Picture: Artsvik Twitter
It is May again and that means it is Eurovision month! On Tuesday night the biggest music competition in the world kicked off in Kiev, Ukraine with the first semi final and it was a night of mixed feelings! The show’s hosts were cringeworthy, the camera shots seemed to be all over the place at times and the overall level of the night’s contestants was questionable. Some early favourites were butchered live, while some mediocre songs came to live on stage. This is A Bit of Pop Music’s review on the performances and an analysis of the results!
01. Sweden: Robin Bengtsson – I Can’t Go On
Sweden’s Robin Bengtsson opened the Eurovision Song Contest 2017 backstage while making his way to the stage during the first verse of his catchy pop tune ‘I Can’t Go On’. Just like we have seen from Sweden in the past few years, Robin’s show was impeccable with a little dance routine on a threadmill, some flirty looks in the camera and most of all a song that sticks, although maybe a bit repetitive. The Swedish delegation knows how to deliver contemporary tracks that could become hits in the real world and they always come to the contest with a well thought out performance. Vocally I have heard Robin do better, but Sweden’s qualification for the final was a no-brainer and I predict they will end up in top 10 there again.
02. Georgia: Tamara Gachechiladze – Keep The Faith
Georgia was represented by the heavy ballad ‘Keep The Faith’ sung by the excellent vocalist Tamara Gachechiladze. Before the contest, Georgia was near the bottom of my list, but I have to hand it to her. She gave an impressive vocal performance and she is a true diva on stage. Too bad her song is awfully repetitive towards the end and even her vocals could not keep things interesting. The message is nice and all, but lyrically it was all a bit too cliche. Based on performance and vocal talent, Georgia definitely deserved a spot in the final, but in the end we are talking about a song contest and ‘Keep The Faith’ just did not cut it.
03. Australia: Isaiah – Don’t Come Easy
This year marks the third participation of Australia in the Eurovision Song Contest and after they landed in the top 5 in the past two years, it is Isaiah’s task to make his country proud once more. The same songwriting time as last year’s runner up ‘Sound of Silence’ by Dami Im was used and with ‘Don’t Come Easy’ they delivered a beautiful and contemporary ballad. However, 17-year-old Isaiah’s vocal performance was far from perfect as he missed some of the big notes and the act with the treadmill looked way too cartoon-ish and was hugely distracting. The song proved to be good enough to make it into the final, but Isaiah will have to work hard on his act to even come close to Australia’s previous two results.
04. Albania: Lindita – World
Albania seems to send female solo singers almost every year and 2017 is no exception with Lindita’s ‘World’. She sang the third ballad in a row and definitely not the most instant one. Just like Georgia, Albania sent a dramatic track about the state of the world we live in and again, but a whole lot of vocal power and some well chosen visuals in the background could not mask the fact that the song itself is not all that impressive. After hearing this once it is incredibly hard to even remember the melody line and it therefore is not surprising that we won’t see Albania on stage on Saturday again.
05. Belgium: Blanche – City Lights
What a week it has been for the young Blanche from Belgium. She came to Kiev as one of the main favourites for a spot in the top 5 in this year’s Eurovision, but as the rehearsals commenced, we saw her odds tumble. Let’s start with the good news. ‘City Lights’ is absolutely one of the best compositions of this year’s competition. The production is contemporary, the vibe mysterious and it subtly soars beautifully. The live performance however, was disappointing. Blanche looked very nervous and her vocals were at times shaky. The hand movements felt contrived most of the time and other than the light show, the staging wasn’t very appealing. It was definitely not as disastrous as some press made it out to be, but hopefully Blanche can shake off the nerves a bit more now that she reached the final, because the song absolutely deserves a great result on Saturday.
06. Montengro – Slavko Kalezic – Space
One would say that after seeing the fabulous bearded drag queen Conchita Wurst win the contest in 2014, viewers would not be shocked by the physical appearance of the contestants anymore. Well, Slavko from Montenegro at least tried. The extravagant pop star appeared with a see through top and a long braid on his head which he fiercely swung around on stage. Unfortunately he was a bit too focused on this part of his performance, causing him to seem to forget to sing for a decent amount of his time on stage. The parts of his camp disco anthem ‘Space’ that he did sing, did not sound all too convincing however, but he at least brought 3 minutes of entertainment to the stage, which was quite obviously doomed to fail in the competition.
