Last night another 10 countries were selected for the grand final of the Eurovision Song Contest 2017. The second semi final live from Kiev brought us yodelling, a duet performed by one person and even a proposal to top it all off! Most favourites soared right into the final that will take place on Saturday, but like every year in Eurovision, there was at least one shock exit as well! Let us take a look at the performances and results!
01. Serbia: Tijana Bogicevic – In Too Deep
Serbia opened the show with the modern and well produced pop number ‘In Too Deep’, performed by Tijana and co-written by Borislav Milanov who also wrote Bulgaria and FYR Macedonia’s entries. In studio version, this song was part of my top 10, but it pains me to say that in a live setting, it never really came to life. The song required a bigger show element than Tijana just standing there and a dancer moving around her for the last minute. Vocally things could have been worse, but she just did not manage to get the big notes of the chorus out convincingly enough. And so, a potential final worthy song fell completely flat and did not qualify in the end.
02. Austria: Nathan Trent – Running On Air
Austria brought a lot of happiness and bright colours to the stage with Nathan Trent’s performance of his radio pop song ‘Running On Air’. The half moon on stage is a nice touch and the pink skies in the background definitely work with the upbeat vibe of the song. He is a charismatic performer with a likable attitude on stage and this definitely helped him in reaching that spot in the final. Vocally it was decent enough, until the last minute where he missed the big note leading towards the final chorus. Personally, I would not have missed ‘Running On Air’ on Saturday had it failed to qualify, but I would not go as far as saying their spot was undeserved. Hopefully Nathan will nail his vocal performance on Saturday and secure a spot outside of the bottom 5.
03. FYR Macedonia: Jana Burceska – Dance Alone
It must have been a night of mixed feelings for Jana Burceska from FYR Macedonia. She announced her pregnancy and got engaged on live television after her partner proposed in the green room, but in the end she won’t be dancing alone in the final of the Eurovision Song Contest, which is a bit of a shame. ‘Dance Alone’ is absolutely one of my favourite songs of the year with its 80s retro vibe and irresistibly catchy chorus and flawless production, but just like Serbia’s performance, FYR Macedonia’s team did not manage to do the song justice on stage. Yes, Jana is a charismatic performer who knows how to play with the camera, but vocally she was leaning on her backings too much and although the song is called ‘Dance Alone’, the act could have done with a proper choreography with dancers. Having said that, based on the songs, FYR Macedonia easily deserved a spot in the final!
04. Malta: Claudia Faniello – Breathlessly
Where countries like Serbia and FYR Macedonia sounded a bit disappointing live on the big stage, with Malta things were basically the other way around. After trying to win the Maltese national final on multiple occasions, this was Claudia Faniello’s moment to shine and she sang the hell out of her traditional ballad ‘Breathlessly’,delivering one of the best vocal performances of the night. The track however is quite old fashioned and would probably have gained a better result if it was performed at Eurovision in the 90s. She gave it her all, but the song just wasn’t contemporary or captivating enough to entertain the televoters at home.
05. Romania: Ilinca feat. Alex Florea – Yodel It
Romania returned to the Eurovision stage with an ear catching mix of rap and yodel, performed by Ilinca and Alex Florea. This certainly is a ‘hate it or love it’ type of performance. The catchiness of it all might be annoying to some, but there is no doubt that ‘Yodel It’ is memorable enough to stand out in between 25 other songs. Vocally it wasn’t perfect, especially the non-yodelling bits, but both Ilinca and Alex are charismatic performers who have great chemistry and look like they are having heaps of fun on stage. The qualification of Romania this year was a given and although I expect more points from the televoters than the juries in the final, top 10 seems within reach for this bubbly duo.
