Eurovision 2014: Semi Final 1: Review, results and analysis

The Common Linnets

Yesterday, Europe’s biggest music competition started again. The first semi final of this year’s Eurovision Song Contest took place in Copenhagen, after Denmark’s victory with Emmelie De Forest last year. It was an interesting night with some favourites to win the competition and like every year, some surprises in the results. I have to say in my opinion, no big mistakes were made, so that is a good thing! Here are the results, a review and an analysis of all this on each of the participating songs of the first semi final.

01. Armenia: Aram MP3 – Not Alone
The show started off with the bookmakers’ favourite to win the competition at that moment. Aram MP3 performed his ‘piano ballad that bursts into a dubstep beat song’ ‘Not Alone’. Although his vocals in the first verse were not all that, the performance looked great because of a good staging and in the climax of the song, his voice impressed as well. I think Armenia will be in the top 10 this year without a doubt, but I am not so sure about him winning actually. Neither are the bookmakers anymore, because he lost his first place there to Sweden’s Sanna Nielsen, who is the one to beat now.

02. Latvia: Aarzemnieki – Cake To Bake
After one of the favourites from Armenia, one of the favourites for the last position came on. I think I can see what Latvia was going for with this sing-a-long song that is trying too hard to be cute, but it just did not work. The singer’s voice sounded kind of weak and the performance of Aarzemnieki just looked pretty amateuristic. Latvia does not do well in Eurovision recently, but really, they should just try harder with better songs and performances.

03. Estonia: Tanja – Amazing
Next up was Tanja from Estonia, with her Loreen-light performance of the dance track ‘Amazing’. The choreography looked good, she sounded pretty decent taking into consideration the dance moves she performed at the same time, but it all reminded a bit too much of 2012’s winner ‘Euphoria’. I guess that is the main reason why she did not qualify after all. It just looked a bit too familiar and was definitely not as good as the previously mentioned Swedish winner. It did not help that the lyrics of her song did not seem to make any sense at all. Stay amazing lie?

04. Sweden: Sanna Nielsen – Undo
People who read my blog more often know I am a fan of this year’s Swedish eurovision track. ‘Undo’ is a typical Eurovision ballad, but does not sound outdated or too traditional to these ears. The production is quite current actually and Sanna’s voice is full of power. The performance looked great on stage. Especially the light effects on this one are outstanding. If you can look and listen past the not so great styling and the ‘undo my sad (love)’ lyrics, this is absolutely one of the best things this year’s Eurovision has to offer. She seems the one to beat at this point in the competition.

05. Iceland: Pollapönk – No Prejudice
For me this was one of the surprising finalists. The song is really not my cup of tea, although I have to admit it sounds very catchy and the colorful staging really suited the song and obviously was something people remembered after all 16 countries did their job. I would not have missed them if they would not have made it to the final and I don’t expect then to come anywhere near the top 10 on saturday, but then again, you never really know, do you?

06. Albania: Hersi – One Night’s Anger
Poor Hersi from Albania. Her ‘One Night’s Anger’ was not one of the worst songs of the night and her voice is quite strong, but her performance was just too forgettable. There was nothing about it that did put me off, but at the same time there was not one moment in the song that could really capture my attention. I guess Europe already forgot this performance before it was even over.

07. Russia: Tolmachevy Twins – Shine
I find the Russian song really hard to judge this year. A message about sending love to the world seems a bit out of place as the Russian entry this year. However, these cute twin sisters can’t help the political situation of their country and their voices are quite good. The playground performance looks a bit silly at times, but the camera positions are smart and the song itself is pretty decent. The chorus is absolutely catchy although the whole thing feels a little bit out of date. I would like to say that based on the performance and song, Russia deserved their place in the final.

08. Azerbaijan: Dilara Kazimova – Start A Fire
It is absolutely no surprise that Azerbaijan made it to the final again this year and seems to have a good chance of making it to top 10 as well. ‘Start A Fire’ is an understated, beautiful song with a great climax at the end of the track. Dilara is a stunning woman and the red dress she wears is beautiful as well. The circus act that takes place behind her does not really bring the song to a higher level. Visually Azerbaijan definitely had better performances in recent years, but this is one of their best songs to date and Dilara will definitely get a good result for her country with a good vocal performance.

09. Ukraine – Mariya Yaremchuk – Tick-Tock
Just like Azerbaijan, Ukraine is known for great stage performances and results in Eurovision. The country often sends young and beautiful women with uptempo pop tracks and this year is no exception. Mariya performs a simple but catchy pop track that immediately settles in your mind. The performance with the wheel is captured by camera beautifully, but it is not one of the better tracks or performances the country did. I don’t expect them to reach the top 3 like last year with Zlata, but for sure they will do well in the final.

