The announcement of the results turned out to be a big nail-biter, as the lead changed places all throughout the disclosure of the jury votes, and the new method of announcing the televotes was even more suspenseful.  There were surprises galore, but somehow,  I still got eight out of my Top 10 correct.  The two that I didn’t get I listed them in my “Bubbling Under” list.

I only placed NORWAY (“Spirit in the Sky” by KEiiNO) in my “Bubbling Under” list as I was concerned about weak buzz from the jury side that might pull down its expectedly strong televote showing.  But it turns out I underestimated its strength with the general public as it turned out they are first overall with the televote and it way offset the expectedly middling jury showing.  With the televote win, it ended up 5th overall.

On the jury side, I underestimated the lavish love the juries had for NORTH MACEDONIA (“Proud” by Tamara Todevska).  It’s so lavish that it was officially second overall on the jury side.  Televote, though, was a tad weaker, as it placed 12th.  Still, its 8th place overall showing is this country’s best showing ever in this contest.  It’s an auspicious milestone to commemorate this country’s recent renaming.

I was shocked by the weak 21st place overall finish for GREECE (“Better Love” by Katerine Duska).  It’s baffling why it didn’t connect as much with both jury and televote–most especially the latter.  I could find no fault with the performance or staging, so what gives, Europe?

Many were also expecting CYPRUS (“Replay” by Tamta) to rank higher and be a Top 10 finisher, but the “Fuego, Part 2” sentiment especially with the general public most likely hurt its standing as it was 20th in the televote.  The juries still has a good regard for this entry, as it placed 12th with them, resulting in a respectable 15th place finish overall.

Faring better than expected was CZECH REPUBLIC (“Friend of a Friend” by Lake Malawi), fueled by hefty jury love as it placed 6th with them.  However, the general public beg to differ, as it only amassed a measly 7 points in the televote, resulting in a 24th place showing there.  Still, an overall 11th place finish is nothing to sneeze at.  You might presume that this country is typically weak in televote, but one must take note that last year this country was actually stronger in the televote than with the juries, so with the right entry this country could win over the general public.

Also finishing above most people’s expectations was DENMARK (“Love is Forever” by Leonora), as respectable showings in both televote and jury (15th and 11th respectively) made it finish on the left side of the scoreboard in 12th place overall.

The big shocker was the strong finish delievered by SAN MARINO (“Say Na Na Na” by Serhat)–though he finished an expectedly lowly 23rd place with the juries, it actually finished 10th with the televote, and its overall 20th place finish is its best showing ever.

SWITZERLAND (“She Got Me” by Luca Hänni) has plenty to celebrate–not only did it make the finals after missing the cut for four years, its fourth place overall finish is its best since Annie Cotton‘s third place finish in 1993.  Similarly, AZERBAIJAN (“Truth” by Chingiz) brought this country back into Top 10 territory (it finished seventh) after languishing outside it for the past five years.  Besides sterling performances and presentations, it also helps that both of them are hunks.

Normally, placing sixth with the juries and seventh with the televote would mean a finish at those levels or even a Top Five finish, but surprisingly those high rankings still resulted in AUSTRALIA (“Zero Gravity” by Kate Miller-Heidke) finishing ninth overall.  What gives?  Well, it was basically pushed down by the winners of the televote and juries (for the latter, the Top Two), as the points amassed by the aforementioned polarizing winners were higher than the respectable points amassed by this entry.

SWEDEN (“Too Late for Love” by John Lundvik) eerily mirrors Austria‘s Cesar Sampson last year, as it’s the jury winner performed by a black man.  Its ninth place showing with the televote, albeit indeed a tad weak, is still way better than what happened last year when this country finished a shocking 23rd with the televote.  Overall, this finish a respectable sixth place.

I’m very shocked at the weak jury showing for SPAIN (“La Venda” by Miki) as I was expecting a mid-table finish at the very least.  At least the televote made it place a respectable 14th.  I’m dying to process the detailed scoring as I suspect this entry suffered the Ryan Dolan Conundrum with the jury.  Expect that analysis in a week or two.

