ESC2018: right back with Rybak…

The first semi-final was a bounty of riches. This time around, it feels like slim pickings in terms of certainties to qualify for the final. That said, it starts with a bit of Eurovision royalty…

  1. Norway

A familiar face returns to the Eurovision stage this year. Alexander Rybak romped to Victory back in 2009 with Fairytale. At the time, it got the most points ever for a Eurovision winner. I often wonder what makes a champ come back into the contest – especially if your song was as huge as Rybak’s was. Well, he’s back and you’ll see Alex on familiar ground with an up-tempo pop song showcasing his fiddle, as he did back in 2009. The song is a bit dated and a bit contrived, but it’s another song with an ear worm in it. You have heard this song before, drawing as it does from a range of hooks and riffs that will be very familiar to you. It will deffo get to the final, and will challenge for the top five. And, as a popular returning Eurovision winner, the producers have rewarded Alex with the first performance for the second semi-final, with what will be the 1500th song performed at Eurovision since it launched in 1956…

  1. Romania

With the exception of a disqualification denouement prior to the ESC in 2016, Romania have a great qualification record. This will continue in 2018 with a solid soft-rock ballad. Shades of Snow Patrol’s Chasing Cars, with a female vocal with shades of Celine Dion, I like it very much. It’s position in the running order raised my eyebrows, but hopefully coming off the back on Alexander Rybak will help it rather than hinder it…

  1. Serbia

Dripping with shades of the Balkan, this song. Serbia sing in their native language for the first time since 2013. The ethnic twist is refreshing, but the song takes too long to get going with two nymphs warbling for the best part of a minute before the first verse. It’s another song where it’s a bit mismatched in terms of structure. And to be honest, the female warbling get a tad annoying. I don’t think this will make the final…

  1. San Marino

Bless ‘em, San Marino have only qualified for the final once. They tend to send rather bonkers songs – blissfully doing their own thang that never quite connects with mainstream music tastes. Same thing this year! And unfortunately it will be taxi for San Marino once again…

  1. Denmark

Denmark have gone all Pirates of the Caribbean on us! The visual and the performance fits well with the “All Aboard” theme. Should make the final, but not my bag…

  1. Russia

Oh the drama last year when Russia’s singer Julia Samoylova wasn’t allowed entry to the Ukraine to perform at ESC2017. It really was politics playing out in the contest. Well, Julia’s back this year with I Won’t Break. It’s not a terrible song – but the rehearsal footage and previous performance footage is a bit painful to watch. A rather out of tune vocal, and with staging at Eurovision which really does raise questions about how best to present a disabled performer. It makes me feel slightly uncomfortable…

  1. Moldova

Hooray – I’m bowled over by Moldova! 🙂 Love this. An up-tempo feel-good song. The music video and staging are a bit bonkers, but it adds to the fun. Should make it to the final…

  1. The Netherlands

Back in 2014 Conchita won for Austria with the fab Rise Like A Phoenix. In what was a very good competition that year, and The Netherlands finished in second place with The Common Linnets and their song Calm Before The Storm. This year the male vocalist, Waylon, returns to the Eurovision to rock-out a lot more than he did last time around! Set apart from anything else in the draw, and the fact he will be known for his previous attempt, I think this will make the final…

  1. Australia

I find this song a bit beige if I’m honest. It’s a rather generic song. Jessica is a great vocalist and she has performed at a previous contest (although not competing), so she will probably sell the song through the performance. Should make it through…

  1. Georgia

Fact fans, this is the first entry from Georgia to be fully sung in Georgian. There are nice harmonies from Ethno-Jazz Band Iriao, and it’s all suitably, erm, ethnic! There aren’t many songs with that ethnic flourish in this semi-final, which could work in its favour…

  1. Poland

This is a radio-friendly song you could easily imagine on the airwaves. I could see this in the final…

  1. Malta

Another generic song, just not very interesting for me…

  1. Hungary

This is probably the most niche sounding song in the contest. Different from anything else, and will get votes a bit like Lordi did back in 2006, because it’s going to attract the metal fans – if they’re watching! 🙂

  1. Latvia

Answers on a postcard/email/pigeon please: what song does this sound like? Yeah, there’s a bit of a Bond theme formula to it. And a bit of Cry Me A River? Seriously, put me out of my misery! Depending on the performance, this might make it to the final…

  1. Sweden

Ok, so my usual preference towards Sweden continues this year! I didn’t go to Melodifestivalen this year, but from first listen this was clearly going to win the Swedish selection process. Once again Sweden combine a cracking song with an awesome visual. It looks amazing on the telly. A certainty to get through and give Sweden another top ten/top five finish in the final. I would love Sweden to host again, and they are certainly in the mix with Benjamin Ingrosso…

  1. Montenegro

A song sung in Montenegrin for the first time since 2015. Another anthemic and ethnic sounding song. For me, this song and Georgia overlap for this reason…

  1. Slovenia

In an attempt to curry local favour this song is sung in Slovene and Portuguese. Not that it will help…

  1. Ukraine

We finish the second semi-final with a country with a 100 percent track record of making it to the final. Will they be jinxed this year? It’s not the most interesting song, but the staging and performance might do enough to elevate it. With that track record you wouldn’t bet against it, but then again Azerbaijan got knocked out of the first semi-final and ruined their perfect run…

So, that’s the second semi-final. I find it a duller affair than the first – as you have just read! Let’s see how the songs translate on the Eurovision stage on Thursday night. UK readers, that’s BBC Four at 8.00pm, or watch via the live stream at eurovision.tv. I will post my ‘napkin of death’ as I did on Tuesday night. See if we agree with each other – I don’t think I’m going to do very well on this one!

🙂