So Denmark – the winner two years ago – and the Netherlands – second last year – were among the six countries that failed to qualify on Tuesday. Not that we were shocked, were we? There were much better songs in the running.
Tonight’s semi-final has a slightly larger field, with 17 countries competing for 10 spots in the final – so it will be marginally more difficult to quality. It’s also the one where we in the UK get to vote, so let’s take a look at the songs.
- Lithuania – What starts are jangly guitar turns into a country style backing but they’re no Texas Lightning (Germany, 2006). There’s an irritating chorus and in a sea of duets, this is the weakest. It’ll probably get through anyway.
- Remember when Ireland were good at this? They’re not about to return to the top with this dull ballad. Believe it or not, they were better off with Jedward.
- San Marino – Another male/female duet. Now I love a good key change, even if the voters don’t, but this one’s a disaster. Just as the song settles into an interesting sound it modulates into cheese.
- Montenegro – It’s not promising at first but Adio manages to develop a heartbeat in sufficient time. Add a reasonable performance and interesting musicality and there should be enough here to see it through.
- Malta – Georgia’s
Warrior deservedly made it through semi-final 1. This is the weaker of the two even while if the sound is more mainstream pop. It would be convenient for everyone trying to keep track on Saturday if this didn’t get through.
- Norway – Technically this falls foul of my “just get going” complaint, but I’ll excuse it because a dark ballad can’t go straight in all guns blazing and it does work, eventually. The strongest of this semi-final so far.
- Portugal – So unremarkable I can barely come up with a remark. Features possibly the dullest key change ever.
- Czech Republic – These two had a fun time at the London Eurovision Party a few weeks ago. I’m interested to see if they manage to bring the charisma on show that night to Vienna or whether they’ll feel the need to go serious. This is a reasonable duet but it needs to be sold in the performance.
- Israel – I think it’s trying to be “fun”. The last line – noting that his three minutes maximum song time is up – is unforgivable.
- Latvia – I see what they’re trying to do but it’s a bit screamy and a bit of a slog.
- Azerbaijan always seem to do better than I think they should. This is a biggish number that does nothing for me so will sail through to the final.
- Iceland – Forgettable. If I had anything else to say, I’ve forgotten. And anyone vaguely enjoying this and thinking about voting for it is likely to be distracted too, because next up it’s…
- Sweden – Let’s not pretend this hasn’t got where it has because of the staging, but that wouldn’t be effective if there wasn’t a good song to build on. This has been the presumptive winner for some time, propelled from the same position in Melodifestivalen, Sweden’s annual selection competition (as big a deal there as Eurovision itself). Straight through to Saturday without touching the sides.
- Switzerland – The opening bass line reminds me of 1995 Beautiful South, and there are lyrical similarities with Jade Ewen’s UK entry (It’s My Time from 2009). Could get a bit lost; could sneak through.
- Cyprus – Sweet and simple and probably not going to make waves.
- Slovenia – The vocals are a little odd but there’s a nice bit of fiddle – always a good sign – and it’s got a decent tempo and a memorable chorus to help it qualify.
- Poland – First, let’s give thanks for this not being last year’s awful Polish entry – to which the UK phone vote promptly gave douze points (thankfully cancelled out by the wisdom of the jury). This is a 1980s ballad. It’s perfectly pleasant with a good climax but will be lucky to sneak through.
The semi-final is on BBC Three and live streamed on YouTube from 8pm. Be there or be not there.