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Line-up check 2017: First half of semi-final 1

by | Apr 18, 2017

Line-up check 2017: First half of semi-final 1

by | Apr 18, 2017 | 2017 reviews, Eurovision

images: Cátia Castel-Branco, Marie Wynants, Haris Farsarakis

In the world of the Eurovision Song Contest, April is the month for analysis and anticipation. And now that the lack of clarity surrounding Russia’s participation in ESC 2017 has finally been settled (we assume), it’s high time for us here at escgo! to make our contribution with our annual line-up check series!

Like last year, each entry has been randomly assigned to one of our three editors – Felix, Martin and Shi – who will 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 reflecting 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. That way you get a balanced overview of the escgo! team’s opinions – and we get to use some of our favourite emojis too. Everyone’s a winner!

Let’s begin then, logically enough, at the start of the first semi-final…

1. Sweden
Martin: A sensible opener, I suppose. This would qualify from any draw, and it lets Robin and his gang do their whole backstage thing like they need to in lieu of having any actual personality and stuff. We’ll see what happens in the final, which is where this is surely headed – whereupon it’ll finish, I don’t know, 8th or so? It is undeniably an underwhelming and soulless kind of entry, but it fills a “girls and mums” voting niche that very few of the 2017 songs are aimed at. ESC fans often forget about that market, but it’s there.


Felix: Beep, error, I do think it has a small chance to not qualify. May I remind ourselves that Sweden first didn’t qualify in the ChatVote 2010.. and then at Eurovision?

Shi: I’ve been distracted enough by looking at Robin every time this was on to forget there is no song here. Basically, *insert Martin’s last line here*.


GEORGIA: Faith and hope are slipping through our hands

2. Georgia
Shi: Unfortunately, nothing can distract me from the horror that this is. Song wise it checks the box for every cliche that a typical peace ballad at Eurovision can offer. If your name is Polina Gagarina, you might manage to make it work. If you’re Tako, you’re apparently more likely to scream your head off while mistakenly thinking that you’re a better singer than you actually are. Where’s my Advil? In the right context, such horrors can be dangerous, but I hope there’s enough in this semi to save me from hearing this a second time.


Felix: Talking about checking boxes: Since “I don’t give a” about lyrics at all, it does indeed check all relevant boxes for me to like a song. Result: I love it.

Martin: This was my pet-hate song early in the season. It must be April because, god forbid, it’s starting to grow on me. Could just be a borderliner.

3. Australia
Felix: There’s a lot of pain, a lot of pressure, a hint of torture… these are the emotions that I receive while watching and listening to this. I have no idea if he intends to send these. Well, if he does, he succeeds. But how is that going to help him? He’s too similar to Ireland and Bulgaria, and on top of that the song is the weakest of these three. It’s not bad, but not good enough for the final.


Martin: To my surprise, I really quite like this. Another strong result should beckon, but it could fall through the gaps too. And Europe has to get bored of Australia eventually…

Shi: I was sure I didn’t remember this until I started singing it today. Not my thing, and I suspect won’t be the top ranked male ballad, but should do well enough.


ALBANIA: Ay, ¿quién maneja mi barca, quién?

4. Albania
Felix: Albania sends a young, wailing woman with an irrelevant song. Just as in the last three years. As a huge fan of Festivali i Këngës I am quite disappointed that Albania fails to show the rest of Europe its big musical talent, by (nearly) always picking the wrong song at their final in recent years. So they did it again. Lindita can sing, she can rock, we know that since “S’të fal”, but I wish she had a better song for Eurovision. “Botë” / “World” is all too bulky.


Shi: In the head-to-head battle of screaming women in those 10 minutes I much prefer this. But I rather have them both scream their way to the airport after the semi.

Martin: My brain has also filed this under “another wailing Albanian woman”, so I’m pleasantly surprised to find myself enjoying the wailing whenever I hear it. Surely a NQ though.

