The Eurovision Song Contest 2019 has officially begun! After Israel’s victory last year with Netta’s ‘Toy’, the country hosts this year’s edition in Tel Aviv. On Tuesday night, the first seventeen countries battled for ten spots in the final. Seven of them already had to leave the competition. There were some great performances, some flat notes and of course a few surprises in the results too! Read reviews on all performances of the night and my take on the results so far, with some predictions for the final on Saturday!
01. Cyprus – Tamta – Replay
This year’s contest was opened by Tamta from Cyprus. Her upbeat and contemporary ‘Replay’ was written by mostly the same team that wrote last year’s entry ‘Fuego’, with which Eleni Foureira finished as runner-up. ‘Replay’ does have a similar vibe, although the production is more electronic. It is definitely one of the strongest bops in the contest, but vocally there is still room for improvement. Especially at the start of the chorus before the beat drops, Tamta sounds shrieky. Visually however, this was one of the stronger performances of the night. Tamta has star power and knows how to play with the cameras. Cyprus serves choreography, fireworks, some visual replay effects and an overall sexy performance. The crowd in Tel Aviv sure seems to love her, judging by the cheers during her performance. Not sure if this performance is top 5 worthy, but a thoroughly deserved spot in the final nonetheless.
02. Montenegro – D Mol – Heaven
Montenegro sent group D Mol consisting of six vocalists with their song ‘Heaven’. Going into this semi-final, they were the act with the least chances of qualifying according to the bookmakers and it is not hard to hear why. ‘Heaven’ is full of cliche lyrics, lacks any sort of build up and the hook is simply not attractive in the slightest. Vocally, they individually did a decent job, but together it sometimes sounded messy. The staging was just as poor as the song, almost like we were watching a school play. All six of them did their best to sell this song, but it was never going to be enough to qualify.
03. Finland – Darude & Sebastian Rejman – Look Away
Finland sent arguably the biggest name in this year’s contest with dj Darude. He had a massive hit in 2000 with the track ‘Sandstorm’. His Eurovision entry ‘Look Away’, with vocals by Sebastian Rejman, sounds nothing like it though. That however does not mean that it sounds contemporary. ‘Look Away’ is a decent but dated slice of euro dance. Rejman’s vocal performance sure wasn’t pitch perfect as he especially struggled with the lower notes in the verses. The idea of the staging was one of the best of the night, but the execution was not strong enough. Darude, Rejman and the dancer were too far apart, almost as if we were looking at three different performances and therefore the under/above water parts of the dancer weren’t as effective. If you ask me, Finland delivered a better song and performance than some of the countries that did qualify in the end, but at the same time I am not shocked that they did not make it.
04. Poland – Tulia – Fire of Love (Pali się)
Poland brought folk back to Eurovision with group Tulia, consisting of four ladies, who perform the track ‘Fire Of Love’ in both English and Polish. Vocally, they sounded strong, although their loud sound needs some getting used to. Their stage show is very static and there is hardly any close ups or interaction with the camera. The result is a bit of a distant performance, which clearly did not click well enough with Europe as Poland did not make it into the final. I do applaud Poland for sending something authentic and true to their culture though.
05. Slovenia – Zala Kralj & Gašper Šantl – Sebi
Slovenian duo Zala and Gašper brought an intimate performance of their understated electronic tune ‘Sebi’ to the Eurovision stage. Although it completely lacks energy, there is something quite intriguing and captivating about both the song and the performance. There is hardly any build up in the dreamy ‘Sebi’ yet I find myself to be listening at the edge of my seat for three minutes. They are competely focused on each other during the performance, but with the camera circling around them, that is not a problem. Vocally, Zala is steady. It remains to be seen if their introverted performance will still stand out on Saturday, but they earned their place in the final!
06. Czech Republic – Lake Malawi – Friend of a Friend
Who would have thought that it would be Czech Republic showing us how to properly do Eurovision!? After their first proper Eurovision success last year (Mikolas Josef reached a 6th place), they are back with another contemporary and international sounding entry. The band Lake Malawi perform their uplifting and insanely catchy tune ‘Friend of a Friend’ with exactly the right attitude and energy. Singer Albert is a joy to watch as he flirts with the camera and gets the whole arena to join him. His vocals remain strong throughout the performance and the visuals fit the vibe of the song perfectly. Czech Republic might well score their second top 10 in a row on Saturday night and I would not rule out a little radio hit after the contest either!
07. Hungary – Joci Pápai – Az Én Apám
Hungarian folk and pop musician Joci Pápai returned to Eurovision after he brought his country a respectable 8th position in the final of 2017. This year he performed a song in a similar style, this time about his father. His vocal performance was one of the few flawless ones of the night, while the staging was simple, but looked good to these eyes. Something apparently did not click with Europe however, as Hungary became the most shocking non-qualifier of this semi-final. Although this is not a song I listen to often, I am the first to admit that he deserved so much better.
08. Belarus – Zena – Like It
Belarus sent the youngest participant of this year’s contest; the 16 years old Zena. Her cute bop ‘Like It’ is extremely catchy and admitted, a bit simple, but it sure is a guilty pleasure (considering Eurovision itself is a guilty pleasure too, this is some proper guilty pleasure inception). It seems like the rest of Europe did ‘Like It’ too as Belarus qualified against all odds. Zena and her dancers delivered an eye catching high energy performance and the backing vocals helped her out a lot, making sure that the majority of the notes were hit just right. I don’t expect Belarus to play a big part in Saturday’s final, but I am pleasantly surprised they qualified! Now excuse me while I bop to ‘Like It’ once more.
