Eurovision 2014: Semi-Final 1 Preview

Wow, it’s come quickly hasn’t it? Only one day from now, the first 16 will take to the stage of the B&W Hallerne in the Danish capital of Copenhagen. But only ten will make it to next Saturday’s Grand Final – who is going to make it?

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Semi 1 is a slightly bigger semi-final, and it’s also stuffed full of big players in Eurovision. But does that spell doom for the usual suspects, or could this lead to some surprise knockouts?

The rehearsals are looking interesting anyway, and the brand new stage build specifically for Eurovision has the potential to look pretty eye-popping, I’m very interested to see how the Danes will stage the show in this unconventional venue.

Here is the running order for Tuesday’s semi-final:

Armenia 1. Aram Mp3 – Not Alone (Armenia)
Latvia 2. Aarzemnieki – Cake to Bake (Latvia)
Estonia 3. Tanja – Amazing (Estonia)
Sweden 4. Sanna Nielsen – Undo (Sweden)
Iceland 5. Pollapönk – No Prejudice (Iceland)
Albania 6. Hersi – One Night’s Anger (Albania)
Russia 7. Tolmachevy Sisters – Shine (Russia)
Azerbaijan 8. Dilara Kazimova – Start a Fire (Azerbaijan)
Ukraine 9. Mariya Yaremchuk – Tick-Tock (Ukraine)
Belgium 10. Axel Hirsoux – Mother (Belgium)
Moldova 11. Cristina Scarlat – Wild Soul (Moldova)
San 12. Valentina Monetta – Maybe (San Marino)
Portugal 13. Suzy – Quero ser tua (Portugal)
Netherlands 14. The Common Linnets – Calm After the Storm (Netherlands)
Montenegro 15. Sergej Ćetković – Moj svijet (Montenegro)
Hungary 16. András Kállay-Saunders – Running (Hungary)

So, having listened to these songs a lot over the last month, I suppose I had better put my money where my mouth is and make some predictions, so here goes:

Likely to qualify

aram mp3 armeniaWe’ve got a few favourites in the mix – notably Armenia who have been leading the betting ever since it’s been announced. Normally this would give a very strong chance of winning, but there have been blips in the past. 2011 in particular, the betting was WAY off – first backing Estonia (who finished 2nd last) then France & the UK, who both finished outside the top 10.

If ever I’ve been unconvinced by a bookies’ favourite, it’s this year. I guess it must have a strong chance of qualifying, but winning? I don’t see it yet.

Russia & Ukraine might have some big ownership properties at the moment, but one thing they can both continue to share is a 100% qualification record, and – barring a major Russia backlash – I can’t see a final without them both in it.

sanna nielsenSweden are also one of the frontrunners in the betting – could the contest really make it back to Sweden so quickly? I know at least that Sanna Nielsen will pull out all the stops to make it happen, with her showstopping ballad “Undo” finally winning Melodifestivalen after seven attempts. Despite a stinky performance slot, I think this should walk through.

Finally, Hungary have qualified with much less popular songs before, and while I don’t really like “Running” that much at all, I think it will have enough backing to make it to Saturday’s final.

Tomorrow’s forecast is bright

tanja estoniaNot quite dead certs, but I think there are a few others that stand a good chance of making it. Estonia have been accused of sending a bit of a Euphoria rip-off, but Tanja’s a professional dancer with superstar vocals to boot, so I think that might be a spectacular performance. Unfortunately they are stuck early in the running order, but I’m hoping the Nordic & Baltic block will boost them over the top.

Azerbaijan not only have a 100% qualification record, they also made the top 10 at every attempt since their 2008 debut. “Start a fire” isn’t quite as catchy as their earlier entries though, and it certainly doesn’t feel like it has the blockbusting potential of “Hold me”, for example. However, why would you bet against them?

Finally, Belgium were underdogs last year, but I think Axel’s powerhouse vocals in this year’s entry “Mother” could easily capture the imagination of European voters. It got Ruslana all excited anyway, but maybe that happens a lot…

The jury’s out…

san marino valentinaIn the danger zone for me are a few favourites (as usual). I’m hoping so hard that San Marino finally get a breakthrough as Valentina Monetta makes her third attempt at securing the first Sammarinese qualifier since their 2008 debut. Dear God I hope it happens this time, last year’s 11th place broke my heart.

Iceland are pretty good at surprise qualifiers, and Pollapönk could easily squeak through on penalties.  Can’t call it though – likewise for 2014 returning nation Portugal, with the fun-for-Europe party track “Quero ser tua”. It’s certainly the strongest Portuguese entry for some time, and I hope it gets through.

the common linnets netherlandsLast but not least, the Netherlands had one of the best moments of last year’s contest, breaking a near-decade-long drought of qualifiers to see Anouk reach the 2013 final. They’re playing it cool this year, and with a lovely understated country song I wonder if they will make it. I hope so, and with a late performance slot they might make it.

Say your prayers

A few countries might not be quite so lucky though. Montenegro I think might have to keep waiting for their first qualifying entry – it’s a nice song but I just don’t think it has the mass appeal, particularly with a very Balkan-light contest this year.

Herciana MatmujaAlbania similarly might suffer the absence of their neighbours, but I hope this gets through somehow. It would certainly be a shame to see Albania not return next year, they’ve been consistently decent competitors.

It pains me to put Moldova in this category, but despite plenty of solid results over the years, I’m not sure “Wild Soul” is a winner. It’s a bit rockier though, which might play in its favour, but I’m not convinced at all that it will make it. Finally, it’s almost inevitable that Latvia makes the danger list. It’s a very catchy track, and could easily jump into the final if the wind is blowing in the right direction, but based on past form I’m not sure it’ll happen for them.

In conclusion

I’ll stick my neck out and say these are my predictions for the first batch of qualifiers:

In: Armenia, Russia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan, Sweden, Hungary, Estonia, Belgium, Iceland, Netherlands

Out: Albania, Moldova, Latvia, Montenegro, Portugal and … *sniff* San Marino.

I could certainly live if Hungary, Armenia or Azerbaijan dropped out in favour of San Marino, Portugal, Albania or Latvia though. We’ll see what happens! There will be a full de-brief afterwards… but give me a chance, it’s on at 4am here and I have to pay the bills!

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Filed under Copenhagen 2014, Eurovision, Melodifestivalen 2014, Music, Reviews

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