Having watched the Press Rehearsal in the Press Area and the Jury Final in the Arena, there are two things that I really notice; how poor this semi-final is in comparison to the Tuesday’s first semi and the noticeable difference in audio between the Press Area and the Arena.
While the first semi had three of the worst entries of the year (Montenegro, Finland and San Marino) a case could be made for any of the others qualifying. In the second semi, at least four songs that wouldn’t have made it on Tuesday, are going to qualify.
I’m going to use my normal formula to make my final prediction, but this is a very open semi, so I have much less confidence in my list, than I had in the Tuesday list. Also with five former members of the Soviet Union and 5 former Yugoslav republics, politics and voting trend play a bigger part in compiling the list.
Step One; identify the certain qualifiers. In this semi, that’s a short list;
SERBIA is there on merit but also because neighbours and diaspora compensate for a ballad opening the show.
TURKEY has a great stage show (although a lot of it was lost in dry ice last night) and a huge diaspora vote in places like France, Germany and Netherlands, to compensate for a poor song.
UKAINE is not coming across well on camera but the song and the performer are strong and it has neighbours.
SWEDEN is getting better with every rehearsal and fans who seem besotted with this run of the mill 1990s dance track play a much bigger part in semi voting.
Step Two; eliminate the no hopers and that’s an even shorter list.
Bulgaria has killed the appeal of their dance song by not having choreography and no amount of pyros (added at the last minutes) can save a dull stage show, especially coming after Ukraine.
Slovakia has no supportive neighbours and the camerawork and performance are under-par, killing the chances of what was always a niche interest song.
So four in and six places from twelve, so the rest are basically 50/50. This is where it is essential to look at who’s voting and to remember that U.K., Germany and France all have a say in this semi.
Let’s start with former Yugoslavia; Serbia is in and at least two more from Macedonia, Slovenia, Croatia and Bosnia should make it. SLOVENIA has the least support and inexperienced singer in Eva Boto (above) but a great performance, so I’m calling this as a qualifier. BOSNIA has a lesser-known singer but a lovely ballad, a great draw and a generous diaspora, so that too is in. I’ll hold the other two for a while.
Now move to the ex-USSR, Ukraine is in, so at least two more from Belarus, Georgia, Estonia and Lithuania should make. I’m going to reverse my earlier decision and say LITHUANIA will make it. It has a good draw, a fantastic singer in Donny Montell (above) and a good stage show. Belarus goes out as it's too early and not memorable or instant enough. The other two stay on hold.
Finally, it’s “old Europe” the countries that were in the contest back in the 1970s. Sweden is in and I’ll add their neighbours NORWAY. The song is different from anything else, the routine is slick and while it sounds awful in the arena, it’s not as bad in the Press Area, and that’s the feed that people will here. I’ll eliminate Netherlands at this point, as it has a poor draw, a silly stage performance and little in the way of neighbourly support. Malta and Portugal, stay on hold.
I now have eight finalists and it’s two from Macedonia, Malta, Portugal, Croatia, Georgia and Estonia. This is the really tough part. I’m going to eliminate Croatia and Estonia as neither are really coming across well on camera. The songs are ok, but there are better things for the juries to vote for and not being in English will limit their televote appeal. I could put the remaining four in a hat and draw and two out. I am now going to eliminate Malta. The draw is bad, it has no neighbours and while the rest of the show is fine, I think the backing singer is killing it.
So two from Georgia, Portual and Macedonia and I’m now going to say “yes” to MACEDONIA. An awful draw aside, this has everything going for it. My concern is that it may not be instant enough, but Kaliopi is a fantastic performer and I expect her to clean up in the Balkans.
Portugal vs Georgia for the last place and here I’m going to letm y heart rule my head. Filipa Sousa (above) has been fantastic on every rehearsal. The song is instantly appealing and the backdrop is great. Yes, it’s old fashioned and the draw isn’t great, but if Eurovision is still a song contest, then it should be Portugal over Georgia, despite Anri’s fantastic voice and stage show.
So to re-cap in order of certainty;
PortugalI’m on ticket distribution duty today but I’ll do a scene set for tonight’s live show before I go into the Arena.