ESC2019: who will keep their dream alive?

After a marvelous first semi-final, let’s see if the songs on offer tonight are Abba-dabba-do’s, or Abba-dabba-don’ts…

01  Armenia

Srbuk – Walking Out

This wouldn’t have been my first choice to open this semi-final. The staging looks a bit dull, even with the pyrotechnics. It’s not often that a song opening a semi-final doesn’t make it – but I think, like Azerbaijan last year, this opener won’t make the cut.

02  Ireland

Sarah McTernan – 22

I have been a huge fan of this song since I first heard it when it was released a couple of months ago. Based on this short clip it looks like a bit of a hot mess. Does the track really imbue that 50s malt shop era? Sarah is singing about being 22, not 1952! It all seems a bit disconnected between song and staging. A pity, as it’s a nice song. Probs not going through to the final. Perhaps the juries will save it?

03  Moldova

Anna Odobescu – Stay

Blimey, Anna gives it some welly. It’s not a terrible song, but what I can’t get beyond is the daylight robbery from Ukraine’s performance from ESC2011…

O-M-G, the cheek! I don’t mind an homage or a cheeky nod to something, but this is lazy, and a bit insulting to Eurofans who will know this is a bit of a rip-off. Perhaps for those who are not familiar, the backdrop will sell the song?  Hmmm

And now, may the fourth be with you…

04  Switzerland

Luca Hänni – She Got Me

For me, this semi-final starts here. Prior to the Contest and seeing the rehearsal footage, I thought Switzerland were going to win, even ahead of the long time favourite from The Netherlands. You will hear shades of Cyprus’s Fuego from last year, as well as a whiff of Tamta’s Replay from the first semi-final this year. The Swiss staging looks good, but not as great as the music video. Kudos that they haven’t just duplicated the music video on stage, but it’s a shame that they haven’t done so…

I had to do a double take – I thought I saw Strictly’s Vincent and Flavia! Fab song.

05  Latvia

Carousel – That Night

Now you know that the juries are going to love this song – will the voting public? I don’t mind it – it washes over me, in a good way. Shades of Norah Jones and Lilly Allen to the vocal and vibe. Simple staging, not a bad place in the draw. Things might just go Latvia’s way.

06  Romania

Ester Peony –  On A Sunday

For many years Romania were an ESC banker, seemingly guaranteed a place in the Grand Final. Recently it’s gone a bit Pete Tong. And I’m not entirely sure how it will go this year. The song is OK, not particularly memorable, but it’s hard to judge on such a small rehearsal clip on how this will translate tonight.

07  Denmark

Leonora – Love Is Forever

Je t’aime! Je t’aime! Je t’aime! This is in my top five, and it was an immediate early favourite of mine. The song may be a little too sweet and Doris Day (RIP, lovely) for some, but for me the real genius of this entry is the staging. And what do most Eurovision winners have these days (?) – a performance tailored to the television viewer, and this does just that. Watch the national final performance and be charmed…

I really hope they don’t mess with the format too much. They have added a couple of additional b-vox peeps. I hope this is a sleeper and makes it through. C’mon Europe – and Australia!

 08  Sweden

John Lundvik – Too Late for Love

Regular readers will remember that I am slightly obsessed with Sweden’s Melodifestivalen, which is their six week selection process that usually delivers them an excellent song and a great result at the ESC. After the shock of failing to qualify back in 2010, Sweden have been taking no chances, and have placed in the top ten eight times in the last nine years, and in the top five on five occasions, winning it twice. The best recent track record of any participating country. And they will maintain their track record with yet another top five finish. And you will not be surprised to hear me say that this might win ahead of Australia. FYI, during the voting at the Melodifestivalen final back in March, all of the international juries awarded it the maximum douze-points, the first time that had ever happened. Currently second with the bookies, I think it will eclipse The Netherlands tonight, as John and his awesome backing singer, The Mamas, and gonna slay the runway…

09  Austria

PÆNDA – Limits

Hard to get much of a sense of the song in this clip. It gives a melodic and breathy vocal, and songs like this tend to do well with the juries. That said, it’s another darkly staged song, following on from Sweden’s rather dark staging. Looks quite effective, but it might get lost after Sweden’s powerhouse, OR it’s a perfect change of pace.

