The second half of the semifinals features a couple of dignified ballads, a high quality electro-pop song, some snoozers, and an unqualified dreck, from a nation that normally fields strong entries and had never missed the finals since 2002. Let’s start with…
ISRAEL: “Rak bishvilo [Only for him]” – Moran Mazor. Just like the way the Dutch entry evokes the entire vibe of Eurovision 1963, this entry evokes one of the singers in that contest, who eventually went on to international fame. This lady is a brunette with eyeglasses singing a dramatic ballad, just like the famous Greek singer Nana Mouskouri (who represented Luxembourg in 1963 and placed 8th). It’s a quality ballad so it is likely to advance and do at least respectably in the finals.
ARMENIA: “Lonely Planet” – Dorians. It’s nice to see Armenia return to the contest. But the question is can it return to its 2006-2010 heyday? This entry is a didactic, “save the world” rock ballad, and in my opinion it’s a snoozer that it might suffer the same fate as the 2011 entry, the guilty pleasure “Boom Boom” by Emmy.
HUNGARY: “Kevdesem [My darling]” – ByeAlex. From one snoozer to another. This is a low-key, whispery ballad that will break Hungary’s recent qualifying streak.
NORWAY: “I Feed You My Love” – Margaret Berger. In terms of songcraft, this edgy electro-pop ditty is the best number out there. It also helps that this former Norwegian Idol contestant has the vocals that resembles Swedish artist Robyn. It will definitely compensate for the weak showing of its predecessor (a cellar-dweller in the finals and one that qualified only by a tie-break by number of country votes).
ALBANIA: “Identitet [Identity]” – Adrian Lulgjuraj and Bledar Sejko. Last year, Albania garnered its best showing with the dramatic ballad “Suus”. Considering the dearth of solid rock entries in this year’s contest, it might be possible that this would be the entry that would represent the rock contingent. But frankly, this entry is not a strong one otherwise, so its prospects of duplicating last year’s success is doubtful.
GEORGIA: “Waterfall” – Nodi Tatishvili and Sophie Gelovani. Some fans have observed that this entry is like a fusion between the winning 2011 entry from Azerbaijan, “Running Scared” and the 10th place 2012 entry from Spain, “Quedate Conmigo”. Despite plagiarism accusations, no one can deny this is a well-sung entry that can generate impact. This looks like a sure bet to the finals and a possible Top 10 contender.
SWITZERLAND: “You And Me” – Takasa (a.k.a. Hellsarmee). This band had a gimmick that they are members of the Salvation Army (which is Hellsarmee in German), but because of regulations (about political or religious content), they are forbidden to perform under that name or wear such uniforms. So they chose the name that means “clean” or “purify” in Swahili (but some wags also speculate it also acts as an acronym meaning “The Artists Known As Salvation Army”). I found the act a bit too gimmicky but the song is generally solid, so it could possibly qualify into the finals.
ROMANIA: “It’s My Life” – Cezar. What happened to this country? This is an example of talent employed wrongly. Sure this swarthy guy’s operatic falsetto could be seen as impressive, but on a techno track with incomprehensible lyrics? It’s already jarring seeing a swarthy guy singing like a castrato (it’s worse than the sight of Thor singing a sentimental ballad), but with a drecky techno track Romania will suffer the indignity of missing out of the Eurovision finals, the first time since 2002. Would it have performed better with another entry from its national finals? I checked out Luminita Anghel’s entry, which due to a controversial nul point vote from one of the jurors was ultimately relegated to 3rd, and to be blunt, even that entry was weak–at least Luminita, who previously brought her nation to glory with a 3rd place finish in 2005, would be spared of the “goat” label.
As Robin Thicke and Justin Timberlake have proven, real men can sing at a high pitch without sounding emasculated. Cezar should take pointers from them as his so-called “masculine” swagger in his official music video seems rather unconvincing.
With the 17 entries in the 2nd semifinal accounted for, here is my “fearful” forecast on who will qualify to the finals:
QUALIFIERS: SAN MARINO, AZERBAIJAN, FINLAND, BULGARIA, ICELAND, GREECE, ISRAEL, NORWAY, ALBANIA, GEORGIA
BUBBLING UNDER: F Y R MACEDONIA, ARMENIA, SWITZERLAND
COMING UP: The automatic finalists, and the “fearful” forecast for the Top 10, along with my personal Top 10.