After Tuesday´s tense first semi final, it was time for the second set of 18 semi finalists to take the stage. As expected, this semi final was a whole lot weaker than the first, both in terms of songs and performances. Of course, ten more countries still made it to the Grand Final of Saturday. Eurovision would not be Eurovision without a few surprises in the results and we got a good few of them tonight! A Bit of Pop Music reviews the performances and results!
01. Norway: Alexander Rybak – That’s How You Write A Song
First up it was Norwegian former Eurovision winner Alexander Rybak. He took the victory home back in 2009 with the track ‘Fairytale’. For his return nine years later with ‘That’s How You Write A Song’, he belongs to the top favourites to win the contest again. Just being completely honest here; I can’t see why! The song is catchy, but not in a good way if you ask me. The repetitiveness gets on the nerves easily and overall it just sounds quite childish. His performance however, is convincing. Vocally it is on point and he knows how to work the camera. The visual projections work well and the choreography fits the song. I would not want to see him win on Saturday, because I think there are tons of better songs in the competition, but there is no arguing with his charisma.
02. Romania: The Humans – Goodbye
Romania was one of the countries that never missed qualification for the final before, but as the first semi final made clear, no country is safe in Eurovision this year! Band The Humans performed the song ‘Goodbye’, which takes ages to properly get going. We should all know by now that this is far from ideal in Eurovision. By the time the chorus came around for the first time, half of Europe probably already moved on. The chorus itself isn’t all that memorable on first listen either. Lead singer Cristina gave a vocally powerful performance, but the stage act with the mannequins was just distracting. This all naturally resulted in Romania failing to make it to the grand final for the first time.
03. Serbia: Sanja Ilic & Balkanika – Nova Deca
Serbia delivered the first surprise of the night in the result show of the second semi final. Bookmakers did not think Sanja Ilic and his band Balkanika stood a chance to qualify, but they proved us all wrong. Vocally it sure was one of the strongest performances of the evening and visually they went for a simple staging. The song ‘Nova Deca’ is a traditional folk and pop crossover and although it will not end up anywhere near my Spotify playlists after the contest, there is obviously a market for this type of track out there.
04. San Marino: Jessika & Jenifer Brening – Who We Are
San Marino has only made it to the final once so far and it was clear from the start that Jessika and Jenifer Brening were not going to change that with their song ‘Who We Are’. There is a decent chorus hidden somehwere in this pop dance tune, but it just is not strong enough within its genre. The act with the robots was confusing, Jessika missed all the big notes in the last chorus and Jenifer Brening’s rap did not come across strong live on stage either. I am afraid San Marino might have finished last in their semi final for the second year in a row.
05. Denmark: Rasmussen – Higher Ground
Denmark’s Rasmussen takes us out to sea with his performance of his song ‘Higher Ground’. He looks like a proper viking and the theme of staging is perfect for this song that could easily have featured in a pirate or viking movie. Vocally, Rasmussen does sound a little shaky when the backing vocals are not there to help him out. Although ‘Higher Ground’ is a catchy song, the performance as a whole does not convince me completely and I can’t quite put my finger on what exactly I am missing. There is something about the energy the song should put forward that is lacking in the way they perform it on the Eurovision stage. Denmark deserved to qualify from this semi final, but I don’t expect them near the top on Saturday.
06. Russia: Julia Samoylova – I Won’t Break
When I wrote earlier that no country is safe in Eurovision 2018, it turns out this even goes for Russia. Just like Romania, they always qualified, but not this year. Julia Samoylova represented her country after not being allowed to participate last year in Ukraine. She performed the power ballad ‘I Won’t Break’, but even the backing vocals could not hide the fact that power is the exact thing her vocals lack. Together they were not able to make the chorus sound as it should and the staging with the singer in a wheel chair on a mountain did not distract from that enough. It might sound harsh, but I am actually glad that Russia did not make it. This year’s result really show us that any country could make it to the final and no one just sails through with a lacking performance.
