Rotterdam 2021 – Semi Final 2 Review & Grand Final Preview

21 May 2021

In what could be the greatest Eurovision semi final ever, 17 songs dazzled the stage in Rotterdam to set up an intriguing grand final for the 2021 Eurovision Song Contest. There was barely a dud song on stage as every country either met or exceeded expectations, which made it a tough decision to find just 10 songs to qualify for Saturday night’s grand final. Ultimately, seven songs had to be cut, and with the quality so high, it almost guaranteed the 10 finalists would all be worthy choices. So it proved, as unlike Croatia not qualifying from the first semi final, there were no real complaints about the second semi final qualifiers.

Stefania from Greece celebrates qualifying for the grand final from the second semi final - Rotterdam 2021 Eurovision Song Contest review
Greece celebrate qualifying for the grand final – Image: EBU / Thomas Hanses

This semi final also distinguished itself with much greater song variety and American rapper Flo Rida featuring for San Marino. It makes you wonder if San Marino were to win, would the 2022 Eurovision Song Contest be in San Marino or Florida. With the American Song Contest tentatively set for some time in 2022, it would be an incredible boost for the event, not to forget Eurovision itself, if San Marino won. As for the songs in this semi final, the several interesting ballads, some quirky dance numbers and a slice of rock all contributed to making it a fascinating show.

Qualifiers from the second semi final - Rotterdam 2021 Eurovision Song Contest review

REVIEW

01 San Marino – Senhit – Adrenalina – 7

A solid start with some interesting choreography, and the injection of Flo Rida got the crowd going. The song itself lacks in that it doesn’t have a highlight it in, other than its general likeability.

02 Estonia – Uku Suviste – The Lucky One – 6

Uku got his dream appearing on the Eurovision stage and sadly wasted it. A good song without much added except for the impressive background visuals. Simply singing a nice song well would never be enough in this semi.

03 Czechia – Benny Cristo – Omaga – 3

The weakest entry. The song never impressed and the presentation was unimaginative. Just Benny and four dancers randomly dancing about and going through the motions. OMG, it got so repetitive too.

04 Greece – Stefania – Last Dance – 9

Certainly the most innovative and impressive stage presentation of the night. Last Dance is my favourite song this year, and I was interested to see if Stefania could produce vocally a challenging song that explored her range and had some big notes. For the most part, she succeeded. She needs to loosen up for the final as she appeared too robotic. Blink girl, blink! She was concentrating so hard that her eyes were so laser focused that there was little connection between her and those watching at home. On watching Last Dance again, I noticed Stefania did wink at the camera in the early stages, so that’s a start. Born, raised and living in Netherlands, and performed for them at Junior Eurovision in 2016 too, Stefania was an obvious target to be interviewed in the green room by the Dutch broadcaster. When asked about her Dutch and Greek heritage, after talking about JESC and how she acts as a translator for the Greek delegation, it became a bit awkward for her so she changed the topic to remark about the crowd.

05 Austria – Vincent Bueno – Amen – 6

Vincent need to lay down a smashing vocal performance for this to succeed, and sadly it wasn’t within him. I question the staging too. Perhaps it needed to be more intimate.

06 Poland – Rafal – The Ride – 8

My third favourite entry this year and the song itself held up well. The presentation started well with the lights on the dancers’ palms before losing control a bit. I felt a trail of rapid neon lighting effects to symboliee fast cars would have done wonders instead of just moving to different parts of the stage to dance. The second verse needed to be sung in a higher key to give the song a better feeling of acceleration. I’d have kept the sunglasses on all the time too. When you’re constantly geeing up the audience during the song, that’s a sign the performance is spluttering. So, too, is a change of melody, as he did with one line. Yes, I’m picking, because I must! I hate to see personal favourites not reach their potential.

07 Moldova – Natalia Gordienko – Sugar – 9

Epic performance all round, including that note at the end that seemingly went for an eternity. Natalia showed how to connect to an audience as she had us eating sugar out of the palm of her hand with her lively and charismatic performance. Stefania from Greece, take note! Vocals were brilliant too.

08 Iceland – Dadi og Gagnamagnid – 10 Years – 7

A song that way exceeded expectations for me thanks to the fun and memorable performance. It made great use of the drop-down screen along the runway to the podium with a display of cartoon geeks as an audience. Dumping the dopey jumpsuits for the sweaters was a good change, and vocals were sound for this type of song. I’m intrigued by the geeky girl on backing on the left of screen too. One member of band tested positive to COVID-19 so they all sat out in support. It seems another might have tested positive because only four were together in a remote green room, with the other two included via video link to tablets on dummies. Classic! You wouldn’t know this performance was a recording from the rehearsals unless you had imbecile Australian commentators that tell you during the postcard. I’ve had to mute Myf Warhurst and Joel Creasey before and after each song due their constant spoiling of surprises ahead, and I couldn’t believe the constant barrage of spoilers when I watched a second time and dared to listen to them.

09 Serbia – Hurricane – Loco Loco – 7

Safe to say, this blew all our minds. It was always a hectic song and the girls didn’t disappoint with an equally hectic performance. Not a good look for the blonde to be miming during the first chorus, as it gave the impression the backing vocals were recorded. Of course, they were! That was one of the changes this year to help manage COVID-19 and reduce the number of people attending. It’s just odd hearing the artists on the backing track while they aren’t actually singing. This was the case with Poland too, except Rafal wasn’t miming at the time.

10 Georgia – Tornike Kipiani – You – 6

Instantly a really appealing voice. One of the nicer male voices you’ll hear, and I’m one to typically only notice and appreciate female voices. Vocally, he was on point and delivered an emotional performance. Unfortunately, the song itself wasn’t there.

