Eurovision Reviews: Songs from Semi Final 1

Semi Final 1 will be broadcast on BBC3 (UK) from 8pm tomorrow (6 May). Viewers outside the UK should check with their own broadcasters or view it on the official Eurovision website.
Semi Final 1 will be broadcast on BBC3 (UK) from 8pm tomorrow (6 May). Viewers outside the UK should check with their own broadcasters or view it on the official Eurovision website.

One day to go. The jury final is tonight. For the contestants involved in the first semi final of this year’s Eurovision Song Contest a lot of the work is over, they just need to go out and perform the best they can and hopefully qualify for Saturday night’s final. Rehearsals have been taking place for the last week and you can find videos via the Eurovision Song Contest official YouTube channel here – I am in no way affiliated with the channel. This is simply my own blog that has its own Eurovision twist. The reviews you are about to read are my own personal opinion, I have marked each country out of ten. Comments were written as I listened to them for the first time – and my opinions have since altered on some tracks. However I find gut instinct is everything with Eurovision so here we go… Semi Final 1… review!!

Armenia – Not Alone (Aram mp3)

A slow ballad,  very beautiful. When performed live at London’s Eurovision Preview Party it was very hard to get past the way Aram dressed – green jacket and pink handkerchief. This is one of the favourites – though I can’t really see it because the song goes nowhere. Being the first song to be performed in this year’s contest will put it at either a really good advantage, or go the other way. Nice enough song, just not really loving it because there are better ballads in Eurovision than this. (4)

Latvia – Cake to Bake (Aarzemnieki)

Starts at a similar tempo to ‘Not Alone’, but this is bags of fun – watch this semi-final and you may well find yourself waking up in the middle of the night singing this! Eurovision at its total nonsensical best, it’s almost an entry that Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood might approve of.  A very folky arrangement, you can’t help but feel this needs to be louder – but with lyrics like ‘I’ve got a cake to bake, and I’ve got no clue at all’ you can’t help but feel some Latvian love.  (7)

Estonia – Amazing (Tanja)

Ramping up the tempo comes ‘Amazing’. A mid-tempo dance track, if performed well this could go far. It’s not the Estonian’s most original entry by a long way but it has potential. Builds up to a great ending and will be contrasted by the entries surrounding it. It should have no trouble in qualifying from the semi, its placing in the final will determine very much where it ends in the running order. (7)

Sweden – Undo (Sanna Nielson)

One of the favourites. A beautiful piano accompaniment to Sanna’s voice this could see the contest head back to Sweden after just a year’s gap. It’s a very simple song, and has more of a fragile beauty in listening to it than Aram does for Armenia for example. The song builds throughout and though can be a little repetitive in places this is a very strong contender. (10)

Iceland – No Prejudice (Pollaponk)

Alternative music has hit Iceland with this indie loving track. Admittedly ‘Eurovision-indie’ is like a pop version of what you might expect in the UK, but this will stand out straight after Sweden’s ballad entry. The only issue it is likely to face is that it is yet another unspectacular mid-tempo entry and so far whilst the genres all vary, essentially there is very little ‘stand out’ between them all. (7)

Albania – One Night’s Anger (Hersi)

With a Celtic feel, Hersi has a track that almost comes across as a poor man’s Sweden at the start. It’s the discordant nature of parts of the tune where it just ‘doesn’t sound right’ that affects the listening of this track for me because in places I don’t think the medley is very pleasant to the ear. I’d like to say this won’t qualify. If it gets to the final, it won’t be getting my vote. (3)

Russia – Shine (Tolmachevy Sisters)

A very similar introduction to Sweden, but with two voices any fragility in the sound of this is immediately lost. The tune rushes into a chorus and has the feel of a track that wants to go faster than it already is. Once the tempo settles down it is pleasant enough, but it is one of Russia’s weaker tracks from the past few years – this could seriously blend into the background. (5)

Azerbaijan – Start a Fire (Dilara Kazimova)