09. Serbia – Nevena Božović – Kruna
No Eurovision Song Contest is complete with a dramatic balkan ballad and Serbia delivered exactly that. Nevena Božović, who represented Serbia before as part of group Moje 3 wich just failed to reach the final in 2013, served some of the absolute best vocals of the night and she looked stunning doing so. Visually, this performance was just perfect as well with projections on the floor and screens that elevated the track, rather than distracting from it. Long story short, Nevena showed everyone how it is done tonight and I would not be mad if she sneaks into the top 10 on Saturday too!
10. Belgium – Eliot – Wake Up
The 18-year-old The Voice contestant Eliot was chosen to represent Belgium with the song ‘Wake Up’, written by Pierre Dumoulin who also penned 2017’s entry ‘City Lights’ which finished 4th in 2017. Belgium found out the hard way last year that a beautiful song can still be ruined by questionable staging, but it seems they did not learn. ‘Wake Up’ was one of my favourite tunes going into the contest and deserved a way better performance. The vocals were off in the chorus, the drums on stage did not fit with the song at all and the styling was a choice. Although I will sure miss ‘Wake Up’ in the final, the Belgian delegation brought their non-qualification upon themselves.
11. Georgia – Oto Nemsadze – Keep On Going
Georgia’s Oto Nemsadze decided to bring a track (that is actually performed in Georgian although it has an English title) that mixes elements of folk music and rock. His vocals are undeniably strong, but the track lacks a proper hook and his chanting becomes repetitive quite early on. Visually however, the Georgian delegation delivered a spectacular performance with fire, smoke, mountains, you name it! It however could not change the fact that the song did not connect with the European audience and therefore we won’t see Georgia again on Saturday night.
12. Australia – Kate Miller-Heidke – Zero Gravity
Kate Miller-Heidke is the first Australian representative chosen during a national final and she proved herself to be a worthy one! She performed her opera induced pop and dance tune ‘Zero Gravity’ about her postnatal depression, while flying through the sky. The performance was visually spectacular and all the flying around did not affect her vocals in the slightest. She hit every single one of those dangerously high notes and still interacted with the camera too. People keep asking why Australia is even in Eurovision, while they should be asking why Australia is able to show everyone how it is done while they just started a few years ago. Kate Miller-Heidke is a star and she could well soar into the top 3 on Saturday night.
13. Iceland – Hatari – Hatrið Mun Sigra
Iceland delivers potentially the most talked about act of this year’s Eurovision with Hatari. The band gives a spectacular bdsm inspired performance. The staging is impeccable and the band sure knows how to sell this grunting, electronic, industrial track with a bright pop hook as a chorus. Although the grunting in the verses sure is not my cup of tea, I am more bothered by the weak vocals in the chorus. They are supposed to carry the hook, but more often than not they sound out of tune. It was never a question really if Iceland was going to qualify from this semi-final, but it is rather hard to predict how far they could go on Saturday night.
14. Estonia – Victor Crone – Storm
Swedish singer Victor Crone represents Estonia this year with the radiofriendly tune ‘Storm’. The track seems to be produced with Avicii’s successful sound in mind, mixing guitar pop with electronic beats. ‘Storm’ is a decent tune, but to me personally also quite forgettable. The European juries and televoters did remember it though, as they did even forgive him the notes he missed throughout the performance. Crone is a charming performer though and the staging overall was decent to say the least with excellent use of the screens. ‘Storm’ leaves me cold, but it does not sound totally out of place in the Eurovision final.
15. Portugal – Conan Osíris – Telemóveis
Portugal took a big risk in this year’s Eurovision, sending Conan Osíris with the quirky tune ‘Telemóveis’. There is a lot happening in this song in three minutes, switching between fado inspired vocals and hard electronic beats. The stage act with the dancer and the out of the box choreography adds to the artistic, but also odd vibe of it all. It is original and daring, but turned out to be not the best fit for Eurovision. Although I really appreciate the Portuguese entry now, it did not click with me on first listen either and there is no such thing as a second chance to impress during the Eurovision semi-finals. Out of all the non-qualifiers, I will probably miss Portugal’s performance the most.
16. Greece – Katerine Duska – Better Love
Greece served some proper contemporary singer-songwriter pop with a sound reminiscent of stars like Florence + the Machine and Ellie Goulding. Katerine Duska looked the part with a staging that has the same vibe as her music video had and it is all very well executed. There is a lot going on, but it is never too distracting from either the song or the star of the performance. It did however seem at times like the nerves were getting the better of Katerine, as she missed some of the lower notes. At the same time, she absolutely slayed every single high note. Her performance and song were easily some of the strongest of the night. If she nails her vocals on Saturday, top 10 might be within reach.
17. San Marino – Serhat – Say Na Na Na
Well, Eurovision isn’t really Eurovision if not at least one country qualifies leaving everyone wondering what the hell just happened. That is San Marino for you. Turkish singer Serhat returned after not getting San Marino in the final back in 2016 and tried again with the disco tune ‘Say Na Na Na’ which he wrote in about five minutes. That explains a lot right? Either way, he mumbled through his performance, sounding almost constantly out of tune. His dancing was cringy and the whole thing was just so wrong, it almost became right. Almost. Well, at least he brought the party I guess. We will see if he can top San Marino’s best result, which is the 24th place, on Saturday night.