Watching… Eurovision Song Contest Semi Final 1

The 2017 Eurovision Song Contest kicked off with the first semi-final yesterday and we already have our first 10 qualifiers for Saturday’s grand final and they are (in the order in which they were announced):

  • Moldova – Sunstroke Project, Hey Mamma
  • Azerbaijan – Dihaj, Skeletons
  • Greece – Demy, This Is Love
  • Sweden – Robin Bengtsson, I Can’t Go On
  • Portugal – Salvador Sobral, Amar Pelos Dois
  • Poland – Kasia Moś, Flashlight
  • Armenia – Artsvik, Fly With Me
  • Australia – Isaiah, Don’t Come Easy
  • Cyprus – Hovig, Gravity
  • Belgium – Blanche, City Lights

Moldova received some of the biggest reception of the night; Robin Bengtsson from Sweden and Salvador Sobral from Portugal were all clapping after the performance and also that cheer they had after they had qualified was probably only matched by Greece. Everyone went mad for the reappearance of Epic Sax Guy on Twitter and with an upbeat dance song in a semi-final saturated with ballads, this was certain to qualify. This marks Moldova’s first return to the grand final since 2013!

Azerbaijan is my 3rd favourite song of the whole year and Dihaj brought it live with her vocals. The horse head was memorable and was mentioned more than once by Mel Giedroyc in her commentary. This dark synthpop song was matched with Sia-esque staging and some drawing on walls and clothes and this was just a very good performance which will certainly challenge Top 10 in the final.

Greece will return to the grand final after failing to qualify last year. There’s not much to say about the song, it’s just a pretty good pop song. It doesn’t stand out much besides the way it builds up from a Skyfall-style opening before the beat drops however the staging with the waterfall screen adds a lot to the song. Demy was also rocking the wet hair look but Ruth Lorenzo called, she wants that back.

Sweden and Portugal were always going to qualify, especially since they are both in the top 5 in the odds to win the whole contest. Yet both songs couldn’t be more different. Sweden’s Robin Bengtsson must have been channelling his inner Justin Timberlake while Portugal’s Salvador Sobral was channelling his inner Randy Newman.

I do enjoy “I Can’t Go On” yet I cannot help but feel that Robin’s moves are slightly stiff and a bit sterile to the point where it feels too doctored which does detract from the performance. I’ve never been a fan of “Amar Pelos Dois” and that does come down to Salvador’s performing style. I appreciate why people like it but it’s not for me! Notably this is Portugal’s first time qualifying to the grand final since 2010!

Kasia makes it the fourth year in a row that Poland has qualified for the grand final and with powerful vocals for this dark and rich song, it was hard not to see why it did qualify! Complete with a wind machine blowing her hair, this song had to have appealed to the juries as well as the televote and diaspora.

Artsvik brought “Fly With Me’ to LIFE on the stage complete with a strong ethnic sound/beat and a LOT of pyro. Artsvik was classy, she knew how to work the camera angles and I also loved the pink/purple undertones of the performance! This, again, was a certain qualifier tonight.

The final 3 qualifiers, Australia, Cyprus and Belgium, for me personally did not deserve to qualify. I find myself unable to enjoy Australia’s song and with Isaiah messing up a few of the notes live in the semi-final, I didn’t see this going through. It may have appealed to juries with his Sam Smith-esque vocals but I found the staging very distant from the song with the projections of Isaiah and colour scheme not coming together. This shouldn’t go anywhere near Dami Im’s 2nd place finish last year or Guy Sebastian’s 5th place finish in 2015. Also please read the comments of the video if you want a laugh!!

For some reason, I don’t like Cyprus’s song either. To me it lacks a bit of substance and I’m not a fan; I don’t have much to say about it either.

On the big screen, Blanche looked frozen and I understand that this reflects the emotions of the song and while the last chorus stood out as the best part of the song, it’s hard not to think about how Blanche didn’t look at the camera on the close ups. I love the song, it was my 6th favourite song but I’m thinking that this shouldn’t have qualified last night as there were better songs, however Belgium can be proud of 3 consecutive years of qualifying (and strangely being announced as the last qualifier in each of their semi-finals!!)

