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Eurovision 2018: Semi-Final 2 Preview

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.

Making it:

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.

Missing out:

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.

We’ll have our semi-final 2 preview podcast published after Eurovision in Concert. Make sure you 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. We’re big cheerleaders for Denmark, semi 2 is a mish-mash of some pretty poor tracks and Denmark in our opinion has rightly become a bit of a fan favourite, the song is cheese of a different kind in Eurovision.

    Amber is fair, but red, no way. It’s at a disadvantage sandwiched between the big hitters in the first half of the semi but we’re holding out for qualification in 9th or 10th place.

  2. SF2 might be the weaker one, but it feels more difficult to predict for a few reasons.
    -I expect larger disagreements between the jury and the public vote that may shake up the things a bit more.
    -the song from Hungary is such an outlier of an ESC entry, that makes it almost impossible to assess its chances. I find Finland 2008 as the closest ever comparison, so I keep it green for the moment.
    -the amount of hate from Russian fans that Julia’s song is receiving makes me question their qualification chances for the first time ever.
    -Finally, I’m disappointed to read that Denmark is keeping the same dark and unvoteable staging concept, so I downgraded them a couple of places, but I’m not totally disregarding them yet

    Norway – GREEN (3rd-7th)
    Romania – AMBER (7th-11th)
    Serbia – RED (11th-15th)
    San Marino – RED (14th-18th)
    Denmark – AMBER (8th-12th)
    Russia – AMBER (7th-11th)
    Moldova – AMBER (9th-13th)
    Netherlands – GREEN (4th-8th)
    Australia – GREEN (1st-5th)
    Georgia – RED (14th-18th)
    Poland – GREEN (3rd-7th)
    Malta – RED (12th-16th)
    Hungary – GREEN ???
    Latvia – AMBER (8th-12th)
    Sweden – GREEN (1st-5th)
    Montenegro – AMBER (8th-12th)
    Slovenia – RED (14th-18th)
    Ukraine – GREEN (1st-5th)

  3. Whereas Semi 1 has a higher share of jury friendly songs, Semi 2 has a majority of entries that are competing for the public vote and/or are relying on diaspora support.

    As with Semi 1, Gav, I don’t disagree too much with your analysis. From the first half it is pretty obvious that Australia, The Netherlands and Norway will qualify. For the likely remaining two qualifiers – apart from no-hoper San Marino – it’s anyone’s guess.

    From the second half of the semi Sweden, Ukraine and Poland are almost certain to go through, with everyone else in with a chance apart from Georgia.

    I imagine the remaining four qualifiers will be decided on factors such as staging, diaspora motivation and brown envelopes more than song quality, so they are very difficult to predict at this stage.

    I have a sneaking fancy that Australia will win this semi as I believe the song has been cleverly designed to come alive on the Eurovision stage.

  4. Norway – GREEN
    Romania – AMBER
    Serbia – AMBER
    San Marino – RED
    Denmark – RED
    Russia – GREEN
    Moldova – GREEN
    The Netherlands – GREEN
    Australia – GREEN
    Georgia – RED
    Poland – GREEN
    Malta – AMBER
    Hungary – AMBER
    Latvia – AMBER
    Sweden – GREEN
    Montenegro – AMBER
    Slovenia – RED
    Ukraine – GREEN

  5. I think I would give the nod to Montenegro here. It’s the most honest/credible/ethnic entry the juries will more likely go for in that huge mid-table. 4 odd at Bwin and Unibet here seems more than decent, maybe I can get €7,50 on it if i’m lucky 🙂

  6. Can’t wait for Finland to flop!!!

  7. Denmark will qualify. Its distinctive enough
    If Romania ever stays in the semi, this is the year. Indifferent track, bad slot.
    Mamma Russia wont stay in the semi no matter how bad the performance is, we know it.
    My prediction:

    The Netherlands

    2 spots left… I think Serbia, Moldova and Latvia stand a better chance than Romania.

    • You already have five qualifying from the first half though, and are giving chances to 2-3 more. I have 5 qualifying from there right now. Don’t see 6-7 making it.

  8. Catriona Colville

    Usually Gavin gets a couple of songs badly wrong, usually based on bias against the song. Denmark will likely be one of those. Sorry Gavin, but I think you are way off base here. Distinctive, powerful and catchy song with a great spot in the running order. I expect this to come top 3 in this semi.