Winners of the 2011 contest the Azerbaijani’s have a lot to do in Europe’s eyes having been embroiled in alleged voting discrepancies last year. This is an extremely boring ballad which does nothing to inspire, I’d like to call this a potential non-qualifier but as there are many countries who seem to vote for Azerbaijan regardless of song (Malta, 5 years running – seriously!) I fear this will get through – though personally this sends me to sleep. (2)

Ukraine – Tick-Tock (Mariya Yaremchuk)

Beautifully upbeat after the Azerbaijani entry, this will wake you up almost instantly. It has everything we have come to expect from Ukrainian entries over the past few years – a catchy hook and a bouncy chorus. It also has the type of disco beat you can imagine that will benefit additionally from the superb staging that is usually characteristic of Ukrainian entries. I like it! (9)

Belgium – Mother (Axel Hirsoux)

With another piano introduction this Belgian ballad has some beautiful lyrics that will no doubt pull on the heartstrings of many a European. Its reflective nature, and strong dramatic build should give this a strong performance on the night. (8)

Moldova – Wild Soul (Crisitina Scarlat)

From a dramatic ballad ending, we go to a dramatic start as Moldova starts this mid tempo, plodding techno-dance track in a minor key to great effect. The music is repetitive but this sounds like a track that will be done more justice than it could ever get in a studio recording – but it is extremely performance dependent. (6)

San Marino – Maybe (Valentina Monetta)

Completing her hat trick Valentina is back to compete for a third year. Having failed to qualify for the grand final for the last two years, but on an ever improving placing in the lower order it would be great to see Valentina make the final this year. She’s back with a ballad. Another dramatic song this perhaps goes a little too fast for you to take in what she is singing because by the end of the track it’s almost like listening to ballad-dance. For me the tempo doesn’t sit quite right but the lyrics are nice enough. (6)

Portugal – Quero Ser Tua – (Suzy)

This could stand out nicely – a bouncy Latin infused track within about thirty seconds you might transport yourself to a Portuguese bar looking out on sandy beaches, sipping cocktails whilst performers salsa their way around you. Though it’s not strong enough to win the whole thing, this is a different genre of music to most other entries and has an infectiously catchy hook. (9)

The Netherlands – Calm After The Storm (The Common Linnets)

Envoking sounds of the 80s Rock-come-country-and-western music, the biggest shame of this track is that is doesn’t seem to go anywhere. The music builds nicely, and after a minute or so you just want to rock out – but there’s no big musical explosion. It’s like driving along a never ending highway. Pleasant enough but this track could be so much more! (7)

Montenegro – Moj Svijet (Sergej Cetkovic)

The first thing to note about Sergej that you’ll probably never notice on television is how tall he is!! Aside from that we’re back to another ballad. I actually prefer this to the Armenian entry because whilst I don’t understand a single lyric with it being sung in the native language, the studio recording has real heart to this with the ballad not building to a dramatic conclusion but a more rounded one. The stronger of the two in my opinion. (7)

Hungary – Running (Andras Kallay Saunders)

This should bring a very active end to the semi-final with a hypoactive entry that speeds up, slows down and then speeds up again to an inveitable conclusion. It’s almost like the composer was thinking of running a race when they composed the entry. It has a good hook, but you might be put off by the middle where it slows down and gradually builds for more than extended period of time. A good closing entry. (7)

So in conclusion….

All in all it’s a very mid-tempo semi-final but whilst there are a lot of ballads amongst the entries at least they are well spread out. For me the qualifiers are:

Sweden, Ukraine, Portugal, Belgium, Montenegro, Estonia, Latvia, San Marino, The Netherlands and Iceland.

I’ll stress this isn’t a prediction given the highly unlikely event that Armenia, Albania, Russia, Azerbaijan, Moldova and Hungary all don’t qualify – just my own personal preference. Those entries I’ve selected that are ‘in the danger zone’ are Netherlands, Portugal, San Marino and Latvia – in Eurovision nothing is certain!