8 songs failed to qualify and there were (in no particular order):

  • Slovenia – Omar Naber, On My Way
  • Czech Republic – Martina Bárta, My Turn
  • Montenegro – Slavko Kalezić, Space
  • Georgia – Tamara Gachechiladze, Keep The Faith
  • Albania – Lindita, World
  • Finland – Norma John, Blackbird
  • Latvia – Triana Park, Line
  • Iceland – Svala, Paper

Omar Naber’s song is a throwback to the noughties and the opening few seconds really remind me of a Robbie Williams track and it was very strong on the night but it was just overshadowed by Armenia’s performance and it was probably slightly too dated.

Martina Bárta’s song is actually one of my favourite songs, it always makes me think of Emeli Sandé’s ‘Clown”. I do genuinely enjoy listening to it and Martina’s vocal is stunning and she sung it very well on the night but the stage looked pretty empty and the foil outfit did not help.

Montenegro had the ultimate Eurovision staging with a metre long ponytail, sparkly leggings and kitsch dance moves. The stage was empty with just Slavko on his own so could have benefitted from a few dancers but it was just so much fun that I’m sure it performed rather well with the televote.

The remaining 5 songs were ones that I wanted to qualify. Georgia was the 2nd song of the night and so it was pretty much destined to not qualify but I was blown away by the dramatic staging and Tamara’s equally impressive vocals. At the time, I thought it would qualify with how epic it was and how Tamara’s voice was stronger than Robin’s but alas. This may be the one that got away.

In the same vein, Albania most definitely should have qualified with that mind blowing 20 second long note starting from 2:12. I think the dress for Lindita was a bit too zombie bride and she could have worn something else so she could have moved around the stage. This song was in my top 10 so of course I wished it has qualified last night.

When they announced the last qualifier, I was expecting it to be Finland. Finland had the full package; stunning vocals, dark, mysterious backdrops and floors and camera angles which really showcased this song. I thought that the jury would have carried this through but I think that in the end, coming after Georgia and Albania’s ballads and Montenegro’s wacky performance may have done Finland in. Finland not qualifying with this stunning song is one of the biggest crimes of Eurovision ever.

It seems rather sad that apparently Latvia can only qualify in modern Eurovision with an Aminata-written song and Line definitely deserved to go through. The vocals were pretty much on point throughout and the bright colours and staging stood out more than Australia and Cyprus. I wonder whether the juries didn’t appreciate this song due to its repetitiveness (in which case they will have a field day with Spain’s song!)

I love Iceland’s song and Svala NAILED the performance tonight. Perhaps coming after all the other strong female songs in this semi-final such as Poland and Finland did her in but I wish that they didn’t take a break after Iceland’s song to discuss Epic Sax Guy; I thought this should have been done after their song on the stage or when the voting was closed (not that we got to see it in the UK). Maybe it was just unlucky 13.

It’s also sad since both Finland and Iceland have not qualified for the grand final since 2014 yet they had grand final quality songs this year, particularly Finland. Montenegro, Albania and Slovenia last saw the grand final in 2015. Georgia and Czech Republic qualified for the grand final last year.

I can’t help but feel that the hosts were very underwhelming tonight. Maybe it’s because we had Petra Mede last year but I really struggled to understand most of what they said as it all felt a little bit rushed and their jokes were very lacklustre and got little reception. It was pretty cringeworthy. Hopefully they improve by Thursday.

Whilst I don’t believe that this country would have won the semi-final, my personal winner of the semi-final has to be Moldova. “Hey Mamma” is a ridiculously feel good tune and it’s instantly memorable and the odds on Chisinau 2018 have decreased from 150/1 to 50/1! Don’t be surprised if this makes it into the top 10 for the final!


What did you think of the first semi-final? Did the right 10 acts go through, were there any you would switch around like me? Who was your personal winner of the semi-final too? Let me know!

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