    Glad you did the 180 on Norway though. Potential for a lot of angry fans on Saturday night!

  9. Poor Julia, that vocals were hideous… I can actually see this being bottom 3 in the jury vote.

    Moldova looked tacky as always and I do think that they need a better staging approach to increase their qualification chances.

  10. Prediction Outcome Semi Final #2:
    (in order of qualification chances, behind brackets possible placing. After watching some new live-performances. so slightly changed as per my list from early this week)

    GREEN ) Australia (1ST – 2ND)
    GREEN ) Sweden (1ST – 2ND)
    GREEN ) The Netherlands (2ND – 3RD)
    GREEN ) Norway (2ND – 4TH)
    GREEN ) Ukraine (4TH – 6TH)
    GREEN ) Poland (5TH – 7TH)
    GREEN ) Moldova (5TH – 8TH)
    GREEN ) Hungary (6TH – 9TH)
    AMBER ) Georgia (8TH – 10TH)
    AMBER ) Latvia (9TH – 11TH)
    AMBER ) Denmark (9TH – 11TH)
    AMBER ) Russia (9TH – 12TH)
    AMBER ) Romania (10TH – 13TH)
    RED ) Serbia (12TH – 15TH)
    RED ) Slovenia (14TH – 16TH)
    RED ) Montenegro (14TH – 17TH)
    RED ) San Marino (17TH – 18TH)
    RED ) Malta (17TH – 18TH)

  11. Norway – Green
    Romania – Amber
    Serbia – Red
    San Marino – Red
    Denmark – Amber
    Russia – Amber
    Moldova – Amber
    Netherlands – Green
    Australia – Green
    Georgia – Red
    Poland – Green
    Malta – Red
    Hungary – Amber
    Latvia – Amber
    Sweden – Green
    Montenegro – Red
    Slovenia – Amber
    Ukraine – Green

  12. Denmark is a tricky one. It had a somewhat broad MOR appeal and the vocals are capable if unexciting. It looks polished in a slightly unexciting way (there’s a pattern here) but it all plods along at one level.

    If it was in the second half I would give it more of a chance, but the danes failed a few years ago with the bland Soldiers of Love and this being in the first half mix I think its in the dangerous 5th -6th spot of that bunch.

    Their position has slightly improved after Julia’s vocal meltdown in Moscow.

  13. To me the whole block ROMANIA-SERBIA-SAN MARINO-DENMARK-RUSSIA has become so utterly “Mehhhhh” now. Serbia and Romania both have this first 1min problem, in which nothing happens and people fall asleep. Denmark to me has a problem, in that the song sounds so depressing. Like a slower Sweden 2000-version. And yes, comparing this with an entry from 2000 is not helpful. Russia will not qualify either. Julia simply put isn’t a good singer. And I have a feeling that she will be (ab)used for propaganda purposes. So if Russia doesn’t qualify, the Kremlin can say: “Look, ‘The West’ isn’t so liberal and friendly towards people with disabilities”. Yeah right, it’s merely a matter of having a dreadful song. Actually, within this block San Marino strikes me the most…..how weird that may sound.

    So then Moldova comes, which is a better song and more uplifting. And then the heavy-Hitters Netherlands and Australia. I saw Jessica’s performance with Isaiah here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-T48AbKX5yY . And she will rocj the house with her vocals. Also, Waylon will stand out with terrific vocals. I think Australia and Netherlands could strengthen each other and could fight for the victory in this semi. With Norway and Sweden battling for another great TOP 4 spot.

    • Top 3 for semi 2 is an interesting one. Some say that Moldova will have to fight to qualify, but I think coming after some dreary entries they will be a dash of fun. They’ll vie for the podium. Ukraine have a chance there too.

      Sweden seem too subdued to win the semi so Australia’s crowd pleaser seems more likely. Then again, we’ve got Ryback… I’m inclined to say something like





      Slovenia and Latvia are well drawn but they just dont strike me as televote or jury vote magnets.

  14. Darlings, I have picked up a rumor that Polina Gagarina could be Russia’s back vocalist. This would not all of the sudden make the song anything special but would enhance chances of qualification.

