SEMIFINAL ONE ROUNDUP! (Not like it’s late or anything!)

Hello Eurovision fans and those of you who aren’t Eurovision fans but know me socially and feel obligated to pretend you like this blog.

It’s now time for my annual traditional of visiting a far-flung location and then spending all of my time there sitting in the hotel room blogging instead of seeing anything.

I went to the semifinal one show last night and it was GREAT and if you are a person who misses the semifinals to focus on the night, don’t! There are 17 amazing songs tonight and only ten of them get through, so it might be your only chance to talk about them!

And for those of you who are dreading those eliminations, I am over at @dudepoints on Twitter and will be providing a virtual shoulder to cry on!

CYPRUS – TAMTA – REPLAY

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SHOULD YOU WATCH THIS:Oh my goodness, yes. There are mesh-clad cowboys (including two of my favourite backup dancers from Melodifestivalen!). There is a costume reveal. There is dancing. The only thing missing is the butch biker gang from the video.

BUT IS THE SONG ANY GOOD: Oh, so much so. Tamta’s Replay bangs super-hard, and is possibly the first Eurovision song to mention an 808. I’ve been going around my flat randomly yelling, “You’ve got a problem” which startles the person I live with, until I follow up with “Two am I’m in your head!” So Tamta’s song is a standout from this year, and I’m not a good person to live with!

DARE TO MEME: There was either a technical glitch or a deliberate effect, but Tamta’s somehow already created a Replay meme where a few seconds of performance go back and forth, so stick with that.

TIRED ALREADY: Look, calling this a Fuego sound-alike is just played out. Replay bangs on its own very very hard terms. And don’t make a Bucks Fizz reference when her jacket comes off because the costume reveal is now as much a Eurovision convention as a key change (of which, sadly, there is none in this song.)

ONE QUICK NOTE: There’s a moment in this song where there are unexpected pyrotechnics. I was sitting in the front row and ducked when they arrived.(Also,Tel Aviv is NOT messing around with the pyrotechnics. The hall is small and the heat is real.)

OVERALL RATING: Must-watch. Brilliant way to open the show.

MONTENEGRO – D MOL – HEAVEN

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SHOULD YOU WATCH THIS: Ummmmmm. That depends. Do you like the smugness of university acapella groups? Are you interested in cult recruitment? Does fashion based on marching band uniforms appeal? Do you enjoy people gesturing enthusiastically in a clearly unchoreographed manner? If so, yes. If not, no. This is strictly a low-budget production that has skimped on wardrobe, staging, and pretty much everything once it ended up in the dreaded second slot. Montenegro is making a Hail Mary gamble that its harmonies will appeal to the juries and that is a risky move.

BUT IS THE SONG ANY GOOD: Is it the 1990s? If so yes. But in 2019, a slightly ethnic harmony isn’t enough to win the contest anymore. I will warn you that it is an earworm, so you may find yourself singing it over the next few days despite it being generally awful.

DARE TO MEME: Any and all cult jokes are welcome.

TIRED ALREADY: It’s all fair game. No one’s been making jokes about it because it’s just…so….bland.

OVERALL RATING: Awful, but somehow in a great way. It’s so needy, and yet so singable. Watch it for the high cheese content.

Finland – Darude ft. Sebastian Rejman – Look Away

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SHOULD YOU WATCH THIS: Yes, for two reasons –
Can you spot Darude? He’s top billed but spends most of this performance hidden on a bridge. HE’S SO SAD AND LONELY. Will someone adopt Darude, please, and give him the loving home he deserves?

You will need the entire three minute length of this song to figure out what on earth Sebastian Rejman is wearing. Is it jeans dipped in wet look PVC? Is it thigh high boots? I’ve studied the photos of this like a forensic scientist and still couldn’t tell you. I’ve seen this look ten feet away from me in person and am none the wiser. It’s the Eurovision puzzle that we need to have solved by the end of the semis!

