Eurovision Song Contest 2017: Semi Final 2 Review

Adrian Kavanagh, 10th May 2017

The post will offer a brief review of the 18 acts competing in the second of the two semi-finals for the 2017 Eurovision Song Contest. This contest is taking place over two nights. 50% of the votes will be decided tonight, with the professional juries voting on tonight’s show (Wednesday 10th May), while the public will vote on the televised show, which takes place tonight, Thursday 11th May.  (This post is still under construction – further details, including a discussion of Lithuania, Estonia and Israel, will follow tomorrow morning.)

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. Serbia: In Too Deep – Tijana Bogicevic. As with Semi Final 1, Ukrainian TV chose an appropriately uptempo act to open this semi-final. This is a competent pop entry from a country that usually tends to make it out of the semi finals, but this is perhaps not the sure-fire qualifier that Sweden was in Semi Final 1. This may suffer, somewhat, from being too close in the running order to Macedonia, although Serbia do have a lot of neighbours voting in the semi final.

Past Qualification: **** (6 out of 8 attempts), Bookies: **, Prediction Model: ****, Running Order: ***, AK Rating: ***

2. Austria: Running On Air – Nathan Trent. Catch and current, this entry is likely to stand out given its position in the running order to a number of very different entries, even though the early position in the running order is not especially helpful. After a long period in the Eurovision doldrums, Austria have had some very good results in the past few years (overlooking discretely 2015’s nils points) and this could well add to these, although – like Serbia – this is by no means a guaranteed qualifier.

Past Qualification: ** (3 out of 7 attempts), Bookies: ***, Prediction Model: **, Running Order: **, AK Rating: ***

3. Macedonia: Dance Alone – Jana Burceska. This is one of the most radio-friendly entries in this year’s contest and stormed towards the top of the betting odds when it was first released in March. But it is a difficult entry to perform live and these difficulties pose a tough (but not impossible) challenge for Macedonia in terms of getting out of this semi final. Jana is not helped by being 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. (Ironically, it would have avoided this fate had Russia not withdrawn from the contest back in April.)

Past Qualification: ** (5 out of 13 attempts), Bookies: **, Prediction Model: ***, Running Order: *, AK Rating: ****

4. Malta: Breathlessly – Claudia Faniello. In February, before their national selection, it looked as if Malta could be serious contenders to do well in Eurovision, with some exceptionally strong entries in the selection from Brooke Borg and Janice. The song that did win, however, is unlikely to fare well in this contest. Like Georgia in Semi Final 1, it is undoubtedly very well performed by Claudia Faniello, but the song just lacks the impact to grab the voters’ attention, especially when performed this early in the running order. It’s not without its chances, however – a very high ranking from the juries could yet save Breathlessly – but the big ballad cull in Semi Final 1 does not bode well for Malta’s chances if a similar cull is replicated in this semi final.

Past Qualification: *** (6 out of 11 attempts), Bookies: *, Prediction Model: **, Running Order: **, AK Rating: **

5. Romania: Yodel It! – Ilinca ft. Alex Florea. This involves yodeling. And rapping. An unusual mix and undoubtedly the closest thing we have this year to a novelty act. Unlike the dirge of bad novelty acts we had in 2008, this is not a bad thing for 2017, given the glut of competent, yet over-earnest (but often quite dull) acts in this year’s contest. And it’s definitely not a bad thing when performed with conviction and quality. If you are going to have yodeling at Eurovision, then you want really good yodeling and the very talented Ilinca offers some of the best yodeling you’ll ever hear. This is going to continue Romania’s perfect record in terms of semi final qualifications since 2004 and could be a dark horse to finish in the Top 5 on Saturday night.

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

6. The Netherlands: Light and Shadows – OG3NE. The song itself is not especially amazing and this initially, when based solely on the radio version, struggled in terms of the betting odds. But this does have an extra degree of sparkle when it is performed live and the Dutch odds started to narrow notably once OG3NE hit the preview parties and started to perform this live and the odds have narrowed further since rehearsals commences over a week ago, moving this from likely non-qualifier to probable qualifier. Some commentators think this could be a good tip for a Top 10 finish…mind you, the same thing was said about Finland… But this is more than likely to add to the very good recent record of one of Eurovision’s most improved countries, especially given that this is statistically the best position to get in the First Half running order in a Eurovision semi final.

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

7. Hungary: Origo – Joci Papai. After yodeling and rap from Romania, we now get a mixture of folk and rap from Hungary and in some ways this almost feels like a throw back to the ethnic entries that dominated in the mid-2000s. During the 2010s Hungary have tended to nearly always qualify and the betting odds suggest that this entry will also make it through to the Final. But again, like Austria, this is by no means a 100% certainty and it is worth noting that shock non-qualifiers Finland performed in the (un)lucky No.7 position in the running order in Semi Final 1.

Past Qualification: **** (8 out of 10 attempts), Bookies: ***, Prediction Model: ***, Running Order: ***, AK Rating: ***

8. Denmark: Where I Am – Anja. Having somewhat controversially missed out last year (with an entry that could have been a contender to win Eurovision itself), Anja Nissen – winner of The Voice Australia in 2014 – finally gets the chance to represent Denmark at Eurovision. Some commentators do not particularly like the song, but it does acutally build quite nicely and works well in terms of the Eurovision stage, especially as it allows Anja to give full rein to her exceptional vocal talents, especially in the final verse. Denmark – following on their win in 2013 – have failed to qualify over the past two years, but this should be a case of third time luck for the Danes. This is quality.

