Eurovision 2013 – Semi Final Two

Hello again, and I can see how desperate you are for a run down of this year’s Semi Final Two songs so let’s get on with it! As before, we’ll go through the songs in the order they’ll be performed on Thursday 16th May, and including the range of odds for those bookmakers who will give you an each way bet on the first four places, as it appeared on on 26th April, and also that all important five star rating. Here we go!

Latvia – PeR – Here We Go

PeRAnd, Good Lord, that’s the name of the first song. Now, if beatbox is your thing, one of these guys, Edmunds, is very good at it. Trouble is, beatbox isn’t usually a sign of Eurovision success. I think it’s fair to say it’s a slight song – not much substance, more chants and “woh”s, and a lot of “here we go”s. These guys performed at the London Preview Party and there’s no doubting their enthusiasm and willingness to entertain, but it just all fails somehow. Last year they had Disco Superfly in the Latvian final and that was a much better effort. PeR, apparently, stands for “Please Explain The Rhythm”. Could just as easily have been PeA (Please explain the appeal) or PeTswil (Please explain how this song won in Latvia). There it goes. 100-1 to 300-1 *

San Marino – Valentina Monetta – Crisalide

Valentina MonettaValentina Monetta returns for San Marino with a song much more suited to her style, although I really did find the Facebook song a lot of fun. Once again the song is written by Uncle Ralph Siegel, and, if nothing else, you have to admire the man’s sheer volume of output. Some have criticised the song for having two minutes of credibility and one minute of cop-out; others think it’s two minutes of dullness partly rescued by one minute of semi-jollity. I’m unsure. I liked it a lot on first hearing but I’m going off it more and more as time goes on. Mind you, “liking a lot on first hearing” is precisely what you want from a Eurovision song. I think this will be San Marino’s first ever qualifier – but I wouldn’t like to say more than that. Interesting video – I haven’t seen that much drama in a red sheet since our honeymoon. 20-1 to 33-1 ***

FYR Macedonia – Esma and Lozano – Pred Da Se Razdeni

Esma and LozanoEsma and Lozano were originally chosen to sing for FYR Macedonia with a song called Imperija, which was later withdrawn because, apparently, the initial online reaction to it was not very good. So they changed it to Pred Da Se Razdeni, to my mind a far less satisfying little ditty. If you like a spot of Balkan caterwauling you’re in for a treat. There’s no denying that Esma is extraordinary – she’s 69 years old, has performed in over 9,000 concerts in 30 countries; she’s recorded 108 singles, 20 albums and appeared in 6 films – and if that wasn’t enough, she and her late husband have fostered no fewer than 47 children. She even had a song in the comedy film Borat. The song is a culture clash to western ears and I’m afraid it does nothing for me at all. Shame. 100-1 to 300-1 *

Azerbaijan – Farid Mammadov – Hold Me

Farid MammadovThe first male soloist to represent Azerbaijan in the contest, 21-year-old Farid’s song is a pleasant ballad with a nice key change and a satisfying tune. He’s got a bit of a nasally timbre to his voice which slightly gets on my nerves – maybe he recorded it when he had a cold. The first time I heard it I thought it was a bit rubbish actually – but like a crusty port it improves with age. The song is composed by Dimitris Kontopoulos who’s had a hand in the careers of notables such as Ani Lorak, Sakis Rouvas, Michalis Hatzigiannis and Elena Paparizou. According to wikipedia, so it must be right, Farid’s interests include Greco-Roman wrestling and the Brazilian martial art of Capoeira, so let’s hope he doesn’t get carried away after a few drinks in the Euroclub. 22-1 to 33-1 ***

Finland – Krista Siegfrids – Marry Me

Krista SiegfridsApparently written to inspire Krista’s long term boyfriend to pop the question, Marry Me is a bright and bouncy singalong tune and Krista and her ladette backing singers go all out to impress as Team Ding Dong. She’s done some stage work and has been on the Finnish version of The Voice, and her participation in this year’s Finnish National Final was an overwhelming success, gaining top points from both televoters and jury. I think it’s fair to say she’s no wallflower; and her energy certainly comes across on stage – she was terrific at the London Preview Party. Although the lyrics put back the emancipation of women by several decades, it’s still one of my favourites this year. 50-1 to 80-1 *****

