Watching… Eurovision Song Contest Semi-Final 2

Last night saw the second of the Eurovision semi-finals and 10 more countries qualified. In the order in which they were announced, they are:

  • Bulgaria – Kristian Kostov, Beautiful Mess
  • Belarus – Naviband, Story of my Life
  • Croatia – Jacques Houdek, My Friend
  • Hungary – Joci Papai, Origo
  • Denmark – Anja Nissen, Where I Am
  • Israel – IMRI, I Feel Alive
  • Romania – Ilinca ft Alex Florea, Yodel It!
  • Norway – JOWST, Grab The Moment
  • Netherlands – O’G3NE, Lights and Shadows
  • Austria – Nathan Trent, Running On Air

For me, Bulgaria was one of the stand out performances last night. It was very stylish, slick and well performed. Kristian’s vocals were absolutely perfect and flawless, the camera angles worked with the staging and even though he was on his own on the stage, without a doubt he filled that stage with absolute professionalism. This is a winning performance so Kristian will be challenging for the win or at least hoping to surpass Poli Genova’s 4th place last year.

Belarus’s Naviband have a good song but after a while, the whole “hey-hey-hi-yi-yi-ya-yo” section does begin to get on your nerves. Even so I loved the staging, the whole speedboat and camera angles worked very well together and for a native language song to capture the attention of enough people for them to qualify without Russia, Azerbaijan or Armenia to bump up their televotes, that is very impressive. But there were other songs which I preferred over Belarus tonight however this marks Belarus’s return to the final for the first time since 2014.

The staging for Croatia’s duet for one actually worked on screen and the entire package worked as a whole. Jacques really brought it to the stage last night and the switches from his pop voice to his opera voice were seamless! This is incredibly memorable and it got rave reviews (and quickly memed) on Twitter so this should do quite well on Saturday! Croatia makes it 2 years in a row qualifying to the final.

The ethnic vibes and beat in Hungary’s song came together with the camera angles and staging last night. The pyro on the second instrumental before the rap, the violinist on the centre island and the dance, it was mysterious and mystical and I am not surprised to see this qualify. It might be in a foreign language but that didn’t stop everyone loving the song. This is a very welcome addition to the final and yet again, Hungary qualifies for the 7th time in a row.

Denmark’s last time in the final was 2014 so it’s good to finally see them back in the final with a powerful song sung by one of the most powerful singers in the contest. Okay so yes maybe you’ve seen it before with the long notes and the sparks but Anja elevates this classic style of performance to a new level with her impressive vocals. Even though I love this song, I found the staging to be a bit dull and the shot when she’s kneeling on the floor was a bit strange but still I’m very happy this qualified. This will potentially be in contention for the left hand side of the board.

I thought that Imri did a great performance tonight. Those looks to the camera were sure to have got Israel some points but even so, Imri sang it as well as he could considering his choreography. I love the song and the ethnic vibes after the second chorus and in the dance section and I also really loved the staging; the large Imri shattering into fragments, the pyro and the colour schemes, it all just worked! So that high note might never be reached but still, this would be a great way to open or close the grand final! IMRI makes it 3 consecutive qualifications in a row for Israel too!

I’m so glad Romania qualified after being disqualified last year. The diaspora televote probably carried them through here as I don’t see juries scoring this all that high. I felt like some of the charm of the whole performance wasn’t necessarily captured on screen but the yodel rap worked! I also really want the cannons to actually explode with confetti in the final to add that extra Eurovision feel to the song. Even if they get a couple of extra people on stage to let a few smaller ones go, just add something to make it more fun!

I really liked Norway’s song before Eurovision, it’s incredibly modern but if I’m being completely honest, I was not feeling the moment tonight. I found the effects to be a bit too much on screen and the whole performance was pretty linear and didn’t go anywhere. Maybe it’s because I’ve seen and heard it too many times already but I’m pretty upset that it qualified over some of the other songs. Norway does, however, make a return to the final; they last qualified in 2015.

O’G3NE absolutely KILLED IT TONIGHT! It didn’t stop Twitter calling them the Dutch Wilson Phillips but it’s not like that is a bad thing at all. Their harmonies were on point, they conveyed a lot of emotion on that stage and I think they probably got the biggest reception of the night bar Israel. This had to have appealed to juries and televoters so they sailed through without a doubt. I’m not sure this will win Eurovision but it should do very well on Saturday.

The last country to qualify was Austria. Nathan put on a very good performance but I’m honestly surprised he’s here if I’m honest. As I say, it’s a very nice performance, even slightly too boring and cheesy and also very Dreamworks-esque, but I think there were much better songs than this. Rather surprisingly, Austria qualified performing in the 2nd position which is a rarity in itself.

