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Eurovision 2015: Semi-final 1 May 19

Oh my god, we’re back again.

Conchita’s storming victory in Copenhagen last year means the 2015 Eurovision Song Contest finds us in Vienna. Last year 31 countries were competing for places in the final. This year it’s 33 so the semi-finals, of which tonight is the first, are extra important.

Tonight’s winners will head to the final to join the Big Five – France, Spain, Italy, Germany and the good ol’ UK – plus reigning champions Austria and guest competitor Australia.

The show will be on BBC Three this evening, with Scott Mills and Mel Giedroyc hosting. If you’re in the UK, don’t try to vote: we get to have our say in the second semi on Thursday.

Here’s a quick rundown of what to expect tonight:

  1. Moldova – This is very Europe, as befits an opening act. Eduard Romanyuta is Adam Rickitt’s 90s pop career reborn with a mainstream pop song that I seem to like more than everyone else, even if the verse could do with livening up. He appears to have recruited his dancers from Uniform Dating.
  2. Eurovision entrants are allowed six performers on stage and Armenia are taking full advantage, opting for six vocalists. Unfortunately, they appear to be singing six different songs. This is the musical theatre entry and that’s not a bad thing, but they’re trying to squeeze so much into their three minutes that the audience may be left baffled. Still, key change.
  3. Belgium – Now this is different. 19-year-old Loïc Nottet channels Adele in places with a song that could do really well. Its success will depend on how it comes across live but it deserves to breeze through to the final.
  4. Netherlands – They came so close last year (albeit with a song I wasn’t fussed about) but this doesn’t stand out. It’s perfectly serviceable but not a winner, and after a while you get sick of the incessant “why-why-yi-yi-yi”.
  5. Finland – They’ve not had a winner since Lordi and this won’t change that. It’s great to see a group of artists with learning disabilities represented at Eurovision. Alas, the song itself is dreary.
  6. GreeceOne Last Breath is, in the video at least, performed suitably breathily. A key change kicks it into gear and then it tries to squeeze all the dramatic stuff into the last third. Regular (well, annual) readers of these posts will know that this is one of my biggest Eurovision bugbears. Don’t write a song that’s boring for two minutes and only good for one. That’s not building to a climax, that’s wasting two-thirds of your stage time. And yet, as Greece are perhaps aware, people still vote for them. Grr.
  7. I’m always well disposed to a strong duet, and there are several this year. Estonia‘s is suitably upbeat and the closest to last year’s Netherlands near miss. I’m concerned that at times they’re singing parts too low in their ranges, which detracts from the power. There’s room for improvement but it’s a solid entry and should go through.
  8. FYR Macedonia – It’s a strong, contemporary song, if a little slow for me. It’s biggest danger is being overshadowed in the final by the Swedish entry, of which more on Thursday.
  9. Serbia make a welcome return with Beauty Never Lies. This starts quietly but instead of suddenly getting good too late, it builds steadily into a full-on dance track. Could be popular.
  10. Hungary – The curiously-named Boggie goes for the Eurovision stalwart of the anti-war message. Over the last few years, Hungary have had a very strong run of songs without being rewarded with a win. This is different and not particularly to my taste but it’s not bad. The version in the promo video is pleasantly chilling. It might struggle to have the same effect live.
  11. Belarus – This is the love child of 2014’s Azeri and Hungarian entries and gets a boost from a well-utilised violin. Very toe tappy.
  12. Russia – Them again. The worst of all the options for 2016 host. This is a song about peace and healing and how we’re all really the same. From Russia. And it’s as twee as that sounds, although the chorus is good.
  13. Denmark – Tonight’s only guitar pop entry. McBusted could release something similar tomorrow to disprove my point but this still feels dated to me. Retro is fine but it needs an original twist. Competent filler.
  14. Albania – This is a classic example of my bête noire: it washes over you for two minutes and then suddenly there’s some syncopation and you remember you were supposed to be listening.
  15. Romania – After a night of songs in English, a sudden change! For a while anyway. It’s OK but we’re all flagging now.
  16. Georgia – Bizarrely, there are two songs this year called Warrior. This is the first and I think demonstrates what is meant by “fierce”. It’s a pumped up Evanescence (remember them) but will need big drums on the stage to work. One to reevaluate after the semi final if it progresses, which it should.

There we go. Only 10 can make it through to the big night on Saturday. And on Thursday, we’ll be back like the gluttons for punishment we are for 17 more songs.

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