I decided not to post anything straight after the first set of rehearsals as I always think judging the artists on what are basically their first steps onto the stage feels a little premature. All the countries competing have now rehearsed twice so picking out a few highlights and lowlights is a bit more reasonable. In this post we focus on each semi in turn looking at the guaranteed qualifiers, the no hopers and then try to patch together the rest. We’ll also take a look over our automatic qualifiers, the ‘Big 5’ and our hosts.

SEMI FINAL 1

It’s no coincidence there’s three countries in this semi who’ve changed relatively little from their national finals and should be sure of qualification: Sweden, Finland & Portugal. Sweden are doing what they always do when it comes to Eurovision & Melodifestivalen, and it always works. So why change the format. Finland have kept the same ethos from UMK only heightening it for the Kyiv stage, should be top 10 overall. And Portugal…oh Portugal. Even without your singer you’re still the highlight. Sailing through to Saturday night when it will likely win the jury vote. Armenia should also be included as safe for qualifying. For the first time in years we’ve got an authentic yet accessible Eastern sound. The visuals are bloody wonderful and Artsvik herself is one of the few performers this year I find to be truly mesmorising. Easily through.

Conversely there are five countries from semi 1 that should probably have their flights booked for Wednesday morning. Firstly Czech Republic: dreary song, dreary staging, horrid outfit. Will come last. Slovenia’s Omar Naber sings well but the song is far too old fashioned for the modern Contest. It also suffers from being between two incredible acts. Georgia’s ‘Keep the Faith’ is a song I’ve had a bit of a penchant for, unlike everyone else, but dull and uninspiring staging twinned with a poor draw will see it struggle. Albania is a song I’ve never rated and Lindita seems to be struggling in rehearsal, nae hope. And lastly and very sadly Belgium goes in here too. My third favourite song in the whole competition but Blanche is struggling to nail it live and for some reason is wearing a traditional wedding style dress to sing this thoroughly modern song. It would seem Blanche does not have the support network to build her confidence and performance. I feel for her, I really do.

I reckon there’s case for the remaining nine countries going one way or the other. I’ll start with song I despise but will likely qualify, Moldova. I begrudgingly accept that the Sunstroke Project will bring the party on Tuesday with a strong stage show. The juries may not go for it but the televoters will lap it up. Quite the opposite of Moldova would be Iceland, a song I love but probably isn’t qualifying. Svala has remained authentic and true to herself but that seems at odds with the camera and as such the voting public. Also…Trijntje, anyone? Cyprus have stolen Loic Nottet’s backdrop from 2015 but the average viewer/jury member is unlikely to remember that. He’s settling into the staging and very strong vocally. Should qualify. Staying in that part of the world let’s look at Greece and yet more recycling, this time Ruth Lorenzo’s wet look. There seems to be some real vocal issues between Demy and her backing singers. If this can be fixed it should otherwise be fine to reach the final. One of the countries that may struggle to see Saturday will be Montenegro. Now personally I think the Final will be a poorer show without Slavko. I think everything in life is poorer without Slavko, but his antics may prove to be a little much even for the Eurovision crowd. Whereas the visuals & the stage show is going to be what sends Latvia through. Agnese, the lead singer of Triana Park is similar to Artsvik in that they utterly captivating, I can’t take my eyes off them. Should brilliantly close the show and make the final

That leaves us two spaces left with three countries to go. Poland, Azerbaijan & Australia are those on the bubble. Kasia Mos has been doing everything right in the rehearsals, proving to be utterly competent with a bland song. Dihaj has an excellent song but the performance may seem too left field and inaccessible for the televoter. Isaiah fails to make the same connection that Dami made last year and has a far inferior song but still does a reasonable job. Struggle to pick one of these three to drop out. 