BUT IS THE SONG ANY GOOD: SIgh. I mean, I like it. But it’s not really…good. It’s a great EDM beat married with a depressing and depressingly vague message song. Should we be looking away? And what issue should we be looking away from? (Apparently, it’s climate change, which is why there is a woman in green dancing in the middle of the stage where DARUDE SHOULD BE.) What I’d actually suggest is turning the volume down on the song and just playing Sandstorm over the top of it.

DARE TO MEME: Those pants!

TIRED ALREADY: Every single Sandstorm joke you might think of making.

OVERALL RATING: Look, it’s Darude. Even though the song is middling, he’s still as charismatic as his soulpatch is regrettable. I bet he’s going to wink cheekily at us from behind his DJ box, and I am so there for it.

Poland – Tulia – Pali Sie (Fire of Love)

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SHOULD YOU WATCH THIS: Oh my god, yes – it’s four traditionally attired Polish women who 100% do not care what you think. They are there because they like each other and they like singing and they like flower crowns, period. Online trolls will say their music is shrill and discordant, and Tulia will just stare at them blankly because they literally do not give a fuck. I love them so much.

BUT IS THE SONG ANY GOOD: Tulia practices a type of Polish folk singing known as “white noise” which some people find discordant. Those people are wrong. This is essentially heavy metal sung by women and it is so, so good.

DARE TO MEME: Not many memes have sprung up around Tulia, but considering that they are one of the bands that uses the giant face LED concept, I expect there to be some immediately after their performance.

TIRED ALREADY: Everyone who says they are shrill. Jesus, you have a remote, Turn the volume down, rather than complaining on Twitter.

OVERALL RATING: Brilliant. It’s like punk rock came to Eurovision

Slovenia – Zala and Gasper – Sebi

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SHOULD YOU WATCH THIS: Absolutely. It’s fresh and modern electropop that dispels Eurovision’s fusty reputation. In fact, you’ll probably find yourself wondering how this fresh-faced duo who look like they’re performing at their University Open Mic night ever made it to the contest in the first place, because they seem so unstudied in performance.

Indeed, what gets me about this performance is the fact that the two of them are so wrapped up in their little world that when we walk in, it’s like we’ve walked in on an intimate, private moment. I really like their song, but I constantly feel like I should be apologizing for walking in on them.

BUT IS THE SONG ANY GOOD: Oh my goodness, so good. So so good. I have non-Eurovision friends who have put this on their regular playlist lineup. In fact, this song is most likely cooler than you are. I mean, do you have a sponsorship deal with a sportswear company? These guys do!

ONE QUICK NOTE: Zala did a slight vocal bobble in the performance last night, so I don’t know how good their chances are to get out of the final. Enjoy those awkward turtlenecks while you can, folks!

DARE TO MEME: Get a room already! Or at least put a sock on the doorknob!

TIRED ALREADY: I mean, the only remotely tired thing from them is the shock from the fandom when the Slovenian favourite Raiven was knocked out of the competition by this song, but Raiven’s song, whilst a banger, had the misfortune of having a chorus that sounded remarkably like the word Cows. Take a look here.

OVERALL RATING: This won’t win Eurovision, but it will win tons of fans who heard Zala and Gasper for the first time at this contest.

Czech Republic – Lake Malawi – Friend of a Friend

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SHOULD YOU WATCH THIS: Oh my goodness, yes. It’s bouncy indie pop come to Eurovision with a long-legged charming lead singer who was basically my dream boyfriend archetype a decade ago. People who “don’t like Eurovision” will like this song. And the staging is clever and fun and it’s like a big bouncy blanket in which everyone is wrapped up.

BUT IS THE SONG ANY GOOD: Were you not listening above? Yes! It’s possibly the most accessible song of Eurovision for the locals (which is what Eurovision fans call all of you who just tune in on the night.)

DARE TO MEME: While he’s toned it down quite a bit over Eurovision season, the lead singer Albert used to deliver the lyrics “She was my neighbour/when I was 13” in an atrocious Cockney accent. So feel free to post: “SHE WAS MY NAY-BUH” and the Eurofans will love you. (Even better if you do it with a Michael Caine mashup, like I do.)

TIRED ALREADY: Comparing this to some indie band that was popular 10 years ago and not in Eurovision. Okay, we get it, you were a hipster once. Now just shut up and listen to this infectiously joyous pop perfection, okay?

