Hello from Copenhagen!
My first experience of Eurovision up close on Tuesday was terrific fun and we found ourselves sitting right behind the “green room” with a great view of the acts. The favourites got through, the main surprise qualifiers for me being Iceland and the Netherlands. I was gutted to see Moldova go, but there’s a replacement Bond theme waiting in the wings tonight, ready to rise from the ashes…
In one sense it’s marginally easier for the acts in the second semi-final as only five, rather than six, will be knocked out of the contest. But on balance I’d say the competition is tougher, with more strong songs in the running. Let’s look at who they are.
- Malta – We start with this year’s obligatory tribute to Mumford and Sons, for Malta do love their tweeness. It’s cheesy – even more so when you add the schmaltzy video – but at least it will differentiate itself from everything else.
- Israel – Mei Finegold delivers toe-tapping anger with a big-lunged key change. And that’s all I really want from a Eurovision song.
- Norway – It’s worthy and your man can sing. So no, it does nothing for me. A little bit haunting and a little bit boring.
- Georgia – So. Based on the video, a group of ageing hippies got drunk at a barbecue and decided to put together a Eurovision entry, couldn’t agree on a song so decided to play three at the same time, and coerced a family friend – who felt too polite to refuse – into improvising some vocals on top. Based on the song itself, I reach the same conclusion. It has moments of musical interest but overall it’s rather baffling.
- Poland – This one’s fun and insistent if a little bawdy. Will split the audience down the middle. Possibly with an axe.
- Austria – With Moldova gone, the path is clear for this year’s other Bond theme – and you can hear the style from the opening note to the final sting. It’s Conchita Wurst, the bearded lady, and that alone will help this to stick in the voters’ collective memories. Plus she’s got a good set of lungs on her. With a strong staging, Rise Like a Phoenix could do very well indeed.
- Lithuania – Attention grabs exactly that, but not for the right reasons. The official recording is better than the national final recording, which was pretty awful. This could well go the way of Latvia and Estonia – i.e. home.
- Finland – The contest is light on guitar bands this year but Softengine do a creditable, sub-Killers job of filling the gap. Cornering the market may see it through.
- Ireland – Heartbeat starts off somewhere south of the Corrs but it’s enjoyable, if forgettable, once it gets a pulse. Not a patch on last year’s Irish entry but that came last in the final, so what do I know?
- Belarus – Return of the cake! This reminds me of Pasha Parfany’s Lautar, Moldova’s 2012 entry, although it’s not as good. The clumsy pop culture references in Cheesecake will date badly but it’s laid back and fun – although I could do without the touch of Robin Thicke. As it were.
- Macedonia – An OK bit of Eurodance.
- Switzerland – You do know how to whistle, don’t you? If you do, now’s the time to join in. Sebalter is massively endearing and the song is good, catchy fun. I hope it makes it to the final.
- Greece – I should hate this. Really, I should. It’s funky (although I feel embarrassed to use the word), it’s upbeat, it’s positive, and while it might not be the absolute freshest sound, it’s certainly within its Use By date. If you told me this was a new act from London rather than a Eurovision entry, I’d believe you, and that’s high praise indeed.
- Slovenia – This is a cracker. It kicks off with a flute that will make your heart sink, but fear not – it was a cunning ruse! It bursts into life as a thoroughly modern pop track. Tinkara deserves a place in the final, but if not, at least there’ll be a place in the Sugababes.
- Romania – And finally, it’s an above average pop track, boosted by some powerful vocals. I can’t remember how it goes but there’s a circular keyboard to distract you.
And that’s your lot, apart from an interval act that will see Autralia’s first participation in the contest – discounting Olivia Newton-John’s fourth place for the UK in 1974, of course.
I’m not one to predict but I could see the eliminated five including Georgia, Poland, Lithuania, Ireland and Macedonia. I may be live tweeting (on @willhowells) but I’m in the standing section this time so I may be busy dancing. Or just be too hemmed in by gays enjoying the semi.