So here we are again, gentle reader, with a look at the eighteen songs that will battle it out in Semi Final Two. Received expectation among the fans is that this is the weaker of the two semi-finals, but I don’t agree – mind you, it’s been a long time since I’ve enjoyed the same songs as most fans. As before, you can also see an average of the betting odds, courtesy of oddschecker.com (taking all the bookmakers who will give you the first four places each way, as at 14th April) and also giving each song a star rating out of 5. A reminder that I wrote these reflections before rehearsals started, so they’re very much impressions from the videos and listening to the recordings. Über die Brücken geh’n!
Armenia – Srbuk – Walking Out
The video shows Srbuk getting jostled by a number of burly blokes but I reckon she could handle herself in a pub brawl. She sports one of those no-nonsense voices that fits well to a robust song like Walking Out and I’m expecting this to be a strong start to the show. Not a chance in hell of winning the whole thing but will very creditably qualify. Was 66-1, now drifting. ***
Ireland – Sarah McTernan – 22
To a thoroughly English ear like mine, Sarah McTernan’s strong accent mangles and strangles the already rather banal lyrics with some unexpectedly comic results that I’m sure you’ve read about elsewhere on the Internet. Let’s look at the plot of the lyrics: a house reminds her of a former lover – I think that sums it up. The backing vibe is very cool and this is almost a good song, but it lacks a killer bite and meanders and finally goes nowhere. 200-1. **
Moldova – Anna Odobescu – Stay
You know the kind of song where you recognise the title and the name of the singer but for the life of you, you can’t recall anything about it? That’s Stay in a nutshell. Anna’s a good-looking girl, and the melody is quite enjoyable – mainly because you’ve heard variations of it hundreds of times before – I’m sure there’s a bit of Sanna Nielsen’s Undo in there somewhere. Mind you, she has a lovely dining suite. Very Multiyork. 250-1. **
Switzerland – Luca Hänni – She Got Me
Finally a song fully worthy of your attention. Swiss singing star and model Luca trips the light fantastic with this catchy singalong sensation. True, the lyrics are not the most inventive – and I’m reliably informed the words are not “going wild like an enema” – but the complete package is about as slick as you can get. If they can replicate that tango-y vibe on stage, this must surely give Switzerland’s best chance of victory for decades. Let’s hope he can dance and sing at the same time. Getting rowdy rowdy. Was 7-1, now drifting slightly. *****
Latvia – Carousel – That Night
Here’s one of those charming, sweet little songs that Eurovision occasionally unearths. Not world-shattering, not making a grand statement, and, certainly, not going to win. But it’s perfect for a smoke-filled, late-night cabaret environment, where you’re trying to remember where and who you are. Sabine has something velvety about her voice, and Marcis’ gentle guitar strumming make for a perfect combination. If you don’t like the acrobatic excesses of the Swiss entry, this may well be your cup of tea. I think it’s unlikely to qualify, but stranger things have happened. 250-1. ***
Romania – Ester Peony – On a Sunday
Romania’s gorgeously gloomy and evocative video does its best to hide the slightness of its song. Ester bemoans the fact that she was dumped on a Sunday – as if it wasn’t just an insult to her but to God as well. I’ve no idea how she walked through that door with those shoulder pads. “There’s no way to forget that day”…”Loving you is a hard price to pay”… “Love’s not fair”… For heaven’s sake, Ester, would you listen to yourself? He’s not worth it. Move on. 200-1. **
Denmark – Leonora – Love is Forever
Now it’s time for some rinky-dink sweetness with your pizzicato playmate Leonora, as she Romper Rooms her way through the high sucrose Love is Forever. Sitting on that enormous chair makes her look about two years old, which doesn’t feel quite right for a Saturday night’s entertainment. It’s the kind of song that says you’ll be my fwend fowever and fowever and when you die I’ll die and now it’s time for tea. And it’s partly in French, if it wasn’t already artificial enough. The really annoying thing is that it’s dead catchy. 80-1. **
Sweden – John Lundvik – Too Late for Love