ONE SIDE NOTE: Yes, we know the lead singer uses the phrase “Making love”. Yes, we have spend the past three months trying to figure out who is who in the story they are telling – if he’s in love with the friend, then who’s sliding up and down the ceiling? It’s all very confusing and you should just let yourself be carried away by the infectious chorus.

OVERALL RATING: This song has personally been in my top five all year, and has led to many delicious bops on the Jubilee line, so it’s a 100% keeper.

HUNGARY – JOCI PAPAI – AZ EN APAM

(no photo because I forgot to take one since this song is so meh.)

Okay, I feel like I need to do a brief explainer before actually talking about Hungary’s entry, because I’m still not over the Hungarian national selections. This year, Hungary had a raft of amazing talent, including Fatal Error, an awesome metal band, Leander Kills, an acoustic metal band, and the rapping songbird Gergo Szerker, who had my favourite entry of the entire contest.

And methodically, week after week, the Hungarian jury eliminated all of my favorites, and all the other good acts. Oliver Berkes! YesYes! The other Gergo! No, I meant the OTHER other Gergo!

So I still haven’t forgiven the whole Hungarian Eurovision selection process for giving us Joci Papai, who is very nice, but also coasted on his name recognition since he represented Hungary in Eurovision in 2017.

SHOULD YOU WATCH THIS: Maybe? Do you like man ballads? Do you like songs that are performed in the native language? Do you like tight buns with undercuts? If so, you’ll like this song. If not, I can’t tell you. I honestly can’t remember what this song sounds like and I’ve been hearing it all season.

BUT IS IT A GOOD SONG: I mean, maybe? It’s performed competently but it’s just not my thing.

DARE TO MEME: Joci Papai’s internet name, courtesy of @Elaineovision, is Juicy Papa, which you should use liberally everywhere.

Also, there’s a lot of floating heads in the background, and it would be great to just add some additional ones in there.

TIRED ALREADY: The song itself, because it’s completely forgettable.

OVERALL RATING: Congratulations, folks – it’s your first genuine pee break of the night!

BELARUS – Zena – Like It

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SHOULD YOU WATCH THIS: Zena literally blew my eyebrows away with this song (the pyrotechnics are strong.) It is a mess of an actual song, but the staging is just so so so good. It has everything I want – clothing emblazoned with the singer’s name; a costume reveal; intricate backup dance moves; suddenly emergent backup dances; a move that uses the LED floor; a banger of a chorus. Belarus BROUGHT IT, folks.

BUT IS IT A GOOD SONG: No! It’s not! It’s a bop, but with strangely accented lyrics – and by that I don’t mean Zena’s English, which is great for being a 16 year old from Belarus, but rather that the accent stress of the sentences seems to be on the wrong word. Also, the chorus of the song is very much not what you think you’re hearing! (I’ll tell you what the actual lyrics are later.)

DARE TO MEME: Look, it’s a long story, but if Zena shows up on that stage and you tweet BOOTS BOOTS KINKY BOOTS Eurofans will go nuts with the likes and retweets. (If you must know, it’s a Daz Sampson reference that is explained in more detail here.)

TIRED ALREADY: Not much, but please remember Zena is only 16, and all of this is not her fault.

OVERALL RATING: THIS is how staging can completely transform a song for the better!

SERBIA – Nevena Bozovic – Kruna

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SHOULD YOU WATCH THIS: For the first time in the competition, we are getting a good old-fashioned Eurovision entry – the big-voiced lady in a big old dress, simply standing alone on stage effortlessly delivering a trill-filled ballad. It’s comforting, and Nevena is an old pro at this.

HOWEVER, Israel has decided to stage it by blowing dry ice all over. Like, so much dry ice that Nevena completely vanishes. It’s like I’m watching an old David Copperfield magic snow.

BUT IS IT A GOOD SONG: Well, the one problem with the big-voiced lady in a big old dress genre is that the song is never quite as good as the voice. Nevena does a great job with this song, but she deserves a better song to serve as a challenge.

