After the second semi final took place yesterday, we now know the complete line-up for the final tomorrow. Once again ten songs have qualified, and they need a word or two on the way.
In my comment on the first semi final, I talked about some of the more general aspects of the production: stage, hosts, production flow. Since the second semi final didn’t differ much from the first one in that respect, I will not be using space on that here. It is however worth mentioning a nice opening act with a cabaret about the contest, containing a few sharp allusions now and then – as well as one of the most bizarre interval acts I have ever seen:
More interesting were the songs that qualified, especially in the lights of the ten finalists on Tuesday. The musical variation among the qualifiers this time was considerably bigger than in the first semi. We have retro-soul (Serbia), electro-pop (Latvia), dark electronica (Ukraine), funk/disco (Belgium), ballads (Israel and Poland) and indie rock (Georgia). Especially the qualification of Georgia was a big relief for me personally, and it showed that sometimes it actually pays to take some musical chances. Of course there was room for more mainstream songs like those from Australia, Bulgaria and Lithuania, and there should be room for that too. What matters here is the overall musical variation.
I can personally live without Poland, Israel and Lithuania in the final; I don’t like any of them, and I was highly critical towards them in my songchecks too. But I think the remaining seven qualifiers were well deserved.
The Latvian song is intriguing and mysterious, and Justs did an astonishing vocal performance of it with a lot of energy and intensity. The Australian song was perhaps the most Eurovision-like of the pack, and while it is not exactly a big artistic achievement (I didn’t vote for it myself), the song is still relatively well crafted, and it was well performed vocally. Ukraine produced one of the most intense performances of the night, and you almost held your breath. While I am still critical towards the lyrics (too in-your-face and unpoetic) and to the concept of singing about something which is a source to political conflicts between two of the participating countries, I found myself surrendering to the song’s musical intensity, and I even ended up voting for it.
It is crucial for me that several of the qualifiers (Latvia, Serbia, Ukraine, Georgia) are songs that actually want to move us and tell us something musically and lyrically. They don’t just work on the surface, they are here to leave a lasting impression. However, in the more lightweight end of the scale, the Belgian funk/disco was a pleasant counterweight to some of the more dark songs – a sort of “soft landing” if you like. You simply get in a good mood by it.
It is a hard time for us here in the Nordic countries: Only the host country Sweden is in the grand final, and both Norway, Iceland, Denmark, Finland and Estonia stayed in the semis. But while I miss the songs from Iceland and Estonia, both the Danish and Norwegian failures were expected. The Danish song had absolutely nothing interesting to offer, consisting almost entirely of clichés used a hundred times before. The Norwegian song felt disjointed due to the incompatibility of the verse and the chorus, and it came across as cold and sterile, even if Agnete did her best to sell it.
The other miss-outs didn’t have much to offer either. Ivan from Belarus may have appeared naked with a wolf in a light projection at the beginning of the song, but the song was simply boring. The Swiss song had a bit of charm with its Roxette-like chorus, but it was quickly forgotten, though performed in a pleasantly down-to-earth way. The Irish “Sunlight” was all very professional, but it also sounded too clean.
The only sad miss-out was the Macedonian song: a charming and warm composition performed by one of the most experienced singers of the night. However, I think perhaps Kaliopi wasn’t as strong vocally as she was in 2012, and the rather demo’ish studio production (especially in the chorus) may have put some voters off.
But overall I think it was a reasonable result yesterday. It was much more balanced than the one in the first semi, and it showed that there is room for more than synth pop. Of course we don’t know which songs came 1st and 10th, but still; a varied final means a lot. Good luck to all the contestants tomorrow.