Malta – Gianluca Bezzina – Tomorrow

Gianluca BezzinaIf anyone gets taken ill on the night in Malmo and they call out, “is there a Doctor in the house”, Gianluca’s your man, as he’s been a practising doctor since last summer. “Tomorrow” is a deliciously engaging mini saga about Jeremy from IT having his safe and controlled life swept away by a little minx reading the same book as him. Apparently this is about two thirds of an original version of the song, the final third of which resolves what happens when he follows her tomorrow – perhaps one day we’ll find out. Gianluca performed this at the London Preview Party and the whole room joined in with the “Woh – oh, woh – oh”s. Its lightness of touch and its unusual style make it stand out from the crowd and I think we may be looking at Malta’s best result for years. 66-1 to 100-1 *****

Bulgaria – Elitsa and Stoyan – Samo Shampioni

Elitsa and StoyanDo you remember the old days of 45 rpm records? If the hole in the middle got enlarged and it didn’t sit centrally on the spindle, it would make the arm and the needle wobble back and forth on the turntable and the music would sound warped as a result. This is clearly the effect Elitsa and Stoyan are trying to recreate with their 2013 entry. They enjoyed a successful fifth place in 2007 with their (IMHO overrated) song Water, but that is like the Hallelujah Chorus in comparison with the dire Samo Shampioni. True, it is a little better than the totally ghastly Kismet that was first chosen, but this is definitely toilet break material for me. 100-1 to 250-1 *

Iceland – Eyþór Ingi Gunnlaugsson – Ég á líf (I Have A Life)

Eyþór Ingi GunnlaugssonA curious video depicting some sort of supernatural near-drowning incident accompanies this assertive little song about having a life now that Eyþór’s found lurrve. I find its repetitive major chord chorus a little inane but it’s certainly got a charm of its own. Eyþór is from Dalvík in northern Iceland which is where Friðrik Ómar was born, so that’s got to be a good sign. It’s written by Örlygur Smári who has composed Tell Me, This is my life and Je ne sais quoi for Iceland, and Pétur Örn Guðmundsson who’s been a backing vocalist for five Icelandic entries. Eyþór looks like he ought to be a member of a Deep Purple tribute band. Good heavens, he really is a member of a Deep Purple tribute band. He doesn’t really look right for such a gentle song – but maybe that will help it stand out. 100-1 to 250-1 ***

Greece – Koza Mostra feat. Agathonas Iakovidis – Alcohol is Free

Koza MostraHere’s another rather disconcerting video, this time with a creepy old guy (Mr Iakovidis) fingering his moustaches every time he sets eyes on the Koza Mostra boys (who are dressed like they’re from the Clan McAthens). They performed at the London Preview Party and they had great attack. Everything about this song should be crowd pleasing – it’s pacey, with enough traditional Greek instruments to appeal your Zorba complex, and it’s fun – and then it goes and ruins it all by having a woeful chorus that just repeats the title ten times. Mind you some of the other lyrics are a bit weird – according to they include “The whiskey is not to blame; the ice cubes were methylated and our boat finally has wheels, breathalyser and traffic warden.” That must have been a helluva night on the ouzo. 33-1 to 50-1 **

Israel – Moran Mazor – Rak Bishvilo (Only For Him)

Moran MazorWell now, this is nothing if not dramatic; and after the triteness of the lyrics of the Greek entry, this lyric is Shakespearean in comparison. Moran Mazor sings of how she will basically walk to the ends of the earth Only For Him. Israel’s answer to Adele, Moran is a comely wench with a touch of the secretary about her with those specs and a voice that can belt out a good tune at fifty paces. The song isn’t really my thing, but I recognise that will appeal to many. And it is growing on me. 100-1 to 150-1 ***

Armenia – Dorians – Lonely Planet

DoriansFrom the pen of Black Sabbath’s Tony Iommi comes this soporific piece of soft rock. I actually quite like it – but something about it is so relaxing that I can’t keep awake through its entirety. The group Dorians have been together for five years now and have acquired a loyal fan base and a few awards on the way. Lead singer Gor Sujyan was a backing singer on Apricot Stone a few years ago, and lyricist Vardan Zadoyan also gave us the memorable (sic) words to Jan Jan. Simple but effective video too. It’s one of only two rock songs in this year’s contest and I think it will qualify. 66-1 to 125-1 ***

Hungary – ByeAlex – Kedvesem (My sweetheart)

