Eurovision Preview - Semi-final 2

Charles Gittins

mbl.is
Charles Gittins

The second semi-fi­nal of the 2015 Eu­ro­vi­sion Song Con­test will take place in Vi­enna, Aus­tria, on Thursday 21 May. Seventeen coun­tries will be bat­tling it out for ten places in the grand fi­nal on the fol­low­ing Sat­ur­day.

Semi-fi­nal 2

A much better semi-final awaits Thursday viewers. Many of the fan and bookie favourites are in this heat - Sweden, Norway, Israel and others.

Be­low is my per­sonal take on the seventeen en­tries com­pet­ing in Semi-fi­nal 2. Each song is given a rank out of seven­teen and an in­di­ca­tion of whether the song would qual­ify into my 'fan­tasy fi­nal'.

1. Lithuania - This TimeMonika Linkytė & Vaidas Baumila (4/​17 - QUAL­IFY)

This is an angst-free, boppy version of Estonia and none the worse for it. Easy-on-the-eye Lithuanian duo Monika and Vaidas ably perform this bouncy country-pop number, which will certainly make for a good opener to Semi-final 2. I think Lithuania will have to work a little bit on staging and get some decent stylists in, but otherwise this is a high-quality entry which should secure the country a place in the final. It would certainly be a much drearier final without This Time.

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2. Ireland - Playing With NumbersMolly Sterling (17/​17 - NOT QUAL­IFY)

Come back, Dustin the Turkey, all is forgiven! Good grief, this is dull. Nobody loves a stonking ballad more than me and Molly is undoubtedly a talented singer and performer. Sadly, though, the song itself goes absolutely nowhere, hobbling along for three minutes, then fizzling out with a whimper. (Mind you, the same could have been said about the abysmal Rock ‘n’ Roll Kids and that won the whole thing, so what do I know?) No final for Ireland this year, I wager.

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3. San Marino - Chain of LightsAnita Simoncini & Michele Perniola (16/​17 - NOT QUAL­IFY)

A stock Ralph Siegel shine-a-light number performed by Valenti… – sorry, Anita Simoncini & Michele Perniola. The 4,735th male-female duo in this year’s competition (thanks for nothing, Common Linnets), Anita and Michele are among the youngest performers in 2015. The song is pleasant in a way, but fatally cliché-ridden and cringe-worthy. Plus, an anthemic song, as this is trying to be, needs a much catchier, stronger and more rousing chorus (apply to Samantha Janus (UK 1990) for details). Sorry.

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4. Montenegro - Adio, Knez (5/​17 - QUAL­IFY)

Ah, a rock of stability in changing times! Adio is a familiar, pleasing and bewitching Balkan ballad full of traditional instruments, significant open-arm movements and passionate consonant clusters. Just how I like it! Knez is a sturdy, serious gent and will undoubtedly nail the performance on the night. The fact that the verses are catchier than the choruses is a bit of a challenge to my innate Eurovision orthodoxy, but in a contest featuring the likes of the Finnish and Irish entries, I can live with it.

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5. Malta - Warrior, Amber (9/​17 - QUAL­IFY)

The song that the exclamation/adjective ‘meh’ was invented for. I am convinced that 23-year-old Amber is a great singer and performer and will give a truly spirited Maltese rendition of Warrior. I am equally convinced that the Maltese delegation, as usual, will throw everything but the kitchen sink into the staging of this (and possibly even a kitchen sink, too, if they think it will get them some more votes). And that’s a good thing. A sure qualifier, I think, but certainly not a contender for victory. When’s Chiara coming back?

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6. Norway - A Monster Like MeMørland & Debrah Scarlett (8/​17 - QUAL­IFY)

Highly tipped to win the whole thing this year, Norway’s entry escapes me a bit. Mørland and Debrah Scarlett (ooh, look! A male-female duo! Yawn.) are a feisty, handsome couple and will surely make the best of this rather flat track. The bitter-sweet storyline behind the song is interesting but there is a serious risk that it might deflate spirits somewhat, especially among viewers more turned on by the likes of La det swinge. A Monster Like Me is a good, solid entry but I don’t think it will be Stavanger 2016…

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7. Portugal - Há Um Mar Que Nos SeparaLeonor Andrade (13/​17 - NOT QUAL­IFY)

A simmering Lusitan beauty singing a passionate ballad in Portuguese? Oh, yes please! Sadly, though, this is yet another entry that promises much more than it delivers. This is very much ‘easy listening’ at its most inoffensive. The soft sound of both music and language may well make listeners drift off on a cloud of deep thoughts, but won’t make viewers pick up the phone and vote. You know a song is not exactly gripping when you find yourself two minutes in thinking “ooh, she wants to run a comb through that hair…”

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8. Czech Republic - Hope Never Dies, Marta Jandová & Václav Noid Bárta (7/​17 - QUAL­IFY)

Hope Never Dies is the down-market second cousin of the Norwegian entry (above). Just like the Norwegian duo, Marta and Václav are a handsome, talented couple singing a passionate, emotional song. Objectively, this is not better than Norway, but for some reason I like it bit more. The chorus is stronger, certainly, and the Czechs have more of a start-to-finish build (but no real climax). I hope to see both Norway and Czech Republic in the final.

