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Eurovision 2019: The Final May 18

Twenty songs have made it through the semi-finals to join the six pre-qualifiers for the final. I’m pleased to report that 9/10 of my predictions for semi-final 2 were correct, with just Croatia failing to make it through, displaced by North Macedonia. Tamara joins Italy, France, Germany, Spain, hosts Israel and of course the UK, who didn’t have any of that rigmarole to deal with.

So who’s up tonight? There’s pride, northern lights, BDSM, partying and more songs inspired by last year’s Fuego than anyone needs – especially when there will be an interval performance of Fuego too.

Malta

What could be more appropriate then than to open with a Fauxgo. The chorus is a bit nothing (by way of Culture Club) but after a lot of work the staging really reflects the message of the song – whatever that is.

Why it should win: Malta has never won, although backing singer Destiny won the 2015 Junior Eurovision.

Albania

Passionately sung in Albanian, this made it through the semis as many eastern European entries fell by the wayside.

Why it should win: Jonida is a full-on Eurovision diva.

Czech Republic

Lake Malawi bring a modern interpretation of late 90s mockney Britpop to Eurovision. It’s charming and has colourful, effective staging that really suits the song.

Why it should win: They’re the only ones representing this musical style and will appeal to a section of the audience not catered for elsewhere.

Germany

Oh, Germany. This is a dreary, cynical, overcooked borefest of a song that would have crashed and burned in a semi-final if it hadn’t prequalified. Despite their claim at the semi-final, the name of the group and the name of song, these two are not actually sisters. Fact: one of the writers of this is also a credited writer on both the UK and Swiss entries, which are, respectively, bigger and better.

Why it should win: It made it through the national final so someone must like it.

Russia

Sergey Lazarev came third (and won the televote) in 2016 with an uptempo number so trying again with a worthy ballad was a bit of a risk. Russia have, of course, thrown everything at this, but while there are good ideas in the staging and the song, it doesn’t hang together for me. 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.

Why it should win: A lush orchestral track and some excellent vocal work from Sergey and his backing vocalists.

Denmark

Old skool, multilingual Eurovision tweeness served up from a giant chair – although where Leonora seamlessly appeared on the chair in the national final, hear she has to clamber up a ladder. This song is super twee but kind of nice for those who can stomach it. 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.

Why it should win: Nogen synger på dansk for første gang siden 1997!

San Marino

The second in a double bill of sweetness and light with this simple, bright number from Serhat. He’s already gone one better than last time he was at Eurovision by becoming the country’s second ever qualifier. He’d lost his voice a bit on Tuesday but hopefully he’ll pull off the vocals tonight.

Why it should win: It’s unadulterated fun.

North Macedonia

The rebranded North Macedonia has reached the final on its first attempt and clearly made an impact on Tuesday. Tamara’s vocals are great and the images on the video screen manage to avoid being too on the nose. Both this and Russia’s song have a lovely brief moment of silence. Impossible to say if it’s the same silence.

Why it should win: It’s about empowering women (unfortunately in semi-final 2 it was immediately followed by a man singing “Shut up”).

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 backing vocalists 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 should win: Sweden are very good at Eurovision – and another victory would put them neck-and-neck with Ireland with seven wins.

Slovenia

I confess to being a little surprised that this made it to the final but it clearly has its fans. It’s a low key number performed in a low key way, singer Zala staring into musician Gašper’s eyes throughout. It should be lovely but the effect is borderline creepy and it keeps her from connecting with the audience.

Why it should win: They’re doing their own thing.

Cyprus

Hailing from the same country as Fuego, the appropriately named Replay is another song that’s taken inspiration from Eleni Foureira’s second place. It’s a different song of course, however much some excellent mashups might leave you feeling otherwise, but it’s nevertheless got the same energic approach to staging.

Why it should win: Like Judi Dench’s Oscar for a cameo in Shakespeare in Love, Cyprus almost deserves a belated win just for the legacy of Fuego.

Netherlands

This has been the bookies’ favourite from the start and still is today. It’s slow and thoughtful and has an original sound although it’s never done it for me. The production team have rightly kept the staging simple to focus on the song but they may have gone too far – for much of the song, it’s Duncan singing distantly while sitting awkwardly at a piano and then an incongruous lamp appears. If it doesn’t win, it’ll be because of the staging.

Why it should win: Eurovision in the Netherlands would be pretty convenient.

Greece

And we immediately follow up with another song that’s a fan favourite but just connect with me. Good message, distinctive voice (could be a good thing or not)… but it’s not a song I’d buy or choose to listen to. The staging is rather busy.

Why it should win: Fencing and flora, together at last.

Israel

The host country has opted to go as far away from Netta’s eclectic style as it’s possible to get. Kobi Marimi sings a musical theatre style song lyrically and with power – too much power, perhaps, as sometimes it feels like he’s showing off his voice rather than telling a story. I don’t much like his vocal tone, which is a personal thing, and sadly the song itself is pretty uninspiring.

Why it should win: You can hear him singing in Tel Aviv without amplification.