Albeit slightly expected GERMANY (“Sister” by S!sters) and UNITED KINGDOM (“Bigger Than Us” by Michael Rice) were in the bottom of the pack, with the latter finishing dead last.  GERMANY was saved from another last-place overall finish with those 32 points from the juries (it was dead-last in the televote as it got zero points there).

It’s quite interesting that despite ranking fourth in the televote and ninth in the jury, RUSSIA (“Scream” by Sergey Lazarev) still managed to finish third overall.  It helps that the points it amassed in both categories were very strong to offset the points amassed by the polarizing entries.

In situations where the top jury choice(s) and top televote choice were polarizing, consistency turns out to be the name of the game.  ITALY (“Soldi [Money]” by Mahmood) was third in televote and fourth in the jury and this results in a second place overall finish.  Sure, it equaled its 2011 finish in terms of rank but the points amassed by this entry would give this priority.

For the second time since the decision is decided by 50-50 jury-televote, the overall winner did not win either of the categories, but a second place televote finish and third place jury finish propelled NETHERLANDS (“Arcade” by Duncan Laurence) for the win.  Some were expecting a dominant Salvador Sobral scenario for this one, but it turned out to be more of a closely fought contest than expected and we get a Jamala scenario instead..

Like any Eurovision champion, Duncan has a message after his victory and his message is short and simple: “Music First.”  In many ways, it is very similar to Salvador Sobral’s victory message, but without denouncing other forms of music.  Though there might be an implication denouncing flash and spectacle with that message, at least this message is inclusive and applicable towards all genres of music–heck, even abrasive forms delivered by the likes of Hatari.

In recent year, we’ve noticed a more significant divergence in the taste of the professional jury and the general public.  There are also some controversies about inverted voting, and it also involves the jury scores delivered by Belarus in light of the dismissal of that country’s jury due to them disclosing their choices. I can’t wait to discuss all of them in my full-fledged review in the next couple of weeks.




As a show, the second semfinal actually paled from the first.  For instance, in lieu of an opening act, they simply recapped the first semifinal.  There is also only one interval act after the semifinalists have performened, the Shalva Band, a band composed of young persons with disability, singing a song from The Greatest Showman, “A Million Dreams“.  It might be too sentimental for my taste, but there are people who would be touched or moved by this performance.

I’ve noticed in this semifinal, Bar Refaeli joined in on Green Room duties, also interviewing the semifinalists during breaks between performances.  There were also jokes that didn’t land, like Assi Azar guessing that the superstar interval act would be Mariah Carey or Meryl Streep, and Lucie Ayoub when announcing the upcoming Eurovision Choir competition joked that she couldn’t demonstrate how to sing a capella since she doesn’thave her “a capella shoes on”.  There was also a guest appearance by mentalist Lior Suchard, who had Jurij Kevlenko, Sergey Lazarev, Pænda, and Sarah McTernan come forward, pick any number, and the trick was the number they guessed, Lior predicted and it turned out to form the world Eurovision in reverse–there is something about this doesn’t really impress me, but Lior is supposed to be a renowned mentalist. Anyway, I would like to take the time to also pay tribute to the mashups created by Kutiman depicting Eurovision history–it’s a very fresh approach that I love.

I actually did better in this semifinal, as I got 8 out of 10 correct.  Again, the two that I missed were in my “Bubbling Under” list anyway.

Finally, NORTH MACEDONIA (“Proud” by Tamara Todevska) got good staging to compliment the song.  It’s very simple, with a backdrop of mirrors, and photos of women (ending with a photo of Tamara with her baby daughter) to drive home this song’s female empowerment message.  It was also flawlessly sung, so it’s a great vindication for Tamara that she finally helped her country make the finals after a seven year absence, alongside making up for her near-miss 11 years ago.

Okay, there is nothing to really fault DENMARK (“Love is Forever” by Leonora)’s performance and its inclusion to the finals, though for me the number is just too saccharine and twee for my taste.  Still, I’m not that upset as I understand there are people who like this upbeat ditty and there is the Scandinavian bloc (plus German support) in place that helped this make the cut.

