San Marino 🇸🇲

You know the old phrase, “If at first you don’t succeed try again. Then again. Then you actually succeed. Then leave it for two years. Then come back and fail again” At least, I think that’s phrase right? In 2017 we welcome back a dear friend, Valentina Monetta and she’s brought a pal this time, apparently they met online. He wanted to come to her house. So he clicked her. With his mouse.  American born/German based Jimmie Wilson is joining Monetta for ‘Spirit of the Night’ which is penned by none other than…Ralph Siegel! If Finland want their Blackbird to fly away I don’t think we’d mind this Siegel buggering off either. This is a naff, flimsy pop track which has mastered if nothing else the multiple key change. I don’t dislike it really, I think given enough alcohol I’d end up dancing along to it quite happily, Jimmie’s vocal is spot on and Valentina does her best considering this really isn’t her style. It’s going to take a minor miracle for this find a place in the final but it’ll be a fun three minutes on the Thursday night. Just think…it could’ve been Tony Hadley.

Croatia 🇭🇷

Having sent two outfits in one in 2016 Croatia have gone that one step further this year by sending two singers in the one person. This year we have ‘My Friend’ from Jacques Houdek & Jacques Houdek. All on his own Jacques sings two clearly distinct parts of the song, one in the very cheesiest of pop and the other in an operatic tone. If the viewers were already left baffled by what they’ve just seen from San Marino they will only delve further into the confuso-sphere with Jacques. There are so many baffling things about this song, from a purely practical perspective he’ll surely need two microphones set up for the two different styles. In the video there’s even two subtly different versions of Jacques, without glasses for pop and bespectacled for the operatic. Croatia will seriously miss a trick if they don’t go for the full half and half down Jacques and have him turn from side to side when singing the two different styles. This for me isn’t even the weirdest bit of the song, the spoken word bit at the start is tremendously unsettling. People will vote for it, juries will kill it. Not qualifying.

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So many Jacques to choose from

Norway 🇳🇴

It’s been some weeks now since MGP but if I’m honest I’m still a little bit bitter that we didn’t get ‘Wrecking Crew’ from Ammunition. It was for me the standout track from the Norwegian national final and whilst it didn’t quite hit the heights of ‘In My Dreams’ it would’ve been a welcome tonic to have Glam back in Kyiv. My hope for a ridiculously over the top rock song at Eurovision has to wait for another year, I still think Avantasia were robbed in Germany last year. But in the end both the international juries and Norwegian televote plumped for JOWST & Aleksander Wallmann’s upbeat electronic dance track ‘Grab The Moment’. This is another song from this year’s bunch that feels radio ready, it’s a got a strong EDM vibe supported by a decent vocal from Wallmann. It’s not really for me though and if I’m entirely honest when I first listened to the tracks this once was quickly forgotten. It was only through the visuals on stage could I remember it when it came to MGP, it just doesn’t stand out. And if it takes light up masks to make it memorable then perhaps that says it all. I don’t have much to add, it’s a decent quality song but for me, just a bit middle of the road. Should’ve sent Wig W…Ammunition!

Switzerland 🇨🇭

In the interest of full disclosure I feel I should point out straight away that I am utterly head over heels in love with Miruna, the lead singer of Timebelle so I shall try not to let this adoration cloud my judgement. Now that’s out of the way I can be brutally honest…I bloody love this song! This was the last song I listened to in the playlist for the Swiss national selection (Die Entscheidungsshowdenguidensebalterossinellicelinedion, full title) and by that point I had lost all hope. None of the songs were truly awful but it was a parade of slightly below average middle of the road disappointments, made the UK National Final look like Melodifestivalen. But ‘Apollo’ from Timebelle saved the day and won the national final at a canter. The track was further polished after the win and now we have a classy, top quality pop ballad. Additionally if they had sent the 7th Heaven remix there’s no doubt we’d be heading back to Lugano or Lausanne next year. As it stands though a we’ve got a great song with an amazing vocal that will happily see a small nation return to qualification. Speaking of which…

Belarus 🇧🇾

If there’s one feel good song of this season, if there’s one song that doesn’t skipped on my playlist, if there’s one song that feels genuinely true and authentic to the performers then it has to be this year’s Belorussian entry. ‘Historyja majho žycciaby Naviband (or NAVI or NAVIBAND or whatever they’re meant to be called) is bringing the Belarusian language to the Contest for the very first time and it is by some way the best song the country have ever sent. I genuinely can’t see how even the hardest, most critical Eurofan couldn’t warm to this adorable pairing. The chanting section of the song will surely have the crowd in Kyiv and people at home joining in, it’s repetitive enough to be catchy without becoming irritating. Generally I would say I’m not usually a fan of songs with a strong folk-y element but I cannot find a single bad thing to say about this song. In a strong year it’s going to be hard for them to beat their best ever finish of 6th from 2007 but after two years non-qualifying years it’ll be a welcome return to Saturday for Belarus!

