Eurovision 2012 – Semi Final Two

Welcome back, gentle reader, to the second part of my Eurovision preview for this year, and the songs from Semi Final Two. Once again I’ll be taking the songs in the order in which they will appear on the night (that of Thursday 24th May), and giving you the range of betting odds courtesy of (taking all the bookmakers who will give you the first four places as each way, as at 24th April) and also my much-coveted star rating out of five. Let’s have no more ado!

Serbia – Nije Ljubav Stvar – Željko Joksimović

Zeljko JoksimovicIt feels like several years ago now that they announced Željko would participate for Serbia again and I remember thinking to myself, well that’s it, he’s won the whole shebang then. But now I’ve heard the song a few times I am not so sure. It feels very classy, and you have to admire the confidence of having a (rather sumptuous) forty second orchestral introduction; but then it kind of descends into nothing much – especially on first hearing. It’s unfortunate that English ears discern “doggy poo” in the first few words. He’s super-popular so a top 5 finish would not remotely surprise me. But it’s no Lane Moje. 12-1 to 14-1 ***

FYR Macedonia – Crno i Belo – Kaliopi

KaliopiNow here’s a thing. You expect another boring Balkan ballad and you get this instead. At first Kaliopi’s voice sounds like’s it’s seen a few hard winters but it really lends atmosphere and expression to the song. Then you get the relatively high pitched notes of the chorus, which take you by surprise, and finally she turns into a rock chick. Well, a bit. So this is anything but boring. According to wikipedia, so it must be true, she’s released 11 albums and 47 singles, and she’s had her own record label for the past twelve years. Serious lyrics and a good tune combine to make this the best song from the FYR since, possibly, ever. 80-1 to 200-1 ***

Netherlands – You and Me – Joan

JoanYet another Marmite song, and this time I’m on the side that prefers jam. Much has been made of Joan’s dipping into the dressing-up box for no apparent reason, but if she keeps the headdress on and space is tight in the Crystal Hall she might have to sidle on to the stage. Personally her accent grates on me like a hundred Lenas and clashes with the delicacy of the tune of the verse. When the chorus kicks in I’ve had enough. The song is a “I wish I were a punk rocker with flowers in my hair”-wannabe, and I genuinely don’t understand why it’s so popular. 50-1 to 100-1 **

Malta – This is the Night – Kurt Calleja

Kurt CallejaNow here’s a song that’s benefited hugely from its post-final, pre-Baku makeover. There’s no doubt that the song itself is pretty derivative and somewhat repetitive, but Kurt does a good job presenting it, and I have to confess my spirits lift when I hear the opening bars. Make his day and sing along with the eh eh eh eh’s. If you meet him in Azerbaijan, ask him to do his impersonation of Spongebob Squarepants. 80-1 to 200-1 ****

Belarus – We are the Heroes – Litesound

LitesoundAnd here’s the opposite of the previous song, in that somewhere between the Belarus final (which of course it didn’t win) and the final version, We are the Heroes has lost a lot of its rocky power and is in danger of becoming bland. You have to hand it Litesound, they’ve been plugging away at representing Belarus since the times of the last Czar, and they’ve finally made it. An anagram of their name is “Nudes Toil”. I used to like this, and I do still, somewhat – but it’s fading. 50-1 to 100-1 **

Portugal – Vida Minha – Filipa Sousa

Filipa SousaThe gentle sun’s rays warming your heart; the waves lapping at your tootsies; the sky as blue as Picasso’s 1901 to 1904 period; is it just me or does this song make you think of Mediterranean beaches? Nicely soporific but rather forgettable. The lovely Filipa comes from the Operação Triunfo stable, but I think her chances of reaching Saturday night have long bolted. 100-1 to 200-1 **

Ukraine – Be my guest – Gaitana

GaitanaControversy at home with a leading Ukrainian politician not happy that the part-Congolese Gaitana is representing what he would no doubt prefer to be their Aryan nation. Let’s move on and consider instead that it’s a bright and bouncy song, and it’s nice that Ruslana lent them her trembitas for a bit of Hutsul ethnicity. Lyrically it’s somewhat undemanding, basically being a three minute musical “hello”. Her father is apparently head of telecommunications in Congo, so there might be a surprisingly large televote from Brazzaville. Great for unwittingly embarrassing yourself behind the steering wheel at traffic lights. 40-1 to 100-1 ****

Bulgaria – Love Unlimited – Sofi Marinova

Sofi MarinovaNothing to do with Barry White in the 1970s, Sofi’s a modern girl with a modern lifestyle – being not only once married to the father of her son but also having a long term relationship with one of his other sons too, or at least so says Wiki. When the tune gets really high-pitched she sounds to me as though she becomes Chinese, but she is apparently an all-Bulgarian girl. Very clubby, I quite like it, despite all its “dorem dem dem deis”. 100-1 to 200-1 ***

Slovenia – Verjamem – Eva Boto

Eva BotoI always think I don’t like this very much, but when I’m forced to hear I have to admit it’s not bad. It has a very dreamy quality, and I quite like the use of the Ravel’s Bolero snare drums during the ah ah ah ah bit. She also has a small stab at a Marija Šerafović-style ooh ooh ooh before the final chorus, but comes off second best. Check out the video if you want to admire the four biggest fascinators you’ve ever seen. Pretty impressive for a 16 year old. 50-1 to 100-1 ***

