ESC2017: the first semi-final. Ooh, aah… just a little bit…

Ok, so I’m doing things differently this year. In the absence of the backstage scoop and having seen none of the rehearsals, this first review is based on my impression of the songs based on what the songs sound like. I have tried to avoid some of the visuals from the music videos, as many this year are really distracting, and the visuals make the songs sound worse than they actually are. So, here goes…

BTW, you can watch the first semi-final of ESC2017 on Tuesday 9 May, on BBC4 at 8.00pm in the UK, or streamed online via www.eurovision.tv

Here we go then… and it couldn’t be a more perfect start, for me…

  1. Sweden

The first song for ESC2017 is from Sweden’s Robin Bengtsson, with the suitably (literally – they perform in suits) fabulous “I Can’t Go On”. A cracking pop song, with slick moves and played well to the camera. A certainty to get through to the final. At the Melodifestivalen final back in March it was the international jury vote that guaranteed victory, and a place on the Eurovision stage. Surely a good sign. And he is, indeed, freakin’ beautiful, which helps. And you will know which word freakin’ has replaced since the original performance at Melodifestivalen… * ooh, the drama *…

And regular readers will expect me to want the Swedish entry to win. And yep, true to form I would be quite happy if the first song we hear this week is the last one we hear…

  1. Georgia

It’s hard to escape the title of this song. Yep, it’s “Keep The Faith”, for sure. The first belter of a ballad of this semi-final, and you know there are more to come, for sure. Tamara certainly gives it some welly. I can’t get on board with the lyrics. You know when English lyrics really sound like broken English, and the effect feels contrived and cliché. Have a listen, and see what you think. Georgia have made it to the final 7/9 times, I’m not sure it will be 8/10 this year, although on those odds…

  1. Australia

Regular readers of this blog know my view on Australia’s participation at the ESC. Well, this is the third time they have competed, and so I guess the novelty factor is gone, and they are here to stay. Last year Australia were denied victory when the televote overturned a substantial jury vote lead. It’s a strong song this year, and for someone so young, Isaiah’s got a mature and satisfying vocal. Surely through to the final…

  1. Albania

So soon in this semi-final, this song and the Georgian entry start to overlap, for me. More drums, more vocal gymnastics, but this is a much better song. The staging will play a key part. There needs to be a wind machine, for sure! I loves me some wind machine, people! Lindita is certainly singing like the rent is due tomorrow, so I hope it makes it to the final.

  1. Belgium

Belgium have regained their Eurovision mojo in recent years, with a succession of good contemporary songs. This year Blanche represents with the song “City Lights”. On first listen the dusky vocal could be mistaken for a male vocal, but not so. One of the more laid-back tracks in this semi-final. I like the tempo, and the shades of Lorde and La Roux. Is it too subtle? Again, the staging will be key in catching the attention of the juries (who * will * like it) and the televoters. I hope it gets to the final.

  1. Montenegro

If Rylan Clarke-Neal was ever to do Eurovision, you might imagine his entry would be a bit like this! The camp-stylings of Slavko Kalezić give us the first hands-in-the-air moment of this semi-final, and a bit of hi-nrg. If an entry could benefit from the gay Eurovision fans to progress, this might be it. My worry is that the theatrics and performance will detract from the song. When I listen to it I don’t mind the song, when I watch it I get distracted from the song (is it the horse hair ponytail, much?!). Fair play to Slavko, it clearly pays to stay off those pesky carbs! It pains me to say it, but I think it will be taxi for Montenegro…

  1. Finland

On my first listen to this song back in February, I fell in love with it. I was delighted when it won Finland’s national final. The song is beautiful and haunting, with a great vocal and orchestration. The song is not complicated by fussy staging, in fact quite the opposite – which might be a benefit. I am pleased to see that since rehearsals started in Kyiv it has leaped-up in the betting odds. If I was a betting man I would have put an each way bet on this to win the whole competition. I really hope that people are as enchanted by this as I am, and here’s hoping it sails though to the final…

  1. Azerbaijan

Another country with an accomplished record at Eurovision. Competed nine times, qualified for the final nine times. Won it once. I see no reason why it won’t qualify for the final this year. Whilst it’s a contemporary sounding song, I am a bit bored by it. That said, with what I hear is one of the more visually interesting staging’s in Kyiv, it should progress to the final.