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Bulgaria 🇧🇬

There was one hell of a lot of pressure on the Bulgarian broadcaster after the incredible success they had with Poli Genova last year and whilst they haven’t quite scaled the same heights of ‘If Love Was A Crime’ they’ve still done a quality job. When Kristian Kostov was announced as the representative for Bulgaria with ‘Beautiful Mess’ there was a collective sigh across Europe when we had the first entrant to be born this millennium. Urgh. Although his incredibly youthful features can’t hide his age his voice most certainly does. Having originally only heard the studio version I wasn’t overly convinced but it was hearing the boy sing live at London that brought me round to the Bulgarian way of thinking. The balance of power & more subtle nuance in Kristian’s voice blew me away live and fully expect him to do the same come Kyiv. Bulgaria have also recently announced the addition of Swedish designer Sacha Jean Baptiste to the team basically guaranteeing them a decent stage show too. It’s currently second favourite with the bookies behind Italy, this I do find surprising as I can’t see Kris topping Poli.  Top ten though should be a reasonably realistic aim.

Lithuania 🇱🇹

So after three songs that I would say are nailed on for qualification we move across to Lithuania who are most certainly going in the opposite direction. I have played this song over and over in an attempt to simply remember the tune and even just a few of the lyrics. But no, I don’t know what it is about ‘Rain of Revolution’ by Fusedmarc but I just cannot remember this song. I can very easily see this coming last in the semi, it’s by far and away not the worst song but it’s just simply not memorable enough. Having just listened to it again to pass comment all I can think is it feels like a song that would’ve struggled to make it out of the semi ten years ago, never mind now. When you think of the vast number of choices that are offered to the Lithuanian people in the race of attrition they call a national final it’s a crying shame we’ve ended up with something so nondescript.

Estonia 🇪🇪

Here we have a male/female duet who can’t seem to stand the sight of each other, where have we heard that before. There have been murmurs comparing Koit Toome & Laura to Chanee and N’Evergreen from Denmark in 2010 but let’s be real here ‘Verona’ doesn’t even come anywhere close to the Eurovision perfection that is ‘In a Moment Like This’. Now I should preface this by saying I do genuinely like the song, Verona is catchy and has a clear hook that’ll be remembered when it comes to the the reprise but my goodness Koit & Laura are doing their best to wreck their chances. Laura’s singing voice is so nasal and has such a strong Americanised accent it’s at times unpleasant to listen to. If people are levelling the smug criticism at Robin Bengtsson Koit is just as guilty if not twice over. But the key thing is the chemistry. As much as ‘Yodel It!’ is not my personal favourite Ilinca & Alex’s chemistry shines through in every live performance, same with NAVI and somehow even Valentina & Jimmie have the slightest the frisson. But Koit & Laura have zero chemistry, there’s no energy or spark between the two and it results in a lifeless performance. This is doubly disappointing when only two years ago we had Stig and Elina come from Estonia with one of the most emotionally charged Eurovision duets of all time. This to me feels like an opportunity missed and if it does do well it’ll be on the song, not the performers

Israel 🇮🇱

Two times the bridesmaid, now finally it’s time to be the bride for Imri Ziv. Having been backing vocalist twice now for Israel with Hovi Star last year and with Nadav Guedj on the incredible ‘Golden Boy’ it’s time for Imri to step up to the top table with ‘I Feel Alive’. Up until the reveal of the running order I had this song somewhere on the bubble in terms of qualifying but closing the show on the Thursday feels like a great spot for this song to do very well from. Not only in terms of being in the pimp slot but the first song in four to be a little more up tempo. If it does qualify and then gets pulled top half in the final draw, it could be very easy for Christer to use the same trick he did last year with Belgium and go with last one on Thursday, open the show on Saturday. Imri himself should benefit from the experience of being in the Eurovision bubble twice before even if he hadn’t been the centre of attention (that was definitely Hovi last year). We saw two years ago that Israel can recreate a strong party vibe on stage and if they can do the same this year they could well get another decent finish.

And there we have it, both semi finals done. The 36 songs competing for the 20 places up for grabs have been seen to. This leaves us just the big 5 & host nation to come tomorrow. Come back again for those pesky automatic qualifiers.

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