Eurovision 2016 Semi Final 1: Review, Results and Analysis

Iveta Armenia Eurovision
Image: Eurovision.tv

It is that time of the year again! The Eurovision madness started out with the first semi final. 18 countries competed and only 10 received enough points to make it to the final, held on Saturday 14 May in Stockholm. Who impressed, who disappointed, who raised eyebrows and who will stand a chance at winning on Saturday? Check out A Bit of Pop Music’s view on the 18 performances.

CHECK OUT OUR TOP 5 PREDICTION FOR THE FINAL.

Can I start off by saying that Eurovision starts to look more high tech every year!? The stage is gorgeous this year with all the projections and holograms everywhere. Well done SVT for that!

01. Finland: Sandhja – Sing It Away
In Finland they know what is hot right now. Their representative Sandhja brings a swinging song that reminds me of the style of British pop star Jess Glynne, who had hit after hit in the past year. Unfortunately, Sandhja is not able to make any impression vocally. She is out of breath half of the time and simply sounds out of tune. She has got great energy on stage, but that alone is of course not enough to qualify.

02. Greece: Argo – Utopian Land
Greece has often been successful in Eurovision in the past decade, but this might be their worst entry in a long time. It is good to see that when they send a bad song, they actually don’t make it either. ‘Utopian Land’ might have a nice message, but the tune is just a complete mess. There is no melody or memorable rhythm present at all. The rap does not really work either. This Saturday we have a Eurovision final without Greece and that hasn’t happened since the semi finals were introduced!

03. Moldova: Lidia Isac – Falling Stars
Moldova sends the type of euro dance with a twist of schlager that the die hard Eurovision fans tend to fall for. Unfortunately for Lidia, her track is not nearly one of the best in the genre and the whole performance is actually quite forgettable to be honest. Vocally, she wasn’t one of the worst tonight, but she did not sell the song well enough to come close to a place in the final. Oh, and what was up with that astronaut dude?

04. Hungary: Freddie – Pioneer
Hungary was for me the first song of the night that actually had the potential to proceed in this competition. I am not a huge fan of his raw vocal style as I don’t think it fits this slick pop tune very well, but he is a decent performer. It goes without saying that he looked very good on screen as well. Smart use of the projections in the floor by the way! This is the first chorus that actually sticks, so a deserved qualifier.

05. Croatia: Nina Kraljić – Lighthouse
Croatia came back to Eurovision and when the song ‘Lighthouse’ came out, it immediately did well in predictions and lists by the bookmakers. Then the rehearsals revealed her peculiar choice of dresses and her odds plummeted. Although I think this could have been a lot better visually, the girl can sing and ‘Lighthouse’ is actually an atmospheric and contemporary ballad with a nice build up. I am happy to hear her again on Saturday!

06. The Netherlands: Douwe Bob – Slow Down
My own little country did me proud tonight! Douwe Bob is such a classy performer with a stunning voice. ‘Slow Down’ is a laidback type of country song with a ridiculously catchy chorus that will play in the minds of people throughout Europe at the moment. Douwe knows how to play with the camera and of course he looks the part in his purple suit. The ten seconds of silence aren’t really necessary to get the message of the song across, but I guess it works to keep people paying attention. Possible contender for the top 10 on Saturday.

07. Armenia: Iveta Mukuchyan – LoveWave
If you ask me, visually this was the best performance of the whole night. The whole unusual build up in the track is translated to the staging and camera work perfectly, which creates a tense and suspenseful performance. The song is far from being typically Eurovision as it is not very catchy, but that’s interesting and fresh. Love her vocal power and who can say no to some epic hologram action? I applaud Armenia for this daring entry. My only criticism would be that it is hard to understand a word she is singing, as her diction in English is lacking. If she can get this right before Saturday, we are looking at a serious contender for top 3.

08. San Marino: Serhat – I Didn’t Know
San Marino, oh San Marino. They brought in Turkish singer Serhat this year to represent them and although the guy and performance came across as sympethatic, this is hard to take serious as a contender in 2016. We all love a bit of disco, but the whole whisper singing and the dance moves made it uber cheesy. I am sure the crowd in the Globen arena had a great time, but I am not sad we don’t have to sit through this again on Saturday.

09. Russia: Sergey Lazarev – You Are The Only One
Russia is the big favourite to win the contest this year and after seeing Sergey’s performance, you can easily understand why. He was inspired by the graphics of Sweden last year, but then took it to a next level. At one point it looked like he was flying before the screen. This may all be pretty cool, but that does not take away from the fact that his song, while being a nice pop tune, is kind of Eurovision 2006 by the numbers. Although he absolutely deserved qualification tonight, this as a winning song would be a tad disappointing.

