Image from Eurovision.tv
Last Tuesday the first ten finalists qualified for the grand final of the Eurovision Song Contest and on Thursday night 18 more countries were fighting for a spot. We take a closer look at the performances and discuss the results with you. Who will be among the favourites for this Saturday and who had no chance of qualifying to begin with? This is A Bit of Pop Music’s review of Eurovision 2016 Semi Final 2.
CHECK OUT OUR TOP 5 PREDICTION FOR THE FINAL.
01. Latvia: Justs – Heartbeat
The show started out with a high energy performance by Justs from Latvia. He performed the song ‘Heartbeat’, written by Aminata, the artist who brought the country to a 6th spot in the final last year. The song is a powerful pop track with a very current, electronic production with some thick beats. Justs gives it is all vocally and knows how to own the stage. Latvia is on the right track and absolutely deserved their spot in the final, just like last year.
02. Poland: Michal Szpak – Color of Your Life
Poland brings the traditional ballad ‘Color of Your Life’ to the Eurovision stage and although Michal Szpak is an outstanding vocalist, this performance did not do anything for me. The lyrics are a little too cliche, the song a bit too old fashioned and the staging a bit too empty. I still predicted him to go through as there is definitely an audience for this sort of thing, but I would be surprised if he goes far in Saturday’s final.
03. Switzerland: Rykka – The Last Of Our Kind
This was quite the trainwreck to be honest. ‘The Last Of Our Kind’ is not a bad pop song, but that performance just wasn’t going anywhere. The vocals were weak to say the least and Rykka seemed to be uncomfortable on stage, making the same bowing movements all the time. I am quite surprised the Swiss delegation went as far as to throw some fireworks in as this was clearly not gonna save this performance or change the result.
04. Israel: Hovi Star – Made of Stars
Hovi Star is one of this year’s most eye catching performers with his make up and black clothes, but more importantly, he has some pipes on him! He performs his equality anthem ‘Made of Stars’ with ease and passion and the whole performance does the song justice. It is not the most contemporary or hit worthy track, but almost every year there is a more traditional ballad in the contest that does really well. Israel could definitely go for that spot this year!
05. Belarus: Ivan – Help You Fly
Belarus opened their performance with a hologram of a naked Ivan together with a wolf. Was this supposed to shift our attention away from the fact that his voice isn’t all that good? Instead of creating all these random, seemingly unrelated visuals, it might have been a better idea to focus on the vocal performance, because tonight it just ruined the song. ‘How To Fly’ actually had potential, as the hook in the chorus is memorable, but it was killed off by a lacking performance and of course did not qualify.
06. Serbia: Sanja Vučić ZAA – Goodbye (Shelter)
Serbia delivers some big vocals and drama to the stage with a ballad that deals with breaking off an abusive relationship. On stage this is portrayed by a dancer who gets turned down by not only the lead singer, but also her backing vocals. The story comes across well on camera and Sanja has a strong voice, but I personally do not get moved by the song. Still this was by far enough to qualify for the final.
07. Ireland: Nicky Byrne – Sunlight
Ireland hoped to create some hype around their participation this year by sending former Westlife singer Nicky Byrne. They were probably better off with Brian McFadden, as Nicky is not a very strong vocalist, to put it nicely. The performance was let down by him singing out of tune and it did not help that the song is quite predictable and bland. We have heard these lyrics a thousand times before so nothing really stood out about this performance. Needless to say this did not qualify.
08. F.Y.R. Macedonia: Kaliopi – Dona
F.Y.R. Macedonia brought back Balkan star Kaliopi to the Eurovision stage. After her successful participation in 2012, she returned with ‘Dona’, a big ballad that would have made more sense if it was performed in the 80s. Of course this diva gave it her all on stage and vocally she is unstoppable (although she was oversinging in some parts), but the whole thing was just out of touch with what is in fashion today, so no surprse that we will not see her back again on Saturday.
09. Lithuania: Donny Montell – I’ve Been Waiting For This Night
Lithuania brought back heartthrob Donny Montell to the stage. After a little make over he looks even better these days and his song is a lot more contemporary than his previous effort. ‘I’ve Been Waiting For This Night’ has a huge chorus and I could actually imagine hearing it on European radio. Montell is not the strongest vocalist in the competition, but he sounds decent enough to do the song justice and gives a little extra with his interacting with the camera and some cute dance moves. He probably made some people fall in love and pick up their phones. Deserved qualifier if you ask me!