  15. It’s really hard to pick 5 songs that deserve to qualify from this second half. This semi is really going to test that rule. As is the first, but then I can make a case for any of the 19 to qualify there!

  16. I would love to know how highly people rate Norway’s chances of winning this semi from slot 1. I can see this storming the televote (extremely catchy & fun song, novelty of being 1500th eurovision song, recognisable face etc.), but I have my reservations with the jury vote and obviously he is drawn first. He did a lot better than I thought he would with the juries at MGP so maybe he could do surprisingly well with the eurovision juries. I do see several entries that could be ranked higher than him with juries though (Sweden, Australia, Netherlands).

    Norway are currently 7.2 to win semi final 2 on Betfair Exchange, only Australia and Sweden above them (both of which I see Norway easily beating in the televote).

    • Shouldn’t “extremely catchy” correlate with solid charting positions in Norway?

      ‘That’s How You Write A Song’ entered the norwegian single charts on #28 – a week later he was on #36. I don’t know about Carl Espen (because I can only see the top 20 for earlier years), but JOWST, Agnete, Mørland & Debrah Scarlett, Margaret Berger, Tooji, Stella Mwangi and Didrik Solli-Tangen all charted better (some of them a lot) than Alexander this year. Fairytale on the other hand was #1 for 9 weeks in a row in Norway.

      On spotify ‘That’s How You Write A Song’ fell out of the Top 200 of Norway within a month. I don’t have numbers for previous years, but you can compare it with JOWST:

      Alexander Rybak – That’s How You Write A Song
      11.03.2018 9. 60.459
      12.03.2018 16. 53.860
      13.03.2018 26. 46.019
      14.03.2018 30. 41.399

      JOWST – Grab The Moment
      12.03.2017 5. 116.881
      13.03.2017 9. 97.682
      14.03.2017 10. 89.561
      15.03.2017 12. 82.565

      Some people are saying this is going to be the ‘Hey Mamma’ of 2018. Maybe they are right. But those numbers don’t give this impression – ‘Hey Mamma’ last year was the 2nd most successful song on spotify just behind ‘City Lights’ within the first days of the contest.

      MGP this year basically only had 2 Eurovision-ready performances. Him and Rebecca. What did you expect the juryvote to be like? Its hard to get a lot of information out of the jury votes if we do not know how most of the other juries thought about Rybak. Maybe a lot of the others had him 2nd, maybe the votes were all over the place. We don’t even know if Rybak won the juryvoting by points. Oscar Zia 2016 had the most jurypoints while only winning 1 out of 11 jury votings.
      What we do know is that the UK jury placed Rybak last (with William Lee Adams in the jury, but also 3 song writers) and 1 person of the french jury said that he does not think the winning song is a strong song. I do think similar didived opinions among juries could happen at ESC which would make it a lot harder for him to get a strong result.

      Not trying to discourage anyone, but those things would be my red flags for the norwegian entry. Being Rybak maybe other rules apply for him 😉

      • I totally understand where you are coming from regarding streaming figures, however I believe that THYWAS comes alive on stage – the performance makes it. The song itself is probably not on top of most peoples to-download list, but the whole performance package is what is most important it regards to Eurovision.

        I definitely think the whole “Rybak Effect” is a massive bonus for Norway this year; anyone else performing this song may have struggled to win the nf imo. Alexander however won by a landslide in the televote, and topped the jury. He definitely knows how to sell the song on stage!

        It’s definitely a divisive entry, but I think more people are going to love it than hate it come the final. Streaming numbers aren’t the be all and end all, if I remember correctly Kristian didn’t do too great in the streaming figures last year but that didn’t exactly do any damage to his final result.

        The overall impression that the performance leaves on the Saturday night is the most important thing.

      • Hi meridian_child…

        Where did you find out the spotify streaming numbers?

        ESC Tracker hasnt been updated this year so its hard to find Spotify and iTunes numbers…

        I think Rybak will do well. He’s got the teen female segment cornered, and his song AND stage show are spot-on… He’ll be tough to beat and could even take out the whole event!

      • He is a charming guy and knows how to sell the song. It is also not the strongest semi, so I guess anything is possible.

