Second Semi, Second Half

The last group of semifinalists rounds out the Thursday night semifinal on May 16th, and includes some of the oddball acts that define Eurovision, including a band member who makes last year’s Babushki look young, and a countertenor who breaks into a dizzying mix of dubstep and opera.  Every year some fans claim that Eurovision is getting dull.  What, I ask, do they want?

This parade of stars and wannabes begins with Israel, whose voice and song are fine, if not exceptional.  Too bad that 1) Hebrew is not the most singable language and 2) For a woman in her early 20s, her matronly bespectacled “mother of the bride” image is not doing her any favors.

Next up, local music favorites Dorians represent Armenia with “Lonely Planet”, written by Black Sabbath’s Tony Iommi. Impeccable music pedigree aside, this isn’t breaking any new ground for rock in Eurovision. Armenia has a good record of qualifying, but we’ll see if they can come back after last year’s timeout with a strong placing.

Hungary’s ByeAlex has one of the most modern and intriguing songs this year with “Kedvesem”. But is it too indie/introverted to reach the ESC voters? I’ll be interested to see what kind of staging the Hungarians come up with to sell this quirky number.

Norway is one of the big five women this year. The other four were the first semi’s lineup of Denmark, Russia, Ukraine, and Netherlands. Margaret’s radio-friendly Bond-theme soundalike should benefit from being so far away from its big competition, and sail through to the Saturday final.

Albania was one of the first entries chosen this year, and their strongly-voiced and dynamic “Identitet” was given a makeover to bring it down to contest length. Given the country’s on and off qualification record, it is anyone’s guess whether Adrian and Bledar will find the votes they need to reach the final.

Georgia had a novel approach to getting a good result this year in ESC. They commissioned Thomas G:Son, who composed last year’s winner “Euphoria, to come up with a song for their artist, Nodi and Sophie. A big old-fashioned love duet, “Waterfall” may be too traditional and cliche for many, but there is no doubt that it will pass to the finals and could easily reach top ten.

Switzerland is one of this year’s oddities, with members of their local Salvation Army band performing the rousing “You and Me”. They were warned not to use their original band name, Heilsarmee, because the political statement of the Salvation Army was too overt for the EBU. Their new name Takasa, stands for “The Artists Known As Salvation Army”. The question is whether Eurovoters will vote for the song, apart from the religious and political message.

The final semifinal entry is probably the kookiest. Cezar is an operatic countertenor, so his pop-dance-dubstep thingie takes a turn for the weird when Cezar’s voice soars from baritone to tenor to the sound of a full-bodied female opera singer. It is almost indescribable, so you better just watch and listen. The final act is the “pimp slot” so Romania could easily qualify with this strange entry.

From the second semi, I think Norway, Georgia, and Azerbaijan are certain to qualify, with San Marino and Greece close behind. The next rung down are Finland, Malta, Iceland, Israel, Armenia, Hungary, Switzerland and Romania. Albania and Bulgaria have a small windown of opportunity, and I am afraid Latvia and FYRO Macedonia are pretty hopeless. Let’s see if the first stage rehearsals bear out those impressions.

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