ByeAlexThe first time I heard this I thought it was so laid back it was barely there. But after a few hearings it has really grown on me. Even though – I am assuming dear reader that you are not a native Hungarian speaker – you haven’t got a clue what he’s singing about, his voice has a remarkably expressive tone. And in fact the lyrics are about how his sweetheart is a quirky kind of girl with messy hair who splashes in beautiful seas; and you get the sense of it being a really touching love song. ByeAlex is the nom de chanson of Alex Márta, a 28-year-old journalist from eastern Hungary. I guess the unintelligible language may hold it back on the night, but it really ought to do very well. 80-1 to 200-1 ****

Norway – Margaret Berger – I Feed You My Love

Margaret BergerAnother arrangement with more than its fair share of technothrob, Margaret Berger gives a steely performance of this unsentimental love song with a really modern feel and striking imagery. It’s a track off her latest album, and was written by Karin Park and Macho Psycho. That’s not the rather butch son of Mr and Mrs Psycho, but a Swedish songwriting/producing team who have worked with Justin Timberlake and the Backstreet Boys amongst others. Miss Berger came second in the second series of Norwegian Idol, beating a certain Maria Haukass Storeng in the process. I think this song is a little off-putting at first, but after a bit it really warms up. I predict Good Things for this third favourite with the bookies. 13-2 to 8-1 *****

Albania – Adrian Lulgjuraj and Bledar Sejko – Identitet (Identity)

Adrian Lulgjuraj and Bledar SejkoHere’s the other rock song in this year’s contest – which has a few folky drums chucked in for good measure too. The first male voices for Albania since 2007 and the first time ever that they haven’t chosen a soloist. Adrian is originally from Montenegro, and Bledar has performed once before at the Festival I Kenges, in 1992, but we don’t talk about that because he came last. He’s a guitarist who created a rock group that had to perform in secret in the late 1980s when the communist regime didn’t allow such hippy things and he was also a backing performer on stage with Aurela Gace in Düsseldorf. I’m not normally one to like the Albanian entries much, but I think this has a lot going for it. 100-1 to 200-1 ***

Georgia – Nodi Tatishvili and Sophie Gelovani – Waterfall

Nodi Tatishvili and Sophie GelovaniThis song seems to be doing well in a number of the fan votes at the moment but to be honest its appeal is passing me by. It’s extremely nice in a drippy bland way – I see it as being like this year’s Running Scared but with much less of a hook in its tune. Nodi and Sophie make good harmonies, that’s for sure; and of course it’s written by Thomas G:son, responsible for wonderful things like Euphoria and I Love You Mi Vida, and also for that execrable In A Moment Like This. Pleasant tune, but too safe and cosy for me. 18-1 to 20-1 **

Switzerland – Takasa – You and Me

TakasaControversial possibly but this remains my favourite song this year. I loved it from the moment I first heard its anthemic ahh ahh ahh’s and I haven’t changed my mind. They are of course the Swiss Salvation Army, who weren’t allowed to wear their uniforms on stage or call themselves the Heilsarmee, and I know they are an institution that may instinctively attract or repel you, depending on your point of view. I’m just taking the song at face value. And I’m also pretty much in awe of Emil who was 95 in February. Takasa, apparently, is a Swahili word meaning “Clean” or “Purify”, but of course it is also an acronym for The Artists Known As Salvation Army. Cheeky! The song is firmly rooted under my skin and staying there for God knows how long. I hope it qualifies. 100-1 to 125-1 *****

Romania – Cezar – It’s My Life

CezarIt’s My Life: not that wonderful old Talk Talk song, but a totally dreadful piece of overblown popera by “Cezar The Voice”, or Cezar Florin Ouatu, to give him his full name. Cezar is an established opera singer who has performed at the Lausanne Opera and won best countertenor at a festival in 2003. My advice to him would be to stick with the real thing. Popera is one of my pet hates but I now realise quite how brilliant Malena Ernman’s La Voix is. When Cezar takes to the stage at the end of Thursday evening, expect your crystal glasses to shatter and distant packs of hounds to start baying. 80-1 to 125-1 *

So that concludes Semi Final Two. Now all I have to do is introduce you to the entries of the big 5 and Sweden, who are playing at home this year, and I shall do that very very soon. I’ll also stick my neck out and make some predictions, confirm which are my best and least favourites and also examine another way of assessing songs’ popularity. See you soon!