07. Moldova: DoReDoS – My Lucky Day
The Moldovan entry was not mentioned as a favourite in this year’s contest much, until the rehearsals in Lisbon started. DoReDoS and their team came up with a smart way to present their song on stage. There is a lot of action going on with doors, doppelgängers and it almost feels like watching a slapstick performance… in a good way though! The acting and dancing does not affect their vocals at all. Easily one of the most memorable performances of the night. The song ‘My Lucky Day’ does not really stand out without the stage show, but it is a cute little folk pop tune with some seriously infectious hooks. After last year’s surprising spot in the top 3, Moldova is on track for another great result!
08. The Netherlands: Waylon – Outlaw In ‘Em
Dutch singer-songwriter Waylon represented his country back in 2014 as part of The Common Linnets, finishing as a runner up behind Conchita Wurst. This year he returned on his own with a loud mix of country, rock and blues, titled ‘Outlaw In ‘Em’. Although this is not necessarily my genre, the song does have a certain charm and settles in your mind easily. Vocally, his performance was spotless and it is easy to see Waylon is an experienced performer with a natural charisma which translates well to the television screen. In his home country, the performance with the dancers has been criticized quite strongly and I can honestly see why. The dancers do a great job, but it just does not fit the vibe of the song at all. The juries and televoters did not get distracted by it too much, as Waylon still sailed into the final. I don’t see him come close to the result he achieved in 2014 though.
09. Australia: Jessica Mauboy – We Got Love
Australia has learned quickly in Eurovision. The country has only participated three times, finishing in top 10 in every single attempt. This year, Jessica Mauboy represents the country with a typical Eurovision tune. Is it a bop? Yes. Does it have some cliche lyrics about a better world? Check! Does the chorus stick in your head after the performance? Sure thing! Performance wise however, the Australian delegation simply disappointed. There is no act. Sure, Jessica has got a bubbly stage presence which is enjoyable to watch, but her dance moves are a little too unpolished for a TV competition if you ask me. Vocally, there were quite a few bum notes, especially in the second half of the song. Personally I don’t think Australia deserves another top 10 finish, but who knows. This generic song seems to be more popular than I anticipated.
10. Georgia: Ethno-Jazz Band Iriao – For You
Georgia brings traditional polyphonic singing to the Eurovision stage. Ethno-Jazz band Iriao gives a decent performance of their song ‘For You’. Vocally they nailed it and in terms of staging it is the most simple thing we have seen all night. Just a few guys in a suit singing a song together. The song itself however sounds old fashioned. Now Salvador Sobral showed us last year that this is not necessarily a problem, as long as you are able to touch people with your performance. The Georgian band failed to do so with me and apparently the majority of Europe. In terms of diversity on stage, Georgia did their part, but it simply did not hold its own in the fast paced TV show Eurovision is.
11. Poland: Gromee & Lukas Meijer – Light Me Up
The Polish delegation paid close attention to what is hot in the charts these days. Gromee and Lukas Meijer perform ‘Light Me Up’, a tune that mixes dance, house and pop and could easily have been played on European radio. It is not particularly strong within its genre though, but what really killed their chances of making the final (diaspora or no diaspora) was the live performance. Lukas simply sounded out of tune in the high notes (and some others too) and when you are already struggling vocally, running around the stage usually is not the best idea. DJ Gromee made the performance awkward to watch too with the ‘dance moves’ he is performing while grinning into the camera. Their failure to qualify might have been one of the surprises of the night if you look at bookmakers and other predictions beforehand, but after that performance it should not have been that big of a shock.
12. Malta: Christabelle – Taboo
Malta might be one of the smallest nations competing, but they always try their absolute best to make an impression on the Eurovision stage. This year they sent young singer Christabelle with the unusual track ‘Taboo’ and she brought big video screens, a dancer and fireworks with her. Unfortunately it all looked more impressive than the way the song sounded. ‘Taboo’ is not necessarily a bad song, but it suffers from an awkward transition from verse to chorus and some nonsensical lyrics, while taking itself a bit too seriously. She is a talented performer though and her enthusiasm was easily visible on screen. Malta, please bring her back soon with the pop banger she deserves!
