Eurovision Semi Final Two 2014 – The Morning After

Eurovision Semi Finals are like buses in remote rural villages, aren’t they? You don’t get any for a year, then you get one on a Tuesday and then another comes round on Thursday. With Lady Duncansby and her butler William still on manoeuvres on Exmoor, we had the honour of welcoming a royal guest for the second semi, as HRH the Crown Prince of Bedford was in attendance. As our splendid bottle of Corbières slowly got quaffed, and he watered down countless cans of Coke with generous additions of Jack Daniels, we took our task of deciding which ten of the fifteen songs would go forward to Saturday night’s final immensely seriously. And as usual, our judgement was sometimes weighed in the balance and found wanting.

MaltaMalta – One of Mrs Chrisparkle’s big favourites this year. At first I thought Michelle’s voice was going to drown out Richard’s but then it all fell nicely into place. Great performance, we all liked the way it built and then got dead anthemic. Slightly hopeful for my 100/1 each way bet for Saturday. We all put it through.

IsraelIsrael – Another really strong performance of a song that I liked from the moment I heard it. I thought Mei toned down the scariness that I had seen from her previously, and there was a fantastic money moment when she strode out purposefully from the back of the stage. I gave it my top marks of the night. Again, general approval from all present, and we all sent her through to Saturday.

NorwayNorway – It’s taken a long time for this song to grow on me – albeit ever so slightly, and I enjoyed Carl’s emotional delivery. Mrs C almost nodded off though, and His Majesty was stifling his yawns. Collectively the three of us are too shallow for this kind of intensity; we prefer throwing shapes in a disco rather than an introverted study in gloom. In the end we all concluded that it just didn’t do it for us, and we sent Carl’s silent storm back on the first ferry to Tromso.

GeorgiaGeorgia – Is there a polite way of saying “utter rubbish”? Actually that probably is the polite way. From that opening sub-yodelling, through Mariko’s manic yoga moves to the inanely jolly parachutist, three minutes to earth became three minutes of nightmare. I did laugh at the parachute though. He should have bailed out ages ago. The Crown Prince had to gather his jaw off the floor where it had dropped in bizarre amazement. It was a no from us.

PolandPoland – How would Warsaw’s Christmas hit transfer to the stage from its video of boundless cleavage? By having a generously proportioned young lady getting progressively wetter as she plunged herself over a washboard, that’s how. Oh, was there a song going on as well? You’d never know, as it’s another one of those paper-thin offerings that are beholden to the Gimmicks Department. It didn’t do anything for Mrs C; and HRH was never going to be in that subset of viewers hanging onto that washerwoman’s every droplet. Big fat zero from us all.

AustriaAustria – The much awaited arrival of La Conchita brought a wave of happiness to our TV screen. We recognised her dress as being the one that Mrs C had dropped off at the Heart Foundation shop a couple of weeks ago – nice to see it being put to good use. As usual a note-perfect performance, that looked and sounded stunning. I still think the song’s a bit dated, but who cares? Three people in awe all sent it through to Saturday with their blessing.

LithuaniaLithuania – This came over as very repetitive and something of a let-down. I was convinced Vilija’s dancer was my friend John from New Zealand, but apparently he was busy so sent a stand-in. I think the song’s tedious. HRH thought it wasn’t bad. The performance was ok. Mrs C spent most of the three minutes googling for pictures of kittens doing management consultancy. Ho Hum. Negatory, rubber ducky.

FinlandFinland – Well, the light show was fantastic, and it looked a-ma-zing on the telly. For me, the song’s got good bits and bad bits, but the bad just outweigh the good. Mrs C was impressed with the overall cuteness of the guys, and the Prince was texting the drummer for a date. It was the first song that we disagreed on, as I didn’t put it through but the others did. It was, however, my favourite of my non-qualifiers, if that makes a difference?

IrelandIreland – “Oh great I love this one” said Mrs C as it started up. We all listened with intensity to fathom out what it was she liked so much. Then it all started to fade away. Still, if the others could lust over Finnish boys, I could find a certain warmth in Kasey’s bosom. It’s an enjoyable song, but, sadly, the performance wasn’t really a match for it. Over the course of the three minutes Mrs C definitely fell out of love with it, as she didn’t vote for it, whereas the Prince and I did.

