First rehearsals for semifinalists wrap up

Fourth day of rehearsal, and the rest of the entries from semi 2 took the stage. Ten entries, including some of the contests strongest, stepped up onto the big stage in Baku to get their first taste of performing for the ESC press and delegations.

Up first, the contest’s youngest participant, Eva Boto of SLOVENIA, performed a strong and heartfelt rendition of “Verjamem”. Her backing chorus were without their gauze headdresses so far, but Eva looked a bit like a wedding cake herself for this rehearsal at least.

Ex-Yugo neighbor CROATIA next took the stage in the form of singer Nina Badrić and her song “Nebo”. She sang well, but not distinctively, and the juxtaposition of two ex-Yugo countries together in the running order is not a good situation for both of them to proceed. This probably works against Croatia.

Next up, the most hotly anticipated number, SWEDEN‘s Loreen and her potential winner candidate “Euphoria”. Loreen was not singing full out during this rehearsal, but sounded fine, and her staging is not far from the interpretive martial arts-inflected dance that endeared her to the audience in Sweden’s Melodifestivalen. She was one of the most closely watched of all the rehearsals so far, and cleared this hurdle with grace…

GEORGIA‘s Anri Jokhadze had a hard act to follow, especially with his joke entry “I’m A Joker” that had been tipped as a possible nul point candidate. His wildly over-the-top staging and strong singing voice probably saved him from that fate, and may have earned him dark horse status to proceed through to the finals.

TURKEY brings Can Bonomo and his ethnic sea chantey “Love Me Back” to the Baku stage. Can sings strongly and brought a choreographed production to his number, which is a certain qualifier this year.

Next, ESTONIA is represented by Ott Lepland and his emotional ballad in Estonian, “Kuula”. Ott presents a stark simple production, alone on stage with a single female backing singer, and brought a powerful emotional connection to viewers. He should be a strong candidate for the finals.

SLOVAKIA‘s Max Jason Mai has this year’s only true hard rock entry, “Don’t Close Your Eyes”. Many bloggers and reporters on location in Baku feel disappointed with his performance and the silly “poser” appearance of Max and his band in sunglasses and hoodies onstage. Unless he ups his game, possibility gets downgraded to an “unlikely qualifier”…

The final group this afternoon to end the first round of rehearsals was led by NORWAY‘s Tooji, whose dance pop “Stay” is compared to Eric Saade’s third place performance last year. Tooji and his crew held back a bit vocally but put on an excellent dance-based stage show that should see them straight through to the finals.

The fourth ex-Yugo in the second semi, BOSNIA & HERZEGOVINA, is represented by Maya Sar and her gentle ballad “Korake Ti Znam”. She had been seen as a top contender partly based on her strong position in the running order, but her somewhat pallid presentation may not make her entry memorable when voting time comes along.

The final number of the two semis comes from young Donny Montell and LITHUANIA with his jazzy ballad that turns disco after the first minute. Though undeniably cheesy, his strong voice, excellent position in the running order and youthful good looks may propel “Love is Blind” into the ranks of possible qualifiers.

From today’s group, Slovenia, Sweden, Turkey, Estonia, and Norway seem to be the likely qualifiers! Add in Serbia, Macedonia, Ukraine and probably Belarus, and we are already up to nine of the ten qualifiers of the second semifinal. The race for the last position or two in this semi promises to be a fierce battle.

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