The Betfair market has already found it’s 10 odds-on qualifiers, yet if that were always true there wouldn’t be any shocks.
On paper, semi-final 1 is rather weak and it’s these sorts of events that are more difficult to call. I’m struggling to find two songs I like, let alone 10 qualifiers!
The top-2 or 3 nations in this semi either have unconventional songs or are not deemed strong enough going into the final against the subsequent qualifiers from semi 2. Greece has its confusing stage show, and with Katerine’s heavy eye makeup, it lessens the connection with the TV audience. Australia bring a popera song, albeit with an excellent staging USP and narrative; however, the form for these songs is poor with Estonia 2018 and Sweden 2009 setting past markers. Estonia 2018 provided something for the juries yet finished 5th below Cesar Sampson in semi-1 along with the likes of Netta, Eleni and Mikolas. Semi-1 was stronger last year, but it shows the juries have form rating modern pop songs ahead of kitschy gimmicks.
The conventional modern songs in this semi would be: Belgium, Czech Republic and Greece. Then we have the traditional ballads from Serbia and Hungary to factor in; the former is very well support in this semi, as well as on the televote in Australia. We also have to factor in Iceland, which is divisive yet is artistically and musically relevant. Where does Australia rank among these in what is a fairly eastern-leaning semi? That Estonian song from last year, La Forza, only ranked 7th with the juries, so again where does Australia finish? As mentioned above, semi-1 is short on quality this year, so Australia could do better with the juries and earn a place on the podium. At this point I would have both Greece and Serbia ahead on the combined result.
Anyway, the first eight qualifiers in my book so far are:
- Czech Republic
This means we have two qualification slots remaining with Montenegro, Finland, Poland, Slovenia, Belarus, Georgia, Estonia, Portugal and San Marino fighting over the last envelopes. Finland and Montenegro are the obvious non-qualifiers here on quality and both are vying for last place. Georgia remain out of my 10 because even though I commend the vocal delivery, I find the performance too dark and crucially vote-demotivating. I continue to believe that Portugal is too weird to muster a high enough televote regardless of any limited jury love. And despite being the happy pill at the end of the show, I can’t imagine San Marino’s visual package being anywhere near strong enough to overcome Serhat’s vocal frailties.
We now have Slovenia, Belarus, Poland and Estonia remaining and it really is difficult when it comes to the lower end…
Slovenia’s Zala & Gašper are a tricky one to call. Sebi has a contemporary production that juries may support, but can they rank it high enough to counteract what is expected to be a much lower televote given the understated nature of the song and the less than ideal positioning in the running order?
Belarus has come a long way since the start of last week, though Like It isn’t the sort of song jurors typically support. Even so, Belarus does sit in that 9th-12th range which definitely puts them in contention. As are Poland despite their lack of natural voting allies. Last year Gromee & Lukas were just 30-points from qualification in the then weaker semi-final. It was arguably the juries that prevented them sneaking through. Will the juries prefer the ethnic vibes of Tulia and rank them high enough to qualify? I not sure they will which is why Poland are off my list even though I enjoyed the improved performance.
Last on the list is the mini-Måns from Estonia who is wedged between two of this year’s most alternative songs. Is he the island of sanity or the insignificant bland filling in a weird sandwich? Last night’s jury performance was messy but it wasn’t his worst to date. When compared to others in this semi-final, Storm is at least contemporary and radio friendly, and in this weaker semi-final, it could and should be enough to get him over the line. We are talking margins here, and when it comes to these countries, my book is green both sides.
So my final 10 are:
- Czech Republic
Just a note on Cyprus:
Tamta was a little ropey during last night’s jury rehearsal so could drift in-play tonight should the same vocal issues persist. They were only minor but it can be something that causes the to market overreact.