I’m sitting in Ben Gurion airport waiting for a delayed flight which means I’ll likely make it home AFTER the show starts, so I’m posting my semifinal 2 preview in drips and drabs – this covers the first 12 songs and I’ll update it with the final six as soon as I can!
Also, I know that most fans are really,really, really excited about semifinal 2, but I am not one of them. There are two songs which are must-haves for me here (Norway and Malta) and then the rest are kind of too slow or not to my taste! So if that’s going to bother you, please don’t read the rest of this!
I was also about 20 feet further away from the stage than on Monday night’s jury show, so my pictures are therefore of worse quality. Apologies!
Okay, on with the preview!
ARMENIA – SRBUK – WALKING OUT
SHOULD I WATCH THIS SONG: Meh. The producers try to open up the show with an upbeat banger that will set the energy for the night. But, from my angry feminist perspective, a “empowering” male-written song about domestic violence and leaving one’s abuser is just not it for me. Maybe focus on making the drinks during this song?
The staging is also incredibly lackluster. Poor Srbuk is out there giving it her all, but it’s still her, just her, and an angry red background (which, as we’ve learned from Semi 1, is not a winning staging formula!)
BUT IS IT ANY GOOD: Musically, it’s got an interesting rhythm, and there are parts that let Srbuk’s vocals shine, but I’m still mad about the song’s suggesting that all women need to do is just walk out of an abusive relationship and TA DA! All fixed!
DARE TO MEME: I mean, I guess you can use GIF of people walking out of rooms or something? I don’t know. I’ll be mixing drinks.
TIRED ALREADY: Calling this a feminist empowerment anthem. A song written by a man that perpetuates dangerous stereotypes about domestic violence victims just being able to leave their abusers at will is not empowering at all.
Also a bad look? Calling a song about escaping domestic violence “screechy” or “screamy.” Yeah, you’d be pretty screamy too, okay?
OVERALL VERDICT: Skip it.
IRELAND – SARAH MCTERNAN – 22
SHOULD I WATCH THIS: There’s been quite a bit of drama in the past week, as Sarah McTernan has some issue with an infected wisdom tooth and/or gingivitis (she’s claimed both) and has been powering through rehearsals while ill. I’ll be tuning in to see if the antibiotics have done their work, and if Sarah’s swiveling around the 50s themed diner set with confidence and glow.
It’s the song that should have opened the show. Although the staging feels very much Strictly Come Dancing, it’s fun! It’s fresh! There’s a sweetness about it, and it’s the upbeat, happy kind of number that catches viewers’ interest.
BUT IS IT ANY GOOD: Yes! Although this song has been put in the dreaded number two slot, which is the kiss of death for songs that hope to qualify. But the song has a bouncy bass beat, a good hook, and deserves more attention than it gets.
DARE TO MEME: Just take photos of yourself next to anything with the number 22 and post them online during this song.
(I wrote this before the show, and then my friend Colin showed up at the show wearing this outfit:
TIRED ALREADY: Not much, because the song hasn’t gotten the attention it deserves!!!
OVERALL VERDICT: Relax and enjoy the bounciness. Stare at Sarah McTernan’s face, and try to determine whether she is in fact suffering from a wisdom tooth infection, gingivitis, or both. Most importantly, vote for her because she’s Michael Rice’s BFF and he’ll need someone to go to Burger King with after the final.
MOLDOVA – ANNA ODOBESCU – STAY
SHOULD I WATCH THIS: Yes! Anna’s song is a basic big-voiced woman in a big, big dress running through a power ballad, but Moldova have once again pulled out the stops on staging and brought back Sand Lady Ksenia Simonova, who originally performed with Ukraine’s Eurovision entry in 2011. And so we have TWO ladies in giant dresses, one who is doing the large power-ballad clenched fist, and one who is frantically scrabbling at a table in front of her.
ONE QUICK NOTE OF BACKGROUND:
Last week, the drama was entertaining, as Miki (Ukraine’s Eurovision entry in 2011) posted the Instagram stories equivalent of “I don’t know her”. Ksenia Simonova was forced to intervene and note that the performances were completely different because this time, she’s using SNOW not SAND (in the desert city of Tel Aviv, mind you) and Moldova sat back and ate it all up.
