ESC2011: Semi-Final One
Finally, I am getting around to posting my thoughts on this year’s entries. These posts (this one and the next one) will also serve as this year’s predictions articles – so pay attention! As a reminder, I base my thoughts upon Internet chatter, bookies, history, and the competition that the entries had to overcome in order to reach the Contest. As a matter of personal beliefs, I do not listen to the entries before their first appearance at the Contest. If you want to know why, look at any of the previous prediction articles or leave a comment asking why. Also, as a reminder, please don’t take offense at my opinions – and feel free to leave your own. I will approve any comment that is respectful; I will not allow any rude or insulting comments.
Semi-Final One: There are 19 entries competing on Tuesday night for a berth into the Grand Final. Unlike last year, this year’s competition seems much less competitive in that there seems to be a wider range of quality among the acts (this goes across all 43 participants). The first semi-final has six countries that probably could not even show up and will still make the final based upon historic voting trends: Greece, Turkey, Russia, Serbia, Armenia, Azerbaijan. The real questions are: Will Poland’s popularity translate to votes? (maybe) Will Portugal & Iceland continue their streaks of making the Final? (probably one, but not both) And will Switzerland finally be able to pass through to the Final? (probably not)
So, Poland this year had a slew of…“interesting” entries this year. However, Tul seems to be getting a lot of positive reception around the boards, particularly for the fact that she’s singing in Polish. I think this act will make it through to Saturday and then flounder. Though, I could definitely see this becoming one of those acts that do poorly yet remain popular among fans (think POR2008, CYP2007, or POR2009).
Norway – Haba Haba performed by Stella Mwangi
It’s never a good sign when the performer defends her victory with the words, “I never promised that I could sing well.” Nor does it bode too well that the tv station is sending her to a vocal coach to prepare her for Düsseldorff. With that said, this song seems to really polarize the folks, most either hate it (and there are a lot of folks who do) or like it (there are fewer folks who like it). While there’s a strong possibility that Mwangi will continue Norway’s legacy of bottom-dwelling, I think it will land somewhere in the middle of the semis, popular among the fans, hated by the jury.
I’m sorry, but Europeans just don’t know how to make music videos, and Albania seems to be the worst at it. With that said, people seem to enjoy her voice much more than the song. I’ll be the first to admit, the Festivali i Këngës is one of my favorite national selections for ESC, but I don’t know if the right song won this year. If Feel the Passion truly is better than those other entries, then it should be a big hit. However, there just doesn’t seem to be enough popular support for it. It may slip into the Final, but it will depend on how strong the other border acts are.
Armenia – Boom-Boom performed by Emmy
I won’t spend too much time on this. It’s Armenia, it’s a catchy tune sung by a pretty girl. It beat out four equally as catchy tunes, and there is generic internet chatter about it. Expect yet another top ten from Armenia.
Turkey – Live it Up performed by Yüksek Sadakat
Again, it’s Turkey – should easily move through to the Final. It’s essentially more generic rock from Turkey. I expect a strong performance and a Top Ten placing. One interesting thing to note, it seems to be getting very little buzz, so I think it will probably be lower top ten – gasp, maybe even only 11th or 12th!
Serbia’s selection this year was a family affair that yielded some hit or miss songs. This one seems to be raising more questions (will it be performed in English? what decade does it make you think of?) than actually yielding opinions about the entry. So, I will be looking to the bookies for help with this one – pretty much what I thought, it should make the Final and finish somewhere in the middle to bottom (15-22).
Russia – Get You performed by Alexej Vorobyov
It’s Russia, it should move through and finish in the top 15. Internet chatter seems to say that the guy is hot (which he is, very hot!) but the song is crap. Expect yet more outrage at a perceived ill-gotten respectable placing for Russia.
Switzerland – In Love for a While performed by Anna Rossinelli
Once again, Switzerland seems to have chosen a song that’s gathered a strong fan following, but is generally making a small splash. What’s interesting is that there’s relatively few negative comments about this act. Though, the comments seem to follow the trend that the song is really good, but isn’t memorable and will probably end up in 11th place in the first semi-final; I am inclined to agree.
Georgia – One More Day performed by Eldrine
This is an interesting choice from Georgia, though it’s not a country known for it’s mainstream entries to ESC and jESC. It’s interesting; the official ESC site calls it a “refreshing combination of rock and rap.” What’s more interesting is that the lead singer was switched out for a new one at either the band’s behest or, more likely, the broadcaster’s. I don’t expect this song to do much, rap rarely goes over well at ESC.
Finland – Da Da Dam performed by Paradise Oskar
People seem to like this song, but have very little faith in it. Finland had an unusually weak National Final this year, but, as the last few years have shown, shaking a cute boy at your Eurovision woes tends to yield favorable results. Expect this one to make the Final, but end up somewhere in the teens.
