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Eurovision 2013: Semi-final One May 13

Hello, Europe!

It’s that time again – the most important TV event of the year, the Eurovision Song Contest. And the final is the same evening as the Doctor Who finale, just to make the whole night even more exciting.

Before we can reach the final, though, 33 countries have to fight their way through the two semi-finals. I’m a bit busy at the moment so let’s get straight down to business. Here’s what you can expect from the 16 songs in the first semi-final (Tuesday night at 8pm on BBC Three).

The Good

  • Belarus – With no Turkey in the contest this year, Belarus could be moving tanks onto their lawn. It’s the kind of catchy female vocal and borderline nonsense lyrics we’re used to Turkey taking to a good position in the table. Seriously though – “Solayoh/We play-oh”? No rhyming prize for you.
  • Belgium – A basic melody and a well-thumbed rhyming dictionary work well with an upbeat tempo and a nice middle eight to produce a fairly decent result. At the very least it’s NBFB – Not Bad For Belgium.
  • Cyprus – There’s an awkward moment in the first verse of many Eurovision songs where they either take off or sink away. This didn’t shoot into the sky but it improved as it went along, averaging not bad at all..
  • Denmark – One of the top tips for the contest and one of many strong entries from northern Europe. The penny whistle is a bit of a gimmick but I’m a sucker for a Danish entry and while this isn’t up there with the best she’s got a good pair of lungs, a catchy chorus, some syncopated percussion and nice backing vocals, and that’s a strong combination.
  • Ireland – First things first: no, it’s not Jedward. And even ignoring them, this is the best Irish entry in a long time. Going full throttle for a club feel, you could really imagine this as a summer hit or a One Direction single. I mean, I wouldn’t buy it but I could see it going down well. A lot of this is in the production, though – live on stage, it could be abysmal.
  • Moldova – I spent the first half willing this to be one of the good ones – would it go for it? It did, rising up the scale to some big notes, although it slightly pulled its punch at the end.
  • Netherlands – All those people who bought Lana Del Rey’s records? Anouk is after your votes. She has a characterful voice and the song has a simple, unchallenging beauty to it. It’s memorable and it deserves to do well.
  • Russia – A sweet little ditty although very much afflicted with twee Eurovision lyrics about ending wars and poverty and that. A million times better than singing grannies though and the final third is terrific.
  • Serbia – Serbia have dispatched their own version of Bananarama and you know, it works. The three Mojes work well together and the result is a proper toe-tapper – albeit one that ends rather suddenly when the three-minute maximum hits.

The Bad

  • Lithuania – The upbeat backing track can’t conceal that this song is missing something quite major: a tune. Each time it segues into the chorus, it feels like it’s going to grow big but no, it just carries on with one of the three notes Andrius condescends to use. A shame.
  • Slovenia – Predictably, some entries will attempt to mimic the previous year’s winner and so enter Slovenia’s answer to Loreen, Hannah. Unfortunately, creating a backing track of really annoying electronic pulsing doesn’t automatically make for a euphoric anthem. Well, sadly it probably does but the song itself can’t carry it and no amount of bleeping will fix that.

The Ugly

  • Montenegro – Now here’s some Eurovision awfulness of the old school. An intro of screechy vocals is followed by some naff rapping before a chorus that’s all over the place. The second verse appears to be a rapped seafood recipe. A mishmash of dreadful. Hurrah.

The Rest

  • Austria – Starts promisingly but after a few lines swerves so far into the middle of the road it’s a danger to traffic in both directions. The big key change comes too late to redeem it and with too much wailing.
  • Croatia – They might look like an identity parade in Moss Bros but this is melodic and harmonious. It doesn’t seem anywhere near as miserable as it should really.
  • Estonia – This seems fine. Nothing desperately wrong with it but yeah. Next.
  • Ukraine – After a gentle start, the change in direction and stabbing synths caught me by surprise. It’s fun while it lasts but it doesn’t really build to anything. It’s one of the tips for a good placing, which bemuses me.
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