I’m a bit saddened about ARMENIA (“Walking Out” by Srbuk)’s shut-out, especially if you see Srbuk’s tense expression below, but I know the reason why from a near shoo-in, it suffered this fate.  They made the same wrong strategy from last year by having Srbuk all alone without any visible backup–the thrill of the music video was the multitude of backup dancers she was battling against; couldn’t they have at least two onstage with her?  There is also this negative buzz about the empty stage effect at the song’s climax which featured an empty venue–many viewers were reportedly confused and wondered why it seemed they segued to “rehearsal footage”. Considering Srbuk gave her all, this loss is heartbreaking.  Armenians should pay attention to staging next time to avoid this two-year streak of shut-outs.

Srbuk bracing for the announcement of the final slot

Meanwhile, there is nothing to fault about ROMANIA (“On a Sunday” by Ester Peony)’s staging or performance.  It is just in a night of near-flawless vocals and strong staging the juries and the public were not as into this as they were the others.  In my opinion, I would’ve had this entry swap places with DENMARK.  Considering Jon Ola Sand tweeted that the difference between 10th and 11th place was 1 point, I have a feeling this is the one who suffered that heartbreaking loss.  Wonder if anyone in the Romanian delegation will be throwing shade at DENMARK the way Conan Osiris did Serhat at the Wiwijam?

One of Ester Peony’s dancers nervously awaiting the results (in vain)

Now, who would be the country that placed last?  If I had my say, it would be LITHUANIA (“Run with the Lions” by Jurij Veklenko) because its staging is the most lackluster, but I have a feeling it would be spared from that fate by the Lituanian diaspora living in Ireland and the United Kingdom, giving it at least 20 points from the televote, so LATVIA (“That Night” by Carousel) as the production team wanted to showcase its vast stage and this performance needed intimate camera work, not wide shots, and well, that number was a snoozer.

I have to commend the staging of three non-finalists.  First, CROATIA (“The Dream” by ROKO) elevated its staging with those hunky shirtless winged angels complimenting ROKO’s superb vocals.  Second, I love the eye-popping pop-art backdrop and 1950s soda fountain staging for IRELAND (“22” by Sara McTernan) but being saddled with the second peforming slot hurt it severely.  Now, unlike LATVIA, appropriate intimate staging and tasteful lighting effects made AUSTRIA (“Limits” by Pænda) well regarded and a possible jury darling.

Roko goofily resigning to his fate…

I have to talk about all of the remaining eight qualifiers as even if none of them had the eye-popping and jaw-dropping impact of AUSTRALIA in the first semifinal, their performance was topnotch.

First, seeing ALBANIA (“Ktheju Tokës” by Jonida Maliqi) qualify should be deemed a major achievement enough.  The staging has good impact, Jonida’s vocals are very dependable, and the song is simply brilliant.  She’s saddled with the deadly second spot in the final, so all I can hope for her is a respectable finish.

NORWAY (“Spirit in the Sky” by KEiiNO) could be considered stripped down from its Melodi Grand Prix Presentation but what they lack in onstage personnel, they made it up with the backdrop, especially with the visions of stars, snow-capped mountains, and traditional Sami symbols when Fred-Rene Buljo performs his joik sequence.  I’m rooting for this to go Top 10.

SWEDEN (“Too Late for Love” by Jonn Lundvik) is also consistently strong and near faultless.  And I’m glad the glittered embroidery on the Mammas’ wardrobe made them pop out onstage.  Can we beg for the Mammas to be one of the acts in next year’s Melodifestivalen?

SWITZERLAND (“She Got Me” by Luca Hänni) delivered on its potential as the male Eleni Foureira as Luca brought the energy and his vocals kept up with the energy.  It’s highly welcome that SWITZERLAND finally get to perform in the grand final after a five-year absence.  Can it make a play for the Top Five?  Yes.

RUSSIA (“Scream” by Sergey Lazarev) did feature strong staging (yes, with the mirror and multiple Sergey effects) but prospects for this equaling his third place finish three years ago is slipping.  I’m not crazy about how towards the end of the song he sang at a key or two above the original recording–it didn’t sound pleasant and it’s just needless showboating, if you ask me.  We already know he’s a superb vocalist so he didn’t need to do that–hope for the finals he just stay on-key and focus on delivering the power instead of showing off his vocal range.

