The Eurovision Song Contest 2016 continued last night with the second semi-final that ultimately determined the last ten participants for Saturday’s grand finale. Prior to the broadcasting, this semi-final was considered weaker than the first. However, there seemed to be a much larger production in almost all of the competing entries.
Hosts Petra and Mans introduced the show by explaining “What is Eurovision?” through an easy-listening number greatly inspired on Oscars’ opening acts.
The ten finalists that will join Tuesday’s qualifiers and the Big 5+Sweden are (in order of announcement): Latvia, Georgia, Bulgaria, Australia, Ukraine, Poland, Serbia, Israel, Lithuania and Belgium.
The shockingqualifier (and also my personal favourite) was Georgia. Fan favourite Norway was the surprise non-qualifier however the country had dropped in odds after a couple of dubious rehearsals.
Norway’s as well as Denmark’s elimination (alongside Iceland’s on Tuesday) now make host country Sweden the only Nordic country present in the final. This is the first time this happened since 1957, the second edition, when only debutante Denmark competed.
Now here are my impressions on the eighteen participating entries ranked from worst to best:
18. Switzerland — “The Last of Our Kind” by Rykka
This was a joke. Vancouver (Canada) singer/songwriter Rykka was not only out of tune but all she did was bouncing. The performance would have looked better had she done it laying on the ground as she did during the national finals.
17. Slovenia — “Blue and Red” by ManuElla
I wonder if ManuElla had realized that in the anglophone world “You are blue and I feel better” technically means “I am so happy that you are sad”. Flat staging and twisted song, definitely no arguments against its elimination.
16. Albania — “Fairytale” by Eneda Tarifa
The song was nothing special and Eneda made it even more boring by standing mid-stage for the whole three minutes. Though it was very clever having her golden dress melting to the floor, a more elaborated performance was needed.
15. Ireland — “Sunlight” by Nicky Byrne
Another flat performance. If this was 2004 it would probably reach the top 5 in the final. Sadly Nick Byrne is no longer relevant and both his song and staging felt very dated.
14. Norway — “Icebreaker” by Agnete
Agnete’s vocals were not at her best and though she had an interesting song, in terms of lyrics and tempo, she failed to translate that into the stage and the result was a boring number.
13. Denmark — “Soldiers of Love” by Lighthouse X
Another early 2000s Eurovision-pop song and then again a dated performance. It was joyful, though and the Loghthouse X boys were very charismatic. Had this been the only ‘dated’ song of the night, it would had made it to the final.
12. Poland — “The Colour of Your Love” by Michel Szpak
Michel provided amazing vocals which probably justifies his qualification. However his song was easily forgettable and he looked more suited for a prog-rock number than for an 80s-inspired ballad.
11. Lithuania — “I’ve Been Waiting for this Night” by Donny Montell
Donny Montell also performed a dated Eurovision pop number but unlike Ireland’s Byrne, Montell was much more charismatic. Also his dynamic show of lights and complete control over the stage is what probably gave him a pass to the final.
10. FYR Macedonia — “Dona” by Kaliopi
There was nothing much going on on-stage except for Kaliopi delivering earth-shattering vocals with the help of the wind machines and lightning. Though the performance also felt dated, it deserved a place in the final.
9. Belgium — “What’s the Pressure” by Laura Tesoro
Laura and her backing dancers gave a fully energetic performance making it a great closer (and now an opener in the final). Laura, however, missed some steps during the end of the performance.
8. Serbia — “Goodbye (Shelter)” by ZAA
Zaa’s vocals were flawless and her connection with her backing singers reminded me of their own 2007 winning entry. The anti-domestic violence theme felt much more genuine than Lady Gaga’s Oscar anti-rape song.
7. Bulgaria — “If Love Was A Crime” by Poli Genova
Poli gave a vibrant number alongside her futuristic outfit and twisted dance moves. The performance reached its climax when Poli’s backing vocalists joined her on stage for a truly “Come Together” Eurovision party. This should be the next summer hit.
6. Belarus — “Help You Fly” by IVAN
Despite not qualifying, the staging for the Belarusian entry was an excellent technical show with perfect use of holograms and IVAN seemed to handle the stage very well. It was probably that his song was too cheesy and not very coherent to the wolf theme. At least, he kept his promise of appearing naked with wolves.
5. Israel — “Made of Stars” by Hovi Star
Hovi Star takes the stage as glamorous as Adam Lambert delivering strong and flawless vocals. He also made the falling stars that though it was done before, this time they are much more related to the song.
4. Australia — “The Sound of Silence” by Dami Inn
Australia’s performance felt like Spike Jonze’s movie “Her”. Dami Inn is sitting on a cub chair browsing through social media looking for love while performing how lonely she feels. As a former X Factor winner, she is a professional with the camera.
3. Latvia — “Heartbeat” by Justs
Latvia, who performed first, was indeed a great opener. Justs was definitely the most “modern” performance of the night as he dances alongside sound waves that are displayed both on the floor and the LED screens. The result is an invitation to dance and enjoy the Eurovision party.
2. Georgia — “Midnight Gold” by Nika Kocharov & Young Georgian Lolitaz
Georgia is my favourite song at this year’s contest however I would never imagine it would qualify. And it did, thanks to a psychedelic extravaganza that felt like a 70s British spy-show, a Tame Impala video, MGMT, and Jodorowsky. In other words, it was Eurovision on acid, please watch:
1. Ukraine — “1944” by Jamala
Combining vocals, lyrics, and staging Ukraine should actually win the competition. Jamala, with a frightening look, enters the song while singing about soldiers forcing you out of your house, she then leans on the centre of the stage where she delivers her mournful chorus. After the second verse, she is jailed by the and her vocals grow even stronger —and darker: A true masterpiece.
- Returnees Ukraine maintain their 100% qualification record as they have advanced from every semi-final they have participated in.
- Bulgaria qualified for the first time since 2007. Poli Genova is only their second finalists in ten participations.
- Belgium, Georgia, Israel, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Serbia qualified for the second year in a row.
- Out of the three songs that were not entirely in English, two (Bulgaria and Serbia) managed to qualify.
- Just like in the first semi-final, half of the countries from both halves of the semifinal qualified.
- Returning artist, Donny Montell (Lithuania) qualified to the final for the second time.
- Kaliopi (FYR Macedonia) failed to reach the final for the second time after her unsuccessful attempt in 1996. However, she qualified in 2012.
The final of the 61st Eurovision Song Contest will be held this Saturday, May 14 with a total of twenty-six participants, a brand new voting system and a performance by Justin Timberlake.