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9. Israel - Golden BoyNadav Gudej (2/​17 - QUAL­IFY)

Water in a desert place! Thank you, Israel! Viewers’ bottoms will have been completely stationary for at least seven songs by this point, but golden boy Nadav will certainly get them wiggling again with this up-tempo dance number. The oriental sounds and simple lyrics are a master-class in the common language of Eurovision. Performing between Czech Republic and Latvia is a major plus. A good draw in the final and a flashy, cheeky-chappy performance may very well see Israel at the top of the score-board.

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10. Latvia - Love Injected, Aminata (15/​17 - NOT QUAL­IFY)

Aminata from Latvia has a great voice and makes the best of this very odd song. The tempo is unusual to the point of being disturbing and the English is, in parts, completely impenetrable. I may change my mind on this one if it is considerably reworked before May, but as it stands I really don’t like it.

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11. Azerbaijan - Hour Of The Wolf, Elnur Huseynov (10/​17 - QUAL­IFY)

28-year-old Elnur is representing Azerbaijan with Hour Of The Wolf, described in the official blurb as a “mystical contemporary ballad”. There is a strong orchestral sound to this and the chorus is one of the more memorable ones this year. And we have a key change! Hurrah! Overall, the Azeri entry is not magnificent, but I would like to hear it in the final (Azerbaijan are serial qualifiers, anyway, so I’m quite relaxed...).

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12. Iceland - Unbroken, María Ólafsdóttir (3/​17 - QUAL­IFY)

Jááá, áfram Ísland! I fully expect to hear our Icelandic Eurovision commentators blare this out as the familiar red, white and blue flag is pulled out of the envelope at the end of Semi-final 2. Unbroken is a professional, stirring, optimistic song, strongly performed by María Ólafsdóttir. The Icelandic song has an instrumental and vocal strength missing in many entries this year. As I say, this is certain to qualify. But can we PLEASE get the government to levy a tax of 1 króna for every man, woman and child in Iceland to buy María a decent pair of shoes? Please? I’d pay…

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13. Sweden - Heroes, Måns Zelmerlöw (1/​17 - QUAL­IFY)

Swedish heart-throb Måns Zelmerlöw is one of the early favourites to win the entire contest this year and it’s easy to see why. Heroes is a crack­ing mod­ern pop song, per­formed with Måns’ usual charm, pro­fes­sion­al­ism and verve. I have no doubt that it will be staged to per­fec­tion and heartily sung along to by the Eurovision crowd at the Wiener Stadthalle. If this doesn’t qualify, I’ll eat my hat. No – something worse. I’ll listen to the Finnish entry on loop till next year’s contest.

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14. Switzerland - Time To ShineMélanie René (14/​17 - NOT QUAL­IFY)

It was always going to be tough job following Iceland and Sweden, and that task falls to Switzerland. Sadly, I think spirits will sink again with this slightly nondescript ‘I will conquer the world’ entry. There is some potential musically here but Switzerland will need some dramatic staging and a magnificent vocal performance if they want to qualify.

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15. Cyprus - One Thing I Should Have DoneJohn Karayiannis (11/​17 - NOT QUAL­IFY)

One Thing I Should Have Done is a relaxed, simple, cutesy number, performed very convincingly by 20-year-old John. I find it difficult to know how to judge this one. This sort of one-man guitar-strumming ballad is really not to my musical taste and the last thing this year’s contest needed was another heartfelt soul-searcher. But I have to admit that the song is classy and well composed. In my personal ranking, this just misses out on qualification, but I will be happy to be proved wrong on the night.

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16. Slovenia - Here For YouMaraaya (6/​17 - QUAL­IFY)

Maraaya is the deceptively feminine mash-up pseudonym of – you guessed it – male-female duo Marjetka and Raay. They will be performing a mid-tempo indie-pop track called Here For You. They have a fresh, modern sound and upbeat lyrics. I love the track itself, as it adds a much needed touch of funk and groove to Eurovision proceedings in 2015. My only negative thought is whether this may not be too much of a ‘radio tune’. How well will it translate to a stage performance? I hope we get two chances to find out…

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17. Poland - In The Name Of LoveMonika Kuszyńska (12/​17 - NOT QUAL­IFY)

Monika’s back story is certainly heart-warming and her courage commendable, but the Polish entry overall is quite a weak package. There are countless emotionally charged soft-focus ballads in Eurovision this year and In The Name Of Love, while pleasant, has nothing to make it stand out from the crowd. I expect most viewers will have already decided on their favourite by this stage and this song has very little to offer to change people’s minds. No final for Poland, I fear.

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Check out News in Eng­lish on mbl.is to­mor­row for my re­view of the automatic final qualifiers!

See also: Eurovision Preview - Semi-final 1

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