The 2nd semifinal features the two returning marquee acts, who had previously fared very well (one was a winner, the other a runner-up), one whose guest appearance triggered her country’s now-regular participation in this contest, and one who was supposed to compete last year but was prevented to do so due to politics. There are also obvious blocs in this group, so there is always the possibility that merit won’t be the sole basis for the advance of some entries.
NORWAY: “That’s How You Write a Song” – Alexander Rybak. Again, I defer to Overthinking It as they best expressed what I wanted to say about this entry.
What I’ll add to what they have said is that I’m one of the few Eurovision fans who like this entry, even if I’m aware of their objections over this number. Also, the scat interludes that he peppered throughout the song isn’t really nonsense–it’s an homage to a classic, Cab Calloway‘s “Minnie the Moocher“. Finally, I’m bullish over the prospects of this advancing to the final–let’s face it, Eurovision fans are a fraction of the people to would vote for the songs, and the broader public would not have serious objections toward this lighthearted tune and all that residual love from his 2009 victory would ensure he’ll do well.
ROMANIA: “Goodbye” – The Humans. Oh, Romania, you missed a huge opportunity by not making “Auzi Cum Bate” win as you could’ve tapped an new diaspora to bolster your cause. Okay, yes, this entry features strong live singing, an empowerment message, and solid songcraft. But unfortunately its structure sounds so dated–the first thing that came to my mind when I heard this song was Robin Beck‘s 1988 pan-European smash “The First Time“, which became popular because of its use in a Coca-Cola commercial (and yes, we saw that commercial and heard that song in our shores too–why didn’t it click in the US, I wonder?). If this had competed in 1988, it would’ve handily beaten Celine Dion‘s “Ne partez pas sans moi“*5 as it is far superior to that song (and any 1988 entry for that matter). I have to concede this entry is way better than 2016’s “Moment of Silence” by Ovidiu Anton, but that entry was spared the disgrace of being the goat that would break Romania’s finals streak because it got disqualified because of the broadcaster’s debts to the EBU. Barring a miraculous rally by the Romanian diaspora, this entry will most likely assume the goat mantle and be the one to break Romania’s perfect finals record.
*5 I’m aware that back in 1988 it would be impossible for this entry to compete because: 1) the strict language rule was still in place; 2) the juries’ tastes were woefully behind the times; and 3) Romania was under the throes of the oppressive Ceaucescu regime, and hence Romania was not yet a member of the European Broadcasting Union (EBU).
SERBIA: “Nova Deca [New Children]” – Sanja Ilić & Balkanika. I find it interesting that in Serbia, the names “Aleksa” and “Sanja”, which normally are feminine variants on the name Alexander, can be applied to males. I first assumed that Sanja was one of the female singers, when it turns out it refers to the male keyboardist/founder of the group. Anyway, what about the song? Well the impetus of the group is to combine traditional Balkan sounds with modern electronic music, and this song fits that characteristic. It’s a listenable song, and I respect it, though like many Eurovision fans out there, found a lot of entries much stronger than this. Still, this country has the advantage of having significant bloc mates like Slovenia and Montenegro by its side, alongside long-time ally Russia, plus since Germany is voting in this round, the signficant ex-Yugoslavian emigres may ring up their support.
SAN MARINO: “Who We Are” – Jessika featuring Jenifer Brening. As it is, this song for me is the third strongest entry ever fielded by this tiny principality, behind Valentina Monetta‘s “Crisalide (Vola)” and “Maybe” in 2013-2014. The song’s chorus has a resemblance to the 2015 winning entry from Sweden, Måns Zelmerlöw‘s “Heroes“, which is perhaps the best thing going for it. Anyway, we’re glad that Malta’s Jessika finally got a chance to take part in the big Eurovision stage after her multiple attempts competing in her country’s national selection. Though this entry is not likely to advance to the final, it might be saved from a last place finish with points coming from Italy, Malta, and perhaps Germany (since “rapper” Jenifer is from that country). Whatever the outcome, I hope this country doesn’t get discouraged and continue to see action in this contest.
DENMARK: “Higher Ground” – Rasmussen. I’m surprised that fan and Wiwibloggs reception to this song is muted, as the epic melody is a graceful earworm in my head–fans of Game of Thrones and Vikings could easily see this song as part of those shows’ soundtracks. For me it could make Top 10 overall in the finals.
RUSSIA: “I Won’t Break” – Julia Samoylova. I’m so glad that not only does Julia get to finally see action in Eurovision, that they fielded a song that is a big improvement over “Flame is Burning“. The song’s lyrics have a relevant touch in relation to Julia’s condition, which can only help her cause. Now, her performance at the Moscow pre-party may seem underwhelming, but never underestimate this country and I feel despite weak fan response (vis-a-vis other formidable entries), this will continue Russia’s perfect streak in the finals.
MOLDOVA: “My Lucky Day” – DoReDos. The main selling point of this entry was that it was written by popular Russian singer/songwriter, Philipp Kirkorov. But for me, I feel that Philipp simply trotted out an old 1990s-early 2000s song of his from his vault and just gave it a Pasha Parfeny sheen for that Moldovan flair. Many Eurovision fans don’t like the dated ethnic vibe of this number. However, I have a feeling this would make the final because the perky trio proved to be formidable live performers (earning raves in the pre-party circuit), and well the sound connects with a broad Eastern European audience, so expect points from Serbia, Montenegro, Slovenia, Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus to secure this entry’s place in the finals.
NETHERLANDS: “Outlaw In ‘Em” – Waylon. It’s a big risk entering a raucous rock-country entry in this contest. But I think it’s a risk worth taking as it does give the listener an adrenaline rush. It also evokes/echoes an older era with that lyrical shout-out to Mick Jagger. Though no one’s expecting this will duplicate or exceed the finish of 2014’s “Calm after the Storm“, this will sustain this country’s recent resurgence.
AUSTRALIA: “#WeGotLove” – Jessica Mauboy. Jessica could be credited for Australia becoming a regular participant in this contest, as rave reviews for her interval act performance in 2014 paved the way to this country eventually competing. I loved this song at first listen but was surprised by the muted response of the fandom–yes their quibbles about the generic sentiments of the song’s lyrics are valid, but Jessica imbued those words with so much passion that she elevates what could’ve been pabulum. Plus the pulsating tribal beats are likely to stir up listeners and make maximum impact. I can foresee this making Top Five.
I have an interesting observation about Australian artists that are sent to this contest thus far–none of them are white Caucasians. Guy Sebastian is of Tamil-Malaysian descent, Dami Im is Korean, Isaiah is half-Aboriginal, and ditto Jessica, who besides being part-Aboriginal is also half-Indonesian Timorese. Add the fact that announcing the Australian jury votes is journalist Lee Lin Chin, who is of Chinese-Indonesian descent and you might wonder if broadcaster SBS is making a diversity statement by fielding these acts to this contest.
COMING UP: THE 2ND HALF OF THE 2ND SEMIFINAL