value I don’t know).
        8 Norway – Was keen in the 100s, not now.
        9, 10 France, Greece – As so many at shorter odds are over–rated then some at higher odds are going to surge from the pack, as always happens, and it could be these.
        11 Netherlands – I don’t really know. I thought it was too short recently. One to wait and see.
        12 Spain – Is the hate of this just from the fanboys and because it’s what EV would call “heteronormative”? No offence should be taken, I think it’s a valid point to raise, even if I may be wrong.

      • Hey Gert,

        Some really good points there about the odds.

        I do agree that Estonia and Belgium are overrated, because they appeal more to either the public (the former) or to the juries (the latter), so I would expect them in lower top-10 positions.
        Australia and Sweden are fine mainstream pop, will appeal to both juries and public and will probably be well staged, so I agree that they are a little underrated. They just receive all the ‘enough-with-the-mainstream-stuff’ negativity from a portion of the fans.
        Israel and Norway are just about right, pure fun stuff that will go down well with the large audience and decently with the juries. Maybe Israel’s price is indeed a little too short and hype driven.
        Czech Rep seems to do extremely well with fans, but I do find their price too short and risky atm. Still, they do deserve a place in top 10.
        Finally, Bulgaria is actually building some hype themselves and can go either way, depending on staging.

        So, top-8 is more or less right for me, but I don’t get the rest tbh. I always find Greece and Spain to be overrated, because of the large ESC fanbases in both countries. I expect both to underperform, especially in terms of staging. Odds for France and Netherlands are more driven by the publicity around the song and the singer respectively and I need to see the staging to get to firmer conclusions.

        One final comment about the Greek entry is that actually the staging will not be done by Evangelinos, but by a lady called Chali Jennings -an American living in Greece- that has no experience at ESC and is mostly directing dance pop performances. I have very mixed feelings about what to expect from her and, although they insist that they will keep it simple, I’m afraid that the final product will not meet the expectations.

        Sorry for the long post and nice to meet everyone around here. I read the blog for a couple of years now, but it just felt now like a good time to drop a comment.

      • Gert great analysis!

        I agree that Israel and Czech have fast fluent songs which sounds good in the studio…. But its ALOT harder to translate to live stage…

        I also do not agree with betting markets’ rankings – how did they come up with this?

      • I agree with all of that Gert. Its more or less what I have thought looking at the odds.

    • Very true but even with only that support its still a certain qualifier, it may affect Greece’s performance in the final though.

      • Exactly, hence I said this for semi final #1 :-):
        GREEN ) Greece (6TH – 8TH)

        I was expanding a bit heavily on the current TOP 12 betting odds (TOP 10 Grand Final) on Oddschecker.

  12. So, this is my current predictions for SF1 (with the assumption that Bulgaria will get the staging right and Greece will do a hit-and-miss…)

    Azerbaijan – AMBER (9th-13th)
    Iceland – RED (15th-19th)
    Albania – RED (12th-16th)
    Belgium – GREEN (5th-9th)
    Czech Rep – GREEN (3rd-7th)
    Lithuania – AMBER (7th-11th)
    Israel – GREEN (1st-5th)
    Belarus – RED (13th-17th)
    Estonia – GREEN (2nd-6th)
    Bulgaria – GREEN (1st-5th)
    FYROM – RED (15th-19th)
    Croatia – RED (11th-15th)
    Austria – GREEN (3rd-7th)
    Greece – AMBER (7th-11th)
    Finland – AMBER (9th-13th)
    Armenia – GREEN (4th-8th)
    Switzerland – AMBER (9th-13th)
    Ireland – RED (12th-16th)
    Cyprus – GREEN (6th-10th)

    • If Greece made it with This is love last year, theres no way they could finish out of the top ten with a much more interesting and widely loved song this year. Saw the comments above but any staging misteps will affect the result in the final, I think when it comes to qualification its a green for Greece.