Whereas some countries had an unusually weak national final, Malta had an unusually strong one, so I have high hopes for Glen Vella in Düsseldorf. Judging from the comments, this song hints back to Austria’s Get A Life, Get Alive! from 2007. It is a decent song with a good message, but it has all the potential of a horrendous staging to destroy any chance of moving through (remember, Austria lived up to this potential and had the horrific living AIDS ribbon on stage, it was so bad I had blotted it from my memory for about a year). Malta, now’s your chance to prove your more than Chiara alone. Give this song a decent shot by having a great stage performance and you just might be surprised with the result. I expect Malta to not heed this warning and dwell in the semi-finals for yet another year.
First things first – WELCOME BACK TO THE CONTEST, SAN MARINO!!! Well, on the bright side, it’s not in the bottom five on the consolidated bookies rankings. Also, the grand majority of comments online about this song are either positive or “Where is San Marino?” Too bad Italy isn’t voting in Semi-Final One, I would say that this song actually stood a chance of sneaking into Saturday. Barring some kind of awe-inspiring, makes you forget every other entry performance (or a music-induced jury orgy) this song will most likely linger behind in the Semis. Hopefully, though, San Marino will continue to find the funding to continue participation.
Croatia – Celebrate performed by Daria
There seems to be very little faith in this song, from the fans and from the bookies. The general trend is that the song is okay, but the singer is cold and that the English translation doesn’t live up to the original, Croatian lyrics. I don’t foresee this song moving through.
I was looking forward to this year’s Icelandic selection and the potential return of Yohanna, not to mention Iceland tends to have a pretty strong selection each year. The fans, and the bookies, seem split on this. So the question is, “Is this song good enough to slip into the Finals?” I think the story behind this song’s trip to Eurovision (how the lead singer died a few weeks before the Icelandic selection process this year, ironic considering the lyrics of the song) alone is enough to take Iceland back to the Semi-Finals. Many fans are thinking that this might be a dark horse entry this year, and I am inclined to agree.
Hungary – What About My Dreams? performed by Kati Wolf
Hungry comes roaring back to the Contest (Welcome back Magyar!) with a bookie favorite, a new position for the Hungarians. The fans also seem to love her and the song (despite it’s translation into English, sadly no one seems to care when Hungarian is not brought to the ESC stage). I have watched her X-Factor videos, and remain unimpressed. I can definitely see this song falling to the same fate as CRO2010, a lot of build up, but ultimately, fails to live up to the hype.
Portugal – A Luta é Alegria performed by Homens da Luta
Portugal apparently seems to be sending a small army to try to conquer the ESC stage this year. I will say this about Portugal, the best song from their National Selection tends to win, unfortunately their best tends not to be as good as a lot of other country’s third or fourth best. In 2008, fans were excited and surprised by the awesomeness of POR’s entry and enraged when it didn’t make the Top Ten. In 2009, fans were again surprised by how good the song was, but were not angry when it, too, reached only 15th in the Final. Last year, fans were surprised that POR reached the Final – which was mainly due to weak competition. This year, unfortunately, Portugal has lost the advantage of surprise and will most likely return to it previous days of failure.
Like Malta, Lithuania had an unusually strong National Selection this year. The bookies don’t seem to like this song, nor do the fans. Pretty much every thinks Sašenko has an amazing voice, but that the song is corny and boring. Sorry Lithuania, the people have spoken another year in the Semi-Finals for you.
Azerbaijan – Running Scared performed by Eli and Nikki
Greece – Watch My Dance performed by Loukas Giorkas featuring Stereo Mike
Honestly, do I really need to do any research? Both will be Top Ten songs. Azerbaijan will outperform Greece simply on the merit that Greece uses a rapper. Moving on…
So, my predictions for qualifiers from the first semi-final: Greece, Azerbaijan, Iceland, Finland, Russia, Serbia, Turkey, Armenia, Albania, and….San Marino, why not? The qualifiers will move on to the Grand Final, where they will meet the ten qualifiers from the Second Semi-Finals, and the Big Five, including the two that will be voting on Tuesday night, Spain and UK.
Spain – Que me Quiten lo Bailao performed by Lucía Pérez
I like Pérez’ voice, but Spain has a history of selecting good entries that just don’t seem to captivate the audience or the juries. I think the Spanish fans will once again be disappointed, but I am not sure why. Like Switzerland, Spain has chosen some pretty bomb-diggety songs over the last few years that have all fared average to poor. Maybe this year will yield different results, but probably not.
Not since 2009 has the UK had a song that has garnered a lot of interest from the bookies. And what has-been boy band doesn’t get garner a lot of interest from the fans? I predict Blue’s interest to maintain through the Final, expect a respectable placing from the country where boy bands and pop music originated. Finally, the UK’s old-fashioned approach to the Contest may pay off for the country. I expect a Top Ten finish.