DARE TO MEME: Nevena’s jewelry, which verges on bondage gear (a theme, weirdly enough, to reoccur multiple times in this semifinal!)

Also, ALL THAT DRY ICE.

TIRED ALREADY: No one cares enough about this song to make bad jokes about it.

OVERALL RATING: A complete meh song but a wonderful performer.

BELGIUM -ELIOT – WAKE UP

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SHOULD I WATCH THIS: Yes! It’s got taiko drummers, and Eliot dressed like he’s going skydiving immediately after the show, and fist pumps in the air, and none of this actually hangs together into a coherent performance but heck if it’s not entertaining.

BUT IS IT A GOOD SONG: It is actually a better song than the live performance would suggest, but it’s also not a song I’d listen to outside of the contest.

DARE TO MEME: Eliot IS Eurovision’s Spider-Man – he looks uncannily like Tom Holland!

TIRED ALREADY: Most people are just rooting for the teenaged Eliot to acquit himself well on stage. His parents are in the audience. BE NICE.

OVERALL RATING: A good song with some bizarrely entertaining staging. Let’s hope the vocals are up to snuff!

GEORGIA – OTO NEMSADZE – KEEP ON GOING

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SHOULD I WATCH THIS: Are you a straight man? Because Oto Nemsadze is the Eurovision contestant for all the straight men who have been roped into watching this contest. He’s shouting for three minutes about something that’s really important to him. His song is in Georgian, but he seems really passionate about it, but in a macho way. Also, I’m sure whatever he’s wearing is really comfortable.

BUT IS IT A GOOD SONG: Hmmm. That’s a hard question to answer. If I were hearing this for the first time, I’d say NO!

DARE TO MEME: I’d love to see someone lay this over a Braveheart battle speech to get the right militaristic vibe that this song so clearly deserves.

ONE QUICK NOTE: As confirmed by @eurenvision, yes, that IS a member of Ethno Jazz Band Iriao in the background. Are you not familiar with Ethno Jazz Band Iriao? SHAME.

TIRED ALREADY: Again, Georgia hasn’t been making enough waves to be overplayed yet.

OVERALL RATING: If you need a pee break, I’d take one here before we go into a huge portion of the show. But if you enjoy having a man shout at you for three minutes with a surprisingly terrifying man chorus and more pyrotechnics than existed at the Battle of Waterloo, well, sit tight!

AUSTRALIA – KATE MILLER HEIDTKE – ZERO GRAVITY

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SHOULD I WATCH THIS:Oh hell yes. It’s a woman in a big dress singing popera on a pole while she’s tormented by floating dementors. It’s absolutely brilliant. This is Eurovision at its best.

BUT IS THE SONG ANY GOOD: Yes! It’s a song that she wrote about post-partum depression, and even though she soars to amazing heights vocally, it’s still completely sing-alongable.

ONE QUICK NOTE: Zero Gravity is a good song, but in the Australian national selection, many of us were rooting for the amazing electroclash banger 2000 and Whatever by the group Electric Fields. The staging is incredibly simple, but is mesmerising throughout, and there’s a literal ‘snatch’ moment that is breathtaking. Check it out please!

DARE TO MEME: Most of the good jokes have already been taken, especially those about dementors, so just lean back and enjoy this performance.

TIRED ALREADY: Eurofans, your ‘tired already’ is saying, “Ugh, didn’t we see this from Estonia 2018?” Locals, your “tired already” is saying, “When did Australia join Europe?” It’s been five years of participation now. Please, use a google.

ICELAND – HATARI – HATRID MUN SIGRA

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SHOULD I WATCH THIS: It’s an anticapitalist industrial band dressed in bondage and shouting “Hatred Will Prevail”. WHY WOULD YOU NOT WATCH THIS???

Seriously, though, Hatari are the pros of this contest, and are excelling at playing the media game. They have challenged Benjamin Netanyahu to an Icelandic trouser wrestling match, have invited Theresa May to the contest because they like her dancing and think that she needs some cheering up, and have developed a whole imaginary sponsor for the contest as a way to cheekily comment on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. IT IS SO GOOD.

