Round two in Malmö…

I sat in on the first dress rehearsal for the second semi-final on Wednesday afternoon, with colleagues from the Malmö conference. My energy levels must have been a bit low after the conference paper in the morning – as I felt rather grumpy about the low quality of the songs in the mix.  Today, I feel slightly more upbeat as I have just watched in on the big screen in an ever busier the press centre. Here’s my thoughts on the show tonight (BBC3 @ 8pm). See what you think tonight…

01. Latvia

The two rappers/singers from Latvia will put in an energetic performance tonight. You might think that they are a little too ‘Bejazzled’ when it comes to their outfits.  The song is catchy – and there are opportunities for you to join in – as the crowd in the venue do every time. Good effort, but probably not going through.

02. San Marino

Remember Carol Decker from T’Pau? Well, she’s not representing San Marino – but their singer, Valentina Monetta, is the spit of her – you know, back in the day.  The fans are all over this song, and in the press centre it is currently third favourite.  Not that necessarily means anything, as occasionally there is a lack of critical distance here.  It’s a nice song, and in a rather dull second semi-final it’ll probably go through.

03. FYROM

I love this song – one of my pre-Contest favourites. It’s a shame that something is getting lost in translation on stage. Esma (she) and Lozano (he) perform what you might think is a bonkers song, mixing gypsy influences with a bit of balladeering and dubstep. I thought it was a shoe-in to get to the final, but the mix of performers on stage doesn’t quite work. Lozano does his thing, and Esma looks overwhelmed by her costume – rather unkindly referred to by some as a toilet roll holder. I’ll be cheering it on!

04. Azerbaijan

This is one of the best performances of the week.  A fab song, fantastic staging, and a singer who is irritatingly handsome. For some reason Farid can’t seem to keep his top on during promotional appearances. I can’t think why! Surely through to the final, and a top five finish should be on the cards.

05. Finland

Pure pop fans, this one is for you (and me!). If you like Katy Perry then Krista is your girl. Pure fun, with infectious energy and a cheeky ending which, after you’ve seen it a few times is a little contrived.  When she gets though to Saturday I’ll explain it why she finishes the song how she does…

06. Malta

Malta had something of a return to form last year, and made it through to the final.  I think this will happen again tonight. If not only because Gianluca’s effervescence will win you over, with a song that could very easily be on the radio in the UK.

07. Bulgaria

Elitsa and Stoyan competed in the Eurovision back in 2007 and did very well.  This song is a bit of a carbon copy of that, but I can’t see it doing as well. Good energy and lots of drumming (that always does well at Eurovision). 50/50 whether it goes through.

08. Iceland

Icelandic singer Eythor has a cracking voice, and the song is anthemic and builds in all the right places.  A brave decision some might say to sing in Icelandic, but it shouldn’t detract from the powerful vocal and the passion of the performance. At rehearsal yesterday he had a rather unflattering shirt on. Today he’s styled it out with a waistcoat and pocket watch, and the visual impact is much better. Surely going to the final.

09. Greece

Another song definitely going to the final. It’s so catchy!  The irony is not lost on us all here in Malmö that the song is called Alcohol Is Free, when clearly it is not. A bottle of wine is thirty quid, up to eight quid for a beer, and don’t start on the spirits! Good that I arrived with a bottle of gin!  What’s the saying: somewhere in the world it’s gin o’clock! 😀

10. Israel

Sorry, but it’s taxi for Moran! Time for you to refresh your drinks and replenish the nibbles…

11. Armenia

Double denim, people, double denim. 😀 I’m feeling like this will go through to the final. There’s always a rock number that makes it through, and I think that the strong vocal – and the fact that there aren’t many rock numbers in the mix – this will see it through.

12. Hungary

Performed by Byealex, this is another one of my favourite songs this year. I love the pace and the vibe, and the soft vocal. I love the animated backdrop of the staging, but my worry is that it really might bye-ByeAlex. Hope not.

13. Norway

One of the best songs in this semi-final feels slightly let down by a lack of fire.  No really – I think it calls for pyrotechnics, which are sadly lacking on the Eurovision stage. It’ll go through for sure, even without the fireworks!

14. Albania

Don’t let the greasy-haired singer at the start of the song put you off:  yes, it sounds like he’s smoked 20 a day for years, looks like he hasn’t been to bed for a week, and dances like a dad at a disco. Wait for the second singer  – he will give you some big-hair vocals!  This song might be counted out by the earlier song from Armenia – or they might get through, which is my hunch.

15. Georgia

It’s the first appearance for this semi-final of the ‘wall of fire’. You will second guess when it will cascade from the rear of the stage. What was once an awesome effect – used to notable effect by Azerbaijan to win in 2011 – now seems overused and a bit contrived. Earlier in the week Paul Jordan (‘Dr Eurovision’) predicted that this is the winning song for 2013. He will be insufferable if he’s right! I don’t think it will, but Nodi and Sophie give some welly, and it’ll sail through to the final.

16. Switzerland

At the national final the performers, Takasa, performed The Salvation Army outfits. EBU bosses said that they couldn’t do this on the stage at Eurovision – references to faith, religion, spirituality etc. aren’t permitted. Look out for the oldest ever performer during this song, at 95 years young – good man yourself. The song is catchy and with the backing of the Sally Army it’ll get through.

17. Romania

I haven’t used the phrase ‘mad as a box of frogs this week’. So I’m going to now! My dear friend and colleague Ruxandra informs me that back home in Romania her compatriots are not entirely sure that Cezar will get to the final. This would be the first time that they have not, so it would be a bit of a scandal. It’s just mad enough to get through…

Enjoy the show – our predictions for the second ‘napkin of death’ are on the way…

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