BUT IS IT ANY GOOD: No. Moldova does a competent job of meeting the brief, with a singer who hits all her big notes competently, but the song is instantly forgettable. I’m sorry, Anna.
ANOTHER QUICK NOTE: I’m even sorrier for all of you because for such a small country, Moldova usually sends the memeworthiest entries – last year’s DoReDos, 2017 and 2011’s Sunstroke Project, originators of the Epic Sax Guy, and Eduard Romanuyta’s 2015 fever dream of a 1980’s video I Want Your Love. It could have been so much more. SO MUCH MORE.
DARE TO MEME: Reply “Well, actually, it’s SNOW” to everyone who posts the MOAR SAND meme.
TIRED ALREADY: This song, which belongs in 1992 Eurovision.
OVERALL VERDICT: MEH. (In fact, you can sing MEH! Whenever Anna sings STAY and entertain yourself that way.
SWITZERLAND – LUCA HANNI – SHE GOT ME
SHOULD I WATCH THIS:Apparently? It’s got a huge fanbase and was tipped to win in the early odds, but I have completely missed the fandom memo on this one.
Look, I’m not going to say that gender dynamics are at play here, but if you look at Tamta, Zena, and Michaela, the three women with certified slap bangers in the contest, all of them go over the fucking top with staging. Costume reveals! Backflips! A whole goddamn wall of graphics! And yet I can’t tell you the number of times people have been like, “Oh, it’s just Fuego again.”
But Luca? He shows up wearing an outfit like he’s just finished a Soul Cycle class and dances in front of some red lights like Sweden 2018 and it’s somehow the second coming of bangers? It feels a bit half baked like we walked into a tech rehearsal without all the props.
Can someone please please please explain the love for this song to me (omitting thirst, which is addressed below?
BUT IS IT ANY GOOD: No. I love bangers and there’s something about this song that rubs me the wrong way. Maybe it’s the fact that the emphasis seems to be stressed on the wrong words. Maybe it’s the fact that the song’s title is She Got Me but everyone thinks it should be called Dirty Dancing. Maybe it’s that everyone complained about Tamta ripping off Fuego and then turned around and loved this song for…ripping off Fuego, but with a man. But everyone else seems to like it?
DARE TO MEME: Suprisingly, no one’s been featuring Patrick Swayze gifs or ‘Nobody puts Baby in a corner’ jokes, so use those. (Also, for a moment, let’s pause to reflect what Patrick Swayze could have done with this song!)
Eurofans in the know will post images of Luca next to Serhat because it’s like Luca deliberately came to his video dressed as Young Serhat. And considering that Serhat is through to the final, can you blame him?
TIRED ALREADY: Just the thirst over Luca Henni. Look, I am a leading proponent of vocally appreciating the attributes of various contestants, and everyone’s taste differs, but there are so many beards in the contest, and this is the one people have latched on to? Again, please explain!
OVERALL VERDICT: Better off YouTubing the big finale number from Dirty Dancing.
LATVIA – CAROUSEL – THAT NIGHT
SHOULD I WATCH THIS: Do you remember 2014, when everyone fell in love with the Common Linnets? Well, imagine that sound slowed down by 20 percent and just repeating the chorus over and over, and you have Latvia’s entry for this year, complete with eminently tasteful staging. It’s televised torpor and having seen this performed live now four times, the only thing that’s changed is the size of the stage on which the instruments are played. (I kid! I kid! The lead singer’s changed her outfit as well.)
I was in the arena last night and it went completely dead when this song played, so I now feel compelled to be a Latvia booster. They are trying, okay? Maybe give it a chance?
BUT IS THE SONG ANY GOOD? I mean, yes, if you like blonde wood coffeeshops and Pinterest boards and unobtrusive music that plays in the background while you catch up with your sorority sisters. But if you have even the teensiest bit of an edge, this song isn’t for you.
ONE TINY NOTE: I attended Supernova, the Latvian National Selection. And I like this song just fine. It was one of only two acts out of 8 to feature a woman, so something is going on there. However, I’m still smarting over the loss of Markus Riva, a six time contestant in Supernova who perpetually comes second. This year, his song was absolutely amazing – it had the dancing, the singing, the whole package, and Markus was denied.