The 8 songs which did not qualify were (again in no particular order):

  • Serbia, Tijana Bogićević, In Too Deep
  • F.Y.R Macedonia, Jana Burčeska, Dance Alone
  • San Marino, Valentina Monetta & Jimmie Wilson, Spirit Of The Night
  • Lithuania, Fusedmarc, Rain of Revolution
  • Malta, Claudia Faniello, Breathlessly
  • Ireland, Brendan Murray, Dying To Try
  • Switzerland, Timebelle, Apollo
  • Estonia, Koit Toome & Laura, Verona

Serbia has to be one of my most listened to songs this year and would certainly have gone through based on that but live, something was off. I think the backing vocals lowered the pitch of the whole song and it didn’t have the life and energy of the music video and studio version. I don’t think Tijana was on form tonight and the lone dancer was very Ira Losco-esque and we saw how well that went with the televote last year

So Jana’s postcard let us know she was pregnant and then her boyfriend proposed to her live (which we didn’t see in the UK!). It’s a shame that she didn’t make it through because ‘Dance Alone’ is one of my favourite songs this year, in fact one of the best studio versions this year. It’s modern and leagues ahead of anything that Macedonia has sent previously (apart from Crno I Belo). The stage did look a bit empty as she was on her own but that’s the title of the song. Unfortunately this makes Macedonia’s last time qualifying to the final in 2012.

Valentina Monetta’s 4th attempt at Eurovision, this time a disco duet with Jimmie Wilson, absolutely oozed fun on stage. The vocals were also very good and I enjoyed watching it but the song was never going to qualify in this high quality semi final. It’s a shame, I’d like to see San Marino back at the final one day (if they decide to return, if what’s going round on Twitter is to be believed!)

I don’t think that even with the Lithuanian diaspora, Fusedmarc were ever going to qualify especially coming between Bulgaria, Estonia and Israel. The song has grown on me and I can sing along to it (mainly the YEAH YEAH YEAH bit) and I don’t mind listening to it. There were impressive visuals and good vocals but like San Marino, the song is not strong enough.

Claudia sung amazingly and passionately and ‘Breathlessly’ is one of my favourite songs of this year’s selection but much like Finland, it’s probably just a bit too slow and doesn’t have the same qualities as Portugal to win people over. Not only that, it came before Romania which pretty much wiped out any chance of qualification. I do wonder how the juries rated this, however; did they appreciate Claudia’s vocal? Even so, I still love the song and wished it has qualified.

Brendan KILLED those live vocals and honestly I was so impressed that he hit those high notes. His voice is so unique and I think that he can be very proud of that performance. I wonder whether the juries rated this highly or not because this was very impressive. He got a very good reception although the stage was slightly empty. I fear this fell into the same trap as Finland and Malta; all are fantastic songs but the viewers just switch off and they lack immediacy. This now makes it 4 years in a row Ireland have not qualified.

Switzerland was in my top 10 songs this year and after not qualifying since 2014, I thought that with this mid-tempo pop song, they’d be back to the final for sure, however something just didn’t connect with the audience tonight. Perhaps coming after Belarus did them in but Miruna nailed those ad-libs at the end and I was so impressed with them. Switzerland’s recent track record is pretty poor (40th in 2015, 41st in 2016) so part of me is expecting to find out that they finished last in this semi-final when the results are published.

Estonia nailed their staging and sung very well I thought (except for the brief sound issue at the very beginning). I’ve loved this song ever since it was back in the selection process at Eesti Laul. It fuses a Shakespearean metaphor with an absolutely addictive tune and those “ahhhhhhhhh”’s are just heavenly. Rewatching the performance, you can even hear the crowd singing along!! After finishing last of all 42 acts last year, Estonia wanted to redeem themselves and I’m completely shocked that this is staying in the semis. This, like Finland, Latvia, Georgia, Albania and Iceland, should not have been left behind. This should have qualified.

I think I have 4 personal winners of this semi final. Firstly, my favourite and personal winner of this year, Bulgaria. Everything just worked, it has that winner quality about it and for just 17 years old, what Kristian Kostov is doing is mind-blowingly impressive! Secondly, The Netherlands. O’G3NE are amazing, their harmonies are off the scale and they kill it live! Thirdly, it’s Croatia; it’s out there, it’s unconventional yet it all just came together so perfectly; the fusion of English pop and Italian opera is magical. My last winner is Israel. I’ve loved the song since it was released, I still love that ethnic sound after the second chorus and the performance elevated the song into a complete package!

Do you agree with tonight’s 10 qualifiers; if you don’t, who would you replace with whom? And who was your personal winner of the semi-final? Let me know!

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