Eurovision 2020: Semi Final 1 Reviews and Top 17

eurovision semi 1

As we all know by now, sadly the Eurovision Song Contest 2020 has been cancelled because of the Covid-19 crisis. This week, the semi-finals and final were supposed to take place in Rotterdam. Followers of this blog know that I do review the show’s performances every year. I decided to honor this year’s contestants by reviewing them and ranking them, contest or no contest! The top 10 of both semi finals will appear in my final ranking on Saturday!

Before we start to count down, let me just say that this could have been a pretty strong semi final! There are loads of excellent entries to be found here and actually not a single track I truly detested.

17. North Macedonia – Vasil – YOU
Unfortunately, I have to start with the one I was least impressed by and that was Vasil’s ‘YOU’, representing North Macedonia. Vasil was promoted from backing singer for last year’s entry to main act this year. His ‘YOU’ is an upbeat dance pop number with some tango influences here and there. The chorus is quite catchy, but it is just a tad simple and repetitive, both in terms of melodies and lyrics. I’m sure Vasil would have shown us some moves on stage to elevate the whole thing, but I would have been surprised if he made it to the final.

16. Croatia – Damir Kedžo – Divlji Vjetre
Croatia would have been represented by Damir Kedžo who himself is a big Eurovision fan. Poor Damir was so close to finally living his dream to perform on the Eurovision stage after winning the national final with the song ‘Divlji Vejtre’. The song is a decent balkan ballad, but for a big success it might have come about twenty years to late. Damir is a wonderful vocalist, but ‘Divlji Vjetre’ sounded too dated and not exceptionally strong within its genre. Hopefully he will get the chance to try once more with a more contemporary song.

15. Ireland – Lesley Roy – Story Of My Life
Ireland internally selected singer and songwriter Lesley Roy for this year’s contest with her tune ‘Story Of My Life’. This upbeat self love anthem did get quite some positive feedback from the Eurovision fan community, but I have to admit I am not as fond of it. Sure, it is catchy and it swings, but it does also sound like a 2007 Katy Perry b-side, which I don’t think would have been enough to make much of an impression in Rotterdam.

14. Cyprus – Sandro – Running
Cyprus went with an upbeat and contemporary tune once more. ‘Running’ by Sandro could best be described as dance pop. The production is slick and there are some hooks there, but somehow this tune just leaves me strangely cold. I don’t dislike it, but I also never really feel myself drawn to it and never captures my attention fully when it’s playing. I don’t know if it is the similarities to Meduza’s ‘Lose Control’ or the lack of a proper chorus, but this surely needed some next level staging to be remembered in the competition.

13. Russia – Little Big – Uno
Let me start by saying that I am fully aware that Russia’s Little Big would have easily sailed into the final of the contest, probably finishing top 5 there as well and maybe even having an international hit after the contest. Although I definitely did not enjoy it on first listen, the track did grow on me somehow, but it certainly isn’t my taste. It is undeniably, irresistibly, almost annoyingly catchy though and they certainly would have owned the stage in Rotterdam. For me, there were plenty of better songs to be found in this year’s contest however, but had they been scheduled to perform in the second semi final, they would have made my top 10…

12. Sweden – The Mamas – Move
Sweden is Eurovision’s most successful country in recent years and I am sure last year’s backing vocals The Mamas could have given them another decent result after making it to the final, but I am not so sure about a top 10 placement this time. ‘Move’ is a soulful pop anthem with some gospel influences, a feelgood-vibe and an instantly catchy chorus, but at the same time it is almost too radio friendly and on the safe side. The Mamas are charismatic performers with a contagious energy and they sell the hell out of the song. If this was in semi final 2, they would have easily made the top 10 of my list too.

Read the full review here.

11. Slovenia – Ana Soklic – Voda
Slovenia’s entry was easily the most severely underrated song in my eyes. Bookmakers and Eurovision fans alike didn’t expect anything from this song other than a last place, but I have to say I find ‘Voda’ a captivating, dramatic ballad with a massive chorus. It might not be the best tune within its genre ever to complete in the contest, but it is tasteful and performed powerfully. I would have loved to see Ana Soklic prove everyone wrong by making it into the final, although it sure would have been a very tough job.

10. Belarus – VAL – Da Vidna
Belarus is the first on my list of qualifiers, which might be a surprise to some, but I have a soft spot for the cute electro bop that is ‘Da Vidna’. Although it is performed in Belarusian, it is instantly catchy and the instrumental drop is just so satisfying. Sure, their performance needed some work, but we are judging the songs here as some countries only had a music video ready by the time the contest got cancelled. Bookmakers and fans did not expect Belarus to qualify, but I would have loved to see it.

Full review here.

