For what it’s worth – semi-final 2, part 1
Posted by Caroline on May 13, 2013
Onwards and upwards with the second semi-final….
1 LATVIA: PeR – Here We Go
East 17 may have long since split up but their spirit appears to be alive and well and living in this year’s Latvian entry. Yup, as a cautionary reminder as to why sending rap to the contest stage is always a risky business, the former winners have weighed in with a well-meaning but ultimately dated effort which almost feels as if it comes from another era. Of all the Eurovision musical genres, rap is one of the hardest to get right, with the path to glory littered with the remains of those who tried and failed (Daz Sampson anyone?) – and for all the PeR boys’ enthusiasm this one just feels as if it falls wide of the mark, especially compared to Montenegro’s bizarre but oddly brilliant effort. In the annual ‘semi-final of death’ that is Thursday night, in which it’s anybody’s game, this looks almost certain to lose out. Must try harder chaps!
2 SAN MARINO: Valentina Monetta – Crisalida (Vola)
Have we forgiven San Marino for The Social Network Song yet? Good because its singer, Valentina – she of the Croydon facelift and the shiny Facebook coloured outfits (even though the song wasn’t about Facebook, honest) – is back for another try (what, they don’t have any other singers in San Marino?), only this time she’s taken a very different tactic. Crisalide starts off ordinarily enough, joining the ranks of the big flowery ballads that seem so popular this year – except all is not what it seems here, with about a minute and a half of amble before it turns out – it was actually a disco number after all!
Now, there is a school of thought which suggests that if the entire song had been uptempo it would have been a serious contender to win the whole thing, but in actual fact it’s the quirk which makes this so interesting – there literally is nothing else in the contest like it – and the fact it’s become one of this year’s fan favourites has only made even more of an attractive prospect. Provided Miss Monetta doesn’t squeak like a frightened kitten on the night San Marino could well be looking at their first ever final, whereupon they can exact payback on the at least the English contingent of the UK for that recent football field drubbing. Or something.
3 FYR MACEDONIA: Esma and Lozano – Pred Da Se Radzeni
We knew it was only going to be a matter of time before Macedonian gypsy singing legend Esma Redzepova set foot on the Eurovision stage, and now that time has come. The fortunes of the Macedonians in this contest have been mixed at best (although they put up an unexpectedly good showing with Kaliopi in 2012) but this year even if their efforts come to naught this is one performance you’re going to remember simply on the basis of its performer. Poor Lozano seems to barely get a look in as Esma chants and wails her way through some blistering bits of ethno-pop, lending character to what is otherwise a pleasant but rather bland song – yet somehow the combination works. Will it bring Eurovision to FYR Macedonia for the first time? Probably not. But it could still do a lot better than predicted.
4 AZERBAIJAN: Hold Me – Farid Mammadov
Hold me, just unfold me. Possibly one of the single greatest lyrics in Eurovision history. Not to mention a cautionary reminder of what happens when you translate song words into English. That said, there are an awful lot of folks out there who wouldn’t mind unfolding Mr Mammadov, with word from Malmo suggesting the only way his performance could possibly be improved would be if his shirt fell off entirely by accident midway through. And while we may be able to barely conceal our mirth when the chorus kicks in there is no denying this is a very strong ballad which ticks all the requisite Eurovision boxes. Dima Bilan soundalike? Check. Heartfelt performance? Check. Key change? Check. Big chorus? Check. You see what we’re getting at. In a contest dominated by winsome female balladry, Farid’s song really stands out – a simple but hugely effective effort which could well be jostling for attention at the very top of the scoreboard come Saturday night. The only issue is of course, do we really want to go back to Azerbaijan so soon after their previous victory or is it time to let someone else have a go? Then again if they keep coming up with songs like this we may not have a choice.
5 FINLAND: Marry Me – Krista Siegfrids
And speaking of ridiculous lyrics, hot on the heels of Azerbaijan comes Krista from Finland, with her heartfelt matrimonial plea to the object of her affections. In recent days the song has taken on a whole new significance since it became the unlikely protest tune of the contest – with the routine reportedly including a moment in which Krista kisses a girl in order to make a point about the country’s views on gay marriage -but frankly we’re more worried about the relentless way in which she seems to pursue her suitor. There are verses about her dieting, getting to know the in-laws and basically turning into Bridezilla – not to mention trying to rhyme ‘ladies’ with ‘babies’ – yet from the sounds of it she hasn’t even received a proposal yet, never mind set a date. In a ballad-dominated field this does stand out as one of the few genuinely fun pop tunes, and as such is likely to do well. But Krista, really, we’re worried about you. Didn’t you ever see Fatal Attraction?
6 MALTA:Tomorrow – Gianluca Bezzina
And so to Malta, whose enthusiasm for all things Eurovision never seems to wane despite the fact they have yet to win – and, in recent years, have failed to get within even sniffing distance of the left-hand side of the scoreboard. This, however, could be the year to change all that. Gianluca Bezzina’s quirky little tune, which somehow fought off competition from the seemingly unbeatable Kevin Borg in the national final, is the best Maltese entry in years (not to mention a refreshing change from their normal cheesy pop or MOR balladry), all ukeleles, cutesy lyrics about a man called Jeremy ‘who works in IT’ (you see what they did there?) and huge, megawatt smiles, mainly from your singer. In an ideal world this would win the entire contest – it certainly has the sort of ridiculous, irresistible charm that wins over audiences – but in the real world it’s possibly too slight to fend off the challenge from the massed ranks of Scandinavia. We do, however, predict a possible return to the top ten. And if they don’t get it they darn well ought to.
7 BULGARIA: Samo Shampioni – Elitsa and Stoyan
In their latest bid to escape the ignominy of semi-final hell, Bulgaria have turned to the only act ever to get them through to the final – duo Elitsa and Stoyan who soared into the top five in 2007 with their magnificent track Water. As everybody knows, though, unless your name is Dima Bilan or Johnny Logan, sending an act to the contest for a second time is almost always fraught with danger – for every Dima who has come back and done better, there are many any more who have found themselves floundering helplessly in the semi-final rejects pile. And thus it may well be the case here. For it’s not that Samo Shampioni is particularly bad – despite being a pale imitation of Water, complete with vocals that sound as feeble as a distressed kitten – it’s just that it’s not good enough. And in a semi-final which features an awful lot of potential finalists, this is one of the few songs which doesn’t even reach that stage. Better luck next year Bulgaria.
8 ICELAND: Eg A Lif – Eythor Ingi
It’s a very strong year for Scandinavia, with Norway, Finland and Denmark all poised to join Sweden in the final – but what of Iceland’s Well Eythor – who looks either like Jesus, Nathan James from Andrew Lloyd-Webber’s Superstar or a young Mel Smith, depending on who you talk to – is certainly giving it his best shot with this slightly old-fashioned but otherwise rather lovely ballad, which ticks every bagpipe and key change box in the Eurovision cliches book but is none the worse for it. In fact it’s helped by his rich vocal tones and feeling of cosy familiarity – there’s something quite warm and comforting about this song, rather like a pair of old socks or a cosy sweater, although whether it’ll be enough to propel it into the final is another matter. Interestingly, this is Iceland’s first entry to be sung in Icelandic since 1997, although the fact everybody seems to think it’s actually called the Egg and Leaf song doesn’t really do the dialect any favours. As for its qualification chances, we’re on the fence. But it probably will make the final. This is Iceland after all.