MALTA (“Chameleon” by Michela Pace) delivered on the eye-popping visuals–I’m glad they were allowed to use the wall as it did provde a boxed-in effect as if she’s performing inside a house or building (or cube) and it’s a visual treat.  Many are touting Michela’s vocals as flawless though I beg to differ on that a bit, but even with imperfect vocals, the staging is just high-impact.  It can make a play for the overall Top Ten or even beyond.

Now, many are raving about AZERBAIJAN (“Truth” by Chingiz Mustafayev)’s staging, and deservingly so.  The robot props and laser visuals are just a treat to behold, and yes, there’s Chingiz’s undeniable hunkiness and chirsma, and he does deliver strong vocals live and for most part asserted his voice in the chorus.  A welcome comeback for this country, and could bring this country back to Top Ten glory.

Okay, NETHERLANDS (“Arcade” by Duncan Laurence)‘s staging doesn’t pop out like MALTA or AZERBAIJAN, but the simple, but tasteful staging with good camera angles and lighting effects helped secure this entry’s tatus as the one to beat.  I don’t feel like I’m watching a competing entry, but a veteran superstar performing at a major awards show.  An upset may still be possible but I’m still betting this will be the overall champion in the end.  The quality of the song (and of the staging) is just that superb.

With all 26 finalists now known, I will maintain my Top 10 prediction from my main Eurovision article, though I’ll remove ALBANIA and of course ARMENIA from my “Bubbling Under” list and replace them with SERBIA and NORTH MACEDONIA.  Is victory inevitable for the NETHERLANDS?  Or can AUSTRALIA, SWITZERLAND, or ITALY pull off an upset victory?  Can’t wait for tonight’s grand final.





After all the drama about Israel hosting this contest, the Eurovision Song Contest went underway without an apparent hitch.  And KAN delivered a terrific show so far, with this show opening with a fabulous encore performance of Netta‘s “Toy“, featuring a ballad intro accompanying a semi-fictional biopic of little Netta inspired by the victory of Dana International (more on her later) 20 years prior and inspiring her to pursue her musical dreams even with the detraction by her peers.  Then, we are treated to Netta performing the song live and fostering positive body image by wearing a leotard.

The hosts this year are veteran hosts Erez Tal, Assi Azar, and Lucie Ayoub and model Bar Refaeli, Erez and Bar are the main stage hosts, while Assi and Lucie work the Green Room.  For me the Green Room hosts are the standouts–Assi charms with his hunky handsomeness and energetic interview style, and his distinctive Hebrew accent gives me the shudders the way some housewives might swoon over Fabio; meanwhile Lucie is very cool and unflappable and was a perfect, considerate interviewer.  Erez was also cool and competent.  Bar is the weakest link of this quartet, but she didn’t commit any serious gaffes so she’s all right.

Hosts: Assi Azar, Lucie Ayoub, Bar Refaeli, and Erez Tal

This year’s postcards also have a twist–instead of simply seeing the artists enjoying the sights of various Israeli locations, they also had to dance.  I actually enjoyed the postcard sequences as the postcards look like scenes from a Bollywood movie or a modern take on a movie musical (e.g., La La Land) hence making for a heightened sensory experience.  During the interval, they actually featured a mashup of the postcards set to a remix of Izhar Cohen & Alphabeta‘s 1978 winning song “A-ba-ni-bi“.

The interval act for this round is provided by Dana International, She offered a remake of Bruno Mars‘ 2010 hit “Just the Way You Are“, turning it into a ballad-turned-into-electro-dance rave-up, adding themes of self-affirmation and a plea for LGBTQ love rights.  Dana vocally doesn’t quite measure up to Bruno, but this is a worthwhile effort.

