Eurovision Song Contest 2017: Semi Final 1 Review

Adrian Kavanagh, 9th May 2017

The post will offer a brief review of the 18 acts competing in the first of the two semi-finals for the 2017 Eurovision Song Contest. This contest is taking place over two nights. 50% of the votes have already been decided, with the professional juries having voted on the show taking place last night (Monday 8th May), while the public will vote on the televised show, which takes place tonight, Tuesday 9th May.

As well as offering a brief commentary on each of the 18 songs in this contest, this post will also rate each song/act/country based on (a) that country’s past qualification record (out of semi-finals competed in between 2004 and 2016), (b) the latest Bookie odds (based on the average odds conveyed across different Bookies, as illustrated on the Oddschecker site as at 10.00am on Tuesday 9th May) and (c) placings as estimated by my Eurovision prediction model. For each of these categories, ***** will mean “almost certain to qualify”, **** will mean “probable qualifier”, *** will mean “borderline qualifier”, ** will mean “borderline non-qualifier” and * will mean “unlikely to qualify”.

(I’ll also given my own personal rating for each act/song. In this case, ***** will mean “I love this to bits”, **** will mean “I really like this”, *** will mean “I think this is pretty good”, ** will mean “Mmm, I guess this is OK-ish” and * will mean “Er, sorry, not my cup of tea”. But do make up your own mind on these entries by checking out the official Eurovision rehearsal clips on YouTube.)

1. Sweden: I Can’t Go On – Robin Bengtsson. Ukrainian TV choose an appropriately uptempo act to open this semi-final – and indeed this year’s contest. This is a cleverly staged and solid pop entry and likely to do very well in the overall contest; not surprisingly given that this is Sweden. But it may be a bit too clinical in its execution to engage enough with the Eurovision audiences to push for overall victory.

Past Qualification: ***** (7 out of 8 attempts), Bookies: *****, Prediction Model: *****, AK Rating: ***

2. Georgia: Keep The Faith – Tamara Gachechiladze. I hadn’t really cared much for this year’s entry for Georgia and coming into the rehearsals this looked like a very likely non-qualifier. But…this is a very different song when performed live and the staging really adds to this. A storming performance in last night’s Jury show suggests that Georgia could defy the odds and make it to the Final.

Past Qualification: **** (7 out of 9 attempts), Bookies: **, Prediction Model: **, AK Rating: **

3. Australia: Don’t Come Easy – Isaiah. After their first two successful years in the contest, Australia may be facing into a more difficult year in 2017.  Is this a well produced and well sung entry? Yes it is. But it’s also very boring and quite easy to forget. And that can be a problem if you’re slotted in to perform in the third position in the semi final running order; statistically the worst running order position you can get in a Eurovision semi final contest.  Will this qualify. Mmm…probably, but it’s by no means 100% guaranteed to do so and may need to rely on a strong Jury vote.

Past Qualification: ***** (1 out of 1 attempt), Bookies: ****, Prediction Model: ***, AK Rating: **

4. Albania: World – Lindita Halimi. Albania often send entries that feature some impressive vocal gymnastics from their (usually female) singers – think Suus in 2012 – and this year’s entry very much falls into that category. There’s a lot to admire here, but this is an entry that might struggle to win votes.

Past Qualification: ** (6 out of 12 attempts), Bookies: *, Prediction Model: **, AK Rating: ***

5. Belgium: City Lights – Blanche. When this was first released a few weeks ago, it swept up towards the top of the Bookie odds (just after Italy), but a series of nervous performances from Blanche at the Eurovision preview parties and the early rehearsals have led to concerns that this might not actually qualify from the semi final. A stronger performance from Blanche in last night’s Jury show may have pushed this back into qualification contention. This is very contemporary/current sounding entry, but can Blanche fight her nerves and deliver on the big stage when it matters?

Past Qualification: * (4 out of 12 attempts), Bookies: ***, Prediction Model: ***, AK Rating: ****

6. Montenegro: Space – Slavko Kalezic. Very camp and very uptempo, this might stand out as one of a relatively small number of fun entries in a rather over-earnest set of semi final entrants. But Moldova, with a later draw, does fun entry much better, as does Sweden and Armenia. The relatively early position in the running order suggests that this will have a tough battle to get out of this highly competitive semi final. However, statistically, the sixth position in the running order has been a very good one across previous semi final contests (and has been statistically the best position in the running order to get if drawn in the first half of a semi final).

Past Qualification: * (2 out of 8 attempts), Bookies: Prediction Model: *, Running Order: *****, AK Rating: **

7. Finland: Blackbird – Norma John. Very simple staging, but also a very haunting entry. Looks well placed to do very well in the Jury vote and qualify out of this semi final and could be a “dark horse” to be in contention for a Top 10 spot in the Final and provide Finland with one of its best results at Eurovision (excluding Lordi, of course) during the 2000s. Like Georgia, it’s not my cup of tea personally but there’s no doubt that this is a quality entry.

