ESC2016: Abba-dabba-doo, here’s semi-final two…

Ok, we have to select another ten songs to make it through to the Grand Final on 14 may. Don’t forget to tune into BBC 4 in the UK, on Thursday 12 May at 8.00pm. And remember that at Eurovision YOU DECIDE!


Justs – Heartbeat

We start the second semi-final with one of my faves this year. One of the more contemporary songs, with hints of old school electronica. Justs has a hint of David Tennant about him, doesn’t he…

It feels effortlessly cool, and I really hope it gets to the final.


Micha? Szpak – Colour Of Your Life

There was a bit of a kerfuffle in the Eurovision fan community when the much fancied, and much backed at the bookies, Edyta Górniak didn’t win the Polish selection. She had previously represented Poland back in 1994 (their debut year) and finished as runner-up to Ireland. There was much anticipation and expectation that she would get the ticket to Stockholm. However the surprise winner was Micha? Szpak.

There aren’t many big ballads performed by men this year (although a couple in this semi-final), and this is reassuringly familiar and uplifting. I hope it makes it to the final.

(I envy him that hair and that wind machine :D)


Rykka – The Last Of Our Kind

Currently at the foot of the bookies betting odds, which I can’t quite figure. Sure, it’s a bit vanilla and generic, but I wouldn’t have put is as the weakest song we will hear next week. Then again, the staging is a bit lifeless, which doesn’t help.

Taxi for Switzerland?


Hovi Star – Made of Stars

Probably my favourite male vocal this week, and the better of the male ballads I’d say. The familiar Sam Smith stylings and sound, as well as what should be a passionate stage performance, should see it through to the final. I’m sure it will be popular with the juries, which will help.


IVAN – Help You Fly

It has been reported that IVAN had requested to perform naked, and accompanied with live wolves. I haven’t seen his rehearsal footage so far, but I guess we all know the EBU said no to both requests. That would have made a rather underwhelming song a bit more memorable!


ZAA Sanja Vu?i? – Goodbye (Shelter)

Serbia are one of a bunch of countries who now prefer to sing in English, yet retain the accents of their own music styles. This is a good crossover of the two. A great vocal places Sanja as the diva of this semi-final. Why else embody the ultimate diva, Maria Callas!


Nicky Byrne – Sunlight

If Sweden win again this year they will eclipse Ireland and have the most Eurovision wins. Currently Sweden and Ireland both have six trophies, but I don’t think Ireland will be challenging for their seventh victory this year. Nicky Byrne seems all kinds of likeable, but this track is perhaps a little too generic to make an impact. Mind you, Westlife fans across Europe might give it a boost..


Kaliopi – Dona

One of a few returnees to Eurovision, Kaliopi is once again giving it some welly this year. A powerful vocal, but to our ears a rather repetitive lyric on the chorus. She made it through to the final back in 2012, and much like Nicky Byrne she might have a committed fanbase to give her a helping hand…


Donny Montell – I‘ve Been Waiting For This Night

Like Kaliopi, Donny participated in 2012. He’s back with a contemporary song, another that you have heard before, right? Lithuania have a good track record of progressing to the final, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see them there again this year…


Dami Im – Sound Of Silence

The novelty of Australia being invited to participate as part of the 60th anniversary celebrations last year received a mixed response from some fans. Was this pushing the boundary of where the Contest belongs? Perhaps. Then again, Azerbaijan and Israel are both technically on the periphery of Europe and beyond, so why not include Australia? One of the main reasons for the invitation was due to the HUGE popularity of the ESC down under. Each year the contest is broadcast to an eager audience, and they even do their own televote, you know – just for fun. I guess it seemed like a no-brainer for the EBU to do something bombastic and inject a frissance of the unexpected to the anniversary year, and invite Australia to join the party.

