Eurovision Preview - Semi-final 1

Charles Gittins

mbl.is
Charles Gittins

The first semi-final of the 2015 Eurovision Song Contest will take place in Vienna, Austria, on Tuesday 19 May. Sixteen countries will be battling it out for ten places in the grand final on the following Saturday.

Semi-final 1

This is definitely the weaker of the two finals. Even my personal number 1 in this heat (Estonia, see below) will hardly set the Danube alight and I can't see anything from Semi-final 1 winning the whole competition.

Below is my personal take on the sixteen entries competing in Semi-final 1. Each song is given a rank out of sixteen and an indication of whether the song would qualify into my 'fantasy final'.

1. Moldova - I Want Your Love, Eduard Romanyuta (3/16 - QUALIFY)

Musical love-child of Justin Bieber and one of the Backstreet Boys (take your pick), this catchy but dated song is performed by 22-year-old Ukranian-born Eduard. Given I've been stuck in a musical-taste timewarp since the mid-90s, this song is absolutely fine by me. It may seem a bit middle-of-the-road at the outset, but we'll be grateful for Moldova by the time we've heard some of the dreary nothingness served up by a good number of countries in this heat.

<iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="360" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/mVN723iwj8c?feature=player_embedded" width="640"></iframe><div id="embedded-remove"> <p> </p> </div>

2. Armenia - Face The Shadow, Genealogy (12/16 - NOT QUALIFY)

Armenia's Genealogy is a six-member group with singers from Europe, America, Asia, Africa, Australia and Armenia. A blatant "message song" (draw your own conclusions as to the message) which is, well, not great. I really worry how some of the high, dissonant sections (and some of the cringing English lyrics) will sound live. Neither mindlessly enjoyable nor convincingly earnest.

<iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="360" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/VVVvgD0-Mu0?feature=player_embedded" width="640"></iframe><div id="embedded-remove"> <p> </p> </div>

3. Belgium - Rhythm Inside, Loïc Nottet (5/16 - QUALIFY)

17-year-old Loïc represents Belgium with this modern, hip, fresh-sounding entry. I find the tempo strange and the lyrics stranger, but I still think this will do quite well. It will certainly appeal to a young generation of music listeners, and with a good live performance is sure to qualify.

<iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="360" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/xV2b3L1K6_c?feature=player_embedded" width="640"></iframe><div id="embedded-remove"> <p> </p> </div>

4. Netherlands - Walk Along, Trijntje Oosterhuis (11/16 - NOT QUALIFY)

A credible but fatally repetitive entry from the Netherlands. The chorus borders on the childish and there is no real attack to the song. Emotionally, the whole thing seems to be one level for the whole three minutes. That said, it's nice to see Eurovision is not totally overrun by green teenagers this year and at least the Dutch are not subjecting us to another Common Linnets-type snooze-fest <ducks for cover>...

<iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="360" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/eSZwKW3RqT0?feature=player_embedded" width="640"></iframe><div id="embedded-remove"> <p> </p> </div>

5. Finland - Aina Mun Pitää, Pertti Kurikan Nimipäivät (16/16 - NOT QUALIFY)

At around 90 seconds long, this "song" is about 85 seconds too long for my taste. One has to feel admiration for the group, Pertti Kurikan Nimipäivät, composed as it is of "four middle-aged, mentally handicapped men", but the song itself is just absolutely horrific. Still, it will give TV producers of the future something to put in their crass "Eurovision's Craziest Moments" programmes...

<iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="360" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/OR6BixXmo08?feature=player_embedded" width="640"></iframe><div id="embedded-remove"> <p> </p> </div>

6. Greece - One Last Breath, Maria Elena Kyriakou (6/16 - QUALIFY)

A strong old-school ballad from the stunning Maria Elena. Well-sung and rousing, this song would have romped to victory in 1995. But in 2015? I'm not sure, but I do hope it qualifies to the final. And please, CHANGE THE LYRICS TO GREEK! There's nothing better in Eurovision can a good old wailing ballad in the language of Aristotle (and Anna Vissi).

<iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="360" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/v7xKMnNcVdM?feature=player_embedded" width="640"></iframe><div id="embedded-remove"> <p> </p> </div>

7. Estonia - Goodbye To Yesterday, Elina Born & Stig Rästa (1/16 - QUALIFY)

In 2015, Estonia is serving up a guitar-strumming male-female duet in English (criminally). This song has a nice sound and there is interesting chemistry between the performers. The tune has a jolly lilt to it, despite the fairly sad lyrics. This is the best of the bunch in this semi-final, to my mind, but doesn't have enough oomph to secure overall victory.

<iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="360" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/zWACbw3cqW0?feature=player_embedded" width="640"></iframe><div id="embedded-remove"> <p> </p> </div>

8. FYR Macedonia - Autumn Leaves, Daniel Kajmakoski (14/16 - NOT QUALIFY)

Ballad-weariness begins to kick in at this point. Daniel's slow number is pleasant enough - well-written and ably sung - but has no real energy or verve whatsoever. Just when you expect the powerful part of the song to kick in, the three minutes are up and the track just peters out. Inoffensive, but in no way exciting or fresh, and very much a toilet-break sort of song.

<iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="360" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/t8QCt6CJCHc?feature=player_embedded" width="640"></iframe><div id="embedded-remove"> <p> </p> </div>

9. Serbia - Beauty Never Lies, Bojana Stamenov (10/16 - QUALIFY)

The tempo rises slightly with Serbia's 2015 'I am what I am'-style entry, Beauty Never Lies. Bojana appears to have a very impressive voice and the song is robust enough to make it a qualifier - just. This entry is just screaming out for a big Swedish-style key change and a much bigger, shoutier ending, but alas...

<iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="360" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/6zCz_fJa1yA?feature=player_embedded" width="640"></iframe><div id="embedded-remove"> <p> </p> </div>

10. Hungary - Wars For NothingBoggie (15/16 - NOT QUALIFY)

One guitar and a girl crying about something or other does not a Eurovision song make. This mind-numbingly boring dirge is what we get from Hungary for not sending Kati Wolf to the final at ESC 2011. Nice one, televoters. I refuse to waste any more words on this, except to say that Hungary should be very, very grateful to Finland (see above). Yawn.

<iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="360" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/Z52QQG1hboo?feature=player_embedded" width="640"></iframe><div id="embedded-remove"> <p> </p> </div>

11. Belarus - TimeUzari&Maimuna (7/16 - QUALIFY)

It falls to this sultry Belarussian duo to arouse us from our Boggie-induced slumber and, to my mind, Uzari and Maimuna make quite a good job of it. With one of the more memorable choruses of this semi-final, this entry certainly gets us bobbing our head and tapping our feet. One hopes, however, that the Belarussian stage act will not be including live snakes or those paper-clips-twisted-together ear decorations Uzari is sporting in the video. No need for it.

<iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="360" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/M8ZADtaAvDA?feature=player_embedded" width="640"></iframe><div id="embedded-remove"> <p> </p> </div>


12. Russia - A Million VoicesPolina Gagarina (8/16 - QUALIFY)

The third of a trilogy (thus far) of consecutive Russian stonking ballads with a save-the-world-and-hug-a-child message. I adored the entries by Dina Garipova (2013) and the Tolmachevy sisters (2014), so this year's entry was always likely to score highly with me. The insanely beautiful 28-year-old belts out this preachy number very convincingly, but this entry is weaker than the previous two. A definite qualifier, though.

<iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="360" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/jBVY7Glcd84?feature=player_embedded" width="640"></iframe><div id="embedded-remove"> <p> </p> </div>

13. Denmark - The Way You AreAnti Social Media (2/16 - QUALIFY)

Now, since it appears to be written into the Icelandic constitution that we in Iceland must all vote for Denmark in any Eurovision televoting scenario, I was rather hoping not to like the Danish entry this year so I could be a bit of a rebel about it. But, sadly, as it happens, I rather like The Way You Are. Young Philip on vocals gives a winsome performance of this jolly, warm number, which will certainly lift spirits after a lot of the wailing and gnashing of teeth that has gone on before.

<iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="360" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/g8u3_DsIN2E?feature=player_embedded" width="640"></iframe><div id="embedded-remove"> <p> </p> </div>

14. Albania - I'm AliveElhaida Dani (13/16 - NOT QUALIFY)

This credible song is sung well by Elhaida, but there is little real life to it (which is a shame for a song called I'm Alive). The verses and choruses seem to merge into one, leaving a 3-minute-long blob of music which doesn't really go anywhere. I suspect it might be forgotten very quickly by studio audience and televoters alike.

<iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="360" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/lZJdWUmxxZw?feature=player_embedded" width="640"></iframe><div id="embedded-remove"> <p> </p> </div>

15. Romania - De La Capat/All Over AgainVoltaj (4/16 - QUALIFY)

A fresh, uplifting, clear-cut chorus is always a very good idea in Eurovision and Romania has nailed that this year. De La Capat/All Over Again is a sweet, fresh-sounding pop-rock ballad with a strong message. The switch to English towards the end is well-meant and will probably be of benefit to Romania when it comes to votes, but it's never a good idea in my book. Only Natasha St-Pier has ever really pulled it off...

<iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="360" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/WA3wOKHpzEU?feature=player_embedded" width="640"></iframe><div id="embedded-remove"> <p> </p> </div>

16. Georgia - WarriorNina Sublatti (9/16 - QUALIFY)

In a surreal twist to this semi-final, moody 20-year-old Nina Sublatti will take to the stage and belt out "I'm a wire" to half of Europe. English pronunciation is a tricky business and should be left to the professionals, in my view. Anyway. This is otherwise a powerful and captivating number with a strong chorus and vocals. In a relatively weak line-up, I would like to see this qualify.

<iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="360" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/RZrRQSI_pcQ?feature=player_embedded" width="640"></iframe><div id="embedded-remove"> <p> </p> </div>

Check out News in English on mbl.is tomorrow for my review of Semi-final 2!

Weather

Light rain

Today

8 °C

Partly cloudy

Tomorrow

5 °C

Rain showers

Saturday

6 °C