      • Well, actually Greece just scraped in last year, taking the 10th place, probably thanks to the juries being rather kind to Demy. Televoting was a disaster with 42/54 points given by 4 friendly countries -the same number of allies that they have this year in the semi- with a song that actually was more easily accessible to the larger audience. In that sense, I regard that Greece’s televoting potential has diminished in the last few years and imo is the complete lack of interest and promotion from the national broadcaster to blame for.
        This year’s song is definitely better produced and the ethno-sound has been usually well accepted within the ESC community. But, given the fact that the song actually lacks any real hook or interesting moments, I feel that if the staging is too dark/static/esoteric it will not connect to the televoters and can easily be forgotten in a strong semi like this one, so it remains to the juries to decide its fate.
        Sure, if the staging is right it will definitely sail through and become a top-10 contender, but I’m not convinced yet and I will keep it amber until the rehearsals start.

        • *just a small self-correction there:
          it was 42/61 jury points that were given from friendly countries (Cyprus, Albania, Armenia, Montenegro) and that rather explains the generosity. It was actually 27/54 televoting points given from the same countries and a few possibly diaspora-enhanced points from UK, Australia, Belgium, Georgia. That follows the trend of the last 3 years and probably indicates that Greece’s current pure televoting power is even thinner than I initially thought…

  13. Gav, there’s not a lot to disagree with in your analysis. I would have fewer reds and more ambers. At this stage I would add FYRoM, Finland, and Croatia to the ambers. It all depends on what they turn up with staging-wise in Lisbon. I see Semi 1 as being overloaded with jury friendly songs and it is those songs that will be relying heavily on the jury vote that are going to be in most danger.

    Some general observations – Azerbaijan and Cyprus have similar types of song. The draw favours Cyprus and Azerbaijan could lose out. I’m ready to be disappointed by Greece when we see it live. I think Switzerland could come about 5 or 6 with the juries, but then fail to qualify because of lack of televote support. Estonia is a televote song but I don’t think juries will shun it completely. That said there are plenty of alternatives for the jurors and this (and Toy winning the televote) could pull Estonia’s semi-finishing place down. While Finland has all the hallmarks of this year’s surprise fan-favourite flop, I think it is too early to write it off entirely.

    PS – I loved the cursory NQ comment on Iceland in your table.

    • Eurovisiontales

      I am not recalling any year that Greece dissapointed with the staging. Literally. They even bettered the dreadful One last breath and they made a decent stage show with the awful Utopian Land.
      Greece, Ukraine and Sweden are the best stagers in Eurovision.

      • Probably you don’t remember the early 2000s…
        Since 2004 practically all Greek entries have been directed by just 3 different people: Fokas Evangelinos (2004, 2005, 2009, 2017), Maria Lyraraki (2007, 2008, 2013, 2015, 2016) and Konstantinos Rigos (2011, 2012).
        This year, the lack of money and interest eventually led to a new stage director that has no experience or links with the contest whatsoever.

        • Didn’t the record company have to stump up money this year? I had the impression this year there was some financial interest in the song. They’ve got a strong enough song for it to be worthwhile. Should do better than most of the fanwanks too.

          • Yes, the record company had to sign a contract with the national broadcaster that they will pay for all the expenses, including air tickets and hotel stay. They don’t seem to invest a lot of money though and Yianna herself said that they are still looking for sponsors. Therefore they are not doing much promotion so far and the staging will probably be very simple – still could be effective though, it remains to be seen.
            Actually, Greek interest in the contest overall is in the lowest point since the early 2000s.

      • Eurovisiontales – I was thinking more about the live vocal and Yianna’s stage presence rather than the staging.

        Given the history of this year’s Greek entry – with the Eurovision ticket being given to the only entry prepared to stump up the cash – Oniro Mou has not been subjected to the testing normally undergone by entries that have had to come through national finals or even a proper internal selection process.

        Oniro Mou is a relatively decent song by recent Greek standards, but is there any evidence out there that Yianna can deliver live?