A well received song and a top five finish suggested that there was broad appeal and acceptance for Australia in the ESC last year, and so they have been invited back. However this year they have to qualify for the Grand Final – something which seems like a certainty. I think this song is actually much better than Guy Sebastian’s last year. This year Dami Im takes here place in the battle of the divas with a contemporary ballad…

Such are the legalities of the ESC, the lyrical reference to FaceTime at the start of the song had to be cleared. A few years back San Marino had to re-work Valentina Monetta’s song which was originally titled Facebook Uh, Oh, Oh. It later became The Social Network Song. It’s a silly old world sometimes, isn’t it! First World problems, I guess…


ManuElla – Blue and Red

When asked about her performance, ManuElla said, “tonight Matthew, I’m going to be Taylor Swift.” 😀

It seems like Slovenia have tried a little too hard this year, mixing a whole load of elements to produce something that’s all a bit too cliché, right? A song from Taylor Swift’s back catalogue, a costume change (circa Bucks Fizz 1981), lyrics 101, and a wind machine. The song isn’t terrible, but the whole package needs work. But hey, I haven’t seen it on the Eurovision stage yet, so it might have been tweaked. That said, I can’t see it in the final.


Poli Genova – If Love Was A Crime

This feels quite generic to me, but it seems to be quite popular with the bookies. I think the weakest bit for me is the chorus – it doesn’t hook me – whereas the verses and bridge do. The rather dated looking music video doesn’t add anything, so if the staging is right I think it will get through to the final.


Lighthouse X – Soldiers Of Love

I don’t know about you, but I’ve been a bit disappointed with the songs Denmark have selected over the last few years. In fact, of all the Nordic countries, only Sweden have really managed to stay on trend and on target with consistently modern sounding pop songs. Much like last year, Denmark’s grasp on the Eurovision plot seems to be weakening. This is one of those songs you have heard before, but it sounds dated to my ear, and I’m not sure qualification for the final is a certainty…

That said, look at the effort that Denmark go to in their selection process – makes our meagre BBC effort look embarrasing.


Jamala – 1944

No place for politics at the Eurovision? Somehow Ukraine have managed to send a song with an undeniable political subtext/political reading. Check out these lyrics:

When strangers are coming…
They come to your house,
They kill you all
and say,
We’re not guilty
not guilty.

Where is your mind?
Humanity cries.
You think you are gods.
But everyone dies.
Don’t swallow my soul.
Our souls.

It seems that the lyrics address the deportation of the Crimean Tatars in the 1940s by the Soviet Union, and the 2014 Russian annexation of Crimea. No politics there, then? The EBU have deemed the song as non-political, so we’re being told to not read it as such, but how can we not make those connections?

This is a really strong song and performance…

The song might need more than one listen, but when you get the hook and the vibe, you’ll love it, like I do. I think the Contest is due an upset, and an unexpected winner. If ever there was going to be that surprise, I think it’s this song. As the late Terry Wogan used to say, “I have a strong feeling”… we might be in Kiev next year…


Agnete – Icebreaker

I think the same of this entry for Norway as I do for Denmark. What’s worse about this song is the odd shift of tempo. A real mismatch of two songs in one. As with Denmark, I think it’s adios Norway at this stage this year.


Nika Kocharov and Young Georgian Lolitaz – Midnight Gold

Georgia have a tradition of sending rockier numbers to the Contest, and there is room for songs in the mix which feel a little left of centre. This is one of them. Totally not the Eurovision sound, but then, what is that sound? Looks like the Gallagher brothers lurking in the background…


Eneda Tarifa – Fairytale

And probably for the first time in this semi-final, it’s time for me to multi-task. I really must put the bins out…


Laura Tesoro – What’s The Pressure

And so we end the second semi-final where we started the first. This is probably one of the more blatantly familiar sounding songs in the competition, but my inner disco diva *loves* it.

Where’s the baseline hook from, Another One Bites The Dust/Good Times? Where’s that sassy brass and chorus from, Uptown Funk/Oops Upside Your Head?

I don’t care! There’s enough youthful energy and just enough 2016 stylings in there for it to work (isn’t that right, Fleur East?!). I hope Laura and her gang make it to the final. There aren’t too many hands-in-the-air hip-swivelling songs in the mix this year, so we need it to make it through!

So that’s it. The second-semi final. Have you chosen ten songs to go to the final? Perhaps a cheeky recap would help…

For me, watching all these videos is always a little distracting, as they don’t always make the songs sound good. And for as much as it is probably better to judge the merits of the songs by listening to them alone, it is only when we see them on the Eurovision stage in their final form that we can actually judge their impact. I think we have a potential winner in both of the semi-finals, which makes it interesting! Dun dun dur!

And – even more exciting than that – for me there is also a potential winner amongst the ‘Big 5’ and Sweden. More on that later, my euro-chums…


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