Tonight’s higher quality semi-final has six countries that have pretty much qualified already. The Netherlands, Sweden, Russia, Azerbaijan, Switzerland and Malta are as certain as it gets to make Saturday’s Grand Final. I can predict the easy winner of this semi, but I’m really struggling with what will end up second and third.
After finally getting the staging right, Duncan Laurence really should be winning tonight’s show comfortably. He gave his best performance yet last night in front of the juries and any personal concerns about the staging have completely gone away. There are a couple of ‘moments’ in this presentation; when he emphatically bangs the piano and when the orb comes down from the ceiling and goes back up again. This is going to be big on iTunes downloads etc. and will be the strong frontrunner on Saturday night no matter what.
Sweden is pretty much as we saw it in Melodifestivalen but with marginal lighting and costume improvements. It’s a solid jury song and will likely be in the Top 2 there with The Netherlands, both in the semi and the final. I still have concerns about the televoting appeal relative to other entries in this heat. There’s potential for it to be outside the Top 3 on the televoting side, not just because so many of the strong contenders come afterwards. The song itself is also relatively unremarkable and should do better with viewers in some regions than others.
Russia has a very slick, expensive presentation but it’s far less exciting than Sergey’s last entry. I find it a bit boring overall and though it’s guaranteed to score well with allies, this song won’t be winning anything.
Azerbaijan is quite electrifying and has a lot of impact from the pimp slot. More effort has gone into this staging than most and it is another one that could pick up steam on downloads as it’s a commercial, radio-friendly entry. Chingiz will be doing very well on both sides in this semi.
The markets haven’t shown a lot of love to Switzerland in recent days. However, this remains the best full-on uptempo banger in the contest and has a couple of opportunities to shorten as casual fans are going to love it and it always goes big in the hall. I’d be amazed if this doesn’t beat Sweden in tonight’s televote.
One of my favourite staging concepts this year comes from Malta. It’s a bright and colourful presentation that keeps you engaged throughout. The song still doesn’t quite hit the spot for me, but Michaela is very likeable, and this is going to do well enough on both sides in both the semi and final.
My seventh most likely qualifier tonight is North Macedonia. This a very passionate performance and has a nice late slot in the running order. It is perhaps a bit old-fashioned, so while I don’t think it’s totally safe, I would be surprised to see it miss out.
Armenia is up against it from the opening slot, on paper. But Christer Bjorkman often places strong songs to open semi-finals that he thinks should qualify. They could’ve done more with the staging concept for this, but the cracked glass provides a memorable moment and the song is solid jury bait. Despite drifting in the markets, I do still think it will probably go through.
The fans don’t seem to be particularly enamoured with Denmark this year. But this is a delightful package likely to impress plenty of juries. Also voting in this semi are Sweden, Norway, Germany, Switzerland and Austria where it should also go down well. Denmark is more for the casual viewers than the fans and I think we could well be seeing it on Saturday.
Norway, on the other hand, is the polar opposite of Denmark. It’s one for the fans, not the casual audience and it will appeal to televoters rather than juries. Musically it’s at least ten years out of date and so has to be considered borderline for qualification, especially being followed by The Netherlands. Though I wouldn’t fall off my chair if it failed, I’m putting it through as it has more USP than a lot of the ballad-y female entries in this heat.
I don’t give any hope to Ireland making it through, which is amateurish and a solid favourite to finish last. Croatia has stronger visuals than I expected, but the song is so cheesy and lame that you can see it failing on both sides of the equation. Austria has its fans in the press centre and has a simple, classy presentation. Paenda is very emotional performing it but I still find it dull. The way I see it is, a last place song doesn’t get transformed into a qualifier in a tough semi-final just because it looks pretty. Lithuania gives the best camera of this entire semi and has allies voting. However, I don’t think it will be enough and I almost forgot to write about it here. Similarly, Latvia is still a toilet break song that has some authenticity for juries.
The last three songs are all borderline ballad-y females from Albania, Moldova and Romania. I’m not entirely ruling any of them out.
Albania has lots of friends voting in this semi and the song is performed very well. Though the staging is a bit too simple and it’s also in the quality-packed second half. It’s possible that juries and/or televoters will fall for the sand artist just as some of the more, err, enthusiastic fan sites did in rehearsals and it’s a friendly semi for Moldova. A lot of thought has gone into Romania’s creative and someone over there has clearly had money to spend throughout this selection season. But it only finished eighth in the national final televote and there are much stronger jury songs competing here. It has a dark mood overall and isn’t the most appealing song or presentation for casual viewers.
Unfortunately, I have stuck with my semi-final 2 qualifiers from three weeks ago, as boring as that may be. What has changed, though, is that I am much bigger on Azerbaijan’s chances to do well and there are possibly more countries in the qualification race than there were before rehearsals.
My qualifiers are; Armenia, Switzerland, Denmark, Sweden, Malta, Russia, Norway, The Netherlands, North Macedonia and Azerbaijan.
Best of luck to everyone tonight. Feel free to post any predictions in the comments below.