ONE MORE TINY NOTE: The other reason I get a bit mad at Carousel is the guitarist is basically a human chair in the performance. He’s won awards for his guitar playing in Latvia. He had two acts that made it to the Supernova final. He’s essentially the Latvian equivalent of Stevie Vai. And yet he just kind of sits there while his wife does all the work. Yes, I get being supportive and taking a back seat to your partner, but when you have the best guitarist in Latvia on your stage, GIVE HIM SOMETHING TO DO!
A FINAL TINY NOTE: The act I was rooting for hardest in the Supernova final were the Dzili Violets featuring Kozmens. It was basically a joke act featuring a band from a late-night Latvian television show, but they were really good! And really funny! And Kozmens is the Riga Beaver, which means something to Eurovision fans.I loved this performance so much that I flew back to Latvia two weeks later to see Kozmens appear with his own band, Rita Steinis, whose name translates to Morning Boner.
Look, I don’t want to go off on a tangent about the Latvian music scene, but this is the second year that Latvia has sent a bit of a dud and I have a LOT of thoughts about who they should be sending instead!
DARE TO MEME: I mean, I suppose you can break out the snoozing gifs, because people are going to go practically catatonic in these three minutes.
TIRED ALREADY: You! You will be tired after listening to this lullaby.
OVERALL VERDICT: Pity watch it, okay? It’s a pleasant tune and what else are you going to do for these three minutes?
ROMANIA – ESTER PEONY – ON A SUNDAY
SHOULD I WATCH THIS: Yes, primarily because gothy Ester Peony spends her performance in an armchair. Eurovision contestants! They’re just like us! Or at least like the subset of people who read this blog!
In a way, this staging order is awful, because we get a female vocalist with a country-lite guitar ballad after a female vocalist with a country-lite guitar ballad. But whereas Carousel is your friend that read Goop seriously, Ester Peony is your friend who hasn’t quite managed to transition her Hot Topic teen fandom to adulthood.
Ester goes waaay waaay over the top in staging, and not in an extra way, but in a messy way. For example, there are two dancers clad in bondage. Good! But they’re also wearing KISS makeup and Elizabethan neck ruffs. BAD.
I don’t know. Maybe the song is coherent when on camera? In the arena, however, I just kept losing focus.
BUT IS THE SONG ANY GOOD: Maybe? It’s not my favorite type of genre so it’s hard for me to tell. I guess it’s a bit Alanis Morrisette meets country vibe?
ONE TINY NOTE: This song was cowritten by Ester’s current boyfriend, who plays guitar on it. Remember how I complained about how Latvia has sent the best guitarist in its country, and basically done nothing with him? Well, Romania is the opposite. He shows up at everything, and I’m just like, Ester is doing all the work in this song! Let her shine! He’s even here, dressed in bondage (the 2019 Eurovision theme, actually) and playing an acoustic guitar. BONDAGE AND ACOUSTIC GUITARS DO NOT BELONG IN THE SAME ROOM. If you want to wear bondage, you need a synthesizer and drum machine and a home studio painted all in black, okay?
DARE TO MEME: I mean, it basically will be ‘Eurovision stars! They’re just like us!’
TIRED ALREADY: Ester won the Romanian final by dint of the way the Romanian jury set up the voting, which basically gave each jury as much power as the entire televote. So when Ester didn’t win the televote but did win because of the acclaim of the jurors, there was complete chaos. But none of that matters now! So if anyone says,’Ester didn’t deserve this’ remember the alternative was an uncomfortably young looking girl in a virginal dress singing about how much she loved her dad.
OVERALL VERDICT: If you go pee during Carousel, don’t hurry back!
DENMARK – LEONORA – LOVE IS FOREVER
SHOULD I WATCH THIS: Yes. Hate watch this. Join me in directing my gaze towards Leonora and her carefully market-tested, noncontroversial, 100% artificial song. Through the power of concentration, maybe we can make it go up in flames.
Staging wise, Leonora sits on a giant chair. She climbs up it in the middle of the performance. Because I am a horrible person, I was half hoping she’d fall off (not enough to hurt herself! Just enough to be entertaining.).
She’s wearing an outfit which makes her look like she works for one of the Nazis in the Indiana Jones films. There are other people who sit on the chair. There are people of different races there, and one guy who is presenting as camp French queer, but everyone is traditionally attractive.
All the dancers sway and move their legs and pretend to be happy as Leonora runs through her cut-rate Amelie schtick and does a rollcall of European languages to pander to more voters.