10. Czech Republic: Gabriela Gunčíková – I Stand
Czech Republic has been struggling in Eurovision for years. In their four attempts they never made it to the final. To be fair, this year’s act Gabriela Gunčíková was the first who truly deserved it. This stunning woman with an even so stunning voice gave a vocally perfect rendition of the beautiful ballad ‘I Stand’. The pink on stage worked perfectly and she showed how you can keep it simple and still make a big impression when your voice and song are strong. So glad to see the Czech Republic back on Saturday!

11. Cyprus: Minus One – Alter Ego
Cyprus brings in the rock band Minus One, who performed the incredibly catchy song ‘Alter Ego’. Fun thing is that with a different arrangement, this could have easily been a schlager song as well. Not that there is anything wrong with that! The band delivered a decent performance, just what you would expect visually with a song like this, really. Deserved qualifier, although not one of my personal favourites.

12. Austria: Zoë – Loin D’Ici
Zoë from Austria brought back the French language to this semi final and let us admit she sounded gorgeous doing it. Her ‘Loin D’Ici’ and the colourful performance might be too sugary, sweet and Disney like for some, but at the same time there is obviously an audience for that sort of thing. For me she was the surprise of the evening as it was the only finalist I predicted wrong, but I can’t say it is undeserved. This could actually turn into one of my many guilty pleasures!

13. Estonia: Jüri Pootsmann – Play
While Estonia was one of my and many others’ favourites in the contest last year, this year their performance did not really hit home to put it politely. ‘Play’ is definitely not a bad song, but the staging was just not up too scratch. Vocally, it was way too mediocre and Jüri’s playing with the camera while doing card tricks, did not necessarily come across as charming. I don’t think this came even close to qualifying.

14. Azerbaijan: Samra – Miracle
I was preparing for the worst when Samra from Azerbaijan started her performance as I read all these reports about here singing out of tune constantly during the rehearsals. Well, during her most important performance, it did sound more than alright, also thanks to her backings of course! It might not have been pitch perfect all the way through, but it was certainly enough to sell the song. And that song, ‘Miracle’, is actually a well written pop song with a highly enjoyable chorus. I don’t think she will make big waves in the final, but I do believe she deserves to be there.

15. Montenegro: Highway – The Real Thing
Montenegro tried a lot of things this year, but none of them really worked. The song went from rock to electronic and back, but neither part remotely stood out. Vocally it wasn’t all that good either and visually it left us nothing memorable. As you can hear, I was not surprised to see them fly out of the contest tonight.

16. Iceland: Greta Saóme – Hear Them Calling
Iceland was the only surprising non qualifier for me. Greta Salóme and her deligation must be really disappointed, because they put a lot of effort in that performance and it looked quite stunning! They made great use of the floor and the projections behind her, but it might have been a bit too similar to the performances of Swedish winners Loreen and Måns Zelmerlöw for the public to buy it. ‘Hear Them Calling’ is a catchy track, but maybe not the contemporary pop, the audience would like to hear. I actually really warmed to ‘Hear Them Calling’ while seeing her perform. Must have finished in the 11th spot, right?

17. Bosnia & Herzegovina: Deen & Dalal – Ljubav Je
Bosnia & Herzegovina brought a duet on stage by Deen and Dalal. Both are good vocalists and their song sounds quite alright until this rapper suddenly storms in, which does not suit the rest of the performance at all. Rapper aside, this was not really memorable enough on whatever level, so this is the first time, Bosnia & Herzegovina does not proceed to the final.

18. Malta: Ira Losco – Walk On Water
This is how you do a modern pop song on the Eurovision stage ladies and gentlemen. Ira Losco returned to Eurovision after 14 years and completely owned the stage. Her vocals were on point, with help from Swedish pop star Molly Pettersson Hammar as backing, and she looked gorgeous. The visuals made sense with a blue floor during the repetition of the words ‘walk on water’ in the chorus. I just love the production of this tune and I am glad to hear it again on Saturday. And I was clearly not the only one, judging by the people in the audience screaming ‘Malta!’ before the last finalist was announced (although some ‘Iceland!’ was clearly hearable as well).

Overall the show took a while to get going with a few mediocre acts at the start, but we can be quite content with the way Europe voted. None of the ten selected finalists were undeserved, although I would have liked to see Iceland qualify as well. Check back on Thursday night for A Bit of Pop Music’s review on the second semi final!

Curious how last night’s finalists are performing in the iTunes charts around Europe so far? Check A Bit of Pop Music’s analysis.

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