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Eurovision 2019: Semi-final 2 May 16

Tonight is the second semi-final of the world’s favourite music contest, but first things first: how did my semi-final 1 predictions go?

Pretty darn well, it turns out. I fingered 8/10 of the qualifiers with just two wrong’uns. Poland, which was something of a 50/50 choice, didn’t make it, and nor did Belgium, whose over-choreographed performance came across as a little nervy. In their stead, the might lungs of Serbia and the creepy-not-endearing Slovenian duo made it through, so Saturday’s bigger audiences will get to enjoy those.

But before that we have the small matter of tonight’s competitive semi-final, not least because this is the one the UK can vote in! I’m pleased to report that there are no bad songs – but that doesn’t mean there aren’t entries you’ll forget once they’re over. You are however in store for a few really great songs and some crazy staging along the way. Buckle up.

Armenia

This falls firmly in the category of good but not memorable. Longtime readers will know I love a good key change but while Walking Out features a key change it’s a throwaway, unsatisfying one.

Why it might not qualify: It could see its potential votes going to North Macedonia or Albania instead.

Ireland

22 is a sweet little ditty with a catchy chorus that’s perfect for radio play. I’d love to see it make it through but this semi-final may prove too tough, although of the three solo female vocalists opening the show, Sarah is my favourite.

Why it might not qualify: Last year’s underwhelming entry was massively boosted by two lads dancing romantically together. This year’s has a 50s diner.

Moldova

After a few years of upbeat, crowd-pleasing fun, Moldova have given us a straightforward ballad. Yay. At least it should be sung well and there is some eye-catching staging (courtesy of Ukraine’s entry in 2011).

Why it might not qualify: Which one was this again?

Switzerland

Luca is an established talent who won Germany’s equivalent of Pop Idol in 2012. She Got Me is this year’s most effective Fuego-adjacent entry, an absolute banger with a full-on dance routine that he doesn’t seem to let impede his vocals. Presumably they wanted to call the song Dirty Dancing but worried about getting sued.

Why it might not qualify: It would take an injunction from Emile Ardolino to stop this getting through.

Latvia

Eurovision week is supposed to be when we forget about the national finals but this did inexplicably beat more interesting songs in Latvia’s Supernova. There’s nothing wrong with it per se but once you’ve heard the first thirty seconds you can use the rest for a loo break.

Why it might not qualify: You won’t be able to dial the number from your coma.

Romania

This is a step up from Latvia, which I kept confusing it with for a while, but it’s going to be borderline for qualifying unless it can bring some real oomph live. Sharing a semi with Moldova may help its chances a little.

Why it might not qualify: I promise the show picks up soon but this is another perfectly good song you’ll probably forget about.

Denmark

Old skool, multilingual Eurovision tweeness served up from a giant chair. This is super twee but kind of nice for those who can stomach it – luckily for me, I am one of them. If you’re open to it, this song will wrap you in its cotton wool ball of love and take you to Cloudcukooland. And if you’re not, the sweetness will make you vomit. Being in the same semi as Sweden and Norway may yet help it through.

Why it might not qualify: The vomiting.

Sweden

John Lundvik won the Swedish selection show Melodifestivalen at his second attempt – and he didn’t just win: he left the competition in his dust. He knows exactly what to do and how to do it – and support group the Mamas sound fab too. As far as I can tell, London-born John is the first lead performer in the contest ever to have (co-)written a competitor country’s song. Which one? Why ours, of course…

Why it might not qualify: Some people seem to resent Sweden doing well. How dare they bring good songs, talented singers and quality staging. It’s not fair.

Austria

This year’s quietest, gentlest song could really stand out from the crowd. Sadly it’s more likely to get utterly forgotten. Pænda is great and I’d love to see her performing one of her noisier numbers at the Contest. But not this year sadly.

Why it might not qualify: If you’re at a loud Eurovision party, you might not even hear it.

Croatia

In the early 2000s, Croatia loved sending solo men singing big ballads. This is corny and dated but I find it hard not to like and Roko is clearly a terrific singer. If the staging works – and it’s improved from the national final – this could make it in and give eastern Europe a boost in what’s increasingly looking like a western Europe shootout.

Why it might not qualify: It could easily be more overwrought than… wrought.

Malta

More Fauxgo, this time from Malta. It’s a fan favourite but I don’t quite get it – maybe because the song is actually more contemporary than I am. The chorus is a bit nothing (by way of Culture Club) but they’ve worked on the staging a lot and it looks like it’s reached a point where it’s all coming together.

Why it might not qualify: Could lose votes to Switzerland.

Lithuania

Jurij is no stranger to Eurovision having provided backing vocals twice and seems he lovely. Unfortunately, neither enforced falsetto of Run with the Lions nor the unimaginative staging he’s been lumped with do anything to help get him into the final.

Why it might not qualify: They forgot to do any staging.

Russia

Nearly winning with an uptempo number and then trying again with a worthy ballad was a bit of a risk for Sergey but it’s clear Russia really want this. The production benefits from a lush orchestral track and some excellent vocal work from Sergey and his backing singers. The last section is by some way the best, as it always should be, but the overall package is less than its parts for me. Still, direkt till final.

Why it might not qualify: People might respect this but they won’t really love it.

Albania

Serbia’s success in SF1 could bode well for Albania in SF2 (although it is of course an entirely different set of countries voting tonight). This track is more upbeat than Serbia’s which could help it appeal more broadly – or could lose it a potentially classy edge. I suspect a passionate performance will see it through.

Why it might not qualify: Not enough Albanian speakers in voting nations.

Norway

I love this. As importantly, I love the band, KEiiNO. Tom, Alexandra and Fred have been enjoying every part of the Eurovision journey – hanging out with fans, covering other competitors’ songs and embracing the camp. This is catchy pop entwined with Sámi joik that absolutely stormed Melodi Grand Prix in Oslo and if everything comes together it will be brilliant.

Why it might not qualify: Some people might balk at the joik if they’ve never heard it before.

Netherlands

The favourite. It’s slow and thoughtful and has an original sound and Duncan seems nice. Yeah, it’s OK. It’ll probably win although it’s so low key that Sweden or Italy might snatch victory instead – but we can talk about that once this has, inevitably, qualified.

Why it might not qualify: Duncan’s piano catches fire. (Or someone asks why he has a piano?)

North Macedonia

Farewell the iconically ridiculously named Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and welcome to the rebranded North Macedonia. The lyrics of Proud could feel like a cynical grab for votes but I’m happy to take the song at face value. Both this and Russia’s song have a lovely brief moment of silence. Impossible to say if it’s the same silence.

Why it might not qualify: It could lose potential votes to Armenia.

Azerbaijan

Catchy song, handsome man, dance beat, interesting staging, supportive backing vocals. It’s going through. There’s a bit more falsetto but it’s better deployed here. Could easily go top 5.

Why it might not qualify: The laser robots (yep) accidentally cut Chingiz in two during the first verse. Otherwise it’s going through.

That’s your lot for tonight – but sadly only 10 can go through to Saturday’s final. Time to see if I can get as many right as on Tuesday.

Predicted qualifiers:

Netherlands, Switzerland, Sweden, Denmark, Croatia, Albania, Azerbaijan, Norway, Russia, Malta

I won’t be surprised if North Macedonia or Moldova sneak in, at the expense of Denmark, Albania or Croatia. My main concern though is a good result for Norway. Vote Norway, people. Čajet dan čuovgga!

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