I hate this song with the fiery passion of a thousand suns.
BUT IS THE SONG ANY GOOD: No. No no no no no.
Leonora, who is being as political as fuck in trying to win the contest with certain tropey tropes, sings a song about how we shouldn’t get too political.
Listen, Leonora, I know that Denmark is one of the happiest places on earth, but the rest of the continent is going up in flames, and the contest is being held in a country with a record of human rights abuses.
You have fellow contestants who have managed to channel real life into their songs, which are small-p political without being POLITICAL. You have fellow contestants who have faced controversy back in their home countries for simply existing.
How dare you turn on your simpering girly charm and tell people to not get too political? While that may be an option for cute young white girls, that’s not an option for many people, including a majority of the fan base that are watching this contest and are only now starting to achieve a measure of equal rights.
This whole song should just be called “Becky says something about something blah blah blah.” I can’t take you seriously, Leonora.
DARE TO MEME: Oh, I don’t care. Something about the chair. Something about her dead shark eyes. Whatever.
TIRED ALREADY: Preachiness about the contest not being political.
OVERALL VERDICT: This is my most hated song of the contest, so act accordingly.
SWEDEN – JOHN LUNDVIK – IS IT TOO LATE FOR LOVE?
SHOULD I WATCH THIS: Yes. Sweden churns out above-average pop songs every year, and this year, the song is in the hands of the consumate performer John Lundvik, backed by some outstanding singers (one of whom quit her job in the United States and moved to Sweden simply to perform in Eurovision!)
I’ve seen this performed live several times, but not that John Lundvik is in his element,with lighting, camera angles, and the best backup singers in the contest, I got literal goosebumps when watching this last night.
Expect three minutes of well-produced emotion that should sail through to the final.
BUT IS THE SONG ANY GOOD: Yes! Look, it’s not the banger I would have chosen from Melodifestivalen this year (RIP Malou Pritz and Lovers of Valdaro) but it’s a good song co-written by John himself. It’s like a summer blockbuster of a Eurovision song – completely mass market but enjoyable all the same.
DARE TO MEME: Please, please please tweet “IS IT” during the song.
TIRED ALREADY: Complaints about Swedish entries. Look, regardless of how you feel about Christer Bjorkman, or the recent string of solo male contestants from Sweden (despite firecrackers of entertainment like Ace Wilder), John Lundvik has earned this, and we should all sit back and let him enjoy his amazing moment.
OVERALL VERDICT: Watch it! Get chills! Get mad at yourself for being susceptible to the patently obvious emotional cues that give you those chills, and then just sit back and enjoy it.
AUSTRIA – PAENDA – LIMITS
SHOULD I WATCH THIS; Poor Paenda. Look, she’s a respected artist with a beautiful voice. It’s not her fault she got saddled with performing this song, which would be better in an intimate club setting. (To give you a sense of its ideal location, this is the type of song Zala and Gasper listen to while silently staring into each other’s eyes.)
Paenda is stuck in a tube top and pants combo amongst a forest of light up kebab skewers and I kind of lost track at the staging at that point because I was trying to post something funny on Twitter. That gives you a sense of how engaging the song is.
BUT IS THE SONG ANY GOOD: It’s very…slow. And dreamy. And etheral. And, to be honest, it’s not the song I would have entered for Paenda, who has much better songs in her back catalog.
DARE TO MEME: Well, you could just add an extra ‘e’ into every word you write with an a (e.g. baenaenae) but I find it much more entertaining to imagine that Paenda’s “And I’m talking about you” is “And I’m talking about Hugh”, as in Hugh Grant, and then trying to pair her lyrics with the best moments from Hugh Grant films. Play along at home!
TIRED ALREADY: Not much, because the song has been flying under the radar.
OVERALL VERDICT: I’d say pee break, but we’ve had so many of those this evening already!
CROATIA – ROKO – THE DREAM
SHOULD I WATCH THIS: You know how the Met Ball theme this year was camp? And how virtually everyone who attended failed to read the brief? Well, Roko did, and he is serving up the campiest performance of 2019. It’s got a big voice with a 1990s style power ballad. It’s got hunky men in angel wings. It’s got Roko in angel wings! And it was co-written by Jacques Houdek, the man who did a duet with himself at the 2017 Eurovision.