06. The Netherlands: O’G3NE – Lights and Shadows
The Netherlands sent a band consisting of the three sisters Lisa, Amy and Shelley to Eurovision. They sing their song ‘Lights and Shadows’, co-written by their dad, for their sick mother. They deliver a truly moving and impeccable vocal performance. The harmonies are stunning and their every single move is perfectly synchronised. ‘Lights and Shadows’ might bring back the sound of the 90s girl bands, but does so in a way that is still appealing in 2017. The camera work during the last minute of their performance does need some work as we want to see more of the girls instead of those wide shots of the arena, but they thoroughly deserve their spot in the final on Saturday. They might even deliver the most impressive vocal performance there!
07. Hungary: Joci Papai – Origo
A big part of the Eurovision fun happens when countries bring elements of their own country to the stage. That is definitely what Joci Papai from Hungary did. He sings his track ‘Origo’ in his own language and this interesting mixture of folk, electronic beats and rap will definitely underline the slogan ‘Celebrate Diversity’ in the big final on Saturday. Admitted, the rap part does take the flow out of the song slightly and the act with the female dancer is done about a 1000 times before, but that chorus is undeniably catchy although I don’t understand a word. I don’t expect a top 10 finish for Hungary this year, but then again, stranger things have happened in the wonderful world of Eurovision!
08. Denmark – Anja Nissen – Where I Am
Australian-Danish Anja Nissen sang her heart out for Denmark. In a stunning red dress she took the stage and hit every single big note of her midtempo pop banger ‘Where I Am’. After a few years of disappointing results for the Nordic country, they are back in the final and they absolutely deserved it. Visually the performance might be quite simple and straightforward, but with a voice and a chorus like that, you do not really need anything more. For the final they will have to perform in between favourites Portugal and Italy which will make a top 10 result a huge challenge, but especially the jury will probably appreciate her vocal hurricane!
09. Ireland: Brendan Murray – Dying To Try
Ireland still seems to be stuck in the 90s, the decade when they had their last Eurovision victory. This year former boyband singer Brendan Murray took the stage to belt out the dramatic ballad ‘Dying To Try’. Unfortunately no big air balloon, nor his incredibly high pitched vocals could take away from the fact that the song itself was too dated to make any impression in this contest. Especially with Bulgaria sending another young, handsome singer with a way stronger and more contemporary entry, Ireland was always going to have a hard time to qualify from this second semi final. Poor Brendan gave it his all, but it was not enough to get Ireland back on the Eurovision track. Come back with something a bit more modern next year guys!
10. San Marino: Valentina Monetta & Jimmie Wilson – Spirit of the Night
The one and only singer from San Marino, Valentina Monetta, represented her country for the fourth time on the Eurovision stage. Again, she brought an incredibly dated Ralph Siegel composition with her and this time they flew in American singer Jimmie Wilson to be her duet partner. The result was a performance that resembled a karaoke bar with a disco night. The dancing was awkward, the staging cheap, but I have to hand it to Valentina and Jimmie. Their vocals were on point and they looked like they had a great time on stage. Of course this never really stood a chance to qualify, but I’m sure we will see Valentina again rather sooner than later, hopefully with a better song.
11. Croatia: Jacques Houdek – My Friend
Croatia is represented by Jacques Houdek wo performed a duet with… himself! Why bother inviting a duet partner when you can do both voices of your kitsch pop opera cross over? To be fair, what Jacques Houdek does on stage vocally, is impressive to say the least, but if only he had selected a better song to show off his vocals. The spoken part of the intro is absolutely cringeworthy and the rest of the performance isn’t much better. The changing between the opera voice and the high pitched pop part is not exactly pleasant, the lyrics are incredibly cliche and the song itself goes nowhere and is merely used to show off his vocals. Yes, Jacques Houdek is a great vocalist, but in a song contest this shouldn’t have gone anywhere near the final if you ask me.