BelarusBelarus – Cheesecake, or “Ode to a Dessert”. I take this for what it is, a fun song with an upbeat tune and a cheeky rhythm, and I thought Teo did a good job with it. I am advised that this is a big hit with the Crown Prince’s chef, back at the Bedford Palace. It’s bright, it’s sunny…what’s not to like? Nothing, apparently, as we all put it through.

MacedoniaMacedonia – (as it appears that only the EBU are using the FYR bit now) – I’ve always found this an “officially” fab song, but Tijana seemed to hold back to the detriment of the performance. And, frankly, if I may be so bold, the hoodie dancer looked like a bit of a w***er. Mrs C described it the whole thing as “indifferent” and you can’t get more damning than that. HRH was wavering, not for the first time. In the end only Mrs C and I put it through.

SwitzerlandSwitzerland – Here’s a song that it’s just physically impossible to dislike. As a group I thought Seb and his boys were a little static, but the uplifting jollity of the whole thing overrides that. Princey had a right royal bop to this. Mrs C admires the song’s naiveté and charm. She’s not wrong. It was Si, Si, Si from us.

GreeceGreece – Oh no! RiskyVocalist! What are you doing! I was so stunned at how he messed up the beginning that I let out an expletive, for which I issue a retrospective apology to anyone offended. Fortunately the infectiousness of the song quickly took over and we were all singing away, loving it. Or was that just me? Very lively performance, although I’m not entirely sure about the trampoline. It’s only going to give Jedward ideas. Thumbs up from all.

SloveniaSlovenia – His Majesty noted a melodic similarity between this song and the Greeks’, and I think he may be on to something. I’ve always liked this song and think it out-Irishes the Irish entry. I wasn’t much struck on the look of the whole thing though – I didn’t like Tinkara’s Victorian dress much, not that I would fit in it anyway. I also thought the light show clashed with, rather than enhanced, the visual impact of the performance. I know, get me. I put forward these theories during Tinkara’s three minutes and got “whatever” looks from the others. We all put it through.

RomaniaRomania – Mrs C observed that Paula always has a very laid back style of performance – it’s Ovi who has the get-up-and-go. Nevertheless, she’s probably the most established star in the whole contest, with a vocal range as far as Everest. I found myself carried away by the overall happiness of this song and performance, and liked it more than I was expecting. It’s just huge fun. Meanwhile His Majesty was last seen scouring the Argos catalogue for circular pianos. Da da da.

So, with us largely all agreeing on which songs we liked and which we didn’t, two of us got 7/10 and one of us (me, naturally!) got 6/10 – if only I’d fallen for the ravishing charms of the Finnish lads. That’s it from the Northampton jury for this year – however you spend your Eurovision night on Saturday, make it memorable for all the right reasons. It’s going to be a really exciting contest, I haven’t a clue who will win. Thanks for reading!

Eurovision 2014 – Semi Final Two

Hello again gentle reader, following on from my last blog reviewing the sixteen songs that make up Semi Final One in this year’s Eurovision Song Contest, here are the fifteen (yes just fifteen) in Semi Final Two. As last time, I’m also giving you the betting odds, courtesy of oddschecker.com (taking all the bookmakers who will give you the first four places each way, as at 23rdApril) and also giving each song a star rating out of 5. If you’re up for the fray, let’s begin!

Malta – Firelight – Coming Home

FirelightThe moment Mrs Chrisparkle heard this for the first time she exclaimed, “I love it!” “Really?” I replied, lightly stunned. To get the full flavour of this song, think of David Gray’s “Babylon” but without the emotion, or structure, or tune. I like how they’ve devoted the video to the First World War Fallen, and I’m pleased that Richard Micallef (or Richard Edwards, however you think of him) has finally realised his dream of representing his country; but I think in previous years he’s had far better songs that didn’t win the National Final. There’s no denying that Richard and Michelle performed their socks off at the London party and can create a really nice country vibe. But for me the song doesn’t really go anywhere. 50/1 to 100/1 ***

Israel – Mei Finegold – Same Heart

Mei FinegoldHere’s a lady who really knows how to do scary. 31 year old Mei is an expert musical theatre performer and it shows with her dramatic attack in this powerful song. A memorable tune and a punchy orchestration means this song stays with you all day. You certainly wouldn’t want to get into an argument with Mei, in case she decides to “skin you out”. The song’s hedging all bets by having the lyrics in both English and Hebrew. I think this will do rather well. I doubt she got that outfit from Debenhams. 40/1 to 66/1 ****