Let me be more emphatic: Roko has the best staging of semifinal 2. Have you seen the movie Birdemic? The graphics in it are absolutely awful, and Croatia is maybe two steps above that. The backdrop features a world apocalypse with asteroids crashing into the earth alongside two golden-painted angels with white jeans (oh my god so many white jeans in this contest). These angels fall from heaven (FALLING! THEY’RE FROM HEAVEN FALLING!) onto earth, encounter Roko, and literally wrestle him into his own angel wings WHILE he is singing his power ballad, and then leave again. It’s three minutes of mesmerising, classic, Eurovision.
BUT IS THE SONG ANY GOOD: It’s a 1990s style power ballad, so no, but Roko is one of the best flat-out singers in the contest this year, so yes?
DARE TO MEME: Angels! Anything with angels!
TIRED ALREADY: Roko didn’t unveil this staging until last week, so no one has had a chance to make jokes about it yet.
OVERALL VERDICT: Exactly what this semifinal goddamn needed.
MALTA – MICHAELA – CHAMELEON
SHOULD I WATCH THIS: Hell, yes. Malta was one of the last countries to unveil its song, and when they did, everyone was pleasantly surprised by this bouncy rollicking banger that dares to rip off Culture Club without explicitly referencing Culture Club.
The staging is also massively inventive, with Michaela and her backup dancers in front of two giant screens that change colours like a chameleon. It’s peppy, it’s fun, and it’s just what is needed in a ballad-heavy semifinal.
BUT IS THE SONG ANY GOOD: Yes. Malta has released the definitive ‘it slaps’ of the 2019 Eurovision season.
DARE TO MEME: Hypercolour jokes, please.
TIRED ALREADY: Culture club references (and yes, I know I made one just above, but needed to get it out of the way so you wouldn’t think you were being clever.)
OVERALL VERDICT: Would be a top 5 contender if there were any justice in this world.
LITHUANIA – JURIJUS – RUN WITH THE LIONS
SHOULD I WATCH THIS: Okay, so let me explain Lithuania’s Eurovision selection process to you.
Throughout January and February, there are seven – SEVEN – weeks of live televised shows leading to a finalist. This year, 49 acts competed, out of a total Lithuanian population of less than 3 million people.
I missed the first week, but I sat through the rest. I sat through Banzzzai. I sat through Allen Chicco. I sat through Henry and Tommy Modric. I sat through both of Monika Marija’s songs. I sat through Mazule. I sat through six weeks of Lithuanian staging that involved a giant wig made of cobwebs, a singer magically healing a dancer in a wheelchair, the Lithuanian equivalent of the Rat Pack, and a group of men singing about washing their cars. There was a LOT of creativity on display.
And now that Lithuania is preparing to debut its Eurovision act on the world stage, they’ve …. run out of ideas?
The staging for this is Jurijus, the contest’s empirically most handsome man, standing in front of a microphone dressed all in black. The only flair he has is a comically oversized chest pocket. Behind him, an LED screen features pulses of gold. That’s it. THAT IS IT.
Look. Lithuania, the song is called Run with the Lions, and you haven’t given me one single goddamn image of a lion? You have giant LED screens and a broadcaster that leans a bit too heavily on the wideshots. I’m sure you have stock footage of lions from some Lithuanian nature programme. It’s not hard to do. I bet I could get someone to put this together in After Effects for the show tonight, okay?
So, that’s a roundabout way to say – Should you watch this? Yes. You should watch this to shake your head in disgust and think about how this is a completely missed staging opportunity. You should watch this and think maybe instead of having seven weeks of 49 acts, maybe cull some of those awful acts before you have to pay for them to show up on a television programme, and put the budget into a choreographer or something.
BUT IS THE SONG ANY GOOD: Oh, it’s not. And yet I love it anyway, because Jurijus. He’s so dreamy!
DARE TO MEME: Please, please, please, insert some shots of lions behind Jurijus, okay?
TIRED ALREADY: Beards and falsetto, but it’s only getting started for this evening now!
The rest of the HOT CONTENT is on its way!
In the meantime, butts:
RUSSIA – SERGEY LAZAREV – SCREAM
SHOULD I WATCH THIS? – Do you like Melodifestivalen? Did you enjoy watching Eric Saade smash his way out of a box with Popular? What about watching Wiktoria get doused in a shower? OH NO MY PLANE IS BOARDING WATCH THIS!