Time for one of the favourites; and if a number of this year’s songs are variations on last year’s Fuego, this one casts a respectful nod to last year’s Austrian entry, with its gospel feel (and high jury marks). Mr Lundvik is an enthusiastic chap, who loves a good air-punch, and there’s no doubt this is a quality performance; personally, I find the song rather repetitive and a trifle… unmemorable. However, it’ll have its best impact following the tweeness of Denmark and before the painful void that is to follow. 9-1. ***
Austria – Paenda – Limits
Ah yes, a painful void. Paenda’s stood there, looking like she’s just about to nod off (and you know how catching that can be) when all of a sudden she starts singing with her breathy, squeaky voice and I realise that I am now of an age where, if I don’t want to listen to something, I don’t have to. It’s a shame, because I realise she’s put in a lot of work. She’s talking about Hugh, and I wish he’d come and settle her down. This doesn’t do it for me at all. 200-1. *
Croatia – Roko – The Dream
Here’s another rather odd entry. It’s not a bad tune – and in fact, you can find yourself singing along to it at inconvenient moments. Roko is a well-presented guy, who’s obviously been taught from an early age that you can never be too well-dressed. He looks like he should be part of some Mediterranean Rat Pack outfit – the Dean Martin of Dubrovnik, perhaps? I dream of love, you dream of love, we dream of love. That’s how you conjugate the verb to dream of love in Croatian. 250-1. ***
Malta – Michela – Chameleon
This starts promisingly, with a catchy introduction that sounds like someone’s farting into a vocoder. The verse catches up with us, and reveals Michela to be a wholesomely attractive lass with a good voice and nice phrasing. And then the chorus, when everyone realises that Karma Chameleon has already been recorded by Culture Club and that their version is far better – so they just leave a chorus that’s full of musical holes, and it gets right on my nerves. The fact that Michela’s got all her art-school types to help her with the video doesn’t do it any favours. You just get the feeling that this looks way better on paper. 20-1. **
Lithuania – Jurij Veklenko – Run with the Lions
You think this is going to be another one of those dour Lithuanian male ballads where the singer laments being just too late for the last loaf in the shop, but tomorrow is a new day and maybe there will be enough dough to go around for everyone’s fair share of a sandwich. But then Jurij has a surprise hidden away in his vocal cords; I don’t know if it’s falsetto or just that he’s very comfortable in the higher range. There’s a secret political message hidden here for voters in Northern Ireland – run wild, run with Alliance. It’s thoroughly and completely nice, and there’s nothing here to hurt anyone. 200-1. **
Russia – Sergey Lazarev – Scream
If it’s Sergey Lazarev, it’s bound to have a first-rate video; and, like a number of songs this year, it’s the video that draws you in and really makes the song sound full and lush. Remove the video, and you’re left with a little ditty of few words; although, hats off to the team for taking away the almost compulsory fire, higher, desire rhyming scheme and replacing it with fire, liar, and drier. But how is Sergey going to entertain us through this song’s undoubted longueurs? I think we should be told. Whatever he does, you know he’ll do it superbly well. 11-2. ***
Albania – Jonida Maliqi – Ktheju tokës
Jonida moans and groans her way through the song whilst Albanian countryfolk get trapped inside a crown of thorns and a lake turns to fire. It happens every day in Tirana. I’ve no idea how the top of her dress stays up under all that pressure; a veritable feat of engineering, and, anyway, it’s going to get completely ruined in all that rain. Jonida obviously never listened to her mother when she was young. “One day you live, the next you die, so much nostalgia, so little hope” – so many jokes, so little time. I don’t normally like lots of female over-emoting, but this is a good example of the genre. Eastern enough to feel exotic; western enough to be able appreciate the melody. 150-1. ***
Norway – KEiiNO – Spirit in the Sky
Outwardly, the signs aren’t good. A cliched title that’s been used before. A group name made up of capitals and small letters that doesn’t make any sense. A lengthy gargling of Sami in the middle of the song that reminds me of the contribution made by the late Luis accompanying Flamingosi’s Ludi letnji ples – but less funny. And when the song starts, it reminds you (well, it reminds me) of Greta Salome’s Hear Them Calling, that, outrageously, didn’t qualify a few years ago. But despite all that, this is still definitely one of this year’s highlights; impossible not to sing along with, especially the He-lo e loi-la bit. Was 33-1, now closer to 50-1. *****
