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Line-up check 2016: Second half of semi-final 1

by | Apr 26, 2016 | 2016 reviews, Uncategorized

Line-up check 2016: Second half of semi-final 1

by | Apr 26, 2016 | 2016 reviews, Uncategorized

In the second part of our ESC 2016 line-up check series, it’s time for our editors – Felix, Martin and Shi – to give their views on the songs in the second half of the first semi-final!

Just like in our first article, each entry has been randomly assigned to one of them. They’ll give their views briefly, followed by an arrow that represents their feeling about the song’s chances in the contest and an emoji or two that reflects their own personal taste. Then the other two editors will get a quick “right of reply” in which they can agree or disagree with what’s been said!

Now let’s see what our team thinks about the rest of the first semi-final…

10. Czech Republic

Felix: I don’t really know what to think of the Czech entry this year. When I hear it, it’s a nice song, yes. But an hour later, if anyone would ask me to sing the Czech song, I wouldn’t have a clue what to sing. It’s a quality entry, but none that will leave a lasting impression on the first listen. I still hope it will qualify to the final, it would be nice to see the country there.


Martin: I agree, it’s an odd one. I think the composition and performer have the necessary quality to reach Saturday night, but there are no truly memorable highs here.

Shi: The “I stand” in the chorus stuck in my head right away, and Gabriela is both a wonderful vocalist and totally gorgeous, so I’m certain this is not only a qualifier but something that can do really well on Saturday night.

11. Cyprus

Shi: The Cypriots are trying something that no one tried before: a song by Thomas G:son! I have a rocky relationship with his songs but sometimes we do get along. Alter Ego is a catchy rockish track that lacks originality, but its familiar sound works in its favor. Paired with a competent performance, Swedish staging and hopefully the help of an extra backing singer who will provide some vocal depth, it should make it through to the final. There they can do what other similar competent entries did before and have a shot of breaking – slightly – into the top 10.


Martin: I probably ought to like this, but I don’t. It’s very plastic and the band seems inauthentic. If the vocals work (big “if”!) then it should qualify, but nothing more.

Felix: I agree with you that it lacks originality, and I agree with Martin that it’s very plastic. Hey, lots of agreement, just not on the arrow up. 😉


AUSTRIA: While you dance beneath an angry star, I'm chasing rainbows across the sun

AUSTRIA: While you dance beneath an angry star, I’m chasing rainbows across the sun

12. Austria
Martin: There are worse ways to bounce back from a big fat zero in the previous year’s final than by ripping up the rulebook completely. And so we have an Austrian entry all in French. Hey, why not? Free language ≠ English language, after all. The vibe is reasonably authentically “French summer chart hit”, right down to the twee vibe that starts to annoy after a while. Extremely catchy hook, though. Zoë’s performance treads a fine line between winsomely cute and precociously slappable, and she’ll need to come down on the right side of that line if she wants to qualify.


Shi: I actually think that she is fairly safe, being something very sweet and happy in a field that doesn’t have that, and she does it well.

Felix: Yeah, this can go either way and I’m a bit worried there, actually. I really love the song and hope that it will get an effective staging.

13. Estonia

Shi: Play is A dark and moody song that is one of my favorites and has Juri’s very recognizable voice to boot. It’s also something that can finish top 3 or bottom 3 in the semi and either scenario will make sense. Its national final performance was appropriately gloomy and mysterious, and drawn between two lightweight entries (Austria and Azerbaijan) it – for better or for worse – sticks out like a sore thumb. Personally, I hope it’ll be for the better, but I fear that even if it does make it to the final it will struggle to draw enough attention.


Martin: Both performer and song leave me cold, although I can’t deny the professionalism of the package. That should be enough for qualification, but I won’t be shocked if it doesn’t.

Felix: I agree, despite its depth, it appears a bit pale in the wider context.

