Semifinal 1 – The Only Preview You Need To Read

Although I won’t be offended if you read some other ones as well. And not reading this one probably wouldn’t unduly affect your life in any profound way either. But to be honest we’re both here now so I guess we may as well make the best of it.

I’ve seen just enough of the rehearsals so far to draw some conclusions – and while they’re all clearly good friends out there on stage living their best lives, sooner or later they do have to start eating each other. I think that rule was first introduced in 1958 or so and nobody’s noticed that it’s still there about halfway down page 79 of the handbook. But who’s eating who this year?

Ronela from Albania rehearsed her song Sekret second rehearsal
Ronela from Albania rehearsed her song Sekret second rehearsal

ALBANIA – Ronela’s been tweeting like the game’s already lost at times, but there’s no show without show and a bit of drama never did Silvia Night any harm. Sekret’s not one of the best in this semi, I think it’s got enough about it to qualify but the jury semifinal’s going to be a key performance and there are risk factors. I’m putting it in a range of 7th to 12th in this bit.

LATVIA – I rather enjoy having Citi Zeni annoy the living heck out of me. I don’t think they’ll mind this, they look like it’s very much part of the gameplan to annoy people, and that’s worked before. I’m going to have to put it in a wide range because there are a lot of things that can go right or wrong, and with the best will in the world it’s Latvia. 5th to 8th OR 15th to 17th because let’s face it, it’s not landing in the middle.

LITHUANIA – One of the biggest frustrations of Eurovision is when a really good idea doesn’t quite fulfil its promise, and Sentimentai doesn’t quite fulfil its promise. Monika is elegance personified, even with a faulty stage there are some lovely shapes and pictures on screen, but the composition runs out of energy so, so badly in the last 30 seconds or so. Not the worst thing in it, but I can’t find a path to qualifying so 12th to 15th it is.

Marius Bear in action for his second rehearsal
Marius Bear in action for his second rehearsal

SWITZERLAND – Aww, I’m conflicted. I love Marius’s voice, he sounds like Louis Armstrong may well be an influence and that’s a great thing to be influenced by. I melt for the song too. If you put a gun to my head and told me to karaoke something from this year for my life, I’d karaoke this. Absolutely adorable. But liking isn’t the same as predicting, and I’ve been burned on stuff like this many times before. This may be the perfectly lovely song that nobody finds a reason to vote for. 14th to 17th.

SLOVENIA – For all possible values of “I don’t understand this” – I don’t understand this. My best guess is that it’s a loving homage to a musical style that never found its way beyond eastern borders in the 1970s, and therefore it might find some love amongst that audience. I don’t see it getting a single point in “old” Europe though. We’re just going to be sitting here scratching our heads for three minutes. 12th to 17th because there must be some reason why it’s here.

UKRAINE – I think I’ll be talking further about this later in the week so I won’t go into too much depth here. 1st to 3rd in this bit, and the first obvious qualifier.

BULGARIA – This arrived in Turin with no path to qualification, but without really doing much in itself to gain any traction I do now wonder if a slot might have opened up. There’s not much exciting about what it’s trying to do, but it does it as effectively as it was ever going to. Not only can I not rule it out, I’d very nearly make it more likely than not – though they might not enjoy Saturday’s scoreboard nearly so much. 8th to 13th.

S10 from Netherlands rehearsed her song De Diepte for the first time at the PalaOlimpico in Turin
S10 from Netherlands rehearsed her song De Diepte for the first time at the PalaOlimpico in Turin

NETHERLANDS – If it were me there’d be a visible guitar on stage here. I completely understand why S10 wanted to be surrounded by nobody, and it is quite visually arresting as a tiny figure in a huge space so often is, but when there’s that much guitar I want to see some plucking. If it sounds like I’m splitting hairs it’s because I am – it’s not far off contending for the title, and sailing through here. 3rd to 5th in the semi with some upside potential from that.

MOLDOVA – I need this to qualify so I can be proved right about the show opener on Saturday. I don’t think I’ll be let down – it’s not the best work Zdob si Zdub have done at Eurovision either visually or musically, but everything else in the semi that’s trying to be fun is trying to be clever. This is just pure unvarnished joy, and as we know at OnEurope, Eurovision train journeys never end badly. 4th to 9th

PORTUGAL – I believe I may have written a million rants about the word saudade. I get it. It’s uniquely Portuguese. You can’t really translate it. So 1) Don’t put it in ALL YOUR SONGS FOR AN INTERNATIONAL FESTIVAL and b) Certainly don’t literally put it in the title. Twice.