Netherlands – Duncan Laurence – Arcade
Here’s the favourite – and it’s not often that the favourite is a really classy song. Arcade has the ability to make you think it’s already an old, much-loved song even though it’s fresh off the block this year. Emotional, simple lyrics, combined with a strongly anthemic melody and a vocal of immense purity, I certainly wouldn’t be surprised (nor disappointed) to see Amsterdam 2020 as the final result of this year’s contest. The only thing stopping it will be if Europe fancies something uplifting and partyish rather than a serious look at the human condition. Time will tell. My comment about videos under Sergey Lazarev refers; the video for Arcade has an obvious attraction in some quarters, but Duncan will at least have to keep his trunks on. 8-5F. *****
North Macedonia – Tamara Todevska – Proud
After many years of huffing and puffing, the Former Yugoslavian Republic of Mouthful becomes North Macedonia – and I for one am glad. And its first entry under its new nomenclature isn’t half bad. Tamara delivers an assertive song with powerful authority, and I’m surprised it isn’t more popular. Maybe it could have just a little more light and shade? Was 100-1, now more like 66-1. ***
Azerbaijan – Chingiz – Truth
Chingiz has discovered Duncan’s plungepool but has had the decency to keep some togs on. However, some of his friends have a pretty wayward approach to fashion, creating a video that’s perhaps more about effect than content. When I first heard this, I thought Chingiz was rather rudely singing “shut up and diet”, but perhaps that was my own guilty conscience. A wet Azeri hipster, Chingiz has loads of personality which will help a lot. A little ploddy, but still with a great hook and, depending on how they stage it, this could be something of a dark horse. Was 66-1, now zoomed up to 9-1. ****
And there go all the songs for Semi Final Two. To which eight songs will we saying thanks, bye? According to the bookmakers, it will be Lithuania, Albania, Croatia, Austria, Romania, Latvia, Ireland and Moldova, and I see no reason to disagree with them. Remember to watch the second semi-final on BBC 4 at 8pm on Thursday 16th May – this time viewers in the UK can vote, so get dialling! Ten songs will go forward from both semis to the Grand Final on 18th May along with six others – the Big Five and last year’s winner, Israel. See you tomorrow for that final countdown – my favourite this year is still to come!
4 thoughts on “Eurovision 2019 – Semi Final Two”
I’m going to have to set aside half a day or more just to get through these two instalments, but I’ll do it – and let you know of my favourite(s) before the semi-finals.
As you’re such a rare(?) fan I’ve dug out what I wrote after last year’s final and would be most interested to know who got your vote, plus any further apposite remarks.
Btw: Do read the interesting contributions from one Yael to my main posting, towards the end of the comments:-
So much to consider from your post from last year! Completely agree on Israel, although I quite like Cyprus. My favourite last year was the stomping, stirring Vikings from Denmark, one of those songs that make you feel better for having sung along with it. I’m not a fan of popera, so Estonia did nothing for me, just as this year’s excruciating Australian song fails to impress. Guilty pleasure last year was Melovin’s Under the Ladder with his burning piano.
As for your Israeli contributor, immensely proud of his country’s achievement, it’s a fact that in many countries competing in Eurovision (and if you win, even more) is seen as a way of getting your country noticed. Estonia used Eurovision as a stepping stone towards joining the EU (as my friend Paul Jordan aka Dr Eurovision wrote about for his doctorate!) Without commenting on the rights and wrongs of Israeli war policies etc, the country does receive its fair share of public criticism so for them to do well in a cultural event (which it is) feels like a breath of fresh air.
And, without doubt, Hallelujah remains Israel’s best entry to date!
From this instalment I’ve culled only seven 1/5s (as opposed to ten in the first) – and got one more 5/5 and two more 4/5s, thus giving me a provisional Top Five, though subject to a re-listening to the lot, and the fact that I’ve still got to hear the automatic entries to the final, which ‘ll now do.
I admire your tenacity! Let me know how you get on with them!