07. Finland: Norma John – Blackbird
With Finland not qualifying, whe see the only real shocker in the results of the night. This dark and fragile ballad simply deserved a spot in the final. Ok, I admit, the song is not one of my personal favourites, but it is a well written composition and vocalist Leena gave a faultless performance. Even the bookmakers had no doubt about the Finnish entry reaching the final. Norma John might have suffered from the fact that there were quite a few ballads in this semi final, but still this one was executed better than most. Was it too dark for Europe? Maybe a little too depressing? We might never know, but I am sure Norma John will be missed on stage on Saturday!
08. Azerbaijan: Dihaj – Skeletons
Eurovision is definitely known for its sometimes over the top performances and Azerbaijan did their best to deliver this year. Dihaj is surrounded by a big blackboard while a guy with the head of a horse stands next to her on a ladder. What the actual f***, right!? I have zero clue what it has to do with the lyrics of the song (which were at times hard to understand anyway because of Dihaj’s pronunciation) and I have no idea why she started writing on the board halfway through while it was almost impossible to read what it said anyway. The good news however is that ‘Skeletons’ is a powerful composition with an anthemic chorus and Dihaj has a strong enough voice and star quality on stage. All together, I’d say Azerbaijan is a deserved qualifier, but I higly doubt they will reach top 10 on Saturday.
09. Portugal: Salvador Sobral – Amar Pelos Dois
After the circus act Azerbaijan served us, Portugal does exactly the opposite. Salvador Sobral is the runner-up for the win on Saturday in the betting odds at the moment and his entry ‘Amar Pelos Dois’ is radically different than anything else we see this year on the Eurovision stage. This quietly orchestrated ballad sounds like it comes straight from a 1930s movie and is a beautiful moment of serenity. Salvador has a quirky performing style, but I for one was listening breathlessly to his intense delivery of this song. Needless to say this qualified and will for sure be one to watch on Saturday!
10. Greece: Demy – This Is Love
If I could choose one qualifier that I would have happily given up to see Finland, Iceland or Latvia again, it would definitely have been Greece. Demy’s ‘This Is Love’ is about five years too late if it wants to sound on trend and the lyrics are incredibly cliche. The song from start to finish sounds cheap and dated, but somehow I am not even surprised it qualified as Greece usually does (except for last year’s atrocious entry). The staging was quite alright and fits the vibe of the song and Demy looked like a stunning Greek goddess, although she certainly did not sound like one at all times. I did hope Greece would not qualify as a sign that this type of easy, soulless composition would not make it anymore, but oh well. I hope we wont see this on the left side of the scoreboard on Saturday.
11. Poland: Kasia Mos – Flashlight
After Poland finished in top 3 of the televote last year and ended up on spot 8 overall, they try again this year with a ballad, ‘Flashlight’ performed by Kasia Mos. It is a suspenseful composition with a haunting vibe, which gets a bit uncomfortable to listen to at times. Kasia Mos gave it her all to sell this song with (sometimes a little too) intense vocals, beautiful styling and emotion in her facial expressions, but I have to admit the whole performance left me cold. I would not go as far as to say this was an undeserving qualifier, but I would not have missed it, had it not qualified. Either way, the Polish diaspora around Europe might give her a little push on the scoreboard on Saturday.
12. Moldova: Sunstroke Project – Hey Mamma
Back in 2010, Moldova sent the band Sunstroke Project to Eurovision and although they ended up in 22nd position in the final, their entry and more specifically, Epic Sax Guy, turned into a meme. Seven years later they try to cash in on this again by bringing the Sax Guy back to Eurovision. Their song ‘Hey Mamma’ about convincing your girlfriend’s mum you are a good match for her, is upbeat and fun and could even become a little summer hit around Europe. Sunstroke Project turns the Eurovision stage into a party with silly dance moves and backing vocalists dressed up as brides. The fun they are having is contagious and will probably gain them a reasonable amount of votes on Saturday as well.
