The second half of the second semifinal features an eclectic mix of ballads, dance tracks, an ethno-pop ditty, and a soaring hard-rock number. Though this group contains the one many fans perceive as the front-runner to win it all, the other entries are relatively weak. Let’s proceed with…
CROATIA: “Nebo [Heaven]” – Nina Badrić. To compensate for the lack of male eye candy in this year’s contest, Nina provided a whole bunch of them in billowing white loincloths in her music video. Too bad we won’t see them when she performs her song live in this contest. Considering the strong ballads fielded by Serbia and Slovenia, it’s going to be an uphill battle for this entry to rank high, but it might benefit from the strong Balkan bloc present in this group to advance to the finals. Another thing to watch out for is if she’ll be able to manage to stay on pitch when she sings, as she sounded pitchy during the first rehearsal.
SWEDEN: “Euphoria” – Loreen. This singer also has an Idol connection–she competed in Swedish Idol eight years ago, placing fourth. She physically reminds me of “You Oughta Know”-era Alanis Morrissette, with stage presence a la Kate Bush if she does martial arts moves instead of her legendarily quirky interpretative dancing. Fans and pundits have rated this the one to beat, and based on polls by various Eurovision clubs, it might even dominate the finals the way back in 2009 Norway’s Alexander Rybak won with “Fairytale”. Perhaps she will get the public support, but will the juries support a modern techno number like this one?
Based from indications on the first rehearsal, Loreen is likely to simply duplicate the presentation she did at Melodifestivalen (the Swedish national final). I wish she would jazz it up a bit–I have an idea based on her martial arts moves that she can go full throttle and get a harness and fly across the stage, a la Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. Wouldn’t that be cool? It would also be perfect for the song title and theme as the feeling of euphoria is often also associated with a perception of flight (think Peter Pan’s “think happy thoughts“). Perhaps that was junked as a harness may not be feasible for the venue.
GEORGIA: “I’m A Joker” – Anri Jokhadze. Besides the entries of Montenegro and San Marino, typically figuring at the bottom of the heap amongst Eurovision fans is this entry. It’s basically a campy dance song sung by a 3rd-rate Rick Astley impersonator to my ears. Sure they are jazzing up the stage presentation and they rearranged the song with a mock operatic intro, and more dynamic and dramatic instrumentation with some ethno-pop elements thrown in but it still would not save the inherent dreckitude of this song. It might garner points from former Soviet colleagues from Belarus and Ukraine, but I have this feeling this entry will have the dubious distinction of being the first participating entry from this country to miss the finals since beginning its participation in 2007.
TURKEY: “Love Me Back” – Can Bonomo. Turkish language lesson: “C” is pronounced like the English “J”, so his first name sounds like “John”. Sure it’s a lively ethno-pop ditty, but it’s just too quaint and silly to my ears. Worse, I found the guy’s singing to be pitchy. I have a feeling this country will miss the finals for a second year in a row. Turkey has fielded way better entries than this in recent years… what the hell happened?
ESTONIA: “Kuula [Listen]” – Ott Lepland. This is actually a quality ballad with a quality singer–too bad it is overshadowed by the awesomeness of the Serbian and Slovenian entries, and I’m not certain the Balkan bloc would be rallying behind this one. He’s also the product of the Idol machine, as he won the third season of his country’s version of this juggernaut.
SLOVAKIA: “Don’t Close Your Eyes” – Max Jason Mai. For viewers needing a hard rock fix, it is provided by this entry. This might be this country’s best bet to finally see action in the finals ever since it returned to the fold in 2009, as everything about this entry is strong, from the production, music, singing, and even visual appeal. Can it do a “Hard Rock Hallelujah”? Perhaps not, but breaking through to the finals would be a major achievement enough.
NORWAY: “Stay” – Tooji. This and Sweden’s entry share a lot of things in common–both entries are in the techno-dance genre, sung by singers of Middle Eastern / North African descent (Loreen is half-Moroccan, Tooji is Persian). It’s also receiving positive buzz amongst Eurovision fans–but will it get points from the Balkan bloc to advance into the finals? It could, as there are some ethnic flourishes underneath the modern techno rhythms.
BOSNIA & HERZEGOVINA: “Korake ti znam [I know your steps]” – Maya Sar. Another ballad from the Balkan contingent, and it’s a solid orchestral pop piece. I’m certain the Balkan Bloc will rally behind this and this will advance into the finals. But it is unlikely to outshine Serbia and Slovenia. This lady already saw action in this contest previously, as a backup musician or vocalist back in 2004 and last year.
LITHUANIA: “Love is Blind” – Donny Montell. This is a half-ballad, half-dance track, with the catchy dance groove only entering after halfway into the song. The good things going for it are the following: the song has a decent-enough groove and melody; Donny will offer a couple of gimmicks for the show, with the ballad part featuring him blindfolded while singing, then he would perform a one-armed cartwheel in between singing his lines during the dance portion of the song; and Donny is a strong singer, managing to be able to stay on-key live. Though his talents are undeniable, my issue is that he simply lacks charisma and star quality, and well, there is the obvious diction issue. Still, there is more than an even chance for this number to make the finals.
Now that the second semifinal is accounted for, here’s which countries I think will advance into the finals:
SERBIA, PORTUGAL, UKRAINE, BULGARIA, SLOVENIA, SWEDEN, ESTONIA, SLOVAKIA, NORWAY, BOSNIA & HERZEGOVINA
BUBBLING UNDER: MALTA, BELARUS, CROATIA, LITHUANIA
COMING UP: The automatic finalists and my Top 10 Finals forecast.