The First Semi-Final

Last night was the first semi-final and it was incredible. I love Eurovision, but I don’t listen to any of the songs before the shows, I don’t go to the dress rehearsals. So last night was the first time I saw any of them. And wow, what an impact. So here they are in order of how good I thought they were.

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Hungary (video)

Absolutely amazing. I think this is the best act of the entire show. It’s a dark story, and dance, about child abuse. And it treats it seriously, no sugar coating, no Disney ending. And it works. It works very very well. I was mesmerized for the entire song. He’s done something close to impossible, made it work very well about such a serious topic.

Ukraine (video)

Ukraine sends incredible singers (and beautiful women) year after year and this year was no exception. Again it was incredible staging. How that dancer makes it through the 3 minutes in the hamster wheel without getting too dizzy is beyond me. And Mariya takes an amazing song and puts every bit of her heart into it. Great song rendered beautifully.

Belgium (video)

This one tears at your heartstrings. He sings about mothers, how they’re warm, nurturing, loving – it had me crying part way in to it. It’s mostly Axel standing up there and singing his heart out and he does an amazing job. How this did not go on to the final is beyond me. The presentation is simple, but powerful in the simplicity and he emotes his love for his mother, for all mothers very clearly.

Sweden (video)

Sanna delivers a knock-out performance. Great song, incredible voice, great staging. The reason I have it down here in 4th place is this fits the formula for the perfect Eurovision song. She nails it, but following the formula perfectly is still following the formula.

Russia (video)

The Tolmachevy Twins make use of the fact their twins without overplaying it. It’s a great Russian pop number (I love Russian & Ukrainian pop). The staging is clever, the song is really good, and the girl’s voices are incredible together. This could well be the one I listen to the most a year from now.

On a related note, a lot of the audience boo-ed when they started and again at the end. That is so inappropriate. First off, I’m pretty sure they are not involved in the foreign policy decisions of the Russian government. Second, this denigrates Eurovision itself. You don’t have to cheer (although you should) but keep the negative reactions to yourself.

Portugal (video)

This was by far the best stereotypical Eurovison song of the night. Upbeat & vibrant, tons of sequins, and oozing sex appeal. Suzy nailed it with a brilliant performance that had you wanting to dance all night. How this did not make it is beyond me as the best song of this type in the contest always makes it to the finals. Portugal tends to be ignored in this contest and in this case that’s a crime.

San Marino (video)

This is Valentina’s 3rd time and she made it to the final this year. I think this was her best song of the 3 years and it was by far the best staging of the 3 years. The Venus on the half shell staging was simple, elegant, and the perfect framing for her. And she then sang a really beautiful song and did so with her amazing voice.

Montenegro (video)

This one sneaks up on you. You have an ice skater (roller blades) skating around and this big unassuming guy just walking up and starting to sing. And without you realizing it, he reaches out and grabs you and pulls you into the song. Beautiful evocative song that totally pulls you in.

Moldova (video)

This is good. Really really good. On another day I might swap this and Sweden in positions. Powerful in presentation, in voice, in the song. They nailed it in every way and Cristina is definitely the equal of the other female soloists. It’s a travesty that this did not go on to the final.

Also, who can Romania give its 12 votes to with Moldova out?

Albania (video)

Hersi is a really good singer. And she did an amazing job with her song, singing her heart out. Well worth listening to. It did however come just short of the acts listed above. I’ll keep listening to her and probably other songs of her’s. Hersi represents just how good the best is at Eurovision when someone as good as her is not quite in the top 10.

Estonia (video)

This is a really good song, well sung, with incredible staging. Keep in mind that the vocals are live. Tanja performs amazing acrobatics while delivering a very pretty song. With that said, ignoring the acrobatics, it is still a really good song well sung. Not quite as good as some of the others, but well deserving of being in Eurovision.

Azerbaijan (video)

Azerbaijan is like Ukraine, sending a beautiful woman with an amazing voice, song, & staging to Eurovision every year. Dilara delivers with a great performance. With that said, it didn’t reach out an grab me. I wanted it to, I felt like it should, but it didn’t. So there was some spark missing, to me at least, in this one.

The Netherlands (video)

Personally I think Country Music is God’s way of proving some people have no musical taste. With that said, this was an enjoyable song. They’re definitely a very talented duo and they do a great job with the song. The female half also was easily the funniest and most effusive person at the press conference after the show.

Armenia (video)

Maybe I was expecting too much. Aram is at the top of the polls and is the expected winner. So this should be amazing right? He is good and he sang a good song. It was entertaining and enjoyable. But I don’t think it was at the same level as the other songs of the evening. How this was considered the likely winner is beyond me.

Latvia (video)

This has got to be the happiest group competing. It’s a good song, taking the same approach as Malta last year. But for whatever reason it doesn’t work as well. It’s a fun entry worth watching, but that’s it.

Iceland (video)

I won’t say awful but this was the one song of the evening I could easily have done without. Yes they have a great back-story. Yes the message of the song is important. That doesn’t mean it’s entertaining. The only explanation for this making the top 10 is they have preschoolers on some of the juries (this would explain some other dumb jury votes too).