After ten countries qualified during the first semi final of Eurovision 2019 on Tuesday, the next 18 were battling it out for the last ten spots in Saturday’s final on Thursday night. It was a stronger semi final with more bookmakers favourites, generally better vocals and simply more contenders for top 10 on Saturday. We review the performances and results and talk you through the qualifiers’ chances for the big final!
Let me start with a special mention for the Shalva Band who performed a stunning version of the song ‘Million Dreams’ from the movie The Greatest Showman as interval act. It was magical!
01. Armenia – Srbuk – Walking Out
This semi-final had a powerful start with Srbuk’s belter ‘Walking Out’. She was all alone on stage, dessed in black and with a lot of attitude, she sold us larger than life vocals packed in an explosive pop tune that is not necessarily the catchiest on first listen. The camera work here kept me on the edge of my seat and Srbuk sold her song well. Although I am a big fan of ‘Walking Out’, I have to admit that I am not completely surprised she did not make it to the final. Her missing the big note towards the last chorus was unfortunate and although I loved the vibe of the performance, I can see how this failed to connect as the opener of the show. Also her English was hard to understand, which caused the message of the song to get lost. I hope Srbuk knows she performed well and I would like to believe she would have made it through in the first semi final. Although we have to miss her on Saturday, I will keep playing ‘Walking Out’ after the contest!
02. Ireland – Sarah McTernan – 22
Ireland is still the country with the most Eurovision wins (seven to be precise), but has not done so well in the contest in recent memory. Last year they finally made it to the final again, but going into this semi-final, Sarah McTernan had the lowest chances of qualifying according to bookmakers. Her song ’22’ is cute and all, but it goes nowhere and was far from memorable amidst seventeen other performances. Her vocals were decent, but the staging did nothing to elevate her performance. It also did not help that we were looking at her back instead of her face for quite a while. Sarah did a decent job, but ’22’ simply does not cut it. She might even have finished last in this semi-final…
03. Moldova – Anna Odobescu – Stay
After two top 10 finishes in the past two years, Moldova decided to send the quite dated cliche ballad ‘Stay’ to the Eurovision stage. Anna Odobescu gives a vocally excellent performance, but it was not enough to change the fate of ‘Stay’. Neither was the sand artist they brought out. Ukraine already brought a similar concept to the Eurovision stage back in 2011 during Mika Newton’s performance and did it better. Anna sang her heart out and other then her poor English pronunciation, she made the best of it, but ‘Stay’ was simply not strong or memorable enough to reach the final.
04. Switzerland – Luca Hänni – She Got Me
Switzerland’s contemporary pop tune ‘She Got Me’, in similar style to last year’s entry from Cyprus ‘Fuego’, was one of the favourites before the contest started, but their odds started to drop after the rehearsals. After tonight he is back on track as he delivered an excellent performance. The choreography was spot on, the camera shots were perfect and vocally he held his own. Luca’s show looks like a music video and his smile when he starts to realize he was nailing his performance, is contagious! This high energy number could easily sail into the top 5 on Saturday night and I would not be surprised if we hear him go ‘Dirty dancing!’ on radio stations and summer parties all around Europe soon after.
05. Latvia – Carousel – That Night
Latvia brought one of the more stripped back moments in this semi-final with Carousel’s ‘Last Night’. It is a shame though that not a lot happened during this song or their performance. The vocals were on point, but not strong enough to really capture the attention. ‘That Night’ would be pleasant background music during a fancy dinner, but that makes it completely unsuitable for a competition like Eurovision. It was to be expected that Latvia did not make it into the final this year.
06. Romania – Ester Peony – On A Sunday
Romania sent Ester Peony who describes in her song how her lover left her on a Sunday and the pain she experienced after. It is a moody piece of midtempo pop with a dark performance. The looks of Peony and her team are inspired by Dracula and we get a dramatic performance full of fire, rain and bats. All together it was quite extra, but I have to say I lived for it and it somehow fits the ominous vibe of the song. Ester gave an impressive vocal performance and for a second I thought that it would be enough to qualify for the final. Unfortunately it did not and although I would have loved to see this show again on Saturday, I have to admit the song does miss a proper hook, which makes it less catchy on first listen. It took me a while to warm to ‘On A Sunday’ too and as we all know, Eurovision ain’t got no time for that.
07. Denmark – Leonora – Love Is Forever
Denmark went all cute and vintage on us with their song ‘Love Is Forever’ performed by Leonora. The song with a lovely message for all of us sounds like it would have fitted better in the early 90s. The staging with the big chair and the dancers is well executed and memorable, but I have to admit it did not draw me in like some of the other performances did. Leonora delivered a more than decent vocal and after she lost the ‘deer in the headlight’ stares (you can’t blame her for that, having to climb those stairs while singing at the same time), the way she sang the song on top of the chair with her backing vocals and dancers, was heartwarming to watch. It seems like Europe agrees, because Leonora will be back in the final on Saturday. I don’t expect her to hit the top 10 there, but stranger things have happened in Eurovision.
08. Sweden – John Lundvik – Too Late For Love
Like almost every year, Sweden yet again emerged as one of the favourites in Eurovision with John Lundvik’s ‘Too Late For Love’. With his soulful, gospel inspired piece of radio pop, he is currently one of the bookies countries that could win. His uplifting performance swings and the interaction with the backing singers is contagious to watch. Vocally they sound impeccable and the the whole performance is a joy to watch. Sweden delivers flawless staging every single year and this is no exception. I am not utterly convinced yet ‘Too Late For Love’ is strong enough to win, but John Lundvik sure knows how to sell his tune to the max. Sweden is a serious contender for top 3 on Saturday.