In spite of this, it’s rather lovely and catches the attention in a way not everything does, and I don’t think we’re at too much risk of not seeing it again later in the week. If it misses, it won’t be by much. 6th to 11th

CROATIA – Is it me? Is it you? Am I in love with the wrong guy? It’s a story older than time, and it’s acted out quite nicely through the medium of interpretative dance, and it’s very intimate and all that, but it’s not quite leaping out at me from a flat area of the draw to say “That one!”. Just the faintest sliver of a chance to qualify, and an equally faint sliver of being the one that everybody forgets to vote for. 9th to 17th

REDDI from Denmark rehearsed their song The Show for the first time at the PalaOlimpico in Turin
REDDI from Denmark rehearsed their song The Show for the first time at the PalaOlimpico in Turin

DENMARK – I’m not fond of Genre X turns into Genre Y halfway through a Eurovision song as a genre, it always ends up leaving fans of both genres unsatisfied. Most of Europe isn’t going to be thinking “I wonder if Birthe Kjaer ever did a cover version of Victoria Wood’s Ballad of Barry and Freda?”. It’s even conceivable that I’ll be unique in wondering that. If I’m honest I’ve got no real idea what Europe are going to be thinking. 7th to 14th

AUSTRIA – In a world of toxic fandom, I determinedly want to not be toxic fandom. To be Statler and/or Waldorf would be living the dream, and I’ve already got the looks for it.

Halo is a pretty good song, but semifinal history is littered with the dreams of similar pretty good songs. I don’t think Lumix and Pia have discovered the secret sauce that will change the run of form – though if Pia can pull it out of the bag with two fabulous performances at the right moments they have a tiny window of opportunity to shove the nay-sayers, including myself, right back down their throats. Actually, it might be our words. Shoving the actual nay-sayers back down their throats sounds a bit contortional. 15th to 17th or 6th to 7th if absolutely everything clicks.

ICELAND – Systur are not quite jury catnip, but at the very least they’re jury Whiskas. Did I mention that S10 could have used a guitar on stage? Systur could EASILY lend her one. How it looks and how it sounds are a perfect match, it caught my ear the first time I heard it, and they weren’t supposed to win Fluffykittens by all conventional logic. If it were down to me alone they’d be in the final split screen on Saturday – and yet here I am wondering why it’s not been spotted and if I’ve found myself another Jonsi or Vincent Bueno to get wrongly worked up over. 2nd to 14th purely because I’m second-guessing myself so much.

GREECE – Honestly, I want to dislike this – and I can’t pretend that I personally love it – but predicting isn’t liking and it’s obvious that it’s going to do extremely well. Not without its chances to win this bit outright, and very very qualifying. 1st to 4th

Subwoolfer at their second Eurovision rehearsal today in Turin
Subwoolfer at their second Eurovision rehearsal today in Turin

NORWAY – No song which rhymes “teeth” with “Keith” has ever failed to hit number 1 on the UK pop charts. Could this be an omen here tonight? I mean, that’s a bit fanciful – but I don’t think anyone has worked harder in the build-up to this year’s contest than Subwoolfer, who I understand have actually cancelled a planned tour of Alpha Lupi to represent Norway. Smart, clever, and just a dash of completely ridiculous and so it’ll come as no surprise that I adore it. I’m not going to be alone in that, either. 1st to 3rd in this bit.

ARMENIA – Blimey, are we at song 17 already? The evening has flown by. I love the staging for this – just the faintest whiff of what Lesley Roy attempted last year, but it’s a lot less frantic and allows Rosa plenty of room to breathe and sell the song. It also has a VISIBLE GUITAR, S10. It’s got a nice following wind with the running order, and I think we’ll see this in the final without too many concerns. 5th to 8th here.

As a rule of thumb, if I go back and analyse my predictions I usually discover that there’s no possible final ranking that matches everything, but that’s ok, it’s not like I’m an accountancy graduate who analyses logic puzzles for a living or anything.

Looks like my best guess at the qualifiers here is Ukraine, Norway, Greece, Netherlands, Iceland, Moldova, Armenia, Portugal, Albania and Latvia, with a margin of error of +/- 10 songs.

Looks wrong already.