14. Azerbaijan

Martin: Swederbaijan strikes again… but with a twist. Recent imports from the land of Melodifestivalen have at least made an effort to sound as gloomy and dramatic as you might expect from the Land of Fire – whereas other than being in a minor key, “Miracle” is pure MF/ESC pop, with a hard-edged 1980s feel and a shamelessly catchy (if repetitive) hook. I actually really like it as a song, and I suspect they’ll stage the hell out of it – the necessary backing singers included, for Samra’s sake – but gosh is it generic. Borderline non-qualifier? Potential semi-final winner? Both outcomes seem feasible…


Shi: I am now left with nothing clever to say, because Martin basically said it all. She’s not the best singer but I am sure they know how to work around this, and the line up has space for such song.

Felix: It’s a great, catchy pop tune. Not sure what else needs to be said.


MONTENEGRO: Moon, I follow you in darkness

MONTENEGRO: Moon, I follow you in darkness

15. Montenegro
Shi: The first 20 seconds promise a proper rock track with great production. It is. It also has little melody and a lot of growling, which is appropriate for the genre but not helpful when you need plenty of voters. The Highway boys are good looking, and I am guessing the staging will be straight forward enough. However, even though there’s always room for rock music and proper bands in the Eurovision final lineup, this one loses the battle to Cyprus. The Real Thing is definitely the real rock thing in this semi, but Cyprus is much more audience friendly.


Martin: I mean, I love this to bits, but what the hell is it doing in the Eurovision Song Contest? No discernible melody, no logical structure, no chance.

Felix: The first 20 seconds promise an atmospheric and interesting song. What follows is disappointment.

16. Iceland

Felix: Salomé sang the Spanish entry in 1969. Take her name, remove the accent on the e, take her clothes, dye them black, and you already have two pieces in the construct that is Iceland 2016. Now get a bit of the tune in “Only Teardrops”, add some flavour of the staging for “Heroes” and “Euphoria”, and here you go! Four winners in one song! Iceland, you can do so much better. The song has no individuality at all, and feels like a mad rush, just as if Greta lives with a tape on her lips outside of these 3 minutes.


Martin: This leaves me icy cold too, and yet there are some touches in the arrangement that I love (those brass stings!). Long three minutes though, and she’s still a charisma vacuum.

Shi: I like this a lot, and am really enjoying the pop folk vibe in it. I also like the presentation and couldn’t care less where it got its inspiration from. It can finish anywhere, though.

17. Bosnia & Herzegovina

Felix: Excuse me if I don’t listen to this entry again just to remember what I might want to write about it. Listening to it twice was already enough for this review: It begins like that typical Balkan entry, nice, nothing extraordinary. Then a rapper comes. Well… I can’t rate the rapping part since I’m not an expert in this genre, but god this doesn’t suit the rest of the song at ALL. Horrible comeback for a country that brought so many gems to the contest.


Martin: The melody is one big cliché, but I quite enjoy it. It’s true the rap doesn’t fit (and it’s too aggressive for ESC). Probably still qualifying with this draw though…?

Shi: I’m a big ethno fan and always like my Balkan stuff, yet this is stuck in my bottom somewhere because it’s totally meh. It’s Eurovision by numbers and not even good at that. I do like the rap though.


MALTA: I am close to the waterline

MALTA: I am close to the waterline

18. Malta
Martin: All that effort to find a new song for Ira Losco after her triumph in the Maltese final, and what do we get? A Molly Pettersson Hammar cast-off that would struggle to reach Andra Chansen. Slow clap. There’s nothing fundamentally wrong with “Walk On Water”, though describing it as BIGGER THAN EUROPE is stretching credibility – for one thing, a song needs to have an actual chorus before it even counts as Gozo-sized. An easy qualifier from this draw, naturally, but Ira is far from the superstar she believes herself to be, and Saturday night should be a rude awakening for her.


Shi: They will have to stage the hell out of this if it wants even a chance to make it to the left column on Saturday, and even then. It’s not bad, but with many similar songs this year it doesn’t stand out.

Felix: This leaves me completely cold. There are better tunes in Maltese TV adverts.


And that completes our preview of the first semi-final of ESC 2016! The rehearsals are drawing ever closer, so watch this space as we start to dive into semi 2 very soon…

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