BUT IS THE SONG ANY GOOD? What part of anticapitalist industrial band do you not understand? It’s good. It’s good recorded. It’s good live. It’s so good I’ve traveled to three separate countries to see these guys perform, and I’ll likely be visiting another (Sweden? Iceland?) before the end of the year.

DARE TO MEME: Just put bondage on anything and call it a day. You won’t be able to beat the Icelandic transport company, which already created bondage-themed bus advertisements urging people to use public transport for the contest.

TIRED ALREADY: Saying that this isn’t music. Look, Hatari may not be as traditionally musical as some of the other acts, but they are adhering closely to Eurovision conventions – including a key change.

OVERALL VERDICT: It’s my pick to win the overall contest and I love them so much and am already planning other trips to see them this year and please please please let them win! (If they don’t win I’ll be crying all weekend.)

ESTONIA – VICTOR CRONE – STORM

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ONE NOTE FIRST: Usually, Estonia holds one of the most anticipated national finals in the Eurovision season. They are known for having a wide range of entries and songs that are reliably weird and this year was no different. There was a goofy Snapchat-inspired bop. There was a sex kitten singing an industrial song about cats in German. There was a song that was a paean to the Jew’s Harp, which superimposed the singer on a rack of Jew’s harps. And all of these were knocked out in the semifinal. The superfinal eventually came down to two pretty boys – one a homegrown Estonian, and one an imported Swede singing a song by Estonia’s favourite songwriter. So yeah, this year of Eesti Laul was not the Beesti Laul.

SHOULD I WATCH THIS: Victor Crone is pretty. His song is inoffensive and bland, like something that would be playing in a Burger and Lobster over brunch. There are some interesting special effects. His bandanna in the back pocket has resulted in many questions about whether or not he adheres to the hanky code. And you’ll be too shellshocked to actually leave your sofa after Hatari.

BUT IS THE SONG ANY GOOD: It’s probably not, but I’m now inexplicably fond of it. It’s become this year’s Eurovision lullaby to me, a track to put in my ears when I’m too excited. It’s the aural equivalent of mashed potatoes. In normal life, I’d hate this song with a passion, but in Eurovision world, I can’t help but stan it. (There’s also a long back story about the person who wrote the song and how he earned my undying devotion with the 2016 Eurovision entry for Estonia but that’s a longer story.)

DARE TO MEME: Make sure you complain loudly on social media that a person shouldn’t be able to rhyme “this” with “this”. Also, if this mirrors what happened in Estonia, Victor’s guitar will magically disappear at some point during the performance.

TIRED ALREADY: Any Top Gear jokes about songwriter Stig Rasta’s name.

OVERALL VERDICT: Victor Crone’s Storm is the Pumpkin Spice Latte of Eurovision – he’s the basicest of all the basic bitches, and yet I love it. But don’t worry if you can’t handle the tall blandsome man, because some more WTFery is just about to grace your screen.

PORTUGAL – CONAN OSIRIS – TELEMOVEIS

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SHOULD I WATCH THIS: You’re just recovering from Hatari, right? Well, prepare to be completely blown away by a performance again. Conan Osiris and Joao, the Portuguese Russell Tovey, are here to serve Eurovision as a conceptual art piece and I love every second of it. I’m a bit sad to see the spoon face and from the Portuguese final disappear (video here because I know that sentence is completely incomprehensible without context). This performance is absolutely mesmerising because we don’t know what’s going to happen next – literally. I’ve seen this performed several times and it changes each time in a subtle way and look, Conan Osiris is completely entertaining and I hope that enough people get this hipster stuff to send him and Joao to Saturday night.

BUT IS THE SONG ANY GOOD: Yes! I know, I know. The first time this song plays, it’s kind of hard to know what to think. The atonal plinking of whatever that instument is (a harp? A guitar? A gutted piano?) The sexy/just been punched gasps that appear between verses? The mournful voice applied to the problem of a broken cell phone? Just go with it.

DARE TO MEME: I hate to say it, but someone has pointed out that Conan’s outfit looks exactly like the Green Goblin from Spider Man: Into the Dark (Light Up the Dark? Afraid of the Dark?)
Comic fans, my better half encourages you to go for the deeper cut and compare him to the Vulture.

