Semi-Final 2 might be lighter on talent compared to the first semi, but it’s just as hard to pick 10 qualifiers at this stage.
Not only will national commentators talk about Alexander Rybak’s record-breaking victory in 2009, but they will also highlight That’s How You Write A Song will be the 1,500th Eurovision performance. That’s one hell of an introduction to open the show! If Rybak improves on his national final performance he is capable of causing an upset in this semi and potentially the final too. Regular readers will know I’ve done a full 180 on my original pre-national final thoughts and now can’t totally rule Norway out. Obvious qualifier!
I started off writing about Romania being amber, but I had to promote it to the green list having looked at the stats again. This is a nation with a 100% qualification record. Their lowest semi ranking came in 2009 when the Balkan Girls finished 9th. Since then their lowest finish was 6th, which was just last year. So regardless of the coffin-slot, I still reckon Romania will muster enough support from friendly juries and the vast Romanian diaspora to qualify.
Netherlands only just makes my green list. I quite like the song, but I can also see many reasons why it might finish in the 8th-12th range. Even so, in the context of semi-final 2 Waylon should be making the final fairly comfortably, owing to his ability to perform for the cameras. I don’t see Netherlands as a contender for a high placing just yet.
Being given the first half pimp shows Björkman has confidence in Australia’s chances this year. We Got Love isn’t really a radio song; it tends to pass me by when it comes on in the car, but the video really sells it for me. This is a major contender, provided Jessica Mauboy sells the pants of this uplifting and positive song in Lisbon. If the London Eurovision Party is anything to go by, she’s more than capable of delivering another great result for Australia.
The vocals weren’t great at the Polish national final, but I expect a much slicker performance in Lisbon. Light Me Up is a slightly inferior version of Grab The Moment; however, in my opinion it’s more instant and should motivate Poland’s massive diaspora to vote this through to the final regardless of what the juries think.
Benjamin Ingrosso has the second half to himself; nothing else can touch Sweden from this part of the show. If the staging and camerawork remains in national final form, I would still expect Benjamin to be beaten. This year’s phrase of choice is ’emotional trigger’ and it’s the one thing missing from Dance You Off. It’s a very clever and slick performance, but it lacks heart for me which is where the gusto of Rybak and Mauboy could be decisive.
Ukraine always looked like a qualifier, the pimp slot just made certain. Mèlovin’s young Bond villain looks may put some western voters off, but the performance is energetic and memorable.
On the maybe list:
Sanja Ilić & Balkanika isn’t particularly jury friendly, though their vast diaspora might be motivated enough to support it. The ethno elements are the best bits, but the quality quickly erodes when the plastic dance beat kicks in for the waling. If Serbia sneaks in, it will probably be at the cost of Moldova or possibly the mighty Russia if Yulia isn’t given the required vocal cover.
On the subject of Russia, this should be their biggest test since 2011 when Alexey Vorobyov qualified in 9th, just 10-points clear of an embarrassing early flight home. That year they received 12-points from Armenia and a flood of low points from former Soviet allies and other nations. This year they will need to rely on Russian diaspora in surrounding nations. It’s difficult to know how this year’s broadcaster is playing things. What is their aim? Are they doing everything possible to achieve qualification? My guess is the broadcaster will have some ‘arrangements’ in place in the dwindling number of friendly nations.
Back in 2016, the juries of Georgia, Denmark, Netherlands, Germany, Norway, Australia, Ukraine, Italy, Poland, Slovenia and Hungary all gave Russia ‘nil-point’ in the final. Admittedly, their points were surprisingly much higher in the semi, but this suggests there is a deliberate or unconscious punishing of Russia. If Yulia performs a poorly as at some of her recent concerts, I can’t see the juries or televote being that sympathetic. The juries didn’t show Poland’s wheelchair-bound Monika Kuszyńska any sympathy in 2015 when they ranked her second from bottom – and she could sing!
Moldova are gaining some traction for qualification now, despite being wooden and suffering dodgy diction. Nevertheless, it’s the sort of fun guilty pleasure song that could galvanise the televote and earn them qualification in this easier semi-final. It’s certainly more fun than Serbia, San Marino, Denmark and Russia which all perform before DoReDos. It reminds me of Milan Stanković’s Ovo je Balkan from 2010, though vastly inferior.
We last saw Malta in its worst guise at the national final complete with incoherent staging concept. It’s a shame because Christabelle is capable of performing Taboo so much better. If the incongruous staging remains for Lisbon, Malta will be on my red list, but if they keep things simple and maybe do some dealing, it would be hard to totally rule them out, though I acknowledge their chances are slim.
I have to keep returning to Latvia because I just don’t get the love for Funny Girl beyond the vocals and apparent class. The juries should recognise the effortless clarity of Laura’s voice, but the song just stays in third gear throughout with no build or variations in the arrangement. It’s nice, but it just doesn’t look or sound strong enough to be a surefire qualifier yet. The national final staging also enhanced it way beyond what I thought would be possible. That LED backdrop won’t be available in Lisbon. Even if Laura stumbles into the final, I reckon she will struggle to attract support from the televote. It’s also worth noting that Latvia are friendless in this semi and boast the worst qualification record since 2009.
Montenegro are on the maybe list because something has to qualify, even though it is one of the worst Balkan ballads of recent memory. Montenegro have qualified twice and both of those were folk ballads, so they are appealing to their base. They benefit from a few regional allies, but Vanja will need to deliver a more dynamic stage perforformance to make the final.
San Marino is the most obvious non-qualifier. No need to expand on that. But perhaps the most contentious red is Denmark, which is another of this year’s fan favourites. The Danish Eurovision team has already stated the staging will remain the same, and given their current finances, I wouldn’t expect any bells and whistles to be added at last minute. Higher Ground was rejected from Melodifestivalen, so how can it be deemed worthy to compete at the sharp end of the Eurovision scoreboard? The main negative for Denmark is the dark staging, which is compounded by the generic, plodding arrangement and unvoteable performers. Denmark’s recent Eurovision form is poor to say the least. The song isn’t particularly jury friendly, and as for viewers who have watched the whole semi-final, what about Denmark’s performance will motivate them to pick up the phone? Even Moldova is more current.
Georgia just doesn’t happen for me. Klapa s Mora finished 13th in semi-final 1 back in 2013 with a similar sounding song. It’s also difficult to see it standing out between Australia and Poland. There is a chance both Georgia and Montenegro cancel each other out in the nice, folky ballad stakes.
I understand that rock fans will have a different opinion; however, I’m thinking along the lines of a typical Eurovision viewer and concluding that AWS won’t suit the semi-final demographic, or indeed the wider grand final viewership. Hungary has a fine qualification record, but this heavier ‘growl’ rock will test the limits of their support. 15th in the running order is the perfect time to get up and make a brew. AWS are making it easier for viewers to do just that! Ukraine struggled last year with their slightly more radio-friendly song, Time, yet even that had a heavy middle-eight and finished 24th in the final.
Slovenia’s Hvala, ne! fits that aggressive female pop format that always struggles to muster widespread support. Slovenia’s entry from 2013 suffered a similar fate, yet Straight Into Love is mild in comparison. Israel’s Mei Finegold also fell victim to this rule. Despite the running order slot, I can’t see a route to the final for Lea Sirk.
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