Norway

Atmospheric verses, catchy pop choruses and Sámi joik delivered by talented singers – it’s a perfect Eurovision recipe. KEiiNO themselves have been enjoying every part of the Eurovision journey – hanging out with fans, covering other competitors’ songs and embracing the camp and the fun of Eurovision throughout the journey. They suffered in the jury final last night when camera shots went wrong during part of the song so all the more reason to get your televote in for them tonight – UK Eurovision fans love this and I’m betting UK viewers will too. It’s never been near winning in the bookies’ odds but the song and the band are great and I hope it gets a strong final placing.

Why it should win: It combines pop with a native folk style in the best traditions of Eurovision in a way that will leave you humming it for days.

United Kingdom

I didn’t think much of the choices the BBC gave us at this year’s You Decide but this has at least grown on me – partly because Michael Rice’s performance has just got better and better. There’s a risk that after singing it for months, he entertains himself with Whitney-esque vocal embellishments that detract from the song. I really have no idea where this’ll end up – recent history suggests it’ll be in the 20s but it could yet appeal enough to be higher.

Why it should win: Michael Rice won All Together Now and there’s no question that he can sing this well.

Iceland

The title of this song by anti-capitalist BDSM art boys Hatari translates as “hatred will prevail”, but it’s very much meant as a warning rather than a goth demand. Amongst the PVC, fire, metal cage and harsh vocals, this has a musicality to it and a political point to make (inasmuch as that is allowed). Iceland loved them and Eurovision will too.

Why it should win: Because Jon Ola Sand would be terrified.

Estonia

We won’t know until after the final how the semi-final votes broke down but this looked for a while on Tuesday like it might be in danger of not qualifying. It’s a straight-down-the-line pop rock number co-written by backing vocalist Stig Rästa, who reached 7th place in 2015 with Elina Born performing the excellent Goodbye to Yesterday. It’s good if inoffensive but will need a stronger performance tonight to hit the top 10.

Why it should win: Victor was born in Sweden.

Belarus

I’ve liked Like It since seeing ZENA’s national final performance and it’s great to see that this has made it to the final. It’s upbeat, fun and youth-oriented (greetings, fellow kids!) and features some ridiculously athletic dancers who can backflip at the drop of a hat. ZENA is just 16 but has already hosted the Junior Eurovision Song Contest.

Why it should win: It’s a bop.

Azerbaijan

Catchy song, handsome man, dance beat, innovative staging and lots of – ahem – supportive offstage backing vocals. This could be a dark horse for the top 5.

Why it should win: Robot arms.

France

Bilal has been living his best life at Eurovision and has deployed a brand new blond wig especially for this performance. The song is about being who you are and not letting other people take you down, which may not be the most original message at Eurovision (hi, Conchita!), but it’s one that bears repeating. There’s a possibility his live vocals will leave a little to be desired but memorable staging and Bilal’s charisma will lift this up.

Why it should win: It really would show the haterz.

Italy

Another act who’s had to deal with negative reaction to him at home is Mahmood, who found his selection being criticised by one of Italy’s more unpleasant right wing politicians. He’s already shown the foolishness of those comments by pwning the charts with Soldi. It’s hard to predict how this will go down: it’s been a massive grower for me but I didn’t like it to begin with and first impressions are vital at Eurovision.

Why it should win: An original sound and a strong story. And clap-claps!

Serbia

Nevena brings a big set of lungs to croon Kruna. She gives a strong vocal performance and that is very much the focus – there’s not a lot else going on and that’s a wise decision.

Why it should win: The best female vocal of the night.

Switzerland

We’re into the home stretch with three bangers to finish us off. The first comes courtesy of Luca Hänni, who won Germany’s equivalent of Pop Idol in 2012. She Got Me has a full-on dance routine but he doesn’t let it impede his vocals. Presumably they wanted to call the song Dirty Dancing but worried about getting sued.

Why it should win: It’s this year’s most effective Fuego-adjacent entry

Australia

It’s popera. It’s dramatic. It’s meaningful. It’s Wicked. And I suspect this won semi-final 1. It’s another one that’s been a grower but in this case the staging really helped me fall in love with it. My only criticism of the inventive sky aerobics involved here is that they’re actually much cooler when you can see the giant poles and the work involved, but these are artily obscured for much of the song.

Why it should win: An expertly sung popera track about depression with the year’s move inventive staging. Plus Kate sounds like she’d be a scream down the pub.

Spain

And finally the last of the Big Five and the last song of the night: La Venda (“the blindfold”). This was one of the first songs selected for 2019 and I loved it immediately: the national final performance drew on the crowd for its raw energy. Over the months since, the backing track has been polished and gradually some of the life this was bursting with has been lost. Now Spain have added the staging and there are way too many ideas involved. I want the drums back, I want the crowd involved and I want the focus back on Miki.

Why it should win: It might have lost the rough edges that made it extra fun but this is still a big old party track.

There you go – it’s a good bunch. I’m inclined to think the bookies are going to be proved right and we’ll be off to the Netherlands in 2020. If they’re not, though, there’s a real chance of a return to Sweden or a groundbreaking win for Australia. Switzerland also have their best opportunity for many years to snatch a victory. And I will, of course, be voting for Norway.

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