TIRED ALREADY: People saying that this isn’t music. Portugal had a pretty deep selection pool to choose from, and overwhelmingly picked this guy. You may not like his music, but you can’t deny that he’s got the perfect WTF Eurovision vibe.

ONE QUICK NOTE: The death drop remains! THE DEATH DROP REMAINS!

OVERALL VERDICT: I want Hatari to win, but if they can’t, Conan would be a good second choice for me.

GREECE – BETTER LOVE – KATERINE DUSKA

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SHOULD I WATCH THIS: Yes. Katerine Duska has a soulful, husky deep register of a voce that soars throughout the song to finally hit a really, really, really high note that she has been nailing in rehearsals. There may not be as much WTF-ery in the staging as with Portgual, but I will note that there are quite a few weird elements of this. It’s like a weird garden of flowers and tulle has exploded on stage.

BUT IS THE SONG ANY GOOD: Katerine Duska is Greek-Canadian, and the song sounds a litlte bit more like something that would work for the Canadian indie charts than anything for Eurovision, but hey, it’s not a bad song.

DARE TO MEME: As I said, there’s a lot of tulle. Prepare your best images of women in large floofy tulle dresses. Met Ball references might be more up to date, but I think it’s more fun to use pictures of Villanelle from Killing Eve.

TIRED ALREADY: The staging has attracted more wows than anything else from the press room.

OVERALL VERDICT: It’s a lawful neutral of a song. The staging elevates it, but it’s still a bit of a placeholder in between the run of songs that I love in this semifinal.

SAN MARINO – SERHAT – SAY NA NA NA

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SHOULD I WATCH THIS SONG: It’s a complete yes, but for reasons that are a bit hard to explain.

First, let’s start with facts about Serhat.

Serhat is a dentist from Turkey.
He used to host the Turkish equivalent of Jeopardy!
Serhat represented San Marino in 2016 with the song “I Didn’t Know”, a ballad that was elevated with a successful fan-led campaign to replace the original song with its disco remix.
Serhat later recorded a version of this song with former Weathergirls member Martha Wash that reached a position of 25 on the US dance charts.
Serhat has returned to represent San Marino with a song that he wrote in five minutes
Serhat dresses like a billionaire airline pilot or yacht owner.
Other contestants are attractive, but Serhat is the sexiest person ever to grace the Eurovision stage. (Yes, I realise this is in the category of facts, because THAT IS A FACT)

Look, have you heard the phrase Big Dick Energy? That’s Serhat. He has it in spades. He oozes confidence from every pore. He is comfortable conversing in multiple languages. He dances with good looking pool boys in Bermuda shorts on stage and is somehow not diminished by the experience.

This act will consist of Serhat swaggering around stage in his growly accented voice, inviting all of us to call him anytime, and telling us we’re all beautiful. The crowd will be going wild, singing along with every note. And the greatest fear of every Eurovision fan is that the locals will just not get it. There is an active Twitter campaign – #Serhat4Saturday – to get him into the final, because so many of us love this sexy dentist with his universal good vibes.

BUT IS IT ANY GOOD: It’s a song written in five minutes? How good do you think it is? I’ve got it on several Spotify playlists anyway, because when I’m depressed or anxious, it is really affirming to her Serhat tell me that everything is going to be okay

DARE TO MEME: Just tweet something like “YAAAAASSSSS #serhat4saturday” and you’ll be covered. Any tweet like that will get a million likes from the other people desperately trying to will Serhat into finals night.

TIRED ALREADY: Look, we know that San Marino has a history of sending entries that are – well, that are not widely understood by people. And we know that Serhat’s ability to finance a lot of the costs associated with his Eurovision entries may be the reason why he’s been picked. But we love him, and just want the rest of the world to love him, so if you’re thinking of making fun of him, just leave it alone. Don’t take an easy shot at a man whose whole mission is one of making people feel better about themselves.

OVERALL VERDICT: Please, just watch this. Please just vote for this. ce. And he happens to be the universally loved act of all Eurovision fans.

Join me tonight over at @dudepoints for all the live tweeting!

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