Every few days between now and the Big Show, OnEurope's pundits will delight with musings on the musical merits of the songs competing in the 2017 Eurovision Song Contest. Just like in the old days when Terry Wogan would gather the family around the telly box and play the preview videos. Imagine us all doing cod Irish accents, if you will. Feel free to insult and tell us how very wrong we are in the comments below each installment. (And the logo for our Countdown is indeed 'on purpose').
Today, it's the first part of the first semi-final. We'll hear these songs on 9 May.
Sweden - Robin Bengtsson - I can't go on
Phil - So when your well of ideas has ran dry, yeah, and you only have a chorus, yeah, the instruction booklet to your "Melodifestivalen in your pocket" set says " Just stretch it to three minutes but just remember the gimmick to take people's mind off the fact that you can't be arsed finishing the song". The Berocca advert on which this choreography is based is far better than three minutes of him going "You look so freaking beautiful" to the point of me wanting to punch his face! It's annoying, it grates. Lyrically it has nothing to offer. I fear, however, a certain constituency will lap this up.
Phil's score: 3 freaking Points.
Mo - 'Hands down to the floor' - is that some kind of reference to knuckles dragging? Melodifestivalen had an off year, admittedly, but this was one of the weakest to my ears. Of course, it's staged to perfection. Of course, the dead-eyed manequin can sing. But if this were in the second semi final, I reckon it would struggle to qualify. There's something so creepy about his performance that I can't quite place, but I find it harder to look at than listen to.
Mo's score: 1 Point
Valentina - Can I just make retching sounds instead of writing anything here? This is utter crap. It's over-produced, sounds naff and relies heavily on staging rather than music *cough* Heroes *cough*. I really can't see why people love this as much as they do, which is a shame as I know it'll undeservedly steamroll into the final. I can't go on... listening to this song, I mean!
Valentina's score: La Suède, 2 Points
Monty - It’s polished and memorable, but it’s also fantastically cheesy, and unless it’s genuinely meant to be a little tongue-in-cheek (it’s not) I feel it might be met with as much derision as it is applause once it’s being judged outside the expectations of Swedish TV. I don’t know whether that will matter so much in the scoring: you can’t vote against a Eurovision song as a viewer after all. Indifference won’t negate his support, and this did win in Sweden thanks to the support of the international jury. And support there will be – it isn’t outside of the realm of possibilities that this may push Sweden level with Ireland on 7 wins. I hope it doesn’t though: apart from the fact I’m already invested in an Italian win, I’d like the victorious song to be a little less bland.
Monty's score: 8 Points
Georgia - Tamara Gachechiladze - Keep the faith
Phil - I keep having to correct my brain when I hear this song to tell it this isn't 'Rise like a Phoenix'. Rather it's a sub-bond type song that tries to be Conchita, performed by a cheaper version of Glennis Grace. Yes, it has a message - and I'm sure it'll be projected on the screen behind her in Kiev - and I know it will only have to beat eight or nine others to get into the final (and I'm sure it will). But even with the lit-up dress it's just an average Euro-stomper.
Phil's Score: 5 Points.
Mo - It reminds me of Saturday Night telly when I was little and my parents made me watch Lulu or Cilla belting out rubbish MoR. I'm sure the staging will help, but this is shite of the lowest order. I was so happy when it ended.
Mo's Score: Heaven help me - 0 Points
Valentina - Who told you... this was a good idea? OK, that was mean... I want to like it, I really do... but I think the message and the power it's aiming for gets drained by that dreary repetition of the titular plea. Three minutes is not a long time, but sometimes it really feels like it. I like the whole faux-Bond thing she's going for, but the song needs either less repetition or to be about a minute shorter. Rumours claim we're going to get a revamp before the contest... it'll need to be a damn spectacular one if it wants to qualify!
Valentina's score: La Géorgie, 5 Points
Monty - There’s echoes of Conchita (though Tako’s more closely-shaven) and Bond themes about this soaring power ballad, but it’s all a lot of noise without a scrap of originality. The inherent drama required to deliver this kind of thing might well elevate it to a loftier position than it deserves, but for me it wouldn’t be gracing our Saturday night.
