The 16 entries for the 1st semi-final for the Eurovision Song Contest have performed, and 10 were chosen to advance to the finals.  Turns out my forecast wasn’t too far off–I got 7 out of 10 correctly and the two in my “bubbling under” list made it through.  And the one I didn’t get is not really a big surprise as the audience probably responded well to the colorful outfits worn by that band.

The closest thing to an upset exclusion in my opinion was Estonia.  I thought the audience would be wowed with how she combined singing with some intricate choreography.  How she managee to stay on pitch while being spun around was actually an incredible feat.  I guess it boiled down to the fact that the song was not that special.

As I mentioned above, I didn’t get Iceland in my forecast, but their flashy visual style got the viewers going, and well, helped it advance to the finals.  There is always something trashy that will make it through, no?  Nevertheless, underneath the trash, the message of their song is earnest and relevant.

I’m actually happy that finally Valentina Monetta and her tiny principality of San Marino finally made it to the finals.  I still maintain that her previous entry, “Crisalide (Vola)” is still superior to this year’s entry but I’m glad she got the much needed breakthrough to make up for last year’s upsetting shut-out.  I do have to note that she stayed on pitch better in this performance and the stage presentation for this number is a major improvement from last year.

I initially discounted Montenegro‘s chances for advancing because of last year’s Balkan shut-out and the fact that several Balkan countries sat out this year.  But there was positive buzz on this quality ethnic ballad that it was a case of merit prevailing this time (even with my constant misgiving on how the song ends).  The presence of a graceful female figure skater skating across the stage helped enhance the song’s appeal.

It’s  not surprising Russia advanced to the finals, as usual, especially with other countries within its bloc also present.  I’m a bit saddened though understanding of the booing reaction that took place when its name is announced as a finalist.  It’s sad that two innocent teenage twin sisters had to bear the bad vibes over recent political events.

On record, the entry from the Netherlands sounded like a low-key snoozer, plus it has the disadvantage of being in a musical genre that most Europeans don’t appreciate.  But it seems the song sounded better live, and the two singers face-to-face with guitars in tow is highly appealing.  Paula Seling and Ovi, watch out!

Another entry that exceeded everyone’s expectations is Ukraine.  Mariya sang with panache and flair, and of course the hunky athletic guy in the hamster wheel performed some energetic stunts that were a treat.  So what if the last “tick…tock” sounded winded?

I’m not at all surprised that Armenia made it, and Aram MP3 performed the song very well as expected, though I’m suddenly surprised hearing polarized reactions over this entry.  Obviously I’m rooting for this entry.  I think not helping matters is the unflattering green suit he was wearing–I think I’m changing my mind on who the front-runner for the Barbara Dex award should be.

Favorite Sweden expectedly delivered the goods, albeit slightly pitch imperfect in the beginning.  But fans that I know are not rating this the highlight of the evening.  Guess which one it actually was…

The highlight of the evening was the last entry performing in this round, Hungary.  The already top-notch song and performer were amped up with an unforgettable presentation with two contemporary dancers effectively embodying the message of the song–I can imagine Tyce Diorio lifting this choreography and have one competing couple perform it in an upcoming So You Think You Can Dance.  There were a few moments where Andras went off-pitch, but his empathy and passion helped overcome those issues.  It’s almost a guarantee that Hungary could make the Top Three easily in the finals, especially if Andras improves on holding his pitch during the finals.

Let’s see how the 2nd semifinal would unfold on Thursday.  That could be a more interesting outcome.