11 Albania – Anxhela Peristeri – Karma – 7

Anxhela would always stand out due to being the only female with a big ballad, and managed to do that with her imperious vocals and a smoking presentation. The ethnic sounds added to the performance and surprisingly none of her luscious cleavage was on show this time. Legs instead.

12 Portugal – The Black Mamba – Love Is On My Side – 6

Exceeded expectations the most with their evocative presentation of a song that, while initially intriguing, would exhaust its appeal after one minute. The Black Mamba managed to keep the audience captivated by starting in black and white, making the transition to colour, then making good use of the drop-down screen for the final stages. There could have been some vocal flourishes added to enhance it too. Not bad for something that was my third worst for the year.

13 Bulgaria – Victoria – Growing Up Is Getting Old – 9

Simply beautiful and I shed a few tears, as Victoria almost did. Getting that final line out was tough for her and there was a mixture of relief and joy that she succeeded. It shows how a simple song can work with a nice, intimate presentation.

14 Finland – Blind Channel – Dark Side – 8

They managed to revive interest in a song I grew tired of after the national final. Better lighting effects, hyper active band members, and flames at the end all made it a compelling choice for the grand final.

15 Latvia – Samanta Tina – The Moon Is Rising – 5

One of the weaker songs this year, and while Samanta tried hard (screen graphics and the green outfits were cool), she couldn’t elevate it enough.

16 Switzerland – Gjon’s Tears – Tout l’Univers – 7

An odd presentation, and while Gjon’s voice is clearly high quality, not sure he quite nailed the vocals. While I wanted to be entranced, I finished a little confused. Perhaps it will connect better in the grand final.

17 Denmark – Fyr Og Flamme – Øve Os På Hinanden – 8

Much like Finland, this was an awesome reprise of their national final performance. The stronger lighting effects and even more craziness from the lead singer really helped.

My Top 10

Greece 9
Bulgaria 9
Moldova 9
Finland 8
Poland 8
Denmark 8
Albania 7
Iceland 7
San Marino 7
Switzerland 7

Then…

Serbia 7
Portugal 6
Austria 6
Estonia 6
Georgia 6
Latvia 5
Czechia 3

I struggled with the final few, ditching Serbia based mostly on the song itself. Interestingly, a score of 7 can’t get into the top 10 in this semi whereas the 11th song in semi final 1 only scored 5. The only change from my personal favourites before Eurovision is Iceland in, Austria out.

Before Eurovision, I predicted Estonia, Czechia, Austria, Serbia, Georgia, Portugal and Lativa would not qualify. I got Serbia and Portugal wrong, who qualified ahead of Poland and Denmark. Call that my bias taking control. Although, few would have picked Portugal. After all the songs were performed, I expected Austria and Denmark to qualify in front of Serbia and Portugal. Again, personal bias ruled.

It’s official, this is the greatest Eurovision show ever. While the average score of 6.9 ties the record with the first semi final of Malmo 2013, after removing the rounding, it’s 6.941 to 6.875.

To further emphasis the strength of this semi final, my grand final of Rotterdam 2021 would take only 7 songs from the first semi final compared to 13 from the second semi final. Those are Croatia (who didn’t actually qualify), Azerbaijan, Lithuania, Israel, Norway, Cyprus and Ukraine. All except Ukraine scored at least 7.

Duncan Laurence

Sad to read that the 2019 Eurovision winner tested positive to COVID-19 and won’t be appearing at the grand final. It’s rotten luck and it seems COVID-19 was always destined to cancel him. With positive tests for Iceland and in members of a couple of other delegations, it’s reminder of the virus risk, and the wise decision that Australia took to participate remotely. You travel all that way, lock yourself up most of the time, do the two-weeks quarantine on return, pay the exorbitant flight costs, and you still end up using the backup performance recorded at home.

Grand Final Preview

Grand Final Running Order - Preview Eurovision Song Contest Rotterdam 2021

With producers deciding the running order after each country draws into either the first or second half, you get some strong clues as to who they think will win, or at least not to harm their chances of winning. Cyprus in first is a bad sign for them, while absolute last (San Marino) is not the strongest place anymore. Viewers are weary by then and begin writing off songs if not hooked early.

Switzerland and Iceland have been placed at the end of the first half, just after Greece. Moldova is juicy at 14, Bulgaria is a nice switch of gears at 17 after Finland, then it’s Lithuania at 18. France will appreciate 20, while Italy at 24 will leave something fresh in our memories. Malta at 6, while seemingly too early, the producers have allowed plenty of air around Destiny to shine.

Prediction

Lithuania
Moldova
Iceland

It’s based on the middle position having a strong recent winning record, the producers ensuring the favourites get their strongest chance, and return artists from last year’s cancelled event building a following. That explains Lithuania and Iceland, while Moldova is there because they just nailed it in the semi final and could wipe everyone’s memory of countries like Malta and San Marino and gather huge votes. I’m also not convinced about Malta and Switzerland, while France is something I’ve never liked and Italy is a bit of an unknown quantity. All I’ve seen of their performance is the snippet during the first semi final.

As to whom I want to see win, I obviously I want Stefania from Greece to perform the very Last Dance at Rotterdam 2021. Failing that, I always root for a new country to win, so Lithuania, Moldova or Bulgaria would suit me perfectly.

Rotterdam 2021 – Eurovision Semi Final 1 Review

Melodifestivalen 2021 Final Preview & Semi Final Review

Rotterdam 2021 – Greece – The Stefania Appreciation Post

Watch Rotterdam 2021 – The Second Semi Final

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