17 May 2019
Tel Aviv turned up the heat for the second semi final of the 2019 Eurovision Song Contest, and we can thank the great selection of songs for that. In contrast to the first semi final where it was difficult to fill a personal top 10, here we had to cut songs. I had 13 in my time 10, and found myself in the bizarre situation of needing to cut the likes of Sweden, Azerbaijan and Romania. One reason for that was the transformation of North Macedonia from somewhat a forgettable entry to a headline grabber.
Once the results were revealed, reality set it, as all the favoured songs progressed. The only real surprise to progress was Albania, with that and North Macedonia unlikely to have been in too many people’s top 10 before Eurovision. Once the live performances finished, North Macedonia was an automatic pick, and appropriately was revealed first to the grand final. From the big favourites of Netherlands, Russia, Switzerland and Sweden, only Switzerland had some nervous moments, being second last to be revealed. For the final spot, Malta was the only one left in the green room that would have been a surprise omission. Michela can now breath again, and wipe away those tears of relief. Hey girl, you were never in doubt!
North Macedonia – Tamara Todeska – Proud (8)
Total immediate impact from the first note with superb vocals, beautiful music and an emotional performance. This only emphasises the power of a live performance. This song was always a bit on the forgettable side, and I never could believe Tamara would change that feeling. Glad I was wrong!
Netherlands – Duncan Laurence – Arcade (8)
While this song is so good, and sung so well, not sure it’s quite the winner. I’ve always had concerns that the lack of a wow factor or big moment would hinder it. They certainly tried for a moment with the big flashing light and Duncan holding his arms wide apart leading into the final chorus – and looking so relieved at the end (no doubt under pressure from being a favourite). We’ll know on Saturday night if it’s enough.
Albania – Jonida Maliqi – Ktheju Tokes (6)
Superb power vocals powered this through.
Sweden – John Lundvik – Too Late For Love (6)
The preordained one from Melodifestivalen and semi ordained to win Eurovision, there’s a bit of fatigue with this song. It was performed well again, and John is such a charismatic guy that you just want to vote for him on that alone.
Russia – Sergey Lazarev – Scream (7)
This doesn’t scream winner. This was never a super strong song, and it seems they really lacked ideas for the presentation. What were all the mirrors about? The one salvation is Sergey saved the best to last with a big final note during the song’s natural crescendo.
Azerbaijan – Chingiz – Truth (7)
Interesting choreography with the robots, and the song has a great beat to it. Not sure it’s strong enough, and it lacks an epic moment to make it stand out.
Denmark – Leonora – Love Is Forever (8)
One of my favourites before Eurovision, and surprisingly it managed to keep my interest in Tel Aviv. They can be pleased with the revisions made to the choreography and use of the big chair. It was a smaller chair, too, than seen at the national final. The other one was probably too big for the stage.
Norway – KEiiNO – Spirit In The Sky (8)
The biggest cheer from the audience, and as the only major uptempo song of the show, an easy stand out. They did well to keep the trio well separated for most of the performance so to avoid Chaotic Group Dynamics Syndrome (the difficultly in getting vocal groups working cohesively as a unit). That also means all three Scandinavian countries from this semi final progressed!
Switzerland – Luca Hanni – She Got Me (7)
It didn’t quite live up to expectations, and the opening stages were so annoying hearing short breaths (whatever Luca was doing) after each line. They sort of pieced it together by the end, at least to get enough votes. Give it to Sweden and it would be so much better! Or even to Madonna! She probably has her eye on him already. The Swiss will likely be thankful just to reach the final after missing out the past two years with quality entries and forced to compete in this hot semi.
Malta – Michela – Chameleon (8)
Malta thankfully didn’t go too crazy with props and effects like they often do. Instead it was a well constructed routine, with Michela’s voice really shining through, and she finished off the song with a bang.
Armenia – Srbuk – Walking Out (7)
This was a song that saved everything to the end, so needed something to capture the audience much sooner. It was a big surprise to see Srbuk all by herself. No dancers or anything. Then there was the puzzling moment at 2:20 of her on stage with no audience. If this was meant to symbolise “walking out”, viewers probably did this mentally and never returned. A shame, because it was one of my favourite songs and Srbuk’s vocals were super.
Ireland – Sarah McTernan – 22 (4)
This needed a subtle, intimate rendition to succeed, not a hokey 1950s diner theme. I wonder if she scored 22 points?
Moldova – Anna Odobescu – Stay (7)
Great powerful vocals on a song that didn’t quite have it. I guess 8 years is long enough for most people to forget sand art appeared in Eurovision. That was Ukraine in 2011 with Angel by Mika Newton. Moldova obviously knew the limitations of their song, so credit for trying. Hey, I enjoyed the art!
