Semi Final 2: Thursday 12th May
Albania Fairytale - Eneda TarifaI feel that this arrangement of this potentially epically dramatic song bottles it a bit. There’s a shiver of mystery about it that I’d like to hear more from. There should be more dynamic contrast in it. If you’re sending a song like this, it absolutely cannot bottle it. It should be as striking as possible. Even the tremolo Bond strings in the chorus don’t bring it back up. Ultimately, I keep forgetting about it, even though I quite like it.
Australia The Sound of Silence - Dami ImNow here’s a song that absolutely does not bottle it. Dami is giving it her all by 20 seconds into the song and somehow manages to crank it up from there onwards. And after the massive chorus, there's some lovely drop outs back to the verse. The percussive whoops are nice, the chorus has a really nice hooky break on ‘beats’ and the echo of ‘silence’ is brilliant. The middle eight is not as strong as it could be (see O Mie for how to do a totally ridiculously brilliant middle eight) but I bloody love it. It lights up the same area of brain that Bleeding Love did and I hope that Australia pull off another good result before they head off to go and do Asiavision (or The Pan-Pacific Grand Prix as all Strictly Ballroom fans will doubtless call it)
Belarus Help You To Fly - IvanOne of the first big disappointments of the national final season. Seriously Belarus, it’s no good. No amount of threatening to get your arse out and roll around with wolves is rescuing this.
BelgiumWhat's The Pressure - Laura TesoroI am really glad that we continue to see one song that follows on the Uptown Funk template, showing the ongoing cultural impact of that ace pop song. This Belgian song is only ok, but at least it moves about and shows some evidence of life. They should be super happy they got a second half draw, because I’d totally have used this as a sacrificial first song to get the semi-final going.
Bulgaria If Love Was A Crime - Poli GenovaYou know how I have a name for the specific type of song that does really well at Eurovision these days - the 'mid tempo inspirational' or MTI. Last year I defined this genre as: "[it] usually starts with one ballady verse, follows it up with a big anthemic chorus and is usually about how it would be nice if everyone would be nice. This genre is the very quintessence of Eurovision."
Well, I think that If Love Was A Crime is my favourite MTI because there is effectively a double chorus. The Bulgarian second chorus is really cool, although I’m finding it hard to chant along with it. Also good in this song: the woaaahs and the rave horn and the way she says ‘criminals’. Bloody love it. She also has nice hair. Hope it does suitably well.
Denmark Soldiers of Love - Lighthouse XThis is so BORING. It’s so generic. Somehow all their platitudes about being good people and soldiers for love seem a bit hollow over a very basic boy band implementation of the mid tempo inspirational format.
Macedonia Dona - KaliopiEurovision favourite Kaliopi returns, bringing us an old school power ballad. Nice work, very strong. If you like a traditional power ballad, this is one of those. It's grand.
Georgia Midnight Gold - Nika Kocharov & Young Georgian LolitazI mean I don’t know. It’s a really good example of what it is, which is the sort of music I listened to a lot 13 years ago. Slightly sleazy, danceable indie rock. I am somewhat confused by it being here, in the wrong decade and arguably in the wrong competition. The second half when the beats and synths kick in is pretty good. It’s a shame it goes back to the first verse after that though, I mean, what? And isn't the song named after a brand of poppers? Nope, I just googled it and it turns out that Midnight Gold is a tanning lotion. That's alright then.
Ireland Sunlight - Nicky ByrneCome on, Ireland, this is somewhat basic. Another country that has sent all manner of distinctive and fun songs in the past forced into blanditude for fear they won't qualify for the final. At least we're done with the voting system that punishes things that juries might not be comfortable with. Conversely, I might be done with the Mid Tempo Inspirational.
Israel Made of Stars - Hovi StarI will enjoy this weepy inspirational ballad when I’ve had a couple of wines. Middle 8 is a bit abrupt, I wasn’t expecting that at all. Other than that, I'm afraid I've not got a whole lot to say.
Oh wow, I love the sparse feel of the production of this song. And that big synth bass. The arrangement is open and airy without losing that sense of dancing your broken heart out in a really sweaty club at 3am. Is Aminata (last years contestant, this year's composer) the best thing to ever happen to Latvia in the contest? I bloody love it by the way. Please please please please can we go Riga next year?
Latvia Heartbeats - Justs
Lithuania I've Been Waiting For This Night - Donny MontellI never understood the fuss over Donny Montell. I still don’t. Throughout the whole byzantine Lithuanian selection process Donny Montell was basically the only choice. It took from January 9th to March 12th to work out that no-one in Lithuania liked any of the other 27 songs better than this one and so this is what we've got. Song’s ok, a bit wet though. I feel like the impact this song achieves is what Ireland were aiming at.
The sleek ravey icebreaker of the verse collides into the huge portentous iceberg of the chorus with an alien grace. You can’t look away. You can’t forget it. I think that must mean it’s good. I know that Norway typically doesn't change the staging, but I hope they find Agnete a dress as terrifically exciting as the white PVC number that the Berger Queen wore.
Norway Icebreaker - Agnete
Poland Colour of Your Life - Michał SzpakA double disappointment. Disappointing all the diehards by not being Margaret and disappointing all the casuals by being Michael Bolton singing the version of Wrecking Ball from the Miley Cyrus jukebox musical they'll make in 2020. It’s really hard for me to see votes for this based on musical quality rather than national feeling.
Romania Moment of Silence - Ovidiu AntonBefore you get all excited about the We Will Rock You costumes and the chap doing some solo sword dancing, I have to tell you that this is a sort of 'rock pride' song about a really sad disaster at a concert venue. People will point and laugh, but it’s a proper sway along rock ballad, it competently achieves the aims of the song and it's going to be memorable on stage. Solid.
Serbia Goodbye (Shelter) - ZAAAll the mid tempo inspirationals begin to mush together at this stage. And soon we’ll be sick of those rising Bond chords. At least the performer appears to have a bit of something interesting about her, I'm looking forwards to seeing what they do to present this song.
Slovenia Blue and Red - ManuEllaThis song is wanting so hard to be a Taylor Swift song that it hits the same Radio 2 post-country genre that Douwe Bob hit too. Instead of ripping off Shake It Off or Blank Space, she's gone for a solid retread of the really good Taylor Swift song Red. She's even styled to look like Swift. There's nothing wrong with this - the contest is supposed to represent current trends and Swifty is certainly current. Sadly this song is a bit forgettable, because when I mentally reach for this song all I get is 'driving a brand new Maserati down a dead-end street'.
Switzerland Last of Our Kind - RykkaEven more forgettable than I remembered. Limp. Dreary. Germany are also sending a ‘Like Lana del Rey doing an end credits song for a YA dystopia film’ song, you can’t also send a worse one, even if you picked yours before they did. In fact, Lana del Rey would give it more welly. GIVE IT MORE WELLY.
Ukraine 1944 - JamalaThis year's 'political one'. This time we're thinking about how the Crimean Tatars were expelled from their homeland in 1944. Jamala's grandmother was one of the people forced to leave. This song is gorgeous and sinuous, dignified and beautiful and achingly sad and Jamala's voice is amazing. This is what you can do with our little competition.
Take me straight to Part 3!