Now, I got seven out of 10 finalists correct.  The three I didn’t get were in my “Bubbling Under” list so their inclusion is not that shocking.  But are they worthy based on their performance?  For CZECH REPUBLIC (“Friend of a Friend” by Lake Malawi) and BELARUS (“Like It” by ZENA), the answer is an unequivocal yes.  Lake Malawi’s live chops and charisma truly shone–I’m glad frontman Albert Černý combed his hair back and channeled the charisma of Shawn Mendes.  ZENA meanwhile delivers an assured confidence we rarely see on people of her age (she’s only 16), and she’s nailed her vocals.  Bonus points for the backflipping backup dancer.

Now, about the third qualifer I missed, SAN MARINO (“Say Na Na Na” by Serhat)?  There is a lot of goodwill for this entry, but I was shocked how off-key Serhat sounded this night and I had previously mentioned the staging pales in comparison to what he did back in 2016.  Still, kudos for Serhat for bringing SAN MARINO to the finals for the second time in its entire history.

Now, what about the entries I projected would make the final but failed?  For POLAND (“Pali się (Fire of Love)” by Tulia), it always was a divisive entry, with some appreciating their “white voice” sound and others disliking it, so perhaps it could not win enough supporters because of that.  Still, I have to salute their strong, dynamic presentation–wonder how they were able to have a turntable one time and then disappear after a few seconds?  And their outfits are bright and colorful and I love the video backdrop with the four singers sporting modern looks.

There are a lot of fans saddened that HUNGARY (Az én apám [My father]” by Joci Papai) missed the cut and broke his country’s eight-year qualification streak, but for me, I partly expected it as even if the staging is actually very appropriate (meaning, it’s very simple), it doesn’t have much impact and most viewers don’t speak Hungarian so as much as Joci gave his all, it’s not enough to connect the public.

But the shut-out I’m most upset about is PORTUGAL (“Telemoveis” by Conan Osiris).  Sure, we can pinpoint the wardrobe color choice to be a misstep as it didn’t make the dance movements pop, or that dancer João Reis Moreira delivered more fly dance moves during the national final than here, but even this performance is still an indelible and unforgettable that this is more finals-worthy than, say, SAN MARINO.

Now, who is likely to take the rear in this round?  For me, that would be MONTENEGRO (“Heaven” by D Mol) though I have a feeling there would be points from SERBIA and SLOVENIA tossed in its way.  The song is simply that weak and the staging is sloppy.

We need to provide commendation to GEORGIA (“Keep on Going” by Oto Nemsadze) as the fiery staging elevates the song that there are people who believe it could be an upset finalist.  Most especially the backup singer Mikheil Javakhishvili, who previously experienced heartbreak last year as part of Ethno-Jazz Band Iriao that also missed the final cut–the camera panned a closeup of him carrying his country’s flag nervously waiting for the results.  For that alone, I felt very sad for him that they missed the cut.

Mikheil Javakhishvili (R) nervously awaiting it Georgia would be called into the final.

Now, who are the top performers this evening?  Though CYPRUS (“Replay” by Tamta) delivered on its favorite status and did perform strongly, I have to note that her vocal delivery was far from pitch-perfect.  No way will this beat or equal “Fuego”.

As expected, ICELAND (Hatrið mun sigra” by Hatari) delivered on its dystopian BDSM fireworks-laden fantasy.  I’m not as confident that this will sustain the 10-year cycle delivered by Selma and Yohanna, but I’m so pleased they broke out of the five-year doldrums (and deservingly so).

GREECE (“Better Love” by Katerine Duska) delivered on both visual spectacle and vocal fireworks–Katerine’s high notes are a treat to behold and the opulent staging with lotus motif and that Fabergé-egg-shaped backdrop was a visual feast.  Prior to this, many expected this to top this semifinal, but one performance beat her to it…

AUSTRALIA (“Zero Gravity” by Kate Miller-Heidke) was the highlight of this round.  The cosmic backdrop and Kate’s elegant baby-blue ballgown were highlights by themselves, but what makes this presentation very special was the extra degree of difficulty with Kate suspended on a moving pole and singing operatically at the same time.  Moving around those things are already hard enough but to sing and stay on-key the way Kate did?  Stupendous!  For this level of performance, this deserves a Top Five finish in the final at the very least.

Onwards to the second semifinal, where the big heavy-hitters and oddmakers favorites are.  Would they deliver on the hype?