The first Eurovision 2012 semi-final didn’t look too bad for quality, and neither, I’m pleased to report, does the second. There are none of the stonkingly weird tracks that can make Eurovision particularly entertaining, but there are plenty of good songs that deserve to get through the final on May 26th.
Once again, I’ve linked each country name to the song’s video on YouTube so that you can see for yourself what I’m blathering about, should you wish.
This is the semi-final we in the UK are able to vote in, so play close attention. Here are the good, the bad, the ugly and the rest from Semi-Final 2:
In alphabetical order, these are the ten songs I’d put through to the final:
- Belarus – Rock breaks into the second semi-final with fresh-faced emo motorcycle gang Litesound. (The title, We Are the Heroes, made me briefly confuse this with 2006′s Lithuanian horror, We Are the Winners.) I prefer this to Switzerland’s lone rock effort from the previous semi.
- Bosnia and Herzegovina – A pleasant enough piano ballad that builds gently. It’s position penultimate in the running order may mean it sticks the memory.
- Croatia – This is good but, like so many other songs this year, takes a little too long to come alive. When it does, though, it’s enough to elevate Nebo for promotion. The video offers a group of half naked men fighting over a double bass and the Croatian Andrea Corr, in case that boats your float.
- Estonia – I haven’t checked the translation but from my rough Estonian I think this is a song about a man’s love for his pet koala. It’s one of the stronger ballads and some female backing vocals to complement Ott Lepland’s lead plus a sneaky key change push this through for me.
- Lithuania – Part power ballad, part up tempo number, this has the final spot in the semi-final and I can see it happily – and deservedly – winging its way through to a place in the final.
- FYR Macedonia – There is definitely a theme emerging: gentle tracks with some nice musicality that switch up a gear part way through (much to my relief). This is very much in that category: I was sceptical at the beginning, encouraged only by a touch of violin, but then jumped up a level, passed Go and collected 200 Macedonian denars.
- Malta – Nice of Malta to enter an upbeat number rather than a dreary ballad, so points for that. This is the Night is like one of the better reality show singles: it’s catchy and entertaining but strangely empty and if you peeled away the layers, deep in its heart you’d find Simon Cowell rubbing himself all over with £50 notes. Warning: if you watch the video, you may break your computer monitor as the desire to punch most of the people in it becomes overwhelming.
- Norway – One can’t help but notice the similarities between this and 2011′s third placed Popular by Eric Saade from Sweden. This is nowhere near as good but it succeeds in – ahem – playing to the same market. It’s hard to dislike – more rasping synths aside – but it may find itself in competition with Lithuania.
- I went to Serbia for the first time in March and had a brief discussion there about Eurovision. The Serbians I spoke to enjoy the contest but were concerned that the break-up of Yugoslavia and the USSR into multiple entrants (just look how many I’ve already included) makes it much harder for a Western European country to win – a view I’m sure is shared on this side of the continent. Their entry this year doesn’t start too promisingly, with a strong intrumental offset by some tedious balladeering of the kind I can live without. Nevertheless, I can see this doing all right (if it’s not impacted by going first) and once it springs to life, it’s not bad at all. (Željko Joksimović came close to winning back in 2004 with Lane Moje.)
- Slovakia – The loud metal opening made me expect awfulness from this but it’s another OK rock track. This will be going up again Belarus for those votes and I can see the extra drama of this song helping Slovakia to win that match-up.
I’m afraid I can only muster one bad song for this section, and I’ll confess here it’s not even properly terrible. The culprit is…
- Slovenia – They’ve found their way into this section because they commit the ultimate Eurovision sin: it doesn’t matter how tuneful or well performed your song is if it’s dull, dull, dull. You can use all key changes and comedy headwear you like – and the last 30 seconds almost redeem it – but it’s stil nul points from me.
Again, only one song managed to shoehorn its way into this category:
- Georgia‘s entry deserves to be much worse than it is. It’s several songs mixed into one with some curious decisions, not least in the production of the creepy video. It’s kind of fun despite that, but I’m not ruling out having nightmares about a scary man in a white suit.
The rules of maths mean that we’re left with six songs that won’t do anyone any harm but don’t make my top tier:
- Bulgaria – The weakest of the Eurodance numbers, with deductions for being this year’s most cynical attempt to use lots of different languages in one song. It’s not awful but definitely a good moment to go and make that cup of tea.
- Netherlands – Oh, Beth Orton, where did it all go wrong? It’s hard to pick out anything that’s definitively wrong with this: it’s tuneful enough, it has a clear style of its own, and yet… I think perhaps it’s so inoffensive that it’s gone right round past infinity and come back as offensive, its twee lyrics giving even Brotherhood of Man a run for their money. I can’t say it’s bad but I’d happily never have to hear it again. (And yes, I restrained myself from commenting on singer/writer Joan’s interesting choice of outfit.)
- Come on, Portugal – let’s not do this. There were a few nice touches, but when the backing singers came on I was hoping it was a sign of impending excitement rather than a few oohs, aahs and uninteresting harmonies. Go away and do it again.
- Sweden – More tedious syncopated synth Eurodance. At least its title will help those compiling this years’ euphoria albums work out whether it qualifies for inclusion. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if it does OK – it’s unfathomably been tipped for huge success – but *mumbles something about ABBA*
- Turkey have had a mixed track record over the last decade with several songs hitting the top five, including 2003′s winner Everyway That I Can and 2009′s unforgettable Düm Tek Tek. I can’t see Love Me Back setting the EBU on fire with its bizarre lyrics and obsession with nautical metaphors but neither is it a shipwreck.
- Ukraine – After a promising intro, I turned against this. With its mainstream dance attitude, it could do well given the right audience, but those syncopated synths and artificial strings don’t appeal to me at all.
Another good line-up so tune in for the second semi-final on Thursday 24th and see who makes it though – and cast your vote. I’m leaning towards Lithuania, Slovakia or Belarus but we’ll see how they do on the night.
Next time: the Big Five bankrolling countries and last year’s winner Azerbaijan are guaranteed places in the final. We’ll take a look at the six songs the winners of the semi-finals will be facing on May 26th.