EUROVISION SONG CONTEST 2017: SONG PREVIEW — 1ST SEMIFINAL (PART 2)

The entries in the second half of the semifinal features a major power bloc that could help ensure their prospects of advancing to the finals by virtue of shared cultural ties and hence giving generous points to each other.  Let’s start with the first bloc member:

GREECE:  “This is Love” – Demy.  After the debacle that was “Utopian Land”Greece is poised to recover its fortunes with this ballad-to-techno-dance raveup.  It’s a strong entry, in my reckoning, and its prospects are boosted by the fact that it is likely to receive vingt-quatre points from Cyprus and vingt points from Armenia, and that other countries are also likely to toss points this way.

POLAND:  “Flashlight” – Kasia Moś.  This dramatically sung, classically tinged ballad has been garnering a lot of positive buzz that it’s likely this will advance to the finals.  It’s a given it will garner a lot of points from the televote (especially with the Polish diaspora–expect a lot of points coming especially from the UK public) but unlike her predecessor, she can also gain significant points from the juries, too.

MOLDOVA:  “Hey, Mamma!” – SunStroke Project.  Back in 2010, this band became a sensation because of the gyrating dance moves of the saxophonist, who the interwebs dub “Epic Sax Guy”.  Many fans felt their lowly 22nd place finish in the finals was unjust especially with the entertainment value delivered with this band.  They had been attempting to return to this contest quite a few times since then, but it’s only this time they finally succeeded with this catchy party jam.  Sure the lyrics are grammatically incorrect (“She’ll be back until sunrise”–should be “before sunrise”) and nursery-rhyme-cheesy but I still enjoy this entry immensely and rooting for it to succeed and vindicate its “weak” finish seven years ago.  It’s a given they can deliver a flashy presentation and the wedding reception themed gimmick looks bound to generate more memes after the contest–I bet wedding receptions all across Europe will feature people imitating the choreography delivered by this band during the national finals.  I would love to attend such fun wedding receptions like that.

ICELAND:  “Paper” – Svala.  This is a terrific modern pop song, and Svala proves she can deliver the vocal firepower live.  I also observe the timber of her voice resembles other highly regarded Eurovision entries, who all happened to also be platinum blonde, and they all channel Swedish dance-pop legend Robyn (surnamed Carlsson, not to be confused with Swedish hunk Robin Bengtsson).  She is part of a long line of quality soprano pop vocalists like 2013’s Margaret Berger from Norway, 2011 and 2016’s Poli Genova from Bulgaria, and to a certain extent, 2016’s Nina Kraljić from Croatia.  Someone should put these four ladies together in a concert tour, where they cover each other’s songs and each cover a song from Robyn (everyone knows Robyn has such a quality repertoire).  All of them will do great justice to each other’s work and to Robyn’s material.  Wouldn’t that be a treat?  Now my worry is she might also end up a big upset boot like her predecessor, the woefully underrated “Hear Them Calling” by Greta Salóme as so far the only support I can probably think she will receive is from Finland, Sweden and the UK, and its uncertain other countries will be onboard with her.

CZECH REPUBLIC:  “My Turn” – Martina Bárta.  No one’s really expecting this jazzy ballad to succeed in advancing to the finals like the breakthrough made by Gabriela Gunčíková’s “I Stand” last year.  The syncopated jazzy rhythm of this ballad might be reminded of Hungary’s entry 10 years ago, Magda Ruzsa’s “Unsubstantial Blues”which landed in the Top Ten in the finals, but I doubt the situation that allowed that entry to fare as well as it did is in play this time and well, there is very little vocal fireworks with Martina’s song.  Thematically and musically, it actually reminds me of Daniel Powter‘s 2005 smash hit, “Bad Day”–this song can even serve as an answer to “Bad Day”.  Hmm, considering Daniel’s career isn’t making big waves since then, perhaps he can drop by the Czech Republic and duet with Martina, him doing his hit and her answering with this song.  I consider this a worthwhile underdog.

CYPRUS:  “Gravity” – Hovig.  Hovig is not a Greek name, but rather Armenian–his full name is Hovig Demirjian.  This rhythmic pop number features ethnic elements, and the singer has a handsome charisma.  This looks to be guaranteed vingt-quatre (24) points each from Greece and Armenia, and it’s likely other countries will also toss some points their way.

ARMENIA:  “Fly with Me” – Artsvik.  This is the last entry to be revealed to the public, and it’s also the sole explicitly ethno-pop entry in this year’s contest.  Based on the video, it would promise to feature a striking stage presentation.  It’s not really as catchy as those ethno-pop winners from 2003-2005, but it’s a good listen.  Also bolstering its cause is its close ties to Greece and Cyprus, who are likely to send high points their way–perhaps vingt (20) points from each of them.

SLOVENIA:  “On My Way” – Omar Naber.  He was well regarded during his 2005 Eurovision stint for his strong voice, and that voice is still in great condition here (and he looks practically unchanged from 12 years ago).  The only problem is the ballad is generic and treacly and not a standout, so it’s likely he’ll languish again in the semifinals and not advance.

LATVIA:  “Line” – Triana Park.  Many Eurovision fans are raving about this techno number.  It is indeed a quality number, and this band promises to deliver an energetic performance.  However, I worry and hope they have a cleaner stage setup from their cluttered staging at their national final, and I am also concerned about how lead singer Agnese Rakovska would deliver her vocals live, as she sounded pitchy during the national final.  I think the prospects of this advancing is borderline and not assured, and I have to say, fans of this band should brace themselves for a shock boot if they did not improve from their national finals performance.

Here’s who I think would advance to the final based on my impressions at this point:

SWEDEN, AUSTRALIA, BELGIUM, PORTUGAL, AZERBAIJAN, GREECE, MOLDOVA, POLAND, CYPRUS, ARMENIA

BUBBLING UNDER:  ALBANIA, FINLAND, ICELAND, LATVIA

COMING UP:  1ST HALF of 2ND SEMIFINAL

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