10. Belgium: Axel Hirsoux – Mother
Although Belgium was in the top 10 of the bookmakers this semi final, they failed to reach the final. Axel Hirsoux sang a classical ballad for his mother, but did not really impress. His vocals were quite good, but not outstanding enough to sing such a hard song. Maybe he was nervous, but visually it did not come across as good as it should have. The song starts out quite charming, but after a while the ode to his mother gets a bit cheesy and too much to be honest. Still, I kind of expected this to click with the public and reach the final.

11. Moldova: Cristina Scarlat – Wild Soul
I really tried, but I just can’t get into this song. The repetition of ‘mercy’ in the chorus is a bit annoying to me and the dubstep beats get old pretty fast. Cristina Scarlat is a singer with a powerful voice, but her vocals get a bit screechy at the end of the chorus which does not sound pleasant. The styling was a bit off as well, although the dancing looked really good at some points. I knew this would not be enough to get her into the final. Bring back Aliona Moon next year please!

12. San Marino: Valentina Monetta – Maybe
The surprise of the evening and I am absolutely very happy for the lovely Valentina. Third time lucky for her and San Marino and I think she deserved it. Her vocal performance was very decent and the song, although a bit outdated, is quite good. I would have prefered her to make it last year with ‘Crisalide (Vola)’, but this year, her song was good enough to qualify as well. I don’t think she will do very well in the final, but who cares, Valentina finally made it!

13. Portugal: Suzy – Quero Ser Tua
Portugal tried to bring a summer breeze to the Eurovision stage this year. Suzy performed a swinging song with a lot of repetition in the chorus. She really did her best and she came across enthusiastic on stage, but her vocals were not that good and the dress she was wearing (if you could even call it a dress) took the attention away completely from anything else on stage. Although ‘Quero Ser Tua’ is a nice and catchy entry, it was just too simple and easy to make an impression on Europe.

14. The Netherlands: The Common Linnets – Calm After The Storm
My own dear country, considered the surprise of the evening by many. Their understated, little country song was staged, filmed, sung and performed beautifully. Both Ilse and Waylon came across charismatic, enthusiastic and all what happened with the lights and projections just worked. The Common Linnets did not only reach the final, according to the bookmakers they are one of the favourites to win the whole competition. Their song is a hit on iTunes in a lot of European countries. I am over the moon with this and I think they absolutely deserved it with a risky song and a very professional way of dealing with this performance. I was afraid the song was too calm to capture the attention between all other countries, but now I think the purity and honesty is exactly what draws the viewers and jury members to them. Outstanding job!

15. Montenegro – Sergej Cetkovic – Moj Svijet
This is the first time Montenegro made it to the final as an independent country and they absolutely deserved it. Sergej performs a beautiful balkan ballad, quite similar to what Zeljko Joksimovic brought to the Eurovision stage before. Cetkovic is not the most charismatic performer, but his voice is strong and the song speaks for itself. The skater that was brought on stage looks good at first as she makes marks on the floor of the stage, but after a while, she kind of takes the attention away from the song, instead of contributing to it. Still ‘Moj Svijet’ is a deserved qualifier.

16. Hungary: Andras Kallay-Saunders – Running
Last but not least, Andras from Hungary took the stage and gave an impressive performance of his drum and bass track ‘Running’. I absolutely agree with the fact that this song is seen as one of the favourites to finish high on the scoreboard in the final. His voice is great and his tone is really nice. He knows how to sell the song and the staging with the dancers is pretty much on point. Hungary delivered one of the best performances of the night and will definitely do very well in the final as well.

This thursday we will see if Conchita Wurst, Austria’s lady with the beard, will make it to the final. Some great performances are expected by Israel, Norway, Greece and Romania as well. On friday, you can read my thoughts on the second semi final right here on this blog!

Interview: Dilara Kazimova focuses on her performance, not on the results

Dilara Kazimova EIC

Azerbaijan is one of those countries that does well every year in Eurovision. In 2011 they won and ever since 2009, they never missed the top 5 of the final scoreboard. Last year they finished as runner up behind Denmark with Farid Mammadov’s ‘Hold Me’. This year they are expected to do well again with the wonderful ballad ‘Start A Fire’, sung by the beautiful and charming Dilara Kazimova. I had the privilege to chat with her about her Eurovision participation and her successful predecessors.

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