        But two more things:
        1) You claim he topped the juryvote. We don’t know that. We only know he topped most of the juryvotes. Yet, 4/10 is not the most convincing rate.
        2) “Landsliding” the televote is a matter of definition. In the round with 4 songs the percentage of votes does look strong because Aleksander Wallmann only received 3,7% of votes. Take Wallmann out and Rybak has 63,7% of the votes in a final with 3 songs. Voting numbers like these do happen quite often and are absolutely no guarantee for success in ESC.
        Take Anja Nissen in DMG 2017 for example. She received 64% of the votes in a superfinal of 3 songs. Her ESC performance stayed mostly the same where she totally flopped getting only 5 televoting points in her semi-final.
        I would say his voting numbers were solid, but nowhere near the voting numbers from 2009.

        you can look up daily spotify stats for 2017 until now on https://spotifycharts.com/regional

        • Thanks meridian!

        • We can definitely agree on your first point: if anyone can squeeze every last drop of potential out of this song, it is Alexander Rybak.

          In response to your very reasonable comments;
          1) I concede that I made an error when stating that he topped the jury vote, however whether he topped the overall jury vote or not is not really a main concern for me. This is a song that some people are claiming will flop with juries, however he topped the most JV’s in MPG and this is not be be overlooked. Yes, 4/10 isn’t fantastic, but this isn’t exactly the most obvious of jury-friendly songs and yet it still did really well with them. I don’t think a top 10 jury result in the final of ESC is beyond Norway, actually I think it is quite likely. He will likely get plenty of points based on recognition alone.

          2) He received 71% of the televote come the gold duel, the most important vote of the contest. 71% of the TV is a landslide in my opinion. I agree that this does not necessarily predict such success for him in Lisbon, but this is a massively televote-friendly entry and is one of the only entries this year that I feel potential TV winner vibes when watching the performance. It has all the ingredients to do really well in this side of the vote. Your Anja example is credible but Where I Am was no where near as TV friendly as THYWAS is. IMO she won a low quality DMGP because she was a familiar face with a stellar voice and voters may have realised in hindsight that she should have won the year before. I liked Where I Am but it did not have the potential of Never Alone.

          I absolutely do not think that Norway are almost guaranteed winners like they were back in 2009, and should they pull of the win in Lisbon it win not be anywhere near as emphatic as Fairytale. However, I do believe they are being vastly underrated by some and therefore there is a lot of value in backing Norway this year. At this current time of speaking, I see it as very unlikely that Norway will finish out of the top 5 in Lisbon.

          Obviously this is all my opinion and I am no where near as experienced in Eurovision as some people on here!

        • Someone not winning the juryvote should be a concern to you 😉
          Got any example of an act not winning the international juryvote at their national final and then totally overperforming at Eurovision?
          And I am not saying he cannot enter Top 10 with juries in the final. I only think it is too divisive to hit the heigher grounds.

          I was not trying to compare Anja with Alexander. I just wanted to point out that sometimes voting numbers can look impressive but don’t have to mean anything coming to the contest. I hope you had these thoughts about Anja before the contest last year. Her odds for Top 10 and Top 15 were extremely low.
          I think we can agree to disagree about the landslide topic. A winner having about 2,5 times the votes of the runner up in a direct duell isn’t that special imho. It could mean something, but it does not have to.

          One more question.. not only to you, but to everyone: It is very likely that we get a lot of fun/party/anthemic/uptempo songs in the final (Israel, Czech Rep., Norway, Sweden, Australia, Cyprus, Ukraine, Poland(?), Finland(?), Moldova(?)). The first 5 of those are even considered to have great chances to enter the top 5. Don’t you think it could hurt each others televote?

          “very unlikely that Norway will finish out of the top 5” sounds extremely confident, escpecially before rehearsals and without knowing the starting position.
          I personally think it is the other way around. In the winning market he is overrated. If there had never been a Fairytale in the contest, probably only a few would say this can win. I don’t think the average viewer will care about the 1500th song in the contest. Did they care about the 1000th song in 2006? And although he is one of the most famous winners in the last 15 years, probably 80% of the people who watched in 2009 have not heard the name Rybak since then.

          Btw.. if you are so sure about him being top 5, who are the other ones you see entering the top 5 right now?

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