09. Austria – Paenda – Limits
Austria selected electro pop artist Paenda, who used her most stripped back song ‘Limits’ for Eurovision. It is one of the most fragile and quiet moments of the night and although ‘Limits’ is a beautiful composition, the high notes start to become somewhat repetitive towards the end. It seems like Paenda was struggling to keep her voice under control, possibly due to nerves. Especially towards the end she sounded uncertain and missed some notes. The visual part of things was on point with beautiful lighting and camera work. This song however needed a pitch perfect, emotionally gripping vocal. Unfortunately that is not what Paenda delivered and we won’t see her again in the final on Saturday.
10. Croatia – Roko – The Dream
While a lot of the countries in this semi-final came up with quite contemporary pop productions, Croatia brings typical dramatic Eurovision kitsch with Roko’s ‘The Dream’. The massive angel wings are a choice and the whole staging is so camp, it almost distracts from Roko’s undeniably strong vocals. Of course we need performances like this in Eurovision, but in this semi-final, Roko’s ‘The Dream’ was not strong enough to qualify for the final. Maybe come back in a few years with a better song and a less distracting performance, because that voice is stunning!
11. Malta – Michela – Chameleon
Malta brought one of the most contemporary and upbeat tunes of the night with ‘Chameleon’. The song is insanely catchy and delivers hook after hook. A proper bop! The Maltese delegation came up with a playful and colourful staging that fits Michela’s youthful appearance. The choreography is slick and it all looks flawless. Vocally, things could be improved for Saturday, but I totally understand the nerves had an impact on such a young an mostly inexperienced performer. She thoroughly deserved the spot in the final though. Poor girl was announced as the last finalist and almost had a nervous breakdown, but she can now look forward to opening the grand final as she will be first up to perform! Welcome back to the final Malta!
12. Lithuania – Jurijus – Run With The Lions
Lithuania brought the charming Jurijus to the stage with the unfortunately quite forgettable tune ‘Run With The Lions’. The song lacks a build up and the chorus does not really stick with the fierce competition going on. Jurijus delivered decent vocals and flirted with the camera as much as he could, but there was nothing much going on with his performance that could possibly distract from the fact that ‘Run With The Lions’ is one of the weaker songs in the competition. It should not come as a surprise that Lithuania did not qualify for Saturday’s final.
13. Russia – Sergey Lazarev – Scream
Russia brought back Sergey Lazerev who finished third in the contest back in 2016. He is back with the big old ballad ‘Scream’ with massive notes, tons of drama and of course an expensive looking staging. It is all well executed and professional, but it somehow misses the mark on actually conveying true emotion. We see him performing into mirrors, behind a rainy window and with projections of himself. It all looks stylish and his vocals are mostly strong, but for me personally, there is something missing here. ‘Scream’ is a suspenseful composition and the Russian delegation came up with a beautiful staging, but somehow it does not move me. Of course Sergey did reach the final though and will probably compete for a spot in the top 5 there.
14. Albania – Jonida Maliqi – Ktheju Tokës
Albania brought more drama to the Eurovision stage with a song about life as an immigrant with lyrics in Albanian. She was actually the only performer not singing most of her song in English this semi-final. The song serves hooks, big vocals and Jonida Maliqi actually sells it well. Her vocals were not as flawless as I hoped for towards the end, but the way she performs it with prominent roles for her backing vocals as well, is mostly very effective. Visually there is not an awful lot going on, but Jonida is captivating enough. I was slightly surprised that she found her way into the final, but I am not mad one bit. The song and her performance deserve it.
15. Norway – KEiiNO – Spirit In The Sky
We can almost always count on one of the Nordic countries to bring a proper Eurovision banger to the stage. This year Norway sent KEiiNO who bring a mix of schlager melodies, a pop production and Sami folk Joik. The three performers bring a different vibe to the song and the stage, which could have resulted in a messy performance, but it did not. They all started out in different places on the stage and came together for the last part of the song. It all looked simple but slick and all three band members delivered strong vocals. This is stereotypically Eurovision and I am happy to see enough people were living for this for it to go through to the final!
16. The Netherlands – Duncan Laurence – Arcade
The Netherlands has been the favourite to win Eurovision this year from the moment Duncan Laurence presented his emotive ballad ‘Arcade’. There is just something special about this song. It is moving, vibrant and hit worthy. The Dutch delegation experienced some technical difficulties during the rehearsals, but the simple and intimate performance looked great on screen now and it sounded even better. We can talk about the light ball and how Duncan started off shaky, but what matters the most is that he sang his heart out and seemed to have moved Europe in the process. This was a goosebump inducing performance of an absolutely stunning composition. Whether he wins or not on Saturday, this is going to be the start of a beautiful career either way.
17. North Macedonia – Tamara Todevska – Proud
North Macedonia brought back Tamara Todevska who just missed out on a spot in the final in Eurovision 2008. Tonight she belted out the traditional ballad ‘Proud’ with a progressive message for women’s rights, aimed at young girls. The visuals on the screen behind her are powerful, but it is her outstanding voice and interpretation of the lyrics that leaves a true impression. Tamara brought her country to the final for the first time since 2012 and she can definitely be proud of both that and her emotive performance tonight. I can’t wait to hear this again on Saturday!
18. Azerbaijan – Chingiz – Truth
Azerbaijan was not really on the bookmakers radar until the rehearsals in Tel Aviv kicked off. Chingiz and his team found a smart and playful way to stage the slick electro pop tune ‘Truth’. There is robot arms, lasers, jumping projections and prominent biceps. What’s not to like? Chingiz also delivers a strong vocal performance with falsetto in the chorus. I don’t necessarily see a winner in this performance, but top 10 should be within reach for Azerbaijan, which would be the first time since 2013.