Norway – Carl Espen – Silent Storm

Carl EspenHere’s another song that I’m slowly warming to – but very slowly indeed. A song of internal angst that would probably have them rolling in the aisles during those late nights of a Tromso midwinter, but Copenhagen in May? Carl’s a carpenter by trade apparently, which may account for his rather wooden approach to performance. But people do seem to love the song. Interesting how both Norway and Sweden have gone for an introverted miseryfest of a song this year. There’s no doubting his sincerity, but you sense he would be happier with a saw and a dovetail joint. He performed in London, and I’d describe his entertainment factor as solid. 9/1 to 14/1 ***

Georgia – The Shin and Mariko – Three Minutes to Earth

The Shin and MarikoQuite possibly one of the worst songs I have ever heard. The Shin are a band specialising in old Georgian folk music and I wouldn’t be surprised if the only people to like this were old Georgian folk. They are joined by singer Mariko who looks like she’s stuck her finger in an electric socket. It’s a no from me. 125/1 to 500/1 *

Poland – Donatan and Cleo – We are Slavic

Donatan and CleoMassively successful in Poland as a Christmas hit, the official video famously received over 15 million youtube hits in its first three weeks. This has absolutely nothing to do with the song, but with the cinematographic emphasis on the bustiness of Slavic Beauties. Cleo sounds like she has a bar of soap caught in her throat and Donatan does whatever a music producer does. I find the song extremely discordant and irritating, like one of those childish clapping songs one hoped one would never have to hear again. If it was the Eurovision Video Contest it would win hands down; but as a Song Contest I think this might go t*ts up. 40/1 to 100/1 **

Austria – Conchita Wurst – Rise Like a Phoenix

Conchita WurstNow onto la Conchita de la Saucisson. No circus freak, this bearded lady is a sensational performer as we were privileged to see at the London party. She has an amazing stage presence and absolutely radiates charisma. The song builds nicely in a very James Bond sort of way – although perhaps it is a little old-fashioned, you could imagine Shirley Bassey giving it some welly in the 1960s. I suspect this song will go huge in Western Europe but crawl under a rock in the East, which should even out to a mid-table finish. Pure entertainment, and no matter what you think of Conchita’s appearance, she’s a star. 33/1 to 40/1 ****

Lithuania – Vilija Mataciunaite – Attention

Vilija MataciunaiteSo here’s some attention seeking from Lithuania with a very shouty and irritating song which one would be very happy never to hear again. It’s all that “down, do-do-down, down on your knees” stuff in the lyrics that really gets my goat. However, with Ireland, the UK, Belarus, Norway and Georgia all voting in this semi-final, it may be a surprise qualifier. The legendary pain in the Baltics. That’s it, nothing more to add. 100/1 to 300/1 *

Finland – Softengine – Something Better

SoftengineSoft rock song from Finland, this year’s Litesound equivalent, but quite a good exponent of the genre. Smooth, competent and gently rewarding, if a bit on the repetitive side. It’s actually quite a nice story about appreciating what you’ve got – something the Twin Twin guys could learn from. I’m not entirely sure where it’s going to get its votes from though. Except from Norway. They’re very clean-cut guys; surely rock Finns are meant to have long hippy hair? Did Mr Lordi teach them nothing? 50/1 to 100/1 ***

Ireland – Can-Linn featuring Kasey Smith – Heartbeat

Kasey SmithHere’s something a bit more arresting. I love the intro, and Kasey’s voice cuts through the atmosphere like a velvet machete. Although Can-Linn are a “typical Irish folk band” whatever that is, this feels distinctly un-Irish to me, which actually makes a nice change. It’s a shame there are so many “heartbeats” in the chorus though, with that level of repetition Kasey needs to get her blood pressure looked at. By the end I’ve got a bit bored with it. Still, it’s the product of a team with an excellent songwriting pedigree though, so what do I know? 33/1 to 100/1 ***