13. Hungary: AWS – Viszlát Nyár
Hungary brings metal to the Eurovision stage this year. Band AWS perform their track ‘Viszlát Nyár’ with a lot of passion and even more fireworks! Personally I am not a fan of the grunting vocal style (and that is an understatement), but I surprisingly find myself enjoying ‘Viszlát Nyár’. This song and performance might be too loud for a lot of people, but the hook in the chorus is actually impeccable. This might be the first song in this genre that I got stuck in my head and I don’t mind. Of course with this being the only track in this genre, it stood out from the rest and qualification for the final never seemed an issue. There is enough people who appreciate this style to give it at least a midtable result in the final on Saturday.
14. Latvia: Laura Rizzotto – Funny Girl
Latvia sent Latvian-Brazilian singer and songwriter Laura Rizzotto, who composed her own song ‘Funny Girl’. It is a modern, midtempo pop song with some jazz influences, that would not sound out of place on a Fifty Shades of Grey or even James Bond soundtrack. The drama is real both in the instrumentation and the lyrics about unrequited love. Laura is a gorgeous ‘Lady in Red’ on stage and confidently works her way through the performance. Vocally she holds her own, she flirts with the camera and she manages to keep at least my eyes and ears focused on her for the full three minutes. For me this was one of the best performances of the night. Because the bookmakers already predicted her exit and there did not seem to be a lot of buzz around her performance, I was not even shocked she did not make it, but if you ask me, she deserved a spot in the top 5 of this semi final. We will miss you on Saturday, Laura!
15. Sweden: Benjamin Ingrosso – Dance You Off
It almost starts to become boring how well Sweden handles the Eurovision Song Contest. Since 2011 the country only missed top 5 in the final once! They excel at slick pop songs with even slicker staging and this year is no exception. They have a serious shot at another top 5 this year with Benjamin Ingrosso’s ‘Dance You Off’. It is a catchy little pop tune with a funky rhythm which follows the latest trends in terms of production. The staging with the lights behind him and the little dance routine is simple but oh so effective. If they want to improve anything before Saturday, they might work on a better balance between Benjamin and his backings in the chorus, because we hardly hear him there. Top 10 seems almost guaranteed and top 5 is within reach for the Swedes again.
16. Montenegro: Vanja Radovanovic – Inje
Montenegro only made it to the Eurovision final on two occasions and both times they sent a classic Balkan ballad. They decided to try the same strategy this year with Vanja Radovanovic’s ‘Inje’. It is a decent composition to say the least, but this genre has been done many times before in Eurovision and better too. The melody of ‘Inje’ just is not as catchy as some of its predecessors. Montenegro’s performance is simple and straightforward and once you manage to look past that suit, you find out that Vanja is one of the most steady vocalists of the night. This alone was clearly not going to be enough for qualification though.
17. Slovenia: Lea Sirk – Hvala, Ne!
After Serbia qualified, Slovenia making the final was an even bigger surprise to me. It’s not that Lea Sirk did not deserve it though! I just did not think her Slovenian languaged electro pop would resonate with the rest of Europe that much. Lea knows exactly how to sell the song on stage though. The choreography is well thought out, her vocals are powerful and she works the stage and camera like a proper pop star. I am not sure how many people at home actually believed the rehearsed ‘technical issue’ in her performance, but it might have helped her to gain the attention of the televoters. I don’t expect Slovenia to play a major role in the final on Saturday, but it will be nice to hear that chorus once more!
18. Ukraine: Mélovin – Under The Ladder
In this year’s Eurovision countries like Armenia, Azerbaijan, Russia, Romania and Greece who hardly ever miss the final at Eurovision, did not qualify. This makes Ukraine the last one standing of countries that always survived the semi finals of the countries that have been participating for a while. With Mélovin’s ‘Under The Ladder’ they thoroughly deserved their spot on Saturday night. The performance is visually spectacular with him rising from a coffin/piano and playing the same instrument while the stairs underneath him are burning later on. Mélovin will be remembered by the televoters because of his coloured lens, but also because of his strong voice and charismatic performance. He sings his heart out to the sing-along pop anthem ‘Under The Ladder’. This will be a great opener for the show on Saturday!
STAY TUNED TO A BIT OF POP MUSIC FOR A PREDICTION OF THE WINNER OF EUROVISION 2018!