13. Iceland: Svala – Paper
Iceland’s entry last year was about the most surprising non-qualifier of that contest. This year they delivered a good composition and a professional staging again, but somehow there was no buzz around Svala’s ‘Paper’ at all. Now I am a sucker for this type of stylish electro pop song anyway so needless to say I love it, but I was surprised bookmakers and Eurovision press already predicted she would not qualify, while she delivered a vocally strong and visually simple yet effective performance. She hit all the big notes in the chorus, nailed the rap singing of the second verse and pulled out some fierce dance moves while she was it. It is a shame Europe did not seem to enjoy it, but for me it will definitely be one of those songs I keep playing after the contest!
14. Czech Republic: Martina Bárta – My Turn
Czech Republic made it to the Eurovision final for the first time last year, but then ended up with zero points from the televoters there. This year they chose Martina Bárta with the jazzy ballad ‘My Turn’. The song is pleasant, her vocals are warm, but it desperately misses some kind of climax. Martina does her best to sell her song, but the stage seems a bit too big for just her and she often drowns in the back drop during the numerous wide shots. All together I’d say this performance and song was too much of a non-event to leave any impression on the European voters.
15. Cyprus: Hovig – Gravity
Cyprus is represented by the song ‘Gravity’, written by ‘Euphoria’ composer Thomas G:son and performed by Hovig. Although I wasn’t a huge fan of this track before the contest, I have to admit Cyprus delivered one of the best allround performances of the night. Hovig’s vocals are on point, the choreography is entertaining and the whole performance actually matches the song and its lyrics. I still find the chorus a tad repetitive in terms of melody, but Hovig showed how to pull off a show that complements the song instead of taking the attention away from it. Hovig will face fierce competition on Saturday but a better result than Cyprus’s 21st position last year, should be within reach.
16. Armenia: Artsvik – Fly With Me
The Armenian delegation worked with the same composers as last year’s successful entry ‘LoveWave’ (6th place in final) for Artsvik’s ‘Fly With Me’. The result is a thrilling ride that starts out a capella until an infectious base line kicks in, later joined in by percussion and some other national instruments, resulting in an atmospheric chorus. Vocally, Artsvik is convincing and the stage show with two female dancers, although not as spectacular as last year, works well on screen. Artsvik is a star and my winner of this first semi final. Keep an eye on her on Saturday. I would be very surprised if we don’t see her back in at least the top 10.
17. Slovenia: Omar Naber – On My Way
It was Omar Naber’s second time on the Eurovision stage. After he failed to qualify for the final back in 2005, his second attempt this year with the song ‘On My Way’ did not go any better, which wasn’t very surprising. Slovenia was in the bottom of the bookmakers for weeks and his performance did not change that. Vocally it was not very pleasant to listen to and the song was just too dated to make any impression in this semi final full of ballads. He sang ‘I’m on my way and never coming back’, but he will probably be back home sooner than he hoped for.
18. Latvia: Triana Park – Line
Last but not least it was Latvia’s turn. The country sends electro pop for the third year in a row with Triana Park’s upbeat ‘Line’. The staging fits the song perfectly with the colours and band setting and it seems singer Agnese shares the same stylist with Suicide Squad’s Harley Quinn. It might have been a bit too trippy for some, but I sure did enjoy this uptempo pop number a lot more than the cliches from Greece. Vocally, the performance could have been more convincing, but I still have the ‘where we draw the line’ bits stuck in my head. I am not surprised Europe didn’t vote for it enough, but I will surely miss Triana Park on Saturday night!
This was definitely not one of the strongest semi finals in the history of Eurovision. We saw a few good songs with good performances, but also definitely some good tracks with disappointing live renditions and the other way around. Well, that Is Eurovision for you.
Stay tuned to A Bit of Pop Music for reviews on the second semi final and Saturday’s big final and more Eurovision news!