10. Australia: Dami Im – Sound Of Silence
Not new bee Australia showing everyone tonight how you do Eurovision! Dami Im is an incredible vocalist and she knows how to sell the hell out of her contemporary power ballad ‘Sound of Silence’. She sang half of it sitting and playing with some visuals, but she got up for the big finale where she blew everyone out of the water vocally. My only criticism would be that from half way through the song she is just belting all the way to the end and kind of forgets to sing the actual melody of that powerful chorus. If she can stay a little closer to the original song on Saturday, she will go very far in the competition.
11. Slovenia: ManuElla – Blue and Red
The Slovenian delegation must have realised that their song did not really stand a chance in this year’s competition and came up with the idea to get some attention with a shirtless, male pole dancer. Didn’t really work though. ‘Blue and Red’ is still too weak to be remembered and although ManuElla’s vocals were not too shoddy throughout the song, she kept on missing the most important notes in the chorus. This was never going to make it.
12. Bulgaria: Poli Genova – If Love Was A Crime
Bulgaria took a break from Eurovision, but this year they returned determined to reach the final for the first time since 2007. Poli Genova, who failed to proceed to the final in 2011 was asked for another chance and she came up with much better and more hit worthy song. ‘If Love Was A Crime’ is a well written pop tune with more than one hook and a strong build up. It is so, so catchy and tailor made for Eurovision without losing touch with what is hot in the charts these days. Vocally, Poli delivered a decent performance, but when it comes to camera work there is some room for improvement. Luckily they get another chance on Saturday!
13. Denmark: Lighthouse X – Soldiers of Love
Denmark tends to go for safe Eurovision choices, which means, accessible pop tunes with easy but memorable melodies. This backfired last year when the song turned out to be too light to qualify and they did not learn, because the same happened with ‘Soldiers of Love’. The lyrics are uninspired and we have heard this sound a million times before and better. The performance was not strong enough to sell the song, both vocally and visually, so Denmark misses the final for a second year in a row.
14. Ukraine: Jamala – 1944
A lot has been said and written about the heartbreaking story behind Jamala’s ‘1944’ and all I can say is that it does not happen often in Eurovision to have such an intense and emotional performance. You feel the pain in Jamala’s vocals, both in the English verses and the chorus in Crimean Tatar. The lyrics about the deportation and death of thousands of people are depicted on stage through fire on the screens, but in the end there is hope with the growth of a tree. This performance is perfectly executed and will go far on Saturday. It will be interesting to see if such a dark and original song can actually win.
15. Norway: Agnete – Icebreaker
Norway has been doing well in Eurovision lately, reaching top 10 three times in a row. Poor Agnete is the one to put an end to this. She gave it her all with a static performance of her unusual pop song ‘Icebreaker’, but it wasn’t enough. Maybe the quirky pace changes in the song turned people off or the fact that she did not hit all the lower notes in the verses, but it has to be said she was vocally shining within the choruses. I would have liked to hear ‘Icebreaker’ again on Saturday, but I can see why it did not click enough with the European voters. This also means that Sweden is the only Scandinavian country in the final this year and that never really happens!
16. Georgia: Nika Kocharov & Young Georgian Lolitaz – Midnight Gold
Wow, who would have thought that Georgia would ever bring Britpop back to the stage of Eurovision!? The best thing about this whole entry, is that they don’t even sound like a bad tribute band, but they nailed it. The song builds up nicely and especially the last minute is strong and memorable. Nika and his Lolitaz deliver a decent performance and visually there is a lot going on in terms of special effects. Some of it strengthens the performance, some of it is a bit distracting, but of course this was going to make it to the final. The quality stood out!
17. Albania: Eneda Tarifa – Fairytale
Eneda Tarifa from Albania presented herself as the golden girl tonight, with a matching dress and staging. Although the song is a declaration of love, Tarifa wasn’t able to portray the warmth of that message on screen and the whole performance just felt cold. Taking into account that the song isn’t all that captivating either, it is not surprising this left the juries and televoters indifferent.
18. Belgium: Laura Tesoro – What’s The Pressure
This was possibly the most energetic performance of the night and the perfect way to close this semi final. ‘What’s The Pressure’ is right on the money with the recent revival of funky disco inspired pop by acts like Bruno Mars and Fleur East and that chorus keeps playing in my head over and over again. Interesting to see how Laura is doing a whole dance routine and moving around a lot and still sounding better than most of the other artits tonight. Welcome to the final Belgium, thoroughly deserved!
CHECK OUT OUR TOP 5 PREDICTION FOR THE FINAL.
Check out A Bit of Pop Music’s full review on the first semi final and keep an eye on the website for a prediction of Saturday’s winner.