12. Norway: JOWST feat. Alexander Walmann – Grab The Moment
After three dated songs in a row, Norway brought us back to the year 2017 with their contemporary electronic pop track ‘Grab The Moment’, performed by vocalist Alexander Halmann. Producer JOWST might have been inspired by the also Norwegian Kygo who had worldwide hits with tracks in the same genre. The futuristic staging for ‘Grab The Moment’ works well on screen and vocally Alexander is completely on point. This is one of the few entries this year I could actually see becoming a hit around Europe outside of the contest.
13. Switzerland: Timebelle – Apollo
Switzerland finished in last position in the semi final for the past two years and this year they did not make it to the final either. The band Timebelle performed the contemporary pop song ‘Apollo’. No stairs or yellow dress could lift the decent but uneventful song to a higher level on stage though. The vocal performance was quite decent, but Timebelle was unlucky to have to perform in the same semi final as the acts from Denmark and The Netherlands, with songs in a similar genre but simply more convincing vocals. They definitely don’t deserve the last place this year, but a spot in the final was out of reach as well.
14. Belarus: Naviband – Story Of My Life
Belarus brings a track in their own language to the Eurovision stage for the very first time and although most of Europe won’t understand a word, they made sure it is still catchy enough. Naviband brings a whole lot of happy vibes to the stage and vocally they deliver a decent enough performance. The ‘heyaya’ parts get a bit repetitive towards the end and the arm movements that come with it are a bit distracting, but based on last night’s performance I’d say Belarus deserved their spot in the final, where they will put a smile on my face once again with their endearing folk pop.
15. Bulgaria: Kristian Kostov – Beautiful Mess
This year already quite a few early favourites disappointed during their live performances, but not Kristian Kostov from Bulgaria. The 17-year-old pop star who is currently in top 3 of the betting odds predicting the winner of Eurovision, kept his cool and gave a both vocally and visually convincing performance of his song ‘Beautiful Mess’. The staging is dark, which fits the lyrics of his contemporary ballad with some subtle folk influences. Italy and Portugal better watch this young man, because he does stand a real chance of grabbing the victory in Saturday’s grand final. I sure would be satisfied with Bulgaria on top of the scoreboard as it is one of the best songs and performances of the year!
16. Lithuania: Fusedmarc – Rain of Revolution
After favourite Bulgaria, Lithuania’s Fusedmarc, who had no chance of qualifying according to the bookmakers, performed on stage. Their song ‘Rain of Revolution’ takes way too long to properly get going and even when it does, the chorus is not particularly pleasant or memorable. Lead singer Viktorija does have a strong voice and does her best to own the stage, but the band’s mix of soul, pop and electro just doesn’t come across well on screen. I think not a lot of people were surprised by the fact that Lithuania did not qualify for the final this year.
17. Estonia: Koit Toome & Laura – Verona
Like in every single edition of the Eurovision Song Contest, this year one of the biggest fan favourites did not make it past the semi final. Estonia’s Koit Toome and Laura were ranked high among the bookmakers and Eurovision fans, but their 80s inpired, Modern Talking sound-a-like failed to impress the voters at home and in the juries. Their performance was vocally shaky at times and visually, the cuts between Laura singing and Koit staring into the camera were a bit too much and uncomfortable to watch. Another favourite that just did not work on the big screen. Still, I would have preferred this in the final over Croatia by a mile.
18. Israel: Imri – I Feel Alive
Last but not least, it was Imri from Israel on stage. The singer who was a backing vocalist for his country in the past two Eurovision editions stepped into the spotlight this time with a dance pop anthem. Vocally, it was all decent enough to sell the track, although there is room for improvement if he wants to come close to the top 10 on Saturday. Visually, the act is good as it is. His dance moves look great and he knows how to own the stage. ‘I Feel Alive’ is a bit too predictable for my taste, but as opening of the grand final it will certainly do its job.
Although I will personally miss FYR Macedonia and Estonia in Saturday’s final, it will be an interesting competition. Is Italy going to win, followed by Portugal and Bulgaria or can we still expect some surprises in the results? Keep an eye on A Bit of Pop Music for a proper prediction of the final and of course a review on the performances and results!