SEMI FINAL 2

The second semi final is much more wide open, so much so that there are really only four songs who’s fate I think is already sealed. In terms of qualification only two are sure of their place. Bulgaria is highly unlikely to be challenged as semi winner. Although ‘Beautiful Mess’ isn’t really for me Kris sings it well and despite looking about 11 he’s doing such a professional job you’d think he’d been doing this for decades. The other sure fire qualifier has to be Romania. Again, a song I have no time for personally, is performed in such a joyous and infectious way it could possibly win the semi televote. Lithuania will finish last and Ireland will finish one place above them. Not. Going. Anywhere

That leaves us 14 countries in a dog fight for the remaining places. I’ll start by looking at a few countries that are probably going to qualify. To continue the theme of ‘songs not to my taste doing well’ we should consider Hungary. ‘Origo’ is the antithesis of what I enjoy listening to but it’s well presented and it will have it’s fans, should qualify. Norway is yet another song I don’t enjoy that should be fairly safe to secure a Saturday night place. Following two of the more…’eclectic’ entries it will benefit by being fresh & modern. The two aforementioned entries are San Marino and the frankly batshit Croatia. I love Val & Jim but up against Jacques they’re going to struggle. Croatia have to be qualifying, they just have to. Half & half jacket, castles, rainbows. YES. PLEASE. Switzerland’s ‘Apollo’ is a song I’ve loved more and more every day since I first heard it. However, the bizarre brightly coloured staging is going to see it sink without a trace. Another favourite of mine that is slightly struggling visually has to be Netherlands. I had very high hopes for O’G3NE and whilst I still think they’ll qualify the staging may let them down come Saturday. The opening of this semi is littered with likely casualties: Serbia haven’t looked strong in any rehearsals, Jana from Macedonia has been led down a dodgy route in terms of provocative presentation and then Malta. I love Claudia and ‘Breathlessly’ and I think it’ll do muc better than most give it credit for. But that would still leave it about 11th or 12th. There’s no song nor act more joyous than Belarus, it’d be a crime for it not to make the final and brighten up Saturday night. I have many misgivings about Koit & Laura but Estonia will still make it through based on strength of song alone. Israel will benefit hugely from closing the show. Imri seems to be really struggling vocally and the song ain’t no ‘Golden Boy’ but it should still make the cut

That brings us down to two countries for one last spot. Both very similar in that they have strong acts with uninspiring songs. Austria’s Nathan Trent has exuded professionalism from the first rehearsal and the staging is memorable. Denmark have done the right thing in rescuing the red dress and Anja sells the song as well as anyone but I think Austria just might pip them to tenth spot. 

AUTOMATIC QUALIFIERS

Finally we have the Big 5 & Host. Ukraine’s song I love, but the presentation is getting diluted every time they reveal something new. They’ll never match the drama of their national semi final. Could struggle to break into top 20. On the topic of songs routed to the bottom lets have a look at Spain. Considering it’s a relatively easy song to perform it’s remarkable Manel appears to be struggling. Sure fire last place. Levina from Germany has proved to be quite the opposite. I had this down as competition for last but whilst the song deserves it, she doesn’t. Every point Germany recieve will be for Levina not for ‘Perfect Life’. I wish I could go back to a time when I first heard Alma’s original ‘Requiem’ for France. The revamp and the staging do nothing for it. Another year, another great song let down by poorly thought through staging from the French. I had every fear for Lucie and the United Kingdom but they seem to have somehow created one of the best stagings for this year. The left hand side of the leaderboard feels like it’s genuinely possible.

And finally…ITALIA! We started with Sweden who’ve brought MF to Kyiv and now we have the same with Sanremo only with (slightly out of time) backing singers. Francesco has continued to maintain his own high standard and it still completely feels like it’s Italy’s to lose.

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Francesco gets more personality into a an adjustment of a jacket and a head shuffle than most acts get into three minutes

So there we have it: 43 acts assessed, I have my predictions more or less nailed on. Maybe just a few to mull over and I’ll post semi 1 predictions tomorrow. We’re nearly there now. Few tweaks here and there, jury rehearsal tomorrow and it’ll be Tuesday. BRING. IT. ON.

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