The general feeling from last night’s jury rehearsal was that everyone upped their game which makes semi-final 2 even trickier to sort when it comes to the 7th-13th range, especially considering the imbalanced nature of this semi, combined with the overall increase in quality, there will surely be some more shocks!
There are two standout performances tonight from Sweden and The Netherlands, both have developed their staging concepts over the last two weeks and both look like worthy winners. Sweden really sells its uplifting gospel song with every camera angle being planned to deliver maximum connection – it truly is a textbook 3-minute staging triumph. The market may have become rather complacent about Sweden following the poor televoting scores from Bengtsson and Ingrosso – John Lundvik’s performance feels very different.
Duncan Laurence has done extremely well to keep his head over the last 10-days or so while his team have desperately tried to sort out the staging concept. It is these tiny margins that can cost a nation so dearly, especially when the final running order is influenced by a nation’s finishing position in the semi-final. Some slack would have been cut with semi-2 being the much stronger semi; however, if The Netherlands are to justify their short price, they have to come out of semi-2 with a win or 2nd.
If the juries are judging visual impact, vocals and the quality of songs, Sweden and The Netherlands should be top tonight.
Russia ticks the vocal and visual impact jury boxes too and there are also lots of hard points for Sergey and the team behind him, namely Kirkorov who is huge in Europe. Scream has always been the weak link and the pre-rehearsal feeling was that they could overcome it with a dramatic light conquering darkness stage show. Unfortunately for Sergey, the stage prop doesn’t elevate the performance enough. It would take an almighty shock to see Russia lifting the trophy on Saturday night. In this semi Russia are aiming for 3rd.
Further down the order it gets a bit tricker as either the vocal quality or voteability drops off. For now these are the more certain of my qualifiers:
- The Netherlands
Getting the pimp slot will help Chingiz immensely. The performance is rather dark in places, but the rapture moment during the middle-eight is a vote clincher and will result in Azerbaijan qualifying on merit rather than… well, y’know.
Malta have invested heavily in Chameleon from the targeted YouTube advertising through to the projection concept and expensive graphics. Their staging concept has been overhauled three times now, despite it being perfectly fine to my eyes. Even so, when Malta are trying this hard it usually means they’re working hard in other areas too. Despite Michela’s tuning issues, I expect this to do quite well. It’s a catchy Spotify-friendly song which should get plenty of downloads after the show.
The same could be said for Switzerland in terms of downloads. Luca also suffers tuning issues, which in my opinion counts against his song challenging for the higher positions. As does the slightly sterile Swedish stage production. Unlike several other nations, the Swiss delegation will be playing Eurovision with a straight bat, so Luca will need to hope that Michela’s catchier and more visually striking production doesn’t divert too many votes away from later in the running order. The same applies with Azerbaijan.
At this point I’ll take out some countries I believe are not qualifying: Armenia, Ireland, Moldova, Latvia and Croatia…
Since the first rehearsal I’ve found Armenia too aggressive for televoters and I believe there’s enough competition for jury votes to make the televote deficit more decisive. Sevak was 14th with the televote and juries last year from a better slot in the running order, albeit with an own language song. Even so, he delivered a similarly angry performance and was punished for it. Moreover, most female songs after Armenia seem to be nicer and more accessible. Even Moldova creates a talking point and I bet most of the audience wont remember Ukraine’s sand artist from 2011. Moldova have been fairly reliable qualifiers over the years apart from a dip in years 2014-2016 which is when the scoring changed. I have them just missing out on my 10, but I would not be surprised if they were a shock envelope.
Ireland is too amateurish in presentation and 22 is too lightweight in comparison to the songs competing against it. Latvia is way too forgettable and any jury love is likely to be undone by a snoozing televote. Croatia is way too kitschy to appeal to jurors. Back in 2017, Jacques Houdek finished 13th in the semi with the juries, yet qualified thanks to the 5th-place ranking from the folks at home. The Dream doesn’t have the same lovability as My Friend, so it will be difficult for the televote to undo what is expected to be a poor jury score. Plus he screams for 3-minutes. Maybe Roko and Srbuk should perform a duet?
This leaves Romania, Denmark, Austria, Lithuania, Albania, Norway and North Macedonia fighting over four qualification spots…
Romania, while better and more interesting than Armenia, may be an equally tough sell for the televote. Once again there are great jury-friendly songs occupying the upper range of the vote and On a Sunday isn’t the sort of Yodel-It song to win over neutrals. I like the song a lot and it’s one of several songs fighting for 10th in my head.
Denmark is bland, though Leonora did give a stronger jury rehearsal and Love is Forever is a song the juries enjoy to a certain extent, but as the semi progresses it becomes so insignificant. If Denmark falls, it makes it easier for one of Moldova or Romania from the first half. That, or Austria who need to get into the jury top-5, which would be deserved based on Pænda’s emotion-packed rehearsals to date. It wasn’t quite as on point with the juries last night, but to stand a chance she really needs a Gunčíková-type result: 4th-5th with the juries and 10th-13th on the televote.
Lithuania can’t be totally written off either given they’ve only failed to qualify with batshit crazy songs. Run with the Lions is a well performed radio friendly song with excellent camera connection and 3/1+ is huge given there are lesser songs at shorter odds. Jurij is the Victor Crone of this semi-final and boasts many more allies, though I concede he faces stiffer competition.
Jonida does give a strong vocal performance for Albania, yet the staging is bland and the song forgettable for most voters. Having said that, they do have a lot of friends and trading partners to support them, but they are not traditionally strong qualifiers. Eugent Bushpepa only qualified because of the juries last year and previously Elhaida Dani needed english lyrics to win over the televote.
Last year Saara Aalto scraped into the final with a similar sounding song to Norway, albeit without the joik. It was trashy as hell and the juries ranked her 15th. It needed the televote to rescue her, yet they only placed her 7th. Keiino don’t have the deranged ‘vote for me, vote for me’ desperation of Saara, so the juries could be more favourable, especially considering their superior vocal delivery.
Lastly we have North Macedonia chasing their first qualification since Kaliopi in 2012. On vocal quality alone, this should be top-3 with the juries just like Eugent Bushpepa in semi 1 last year. Tamara also draws some attention away from Albania… oh and did I mention Armenia earlier on? The televote won’t be huge, but it should be sufficient to qualify in 9th-10th like Kaliopi.
So my 10 qualification picks are:
- North Macedonia
- The Netherlands
I could have easily have gone with three from the first half and seven from the second, but the chances of that happening are slim. I’ve reluctantly chucked in Romania because the staging at least has a concept, impact and some sex appeal. My book is fairly balanced to account for any shocks.