Past Qualification: ** (6 out of 12 attempts), Bookies: ***, Prediction Model: ***, AK Rating: ***

8. Azerbaijan: Skeletons – Dihaj. Edgy and experimental? Just plain weird? or both? These are the sort of questions that will be asked after Dihaj’s performance tonight (and quite probably in the Final also) and there may also be some quite-unnecessary Mr. Ed jokes. If Eurovision audiences enjoy, or can put up with, the staging, then this could do very well in this year’s contest. It is one of the more current/radio-friendly entries in this year’s Eurovision and Dihaj performs it with conviction.

Past Qualification: ***** (8 out of 8 attempts), Bookies: ****, Prediction Model: ***, AK Rating: ****

9. Portugal: Amar Pelos Dois – Salvador Sobral. General expectations are that this could be the entry that provides Portugal with its best ever result in a Eurovision contest (that country has never finished in the Top 5 in a Eurovision Final and their best ever result was a 6th place finish in 1996). This is very…very old fashioned…it sounds like a song from the 1920s and it is very simply staged, but there is something magical, unique and unusual about this entry that could grab the Eurovision juries and public voters’ attention and potentially see this give red-hot contest favourites, Italy, a run for their money, especially if they go on to win the Jury vote in the Final.

Past Qualification: * (3 out of 11 attempts), Bookies: *****, Prediction Model: *****, AK Rating: ***

10. Greece: This Is Love – Demy. The most successful country at Eurovision during the 2000s was probably Greece, but – as the impacts of economic austerity bit hard – the country’s fortunes waned notably during the 2010s, culminating last year in their first failure to qualify out of a semi final since the introduction of the semi final system in 2004. The selection of Demy was expected to mark a return to form for Greece this year. But maybe not Top 10. This is well staged and well performed, but there have been some vocal issues which might cost Greece in terms of Jury votes. Very likely to quality but not 100% definite.

Past Qualification: ***** (9 out of 10 attempts), Bookies: ****, Prediction Model: ****, AK Rating: ***

11. Poland: Flashlight – Kasia Moss. Very stark and very dark ballad from Poland (similar in spirit to The Netherlands’ Birds in 2013), which is well performed by the experienced Kasia Moss. Bookies odds suggest that this might just about miss out on qualification, but Poland should do fairly well in the televote due to the impact of the Polish Diaspora and this is likely to appeal more the juries this year than did the Polish entry at the 2016 Final. Poland’s qualification record since 2004 has not been great, but their record has improved significantly in more recent years.

Past Qualification: ** (4 out of 10 attempts), Bookies: **, Prediction Model: **, AK Rating: ***

12. Modova: Hey Mama– Sunstroke Project. Moldova had an excellent qualification record over that country’s first 7/8 years within the Eurovision contest, but Moldova has subsequently failed to qualify for the Final over the past three years. Sunstroke Project did get Moldova to the Final in 2010 and the group returns to Eurovision action this year. As a song, in and of itself, this is not particularly amazing, but the staging and delivery (involving Eurovision legend, Epic Sax Guy, and some bridesmaids who do become brides) definitely adds a lot to this and this has been one of the entries to have gained notably in terms of the betting odds since the start of rehearsals over a week ago, moving from likely non-qualifier to likely qualifier.

Past Qualification: *** (7 out of 11 attempts), Bookies: ***, Prediction Model: ***, AK Rating: ***

13. Iceland: Paper – Svala. On paper (groan), there is nothing particularly wrong with this entry; it’s a pretty competent mid-tempo song and it’s sung well by Svala. But the entire package seems to leave audiences cold and this struggles to be memorable, particularly coming in the wake of the five/six entries coming directly before this This seems to have a struggle on its hands to come out of this very competitive semi final and it is worth remembering that Estonia finished in last place (with an entry that had similar issues) from this same position in the running order at Semi Final 1 in 2016.

Past Qualification: *** (7 out of 12 attempts), Bookies: **, Prediction Model: **, AK Rating: **

14. Czech Republic: My Turn – Martina Barta. The Czech Republic, after waiting for almost a decade, finally managed to qualify for the Eurovision Final last year…and then got landed with the dreaded No. 2 position in the Final running order and ended up winning nils points from the televote (although the juries did compensate somewhat for this). This year’s low-tempo jazz-styled entry is a good one and sung well by Martina Barta, but it might get lost in the crowd in this very competitive semi final.

Past Qualification: * (1 out of 5 attempts), Bookies: *, Prediction Model: *, AK Rating: **

15. Cyprus: Gravity – Hovig. For me, the first minute of this song is quite interesting, but then it very quickly starts to lose interest. There have been some vocal and performance issues evident during the rehearsals also, which further suggest that this will struggle to qualify for the Final. However, the interesting staging (not very dissimilar to Loic Nottet’s (Belgium) in 2015) could still see this act into the Final if it all “goes right on the night” and reports from last night’s Jury show suggest that the choreography was a lot tighter than it had been across the earlier rehearsals.