Belarus – Teo – Cheesecake

TeoThe title says it all really. This was yet another of those early songs that I thought was just too silly and (literally) cheesy to appreciate; but time is a great healer and today I quite like hearing Teo grappling with the moral dilemma of being called a cheesecake. In fact, if ever a man were to look like a cheesecake, it would be Teo. Mainly vanilla, with a dash of lemon. I am sucked in by the entertaining video though, despite people saying it’s a complete rip-off of Robin Thicke’s Blurred Lines video. I guess both feature people and a blank background. I think the similarities end there. 100/1 to 300/1 ***

FYR Macedonia – Tijana – To The Sky

TijanaThere’s always room for some rock chickery at Eurovision and I’m delighted to say that Tijana (without Herb Alpert or any brass) fills that bill nicely. She’s a lot less scary than Mei Finegold, for starters, and she’s doubtlessly the nearest thing they get to Pink in Skopje. Whilst she’s definitely going to miss the support of Bosnia, Croatia, and so on, I think the song has a strong enough appeal to be only the second from this country to qualify. Great tune, and with an uplifting feel. A keeper. 100/1 to 350/1 ****

Switzerland – Sebalter – Hunter of Stars

SebalterReach for the Marmite again. When I first heard this song, Seb’s whistling got right on my nerves and I had to bury the whole thing in the sand – figuratively speaking. But actually, it’s a really entertaining and catchy tune, and once you hear that whistle in your head, you know you’ve lost control of your mind and it won’t be yours again for ages. He’s a bit of an unknown character – playing in bands and keeping quite a low profile – and then suddenly sprung into the Eurovision bear pit. He’s a very entertaining performer (as we can testify from the London Party) and this is definitely one of my favourites this year. The video is great, if you haven’t seen it; the moral of it being, never employ Sebalter in your hotel. Switzerland rarely qualifies though, and I think it’s unlikely to have a change of fortune this year. 100/1 to 250/1 ****

Greece – Freaky Fortune featuring RiskyKidd – Rise Up

Freaky Fortune and RiskyKiddRap usually sinks without trace at Eurovision, but I just wonder if this song could be its turning point. A couple of years ago Greece went for a similar act with Watch My Dance (one of Mrs Chrisparkle’s favourites) which finished a credible 7th. This year they have Freaky Fortune (like youthful Greek Pet Shop Boys) fronted by singer Nick, who, I can tell you, having seen them in the London Party, is a complete showman – and rapper RiskyKidd (that’s Shane from London). You couldn’t call this a complicated song by any stretch of the imagination, but I like it. Impossible to stay still whilst it’s playing. With a title like “Rise Up”, I’m sure it’s going to be associated with some ribald jokes on the Eurodancefloor. It’s Greece, so it’s a certain qualifier, and definitely top ten material for Saturday night. 33/1 to 66/1 *****

Slovenia – Tinkara Kovac – Round and Round

Tinkara KovacUnlike Ireland, Slovenia is this year’s Irish sounding song. That is, until Tinkara starts singing in Slovene (unsurprisingly). In fact the foreign language elements serve as nice pieces of bread enclosing a rather delicious sandwich filling of enigmatic English lyric. Known for her expert flautistry, she’s obviously the Slovenian James Galway. Except better looking, and considerably younger. This is one of those songs that is quite hard to recollect off the top of your head, but once you remember it, you really enjoy it. A good draw in the semi might get her through to the final. 100/1 to 200/1 ****

Romania – Paula Seling and Ovi – Miracle

Paula Seling and OviThe second of this year’s returning acts, and also with a song vastly inferior to their previous effort. Paula and Ovi sang “Playing with Fire” at the London Party and it was definitely the best song of the night. Ovi’s a real live wire on stage, and was hugely entertaining to the London crowd, but I thought Paula rather phoned her performance in. Mind you, it was very late. Miracle is a triumph of style over substance, a sequence of jingles strung together to make a song – nearly. But if they’re on top form on the night there’s no reason this won’t go as high as Paula’s vocal range. Keep your dog away from the TV set. 20/1 to 28/1 ***

And that’s your lot for Semi Final Two. With only five songs getting eliminated at this stage, and only two days between this semi and the big night, does that give a slight advantage to these qualifiers? My guess is that we can say goodbye to: Georgia, Belarus, Switzerland, Lithuania and Finland. You can watch the Semi Final Two in the UK on BBC3 at 8pm on Thursday 8th May, and this is the semi that the UK can vote in, so take your responsibilities seriously. I’ll be back with my run-down of the big five and the host nation on Thursday!