In the third 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 first half of the second semi-final!
Just like in our first and second articles, 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 first nine songs in semi 2…
Shi: It’s one of those songs that I know I like quite a bit, yet don’t listen to it often because I know I will get tired of it quickly. I do think that both the song and him have something very trendy about them which should work well to give them two good results back to back, continuing where Love Injected, its older brother, left off. While “current” seems to be a repeating theme this year, Heartbeat is different enough from the rest to stand out and hopefully Aminata taught them a few things about staging.
Felix: One of my big favourites. I think the song and the production will stand out well in the context, and Justs has the necessary charisma, too.
Martin: It’s a bit less “difficult” than the songwriter’s own entry last year, but I think that’s also why I find it less interesting. Should be a top 10 candidate though.
Felix: The fact that the big fan favourite in the Polish national final didn’t win, probably distorts the view on Poland this year, at least among fans. I never heard that song, but I heard what is Poland 2016: A very, very good song. It’s different enough compared to the rest of this year’s lineup, strong enough to be noticed on first listen, and good enough to get the appreciation and votes, as long as they don’t do anything wrong with the staging and the performance.
Martin: He’s a great singer and the double key change is admirable, but god this is an old-fashioned song. Ballad fans and diaspora should help it through, but I hope not.
Shi: It’s in my bottom 3 this year. Not because it’s bad, just because it so isn’t my thing I can’t even try to like it. He is great though.
Martin: Three minutes can be a very long time. In fairness to Rykka, there are some redeeming features in the Swiss entry – the lyrics are nice, and the build towards the chorus is promising. But the chorus itself is so repetitive, droning and unmelodic that it immediately undoes all the good work, and her strained vocals mean the last section after the key change is very hard work indeed. No wonder the producers have blessed this with third place in the running order. They know it’s doomed, and if they’re being honest with themselves, everyone involved with entry probably does too.
Shi: I would say something helpful, but I already forgot what we were talking about.
Felix: Oh yes, Switzerland… Rykka sounds like she’s about to fall asleep, and I can’t blame anyone doing so, during this tired song. Yawn.
Felix: In a year full of loud, female uptempo songs, a ballad sung by a man can stand out a lot, if it’s good. The latter is not a problem for Israel. It’s not as bulky as the Czech Republic, much more instant, but probably not instant enough to be effective on the very first listen already? A suitable staging with moving lights, drones or not, can give this the necessary boost, though. I’d be happy to see Israel in the Top 10 on Saturday, and it’s not that unlikely I think.
Martin: I’m a sucker for this. It’s one of my absolute faves this year (hey, I loved “Molitva” too!), but I fear the singer/song mismatch might put people off.
Shi: I think Hovi is hard to connect with, and while the arrangement is pretty, it lacks structure for about 2 minutes. I also never trust Israel to be able to stage anything.
Shi: Well, the good news are that I actually do like the song, it has a cool melody and arrangement. Ivan is quite adorable too, but unfortunately for everyone involved, he’s not quite able to properly perform this track. Add to this the crazy plans of his manager to do all kind of crazy things on stage and you’ll get a very Eurovisionish craziness that we need to have from time to time, if only to have something that we know will stay in the semi.
Martin: There’s actually quite a likeable melody buried away in here somewhere, I swear! But likeability alone isn’t enough, and everything else about this is quite useless.
Felix: Yes, I like this. It’s my guilty pleasure this year. Shame about the existing stage rules. Can’t he have Ruslana on stage instead?
Martin: This is one of the songs I’m most curious about when it comes to rehearsals. To my ears, “Goodbye (Unnecessary Parentheses)” is a strong entry, one of the strongest in the whole competition – but the visual performance in the preview video is less Sanja Vučić ZAA and more Sanja Vučić WTF. Hopefully the histrionics are just because she was miming, and she’ll be calmer and less alienating when she’s actually delivering the song live. Because if she reins it in, I consider this to have an outside chance of winning the semi and doing very well overall. But only if.
Felix: I like absolutely nothing in this package. Horrible, horrible, horrible. Only the song might be kinda likable if someone would sing it who doesn’t happen to be a scarecrow.
Shi: I like her a lot so wouldn’t mind her doing well even if I find this musically utterly average, and I really do hope she forgets to pack her stage antics.
Shi: I’ve had an interesting relationship with this one. My first reaction was meh. A few weeks later it came up on shuffle and I was thinking, “this is such a nice song! What is this?” only to discover it was Ireland. I decided to stick to that latter reaction, because it is a nice, happy little tune. Vocally, he’s proving to be far from great – I’m just not sure it entirely matters with that kind of song (and hope for proper backing vocalists on the night). I expect it to qualify and then do little on Saturday to bother the scoreboard.
Felix: There is a nice concept in the chorus, but the cheap package completely destroys it.
Martin: Even in a year full of safe pop songs, this is spectacularly vanilla. But I really enjoy the chorus and Nicky is likeable considering how much I hated Westlife. Pleasant.
Felix: I think most of us agree: This could have been Macedonia 1996. Is it twenty years too late? I don’t think so! Productions might sound dated, but nice songs are timeless, and I think this is a nice song. There’s no doubt that Kaliopi is a good performer, and she’ll know how to sell the song in Stockholm. I’m quite sure this will have an exclusive audience, large enough to make it qualify. I’m already a part of that audience: It’s my favourite Macedonian entry ever.
Martin: Much like Poland, this is outdated, but lifted by an awesome singer. It’s alone in its niche, both genre- and language-wise. That can spell success – or just being ignored.
Shi: She’s awesome, but it’s no help when she has nothing to work with. Can’t see this escaping the televote bottom 3 and I doubt the juries will be enough to save her.
Martin: “Polishing a turd” is a delightful phrase, and few Eurovision artists have proven more adept at the art than Donny Montell. In 2012, armed with a very literal blindfold, some funky dance moves and the pimp slot in the running order, he steered the utterly tedious “Love Is Blind” into the top three of his semi-final. His 2016 song is a great hookline in desperate search of a verse, but I expect his confidence and swagger (and an active diaspora) to lead him safely to Saturday night once again. That should be the end of the line, though.
Shi: I’m sorry, I got distracted during the chorus and suddenly found myself trying to break things. It’s probably not a bad track, but it annoys me to no end.
Felix: This has a downwards curve. I liked it in the beginning, but now I find it right between Ireland and Moldova in the lower shelves of this year’s Eurovision supermarket.
And with that, we’re halfway through the second semi-final of ESC 2016! The rehearsals are just a few days away now, so watch this space as we complete our thoughts on semi 2 and turn our eye to the automatic finalists…