5. Belgium
Shi: This was the first song this year that made me click the repeat button as soon as I heard it for the first time. RTBF is definitely on a roll with their modern songs and adorably slightly socially awkward teens. One of the strongest songs this year, but having seen her perform, unless they come up with a spectacularly stellar staging, this is heading for a Bellarosa result rather than a Nottet. Although when you consider RTBF’s previous trio of The KMG’s, Copycat and Witloof Bay, they’ll take it.


Felix: Nothing to disagree with. If this was a wine shelf in the supermarket, the Blanche would stand in one row with the Bellarosa and the Nottet, indeed. The price though?

Martin: It’s the class act among this year’s modern songs, and I like to think that quality can triumph over a potentially inaccessible staging/reserved singer combo. Hope so, anyway!

6. Montenegro
Martin: Slavko has spent the last few weeks whoring himself around the preview parties, and who can blame him? I hope his ESC performance brings across a similar sense of fun, but I fear they might make the mistake of thinking that “outrageous” camp alone is enough to win over the viewers, whereas we’ve seen it all before and want a bit more for our money in 2017. The song is fairly meh – standard trash-disco from the Zoli Ádok school of Eurovision – so the staging needs to be inclusive rather than alienating or, god forbid, dull. (It’s still never qualifying though.)


Felix: I enjoy this. I think it’s one of the best songs in its semi. And this verdict has nothing to do with his.. erm.. “style”. So much better than Ádok.

Shi: I enjoy this when I don’t watch this and when I convince myself the lyrics are in an imaginary language and I understand nothing. Does that count?


FINLAND: I am close to the waterline

7. Finland
Shi: This is a atmospheric, beautifully understated and well performed melancholic song. The trouble with atmospheric but subdued and understated songs is that they really depend on so much other than its own merit. In Finland, everything around it was so badly performed it stood out by a mile. Here it has the danger of serving as a background music while discussing the aftermath of Slavko’s braid. They are also not helped by having a couple other dark atmosphere songs around them.


Martin: Yeah, I agree, this will have to work hard to stand out from the very direct competition it has here. It can do that. It feels real. Maybe too real?

Felix: One of my two big favourites this year. In an ideal world, this should do very well, but since when has Eurovision been ideal?

8. Azerbaijan
Martin: Many are framing this as a return to form for Azerbaijan, but I don’t feel they’ve really been away, it’s just the staging and/or performers that have let them down in recent years. While there’s no guarantee Dihaj (I keep wanting to call her “Jihad”, argh) will knock this one out of the park, it feels like a very “stage-able” song, so we’ll see what they make of it. The vibe is dark and cool, which is tough to get right without putting viewers off, but if they nail it then the potential for a top 10 return is there.


Shi: One of my favorites this year, but a really hard sell as a concept and will have to work out that staging and performance elements really well for this to succeed.

Felix: Dark? Yes. Cool? Hell yes. Like? Hell no. It already put me off, Martin. One of the weakest Azeri songs ever, and not at all memorable.


PORTUGAL: There’s a silent storm inside me looking for a home

9. Portugal
Felix: Mark my words: Portugal will win. The signs are all there, and when you predict the outcome of Eurovision, as you annually do as a fan, then all you can really use as tools are that: signs. Portugal stands out. Portugal delivers quality music. The guy is likeable. He can sing. Weirdness won Eurovision before (Lena, Jamala). Portugal already won the ChatVote. In other sports, Portugal won the Euro. And I keep receiving signs. Feelings. I can’t know. I just see this as the most obvious winner.


Martin: I wish I could believe this might win, but life just isn’t that perfect. I’ll be crossing my fingers and toes that Salvador qualifies, and we’ll take it from there…

Shi: I’m actually not worried about the Q, despite the less-than-optimal circumstances. And I’ll join the fingers and toes crossing while hoping for their best result ever.

And those are our thoughts on the first half of the first semi-final! Stay tuned for our views on the next batch of songs in the days ahead…

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