Croatia – Nebo – Nina Badrić

Nina BadrićThe guitar intro sounds quite beguiling but you quickly realise this song commits the cardinal sin of being boring. To compensate they’ve constructed a video that ought to accompany a completely different song – and she’s never going to get those sheets folded that way. Nothing to see here, ladies and gentlemen, move along if you please. 80-1 to 150-1 *

Sweden – Euphoria – Loreen
LoreenHere’s the spoke I’m going to stick into this year’s Eurovision works. For me this is a triumph of style over content. Loreen is a great singer and she puts in a magnificent performance, all three syllables of her. But the song really is nothing special. Full of pauses and gaps, whenever it gathers momentum it loses it again. If this were Phil Spector’s Wall of Sound, it would need serious attention to the pointing. Built around the “up up up up up up” gimmick it doesn’t so much soar like an eagle, more hop like a wallaby. People love it though. Please address your complaints about my comments to the WordPress Customer Satisfaction Office. 2-1 to 12/5 ***

Georgia – I’m a Joker – Anri Jokhadze

Anri JokhadzeI’m a joker proclaims Anri Jokhadze. No you’re not, you’re a pillock, replies Europe en masse. A pompously sub-operatic start leads into shouty unmusical drivel that points out that this song is going nowhere; but it goes there anyway – relentlessly. I don’t like to be negative but I can see no alternative with this entry. I’m not surprised he’s trying to hide in that photo. Buttock-clenchingly awful. 80-1 to 200-1 *

Turkey – Love Me Back – Can Bonomo

Can BonomoThere are times when you can take a metaphor too far. This is one of those times. Chirpy Can is stuck on board his ship, sing hey nonny nonny. To be fair it has an interesting ethnic lilt but its essential silliness quashes any real credibility to which it might have aspired. His “seeng weeth meee my children” has something of a creepy Phantom of the Opera to it. My ship is made from hope, she’s searching for your bay, well you know what sailors are, mind the gangway. 20-1 to 33-1 **

Estonia – Kuula – Ott Lepland

Ott LeplandI’ve not been very charitable with these songs, have I? Unfortunately it’s not going to improve much here. There’s nothing problematic with this song, it’s just a bit dull. I’m beginning to find it almost endurable after twelve or so listenings but that doesn’t sound to me like a recipe for Eurovision victory. There’s only so many times one can hear the word “kuula” and continue to pay attention – so while your mind wanders, you can have a lot of fun juggling with his name – Ott le Pland; Ottle Pland; Planet Dolt (not my invention but I approve); there must be more. Three minutes later and he’s stopped emoting. Thank goodness for that. 33-1 to 100-1 ***

Slovakia – Don’t Close Your Eyes – Max Jason Mai

Max Jason MaiThis year’s raucous entry – if it isn’t Finnish, it’s bound to be Slovakian. It’s not my kind of thing but I don’t think it’s bad for its genre. Max came second in Czechoslovak Idol in 2009. He sports the statutorily required hairstyle for this metallic rock stuff. A bit tedious, but livened up by a surprisingly tuneful chorus. 100-1 to 150-1 ***

Norway – Stay – Tooji

ToojiI was a little disappointed when they chose Tooji to represent Norway as there were a few songs that I preferred in their National Final. However, with the wisdom of hindsight I think they made the right decision. The Pop Prince of Persia (he lived in Iran for his first year) is sponsored by the Norwegian hoodie industry and commands the stage with this quirky upbeat number that out-Saades Eric. Mrs Tooji Senior is persona non grata in Tehran so Baku will be the opportunity for a big family reunion. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Toojmeister in the high end of the scoreboard on the Saturday night. 16-1 to 25-1 ****

Bosnia Herzegovina – Korake Ti Znam – Maya Sar

Maya SarVying with, and just beating, Croatia for the title of the Ultimate Snoozefest 2012. Even the opening orchestral chords sound like a disappointed sigh. It’s a dark and dingy song which potters along quietly whilst your mind wanders onto other slightly less tedious things. Sadly forgettable. Maya was Dino Merlin’s keyboard player last year. 66-1 to 125-1 *

Lithuania – Love is Blind – Donny Montell

Donny MontellPlucky Donny has been battering at the Lithuanian Eurovision door for a few years now and in 2012 finally its hinges gave way. Empathising with the Disability Discrimination Act more than is legally required, it’s quite a good tune, but the lyrics are rather trite and schmaltzy, and put together it just comes across as a huge dollop of wet. I really hate that self-indulgent bit before the second chorus. A good draw though, so I expect we will see Vilnius Blind Man’s Buff in the Final. 50-1 to 150-1 ***

And that concludes the prosecution case for the second semi final. I can’t quite stretch to a 5* for any of these, but Malta, Ukraine and Norway come closest. I’ll be back fairly shortly with my assassination, I mean preview, of the Big 5 plus Azerbaijan, and I’ll pin my colours to the mast with a few predictions.

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