        • Eurovisiontales

          Yiannas live vocals are okay. Oneiro mou isnt that hard to sing for a greek speaker anyway.
          About the staging, Aris Kalimeris ( composer ) said that Chali ( the choreographer ) has come up with something beautiful that they cant wait to see on stage so @Thorn I think you will be surprised by her. The team behind Yianna are all professionals ( most worked for the biggest greek label of all time, called Heaven ) so I wouldnt worry. Even if they dont have eurovision experience they certainly know what is good and what isnt. I have faith, I think we will see something good.

        • Yianna is a decent vocalist and she has a good team of backing vocalists, so I don’t expect major mishaps there. Of course they will lose some of the studio-created vocal effects that cannot be recreated live, but I don’t think that this would be a big problem.

          @eurovisiontales Of course they are all professionals – I never suggested the contrary. But it’s different to make a live dance show or a video clip and directing the staging of a song for a television show. This team is lacking the expertise on that matter and ERT doesn’t really provide any know-how because they’re barely involved. Of course they can come up with something that looks good and does justice to the song, but I decide to stay on the skeptical side because what I’ve heard so far is not encouraging enough.

  14. Great Analysis Gav. I would only change Ireland and Switzerland [Amber To Red] since there songs have about the same voting strength as their entries in the last couple of year, and those didn’t fare well at all.

  15. Azerbaijan definitely an amber after that moscow performance

  16. OMG, that felt like a very long and painful 3 minutes…
    Azerbaijan is actually moving to red territory, except if Fokas pulls a rabbit out of the hat in terms of staging and manages to make it likeable enough for the public to save it.

    • In fairness, the acoustics and sound levels are dreadful. Plus, it’s such a big stage with nothing going on. Lots can change once on the ESC stage and at least we know she has a decent vocal.

      • Indeed I expect a better vocal delivery come May, but she completely lacks stage charisma and I can’t see that changing a lot…
        It could be that she might feel quite uncomfortable with performing the song, so they need to find a way to make everything look more voteable, because in current form I can really see this suffering in both votes.

      • I’m sorry, but she lacks rhytmn in her vocals. As if she can not keep up with the rhytmn of the song. And many times she’s simply not singing in tune.

        • Agree Gert,her timing is shocking.She is getting thrown off by the melody.Look at that crowd though.Iv seen more life in my garden pond in December.Have the government forced them to be there or something?.They need to get half a dozen pints of lager into them, they look like cardboard cutouts.Then again they did have to watch Russia.The only thing going for Russia is its a great advert to western millennial snowflakes what happens when the country is ran from the Poliburo.

      • Eurovisiontales

        You just can tell Aisel wasnt meant for this kind of track. Couldnt Azerbaijan give her a jazz song with ethnic elements? That would have been her thing.
        After Demy, Kontopoulos destroyed Aisel too. #dreamteamlol

  17. Why is it that pundits and fans always get fearful for those extremely slow-tempo, purist, well-executed songs? That are actually good songs? If The Common Linnets and ‘Rock ‘n Roll Kids’ can do it, why not this guy and his two backings?

    I was wrong about Ireland, and given its slot (as compared to Lithuania and Belgium), I think this really could go through:

    • It’s a lovely song and performance Gert, but the problem is that it is rather too anonymous to stand out in a quick paced show and make the audience connect with it at the first listen.
      Belgium is playing the ‘contemporary and sophisticated’ card, that always works well the juries, and Lithuania is sugary and charming enough to get some viewers moved, so I expect both to finish higher.

    • Call me crazy, but I got a cheeky bet on the top 10 @41 (average). There’s a lot of potential to extract for this.

      Don’t trust them on staging, but with these odds I thought it was worth a small bet, for bigger bets I just wait for the rehearsals. If they stage it well it’s so sweet and a breath of fresh air, since I have no worries about it vocally it will surely work with juries and maybe even with the public (with a late draw). Lots of ifs, but for this odd I’m willing to take the risk.

      • This one looking very good now. Second half draw among only up-tempo songs, so hopefuly from slot 25 and it can happen 🙂

        Fingers crossed for some fake news about Russia not broadcasting it lol

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