Latvia – Carousel – That Night (2)
On and on and on it goes. It’s a pretty voice and the song is interesting for a little bit. Then it just goes on and on and on and on. So repetitious.
Romania – Ester Peony – On A Sunday (6)
Nothing really wrong with this. It just got swamped by better entries.
Austria – Paenda – Limits (7)
We lost the Pony and now the Panda (if you drop the “e” in their names). Like Romania, nothing much wrong here. In fact, I appreciated the impassioned performance and had it in my top 10.
Croatia – Roko – The Dream (5)
You could see in the green room Roko really wanted to make the final! That’s sort of been this song’s problem all along: trying too hard with it. It’s so old fashioned, and while the staging was good, Roko was trying to sing as loud as possible rather than as well as possible. Oh well, at least he has his own wings to fly home if there’s an airline strike.
Lithuania – Jurij Veklenko – Run with the Lions (6)
A pleasant song and sung really nicely. It just lacked any moments and was duly swamped by others.
The quality show was reflected in an average score of 6.5. That compares to 5.4 for the first semi, and the record of 6.9 for Malmo’s first semi final. Anything over 6 is good. In hindsight, the top 10 were all fair. Even though I lost Armenia, Moldova and Austria, objectively I could only knock out Albania to add one of those. The other two I just had outside were Sweden and Azerbaijan – and that’s really cruel on them because they are worthy finalists. Really, we needed to take 13 from this semi final and only 7 from the first. If only it were possible!
My Top 10: Norway, North Macedonia, Netherlands, Malta, Denmark, Russia, Switzerland, Austria, Armenia, Moldova. From my top 10 before Eurovision, I lost Armenia, while Netherlands, Malta, Switzerland, Denmark and Norway all survived. From the first semi final, Belarus, Estonia and San Marino survived, while Germany is already in the grand final. Nine out of 10 is super good for me. Even my next three of Australia, Azerbaijan and Russia survive. I need to go to Austria and Romania in 14th and 15th to lose some more.
Could it be that Tel Aviv will have the best interval acts ever? They’re certainly performing some great music and showing what a truly open and accepting society looks like. We had Dana International in the first semi final, will have Netta performing her new single in the grand final (not to forget her epic performance of Toy when opening semi final one), and here it was Shalva Band with A Million Dreams in semi final two. They withdrew from the Israeli selection process because Eurovision rehearsal shows clashed with the Sabbath. Geez, they would have won with this. So emotional!
Grand Final Preview
Australia has been the big mover in betting, jumping from 15th to second. This almost reflects outright favouritism as the move has come from the actual Eurovision performance, whereas the likes of Netherlands, Sweden and Russia, all the money on them has been weeks in advance. On the other hand, Australia were at such juicy odds of $81 that the sudden rush of money makes them a heavy liability for betting agencies so the odds of $7.5 might be a little under (low) to entice people to bet elsewhere. Also consider that the money keeps flowing for Netherlands. They were around $3 before Eurovision and are now just $1.60, and that $6 gap to second place Australia is huge in such a wide contest. It’s almost like a horse race with Winx involved.
Betting odds as of 2019-05-02 just before Eurovision rehearsals started (above) and 2019-05-17 the day before the grand final (below).
The placement of songs as deduced by the producers is another strong indicator of favouritism. Russia placed at 5 suggests producers doubt they can win. Nor can Malta opening the show. Sweden at 9 makes them a slight concern even though Mans Zelmerlow won in 2015 having been placed in 10th spot. Netherlands is second last in the first half, so that’s a good sign. Greece follows them. In the second half, Norway at 15 raises doubts about them, while all the other favourites were placed late: France 21, Italy 22, Switzerland 24 & Australia 25. Spain is last. Dead last is not a good spot as viewer fatigue hits and they’ll quickly switch off thinking they’ve already seen better. In fact, Australia could suffer a little of that if the songs immediately before it are really good.
It’s actually quite difficult to predict. The huge betting activity on Netherlands suggests they are almost certain winners. Australia’s rise is compromised by them being at big odds and therefore attractive to speculators and general bettors looking for value. Then there’s the resentment vote from the televote the past two years. Even Dami Im suffered a bit of it. If that pattern continues even a little bit, Australia can’t win.
From the big 5 and hosts, the snippet shown during the semi final suggests France have a strong chance, even with current odds around $30. Note, odds could change after the Grand Final Jury Show and other rehearsals when songs are seen in context of each other. Australia was so good in its semi final because most of the competition was poor. Line them next to Netherlands, Sweden, Norway, France, Italy and Switzerland, and it’s a new ball game.
The Full Running Order
07. San Marino
08. North Macedonia
16. United Kingdom
I predict and hope Netherlands win. Such a nice song deserves to be rewarded, as does the country itself – so long struggling for good results, especially in the single semi final era. Sweden second, Australia third. The wildcard is Iceland. Remember them? They really could do anything!