Past Qualification: ** (5 out of 11 attempts), Bookies: ***, Prediction Model: **, AK Rating: **

16. Armenia: Fly With Me – Artsivik. The song has a very strong Eastern flair, which sets it aside from other acts in this contest, but the very inventive/clever staging gives this act even further impetus and has seen Armenia climbing up in the betting odds since rehearsals began over a week ago. With a strong vote likely from the Armenian diaspora and the potential of picking up votes that would usually go to Russia, this could do very well in the Final with a good position in the running order – it’s safe to say that this will qualify for the Final – but it might be a bit “too out there” for the more conventional Eurovision viewers/jury members to put it in a position to challenge for the overall honours on Saturday night.

Past Qualification: **** (8 out of 9 attempts), Bookies: *****, Prediction Model: *****, AK Rating: ***

17. Slovenia: On My Way – Omar Naber: This is a very old-fashioned song that would not have been out of place during the heyday for the old-style ballads during the later part of the 20th Century. Back in March and April, this looked like a strong contender to finish last in this semi final, especially given that country’s very poor qualification record, but good staging and a set of solid rehearsals have seen Slovenia emerge as a potential dark horse to make it out of this semi final. Personally, although I’ve liked most of Slovenia’s previous Eurovision entries, this song leaves me cold and I can’t really see a reason why Omar won’t be on “his way” out of the contest after tonight’s semi final…but the position coming so late in the running order is undoubtedly a big advantage to Slovenia here.

Past Qualification: * (4 out of 13 attempts), Bookies: **, Prediction Model: *, Running Order: *****, AK Rating: *

18. Latvia: Line – Triana Park: This very uptempo, trancey, dance act from Latvia closes the first semi final. This is the best possible position to hope for in a semi final running order and this gives Latvia a very good chance of adding to its recently improved qualification fortunes (making the 2015 and 2016 Finals), having previously failed to qualify for the Final on ever occasion between 2009 and 2014. But it’s by no means a definite qualifier, given the strength of the competition in this semi final.

Past Qualification: ** (5 out of 12 attempts), Bookies: ***, Prediction Model: **, AK Rating: ***

Top 10 based on Past Semi Final Qualification Record: 1. Azerbaijan, 2. Australia, 3. Greece, 4. Armenia, 5. Sweden, 6. Georgia, 7. Moldova, 8. Iceland, 9j. Finland/Albania (Only six of the countries on this list made it to the Final, but all of the Top 5 did.)

Top 10 based on Bookie Odds to Qualify out of Semi Final 1: 1. Armenia, 2. Sweden, 3. Portugal, 4. Azerbaijan, 5. Greece, 6. Finland, 7. Moldova, 8. Australia, 9. Belgium, 10. Cyprus  (Very accurate!!! 9 of the countries on this list made it to the Final. The only difference here was that Poland qualified instead of Finland.)

Top 10 based on Semi Final 1 Running Order Positions (Average Number of Points per Running Order Position): 1. Latvia, 2. Montenegro, 3. Portugal, 4. Czech Republic, 5. Moldova, 6. Slovenia, 7. Iceland, 8. Greece, 9. Finland, 10. Armenia (Running order does not seem to have been very influential in this semi final, especially given that the last two countries in the running order both failed to qualify. The televote/jury vote breakdowns here will be very interesting in terms of seeing whether the jury vote is now offsetting the impacts of running order.)  

Top 10 based on AK Prediction Model Estimates: 1. Sweden, 2. Armenia3. Portugal, 4. Greece, 5. Azerbaijan, 6. Belgium, 7. Australia, 8. Finland, 9. Latvia, 10. Moldova (Not bad. 8 of the countries on this list made it to the Final and all of the Top 7 (on this list) did so. As this is more relevant to estimating the televote, it will be interesting to see whether the juries disadvantaged Latvia and/or Finland and helped Poland (ranked 12th in the model) and/or Cyprus (ranked 14th in the model).)

My Own Personal Favourites – Top 10: 1. Azerbaijan, 2. Belgium, 3. Moldova, 4. Greece, 5. Armenia, 6. Poland, 7. Portugal, 8. Finland, 9. Sweden, 10. Latvia (8 out of 10 and my seven top favourites all made it – I’m happy with this!)

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One Response to “Eurovision Song Contest 2017: Semi Final 1 Review”

  1. William Says:

    Wow, the model predicted that quite well! Sweden had a terrible performance that was hampered by the bad sound system in the arena, so I would be surprised if they ended up winning the semi – that’ll probably be Portugal or Armenia. Such a pity about Finland and Latvia 😦

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