Poland went for an internal selection to choose Tulia with ‘Fire of Love (Pali Się)’. These Slavic girls are known for wearing traditional costumes and, weirdly enough, rock and metal covers on YouTube. This explains why the instrumentation to their Eurovision song sounds like it could have been lifted from a Black Sabbath album in the 1970s. The vocal style is reminiscent of a choir of primary school children and it is a bizarre aural combination. In comparison to the Slavic girls from 2014, Tulia appear to be less sassy and threatening but also more divisive. This kind of ethnic sound has known to be heavily punished by juries, so Poland will once again be relying on a televote in order to qualify from the first half of semi-final 1. Seeing as the vast majority of Poland’s allies are in semi-final 2, a strong neutral televote will be required. Despite a USP, I’m saying they likely won’t make it through, but I have to remain open-minded with it being Poland.
After sending an irrelevant ballad that didn’t qualify last year, Armenia have wisely gone for an internal selection this time. ‘Walking Out’ by Srbuk is a high-quality contemporary mid-tempo song which was chosen to open the second semi-final. Despite being in a fiercely competitive heat, it feels already feels like a safe enough qualifier. The key change is arguably one of the most effective of the year, and this is a song I’m very much looking forward to seeing performed live. If they get it right, the left-hand side of the scoreboard seems quite possible and I’m excited to see the staging concept.
I don’t know about you, but I’m not feeling ‘22’. Ireland’s entry this year is a lightweight, lacklustre pop song that could’ve been rejected from a Taylor Swift album. It feels neither here nor there and is repetitive in its structure with no stand-out highlights. A recent TV performance by Sarah McTernan suggests she doesn’t have the vocals to life it in a live setting. The producers also recognised it is a no-hoper and have therefore dumped it in slot two in the running order. It would require one hell of a staging gimmick in order to get this in contention to qualify, but even that would feel like a stretch.
You never really know what to expect from Belarus, as their Eurovision output has been so varied. This year, ZENA will sing ‘Like It’, which doesn’t really sound like it belongs in the current decade. Unfortunately for Belarus, most of their ex-USSR buddies have been drawn into the other semi-final. It’s competing in semi-final 1 which feels somewhat open, but the chorus is far too weak and repetitive to make much of a positive impression on televoters and juries. It feels like a relatively safe non-qualifier call at the moment.
I don’t think there’s any more of a borderline song as ‘Kruna’ from Serbia this year. It is a fairly typical Balkan ballad, the type of which will be very familiar to Eurovision viewers. Nevena Bozovic has some powerful vocals and the song wisely includes the odd line in English. This could prove helpful as it is arguably difficult to see where support will come from outside of the Serbian diaspora. There will be 40+ points coming from Montenegro and Slovenia alone, so it’s probably a case of finding 60+ points from elsewhere. Juries should be kind enough despite a lack of originality in the song. It also suffers somewhat from an underwhelming climax, but Serbia should be well in the mix to qualify regardless.
North Macedonia’s Tamara is channelling Barbra Streisand with the big ballad ‘Proud’. It is a fairly typical ballad, one might even say old-fashioned. But just from the studio version alone, you get the feeling that it’s one with the potential to be much better live. It progresses nicely throughout the song, which is more than I can say about most others this year. The producers have given it the penultimate slot in semi-final 2, so qualification prospects are somewhat promising. If they can get the staging right – for once – then Macedonia should be heading back to the final for the first time since Kaliopi in 2011. It’s certainly the strongest composition they’ve had since at least 2015.
‘Stay’ from Moldova is my ultimate guilty pleasure this year. It is the most generic, predictable and Eurovision-by-numbers song of them all. Anna Odobescu sings this dated ballad that has everything from a key change to a clap-along crowd participation section. It is competing in the tougher semi-final and has been dumped early in the running order. Though there might be some hope for this song, at least on paper. It has to expect 24 points from Romania and then theoretically support could also come from Armenia, Lithuania, Russia, Azerbaijan, Latvia and Italy. Though ultimately it feels too cheesy and ordinary to qualify, with no USP as things stand.