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Eurovision 2021: Semi-final 2 May 19

This Thursday sees another 17 acts take to the stage to compete for a spot in Saturday’s final.

Sadly, after putting in great performances, six countries had to leave the competition on Tuesday night. And so, we say farewell to North Macedonia, Australia, Ireland, Romania, Slovenia and, surprisingly, Croatia. I had 9/10 qualifiers right in my own predictions (a rare occurrence), with Croatia taking the spot that went to Israel. One of the Big Four Bangers had to go and there was little to choose between them.

With one more act taking part in the second semi-final competition is fiercer – although there is perhaps a little less competition vying with the best of the bunch.

  1. San Marino – Ever since Senhit dropped her track Adrenalina, one of the biggest questions of this year’s Contest has been will “feat. Flo Rida” be the case in the live performance too? Special dispensation was given for a stand-in rapper to take part in last week’s rehearsals and now it’s been confirmed that Mr Rida is indeed in Rotterdam. He’s a big name and could propel this high, but let’s not forget the song itself: even without the celebrity addition, this is the best entry San Marino have ever sent to Eurovision.
  2. Estonia – Over time there is a risk that the supposedly doomed number 2 spot in the running order becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, with the broadcaster assigning it to the dreariest ballad with the lowest chance of winning. And that’s what’s happened here.
  3. Czech Republic – This is a bop with a distinct sound that sets it apart from everything else in the competition and Benny Cristo is arguably the most charismatic performer in the Contest. It’s by no means a dead cert to make the final but it absolutely deserves to be.
  4. Greece – A twisted Eurovision Henry Ford appears to have decreed that this year’s staging is “Any colour as long as it’s pink.” This is more at the purple end of the spectrum but it’s still very much of the 80s neon feel we’ll see elsewhere. This song does nothing for me but everyone’s going to be distracted by the…inventive green screen choreography.
  5. Austria – I have a lot more affection for this sadboi ballad than other Eurovision fans. It has a funereal tone that maybe isn’t ideal when we’re still all trying to cope with The Event, but as part of an overall mix of songs I think it’s absolutely fine. The second Amen in this year’s competition, the second presented by an excellent vocalist, and probably the second to get knocked out.
  6. Poland – This is a strange one. The song is – how you say? – “basic”. The staging, with more pinks and 80s neon, is A Bit Much. The strength of the vocal remains to be seen. Overall it’s like Jon Ola Sand has come back with an entry of his own. It’s probably not going to the final. (NB: In Rafał we have the first act for tonight who wasn’t due to represent their country in 2020 – if you don’t count “feat. Flo Rida”.)
  7. Moldova – If Croatia was the shock non-qualifier banger on Tuesday, Moldova could well be the banger we lose tonight. After capturing fans’ attention with a music video in which singer Natalia literally eats a man’s cakehole, the unimaginative staging has been a letdown. Coupled with a song, Sugar, that’s a bit too manufactured and, well, saccharine, I wouldn’t count on this making it through. If it does, it’ll be the lower banger quotient of this semi that helps it.
  8. Iceland – The Icelandic legend that is Daði Freyr is back alongside his entirely made-up group Gagnamagnið. So much effort has gone into this. A crowdsourced choir of 1,000 people to do prerecorded backing vocals. Beautiful homemade “instruments”. The latest evolution of his iconic shirt design. Video graphics that tie in with a smartphone game featuring the band. And a song, the third in a trilogy, that reflects on a decade with his wife (who is also on stage and heavily pregnant). It’s not fair to compare the song to last year’s Think About Things, which has already become a modern classic. Instead, compare it to the other songs tonight, and on that basis it goes straight to the final. (NB: A positive coronavirus test sadly means this won’t now be performed live. An as-live rehearsal recording from last week will be used, which should be 98% as good.)
  9. Serbia – The Contest’s only girl group this year is Hu-hu-hu-hurricane and they have not come to mess about. Treading ground similar to last year’s Hasta La Vista, Loco Loco is a ballsy banger. And, unlike every other banger, there are no additional dancers: the stage belongs to these three women alone.
  10. Georgia – Are you attracted by the thought of a serial killer locking eyes with you for three minutes while he sings a dull yet unpredictable song about you? Then you’re in luck. I will say this for Tornike: he confounds expectations. Especially if your expectation is to see this on Saturday.
  11. Albania – Albania always do Albania and good for them. Karma is a midtempo number well sung but also broadly forgettable among everything else on offer tonight. (NB: Anxhela is a new representative for 2021 having won her country’s national selection.)
  12. Portugal – The Belgium of semi-final 2, at almost the same point in the running order, The Black Mamba are an experienced band who know exactly what they’re doing. It’s a simple melody with a solid guitar break although the vocal style might not be for everyone. It’s a shame the group didn’t bring the funkier sound from some of their other songs but I think this might just sneak through to the final via the same demographic who voted for Hooverphonic. (NB: The first entry from Portugal sung entirely in English and another new act who’ve come through a national final.)
  13. Bulgaria – If Portugal are the Belgium of semi-final 2, Bulgaria are the Romania, in exactly the same running order spot. The difference is that Victoria is going to the final. She’s an excellent performer and the staging is calm but effective, focusing on and amplifying her and her song. As with Iceland, don’t compare her song with last year’s; compare it with the competition.
  14. Finland – Blind Channel didn’t just beat last year’s chosen act Aksel in Finland’s national final: they got more public votes than all the other competitors added together. That’s a lot of support to have going into Eurovision. This is loud, aggressive rock but also melodic (the band call it “violent pop”) and should easily appeal to enough of the televote audience in particular to qualify.
  15. Latvia – I love Samanta Tīna. She’s been trying to get to Eurovision for years, having entered both the Latvian and Lithuanian national finals. She made it through last year with Still Breathing, which kept things on just the right side of too absurd, but she’s gone bigger this year with The Moon Is Rising. I fear it’s passed the sweet spot where inventive and accessible meet and will deter as many people as it attracts. She will put on a show though and I really hope she does better than I expect.
  16. Switzerland – After Malta from semi-final 1, we have another of the favourites in 16th spot, with a completely different type of song. As last year, Gjon’s Tears has brought us a Francophone ballad that showcases his high vocal range and emotive delivery. But whereas we all assumed this would be performed sitting at a piano à la 2019 winner Duncan Laurence, this is a choreographed staging including balletic movement from Gjon. I’m fascinated to see how it works: it could detract from the song but it could equally propel him back up to favourite. Either way, he’s qualifying.
  17. Denmark – After Gjon’s monochrome sincerity, the neon is back for the gloriously 1980s closing number from Denmark who, as if it really were Eurovision in the eighties, are singing in Danish alongside a line-up of on-stage backing vocalists. Fyr og Flamme (“Fire and Flame”) are another national final winner who weren’t on the 2020 roster. Conventional wisdom says this is a qualification risk, not helped by the language choice, but I love it and I know so many people who also love it that I can’t believe we won’t see its joy again on Saturday.

The seven countries I expect to go out are Albania, Austria, Estonia, Latvia, Moldova, Poland and Georgia. If you want to save them, you can try as semi-final 2 is the one in which the UK gets to vote. I expect to be dialling up for San Marino, Iceland and Denmark.

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