10  Croatia

Roko – The Dream

Roko certainly gives is some welly, and one of the best male vocals of the whole competition. Not sure if the whole angel wing thing will work for or against him. A bit twee, or visually effective? I think it’ll be on my napkin of death, but I’ll have to see the whole performance to decide.

11  Malta

Michela – Chameleon

The most contemporary song I think Malta have ever sent, this should easily be aiming for a top ten finish. This is a brilliant pop song and the staging is vibrant and highly effective. Love the whole thing, except the rather odd pronouncement of the word chameleon, and how it almost sound like she’s singing karma chameleon. It is very hard for me to not sing karma chameleon, I must say!

12  Lithuania

Jurij Veklenko – Run With The Lions

This feels a bit like Finland in the first semi-final, all a bit dated. Also, when you hear the full track there is a slightly odd falsetto in places. And black is the new black in a lot of the staging tonight, isn’t it!

13  Russia

Sergey Lazarev – Scream

When he competed in ESC2016 Segei actually won the popular vote (televote), but finished in third place. The jury cost him that year. His previous entry, You Are The Only One, had amazing staging, and a bombastic uptempo pop song. It’s only flaw was the cringe-inducing lyric “thunder and lightning it’s getting exciting”. That song is now one of my faves, although it wasn’t at the time. I hope the staging is more impactful than the short clip. I loves me some Sergei, and the thought of nine or ten Segei’s at the same time should be a dream come true, but is it really in this staging? If lightning strikes twice (see what I did there) Sergei will do well, but we’re not heading to Russia next year. Sure to make it through.

14  Albania

Jonida Maliqi – Ktheju tokës

Unlike the first semi-final there aren’t many songs not sung in English, and with that authentic indigenous sound, so Albania will certainly stand out. Not the most immediate songs to my ear, but I look forward to seeing the full performance. If a similar song for Serbia can make it to the final, perhaps this can also…

15  Norway

KEiiNO – Spirit in the Sky

A bit like in the first semi-final, there needs to be a bit of retro Euro-fromage, and we get if from Norway in this semi-final. It’s well-liked and will probably get through to the final, but I have to say I find it all a bit irritating – especially the vocal from the bald guy, which is all a bit like the Chef from The Muppets…

16  The Netherlands

Duncan Laurence – Arcade

And so we’ve made it to the hot favourite. Fans of the music video will be hugely disappointed with this staging. You see, in the music video Duncan is naked throughout (tastefully done), submerged in water – it’s all very moody and ethereal. I know some of you will now be searching for the music video on YouTube! I’m a huge fan of the song, it’s one of the best, and it’s time for The Netherlands to win. The last time they did was back in 1975, with Teach In’s delightfully named Dina-A-Dong (stop laughing at the back!). I think they will be waiting at least another year, because even though the juries will love it, and it will be up there with the best songs in the final, does the staging really do anything to attract the ear of the casual viewer? We shall see…

17  North Macedonia

Tamara Todevska – Proud

Newly named country, North Macedonia (FYROM no more) give us a bit of old-school balladeering, in an old-school gown (yikes). The lesser-spotted b-vox singers are in there somewhere. Doesn’t Tamara look like a young Kim Wilde? Good to have a powerhouse ballad in the mix, but I don’t think it will get through.

18  Azerbaijan

Chingiz – Truth

Another well fancied song that I don’t quite get. I don’t know why the title of the song isn’t ‘shut up’, as it is the major phrase throughout. There’s a total mismatch between the song and the staging, isn’t there? I’m not a fan but I think it will get through if the performance doesn’t look as naff as this short clip makes it.

So, is there a winner in this half of the draw. There are some of the stronger songs in this draw, but overall it feels a bit more beige than the first semi-final. That said, if that was anything to go by it will be another cracking show tonight, which is at 8pm on BBC4 in the UK, which I will be watching. I will post my final napkin of death in the interval, but for now I’m thinking…

Switzerland, Latvia, Denmark, Sweden, Croatia, Malta, Russia, Norway, The Netherlands, Azerbaijan

Let’s see if my mood changes on any of these (and the other) songs tonight once I, along with you, have seen the full performances.

Enjoy the show, Eurofans! 😀 xx