  1. Portugal

Ok, so let’s talk Marmite. Some people love it. Some people hate it. Me, I love it. Let’s talk the Portuguese entry this year. Some people love it, some people just don’t get it. I, for one, can’t quite see why it’s the second/third favourite to win the whole contest…

Love that it harks back to the early chanson of the ESC back in the 1950s and 1960s. It has charm, but I am not the only one slightly puzzled by the whole thing. The singer, Salvador, looks rather unkempt, doesn’t he? Let’s see how this shakes down. Given it is much fancied with the bookies it would be a surprise to see it not progress, so I guess I’ll say that it will, even though I don’t get it. Ok, so now let’s talk peanut butter…

  1. Greece

It was a shock last year when Greece ruined their perfect track record by not progressing to the grand final. They return this year with a rather dated europop-by-numbers song, which will sound familiar to you even though you might only be hearing it for the first time. One of those songs. Forgettable for me, but probs going through to the final. * yawn *

  1. Poland

See what you think, but Poland’s entry is overlapping with Georgia and Albania. And with lyrics such as “like a bullet from a smoking gun”, this is all a bit pedestrian. This point in the running order isn’t going to help. I think it’ll be last orders at the bar for Poland… unless the diaspora vote gives it a push into the final? Probs…

  1. Moldova

Much like Greece, Moldova are resting on dated-sounding europop. Returning participants from ESC 2010, Sunstroke Project, made it to the grand final. I can’t see that happening this year. The rather irritating sax-hook is just too much for me. Adios Moldova…

  1. Iceland

There was much huffiness inside and outside of the Eurovision bubble, last year, when Greta Salóme didn’t make it to the ESC final. FYI, pop pickers, her song “Hear Them Calling” was my favourite song of 2017. You know, inside and outside of the Eurovision bubble. I know, right.

This year Svala will sing “Paper” for her place in the final. Once again, it’s a case of lyrics 101. Can lyrics really be more banal? So, a quick brainstorm for you on the lyrical themes to do with paper… what have you got? … Yep, you’ve guessed it: paper cuts and glue. All too cliché, and actually meaningless, when you study the lyrics. When this doesn’t get to the final this year, there won’t be as much huffiness…

  1. Czech Republic

I urge you to listen to this song, when watching the music video, and avoid watching the music video. The visuals will totally distract you from what I think is actually a really nice song. And someone please tell me where I’ve heard the melody before? I am looking forward to seeing the staging of this entry. I would like to see it get through…

  1. Cyprus

So if you’d like to hear Rag’n’Bone Man in ESC2017, this is as close as you’re going to get – musically, if not vocally. All a bit derivate, but not terrible. That said, is it just me? Don’t you hate it when the word gravity is sung with a soft t. *shudders*

  1. Armenia

Currently occupying the top ten in the betting odds. This will sail through to the final. If the music video is anything to go by, the performance will be one of the more choreographically-charged performances. And nice flourishes of indigenous music in the contemporary pop mix.

  1. Slovenia

Poor Omar might not have your full attention by this point in the running order. And the song, rather dated as it sounds, will probably be killed-off by the draw. You know those nibbles will need topping-up, you will need to refresh that spritzer, and the dishwasher certainly ain’t going to empty itself. I think Omar will be “On My Way” home. It sounds like I have summoned him to my house, but you know what I mean… * pats hair *

  1. Latvia

And we round off the first semi-final on an up-tempo note. Triana Park’s aesthetic is, erm, interesting. Some might say more of a fashion don’t than a fashion do. Let’s hope it doesn’t get too Avant-garde and result in a hot mess on the Eurovision stage. If the marriage of song and visuals is right, it should make it through to the final. That said, if it wasn’t last call for this semi-final, I’d say adios Latvia…

So what do you think? Can you choose 10 finalists. I will be back on Tuesday PM with my final thoughts, with a plan to live blog during the semi-final and give my final ‘napkin of death’ before the results are declared.

‘Citing  🙂 x