Monty's score: 2 Points
Australia - Isiah - Don't come easy
Phil - It don't come easy and it don't come cheap ... a little bit like this song. It seems that last year's writers have turned to the Big Book O' Cliche to write the lyric and it grates so! The chorus is so trite it's ridiculous, and the verses are no better. This will get through the semi-final based on the Australia factor, but it is a piece of factory-produced generic poptastic tat without the legs to do anything . It's nowhere near as strong as Sound of Silence. In fact three minutes of Silence would be better . Again it's Average A mcAverage, and doesn't stand out.
Phil's score: A very average 4 Points
Mo - I didn't really rate their song last year (or the year before). This one is even weaker. It's so bland, like the kind of tripe third-rate boy bands use to fluff out desperate second albums. It would be easy to compare Isiah with Kristian from Bulgaria - they're both young boys singing songs about lost love. The Bulgarian song though has more going on: there's an element of drama that this lacks. And of the two, Isiah has a much less interesting voice.
Mo's score: 5 Points
Valentina - On a first listen, I was woefully underwhelmed. But let's be honest: After the initial hype of Australia joining the contest, Guy Sebastian rocking Vienna and Dami Im storming the scoreboard and winning the jury vote in Stockholm, how do you keep that momentum going? Simple: It don't come easy. It only seems dull because of the back catalogue it has to compete with. It's a pleasant enough song and has grown on me, but I suspect Australia are heading for their worst ever placing...
Valentina's score: L'Australie, 6 Points
Monty - Isaiah is quite the young popstar of the moment, hot off the back of winning Australian X-Factor, and continuing a link with the show that runs through all of Australia’s Eurovision entrants to date. At just 17 years old Isaiah is cute as a button, ticking the indigenous Australian box for added modern pop performer integrity, and seems likely to be a popular competitor in Kyiv. His voice is a thing of beauty, rich and deeply textured. It belies his age as much as his subject, which seems a bit old for him. With his matinee idol looks and his full flush of youth I wouldn’t be surprised if he has been at it like a jackrabbit as he sings of his time between the sheets, but you’ve had to have had some darned bad luck to have been burned in love as much as he croons he’s been at 17.
Monty's score: 7 Points
Albania - Lindita - World
Phil - Well it's all very "Albanian" isn't it. By that, I mean its not even the song that went through from their Festivali thing many moons ago. The more I listen to it, though, the more I think it could be an Enya or Clannad song. But that doesn't make it any good. It's just a load of noise (and background noise at that). Now, I don't usually like "Balkan Ballads" and I'm sure other people will think this is ace, but personally, it's just OK and nothing more.
Phil's Score: A noisy 4 Points
Mo - To my tired old ears, it sounds like a weak stab at a James Bond theme. The orchestration is lovely, but Lindita gets lost in the mix and sounds desperately indistinct. It washed over me, and I suspect it's a year out of the final for Albania.
Mo's score: 3 Points
Valentina - Poor Albania must stop choosing their song after Christmas … it’s so far before the contest that by the time the revamp came out a few weeks back, I’d almost completely forgotten they’d even chosen their entry! This is possibly the only song I’ve ever heard translated into English that I think sounds better in translation than in its original language – so bravo! Musically I quite enjoy the haunting and dramatic sound “World” has, but it feels like it’s trying to be very grand and powerful, but not quite pulling it off. Will have to wait to hear a live rendition before I could say if it’ll qualify...
Valentina's score: L'Albanie, 6 Points
Monty - It just doesn’t seem to go anywhere, despite its big build up into a prolonged wail, but once Linda Halloumi gets on stage and we can see her giving it some I suspect this may transfer into something that feels very different to this studio version. If any country can turn wailing into a stunning presentation it’s Albania, after all. Though I’m not convinced even the most magnetic of stage presences can see this through to the final.
Monty's score: 6 Points