09. Ukraine – Go-A – Solovey
Ukraine opted to send the band Go-A with their tune ‘Solovey’, which would have easily stood out among the 40 other competitors. The song mixes elements of Ukrainian folk with contemporary beats and prominent percussion and lead singer Katerina Pavlenko’s vocal style is very traditional and unusual to these ears. You would not expect it to be the most accessible entry on first listen, but it is catchy and swinging enough to leave a proper impression. ‘Solovey’ is not necessarily one of my personal favorites, but I believe it could have been Ukraine’s ticket back to the Eurovision top 10.

Full review here.

08. Belgium – Hooverphonic – Release Me
You can always count on Belgium to send something classy to Eurovision. Hooverphonic, a band I have been following for years and is definitely worth checking out, presented the cinematic slow jam ‘Release Me’. It is moody and dramatic, like an old school James Bond soundtrack. The tone of Luka’s voice fits the suspenseful and grand orchestral instrumentation perfectly. I am pretty sure the juries would have ate this up and so did I. A class act with a class anthem.

Full review here.

07. Malta – Destiny – All Of My Love
Junior Eurovision winner Destiny was selected to represent Malta once more, but this time in the adult edition. I am not sure if she could have won again, but a top 10 placement was definitely within reach with ‘All Of My Love’. Written by the team that also wrote Eurovision successes for Bulgaria, this thunderous gospel anthem sure has a broad appeal and all the dramatics that could have been underlined with a spectacular staging. Please bring Destiny back next year with another anthem that does that massive voice justice, Malta!

06. Azerbaijan – Efendi – Cleopatra
Azerbaijan was this year’s deliverer of the bonkers Eurovision bop I could not help but stan for. The lyrics are all over the place, the production is completely over the top, but there is no denying that Efendi’s ‘Cleopatra’ faces all the Eurovision ethnic bop cliches and takes them to the next level. Out of all of this year’s entries, this is one that I just can’t seem to get enough of. It is a shame we will never get to see what kind of larger than life staging Azerbaijan had in mind for this.

05. Israel – Eden Alene – Feker Libi
Israel certainly wasn’t playing around after hosting last year, sending Eden Alene with the absolute bop ‘Feker Libi’. The track is a colorful, cultural melting pot, performed in four languages. The rhythm is dictated by African drums most of the time, but serves some 90s house beats in the chorus and middle-eastern strings in the post-chorus. Every single part is as catchy as the other and the whole thing is simply carefree and uplifting. It would have been such a joy to watch Eden perform this on the Eurovision stage. Hopefully we will get another potential summer hit from her next year!

Full review here.

04. Romania – Roxen – Alcohol You
Romania is serving some proper word play with Roxen’s ‘Alcohol You’, with the lyrics ‘I’ll cahall you when I’m drunk’ as the main hook. The track itself is a classy, yet contemporary ballad that does not rely fully on a big finale with massive notes, but manages to captivate throughout. Sure, the lyrics are somewhat clunky at times, but I can’t help to find the whole thing completely endearing. Roxen has a beautiful tone to her voice and ‘Alcohol You’ suits her very well. Romania’s broadcaster has already confirmed the young pop star will try again next year. Hopefully she will keep working on herself as an artist and will come back slaying with an even better song!

Full review here.

03. Lithania – The Roop – On Fire
Poor Lithuania doesn’t have a great track record in Eurovision and the one time they actually belong to the favourites to win, the contest gets cancelled. The Roop’s ‘On Fire’ had huge potential to slay on the Eurovision stage. This instantly catchy synth pop banger goes all the way off in the instrumental break and would have caused a major party in the arena. The rhymes in the lyrics might be lousy at times, but this track more than makes up for that with hooks in all the right places. And those dance moves by the lead singer were a TikTok sensation waiting to happen…

Full review here.

02. Australia – Montaigne – Don’t Break Me
Australia’s Montaigne might not have been considered as one of the favorites for the win, but her ‘Don’t Break Me’ sure turned out to be one of the tunes with the most longevity in my books. This pop anthem is powerful and fragile at the same time and the nervous energy she channels in the verses creates a beautiful tension with the belting, Sia like choruses. The hooks are undeniable and the production is contemporary. The national final performance was messy, but judging by the studio version this is easily one of my favorite songs of this year’s Eurovision.

Full review here.

01. Norway – Ulrikke – Attention
Norway was about to steal the show at Eurovision 2020 with the absolutely gorgeous power ballad ‘Attention’, written by Ulrikke herself and Mørland (Eurovision 2015). The song is all about dealing with a toxic relationship and being unable to break free from it. ‘Attention’, although being quite a traditional ballad, has a modern feel thanks to the production and the violin driven climax in which Ulrikke belts her heart out, is all we want from Eurovision and more. Norway deserved another top 5 result with this one!

Full review here.

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