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

9. Ireland: Dying To Try – Brendan Murray. This is a ballad, but the unusual structure of the song does mark a break away from the traditional Irish ballads and does give this year’s entry potentially an added element of drama, especially if Brendan can nail the vocals on Thursday night (and, more importantly, Wednesday night), It is very hard to get a real sense of Ireland’s chances this year, although – as always – Ireland does face a tough struggle to make it out of the semi finals. Some commentators find Dying To Try boring and don’t see Ireland as being in contention to make it to the Final, but other commentators love the song and really love Brendan’s unusual vocal range This marmite quality might not be a bad thing if there enough people really loving the song to translate into Eurovision jury/televote points – at Eurovision it is better to be part loved and part hated than to be “sort of liked” by everyone. The position in the running order is not bad by any means – it is the latest position that could be given to an act drawn to perform in the First Half – and acts perform from this running order position across the last five semi-finals (2015, 2016 and 2017 Semi Final 1) have all gone on to qualify. The staging – featuring Brendan in a hot air balloon – has been given a bit more thought this year, in contrast to some recent Irish Eurovision performances. But the betting odds are not favourable to Ireland (and they’re not improving either) and the odds were extremely accurate in predicting the qualifiers from Semi Final 1.

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

10. San Marino Spirit Of The Night – Valentina Monetta and Jimmie Wilson. As with Serhat last year, San Marino again bring the fun element to Eurovision with this dance entry. This will be appreciated by the Eurovision fans in Kyiv and is probably Semi Final’ 2’s answer to Montenegro’s Slavko. That aside, this does sound very dated and is unlikely to bring San Marino to the Final for only the second ever occasion.  None of the countries competing in Eurovision 2017 have a worse qualification record than San Marino (the Czechs have competed on fewer occasions) and this record will not be improved on this year.

Past Qualification: * (1 out of 7 attempts), Bookies: *, Prediction Model: *, Running Order: ****, AK Rating: *

11. Croatia: My Friend – Jacques Houdek. Crikey. There will be some buzz around Romania and San Marino in this semi final, but if any Semi Final 2 entry is likely to break Twitter then it’s going to be this one! This involves a duet (in different languages) in which only one man (wearing a, er unusual, jacket to illustrate this) sings. It’s different. Whether different good or different bad remains to be seen. The juries may not go for this, but this could fascinate the televoters. Then again, the same was said about Montenegro in Semi Final 1 and that failed to qualify…  If Ireland is borderline qualifiers on Thursday night, this could well be one of the acts that Brendan Murray needs to edge past if he’s to make it to the Final.

Past Qualification: *** (5 out of 10 attempts), Bookies: **, Prediction Model: **, Running Order: *, AK Rating: **

12. Norway: Grab The Moment – JOWST. Norway have been relatively successful at Eurovision in recent years. They did fail to qualify last year, with a song that I would consider to be much better than this year’s entry, but the general consensus amongst Eurovision commentators/based on the betting odds is that Norway will be back in the Final this year. (Although, again – and this is a pretty recurring theme with this semi final – it is not a 100% certainty to qualify.) It is a pretty contemporary entry and it’s generally quite imaginatively staged…but I’m not a big fan of this.

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

13. Switzerland: Apollo – Timebelle. I’ve been a fan of Timebelle – and their lead singer, Miruna Manescu – since they narrowly missed out at the Swiss selection in 2015 and finally, this year, they have earned the ticket to Eurovision. Switzerland have struggled in the contest during the 2000s, but Timebelle are helped by the fact that they feature two Romanian nationals (including Miruna) in their lineup and Romania’s jury and Romania’s televoters do get to vote in this semi final (meaning Switzerland could well get up to 24 points off Romania, which would make qualification a decidedly stronger prospect) – as do the Romanian diaspora in other European countries. And no other act has worked the Eurovision previews and promotional circuit harder. I like the song and the act. But Switzerland may have gone OTT in the yellows (especially with Miruna’s dress) and the pinks in the staging of this.

Past Qualification: * (3 out of 12 attempts), Bookies: **, Prediction Model: **, Running Order: ***, AK Rating: ****

14. Belarus: Story Of My Life – Naviband. This is another act that could set Twitter alight on Thursday night, not that this is a novelty act by any means. Very happy/cheery, very charming and very catchy, this marks the first time that an act will perform in the Belarussian language on a Eurovision stage. Along with Italy and Portugal (and France…but not Spain, not Spain…), this is another act that marks somewhat of a reaction against the increasing dominance of English at the contest. Belarus have the worst qualification record out of all the Former Soviet states, but Naviband are definitely in contention to make the Final in the very open semi final, especially if the “disenfranchised” Russian diaspora opt to get behind them.

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

15. Bulgaria: Beautiful Mess – Kristian Kostov. After a long time in the doldrums, Bulgaria are building a reputation as a new Eurovision powerhouse on the back initially of some strong performances at Junior Eurovision and then a 4th place finish in last year’s Final thanks to Poli Genova. Not alone is this song expected to qualify for the Final, but it is also expected to be in contention to do very well in the Final. This very contemporary ballad, performed fearlessly by a very young Kristian Kostov, was second favourite, behind Italy, for a long period in the run up to this week before being overtaken by Portugal after last night’s semi final. A strong performance tonight/tomorrow night could well push Bulgaria back into serious contention to be, at least, one of a small number of serious challengers to Italy. If Romania does not win this semi final, then Bulgaria look well placed to do so…

Past Qualification: * (2 out of 10 attempts), Bookies: *****, Prediction Model: *****, Running Order: ***, AK Rating: ****

16. Lithuania: Rain Of Revolution – Fusedmarc. Lithuania have had a good run of form in recent years in terms of semi final qualification, although they rarely do make the Top 10 in the Final. They did so last year and they looked well placed to build on that record in 2017 with a number of very good entries in the marathon of a Lithuanian national selection. This was not one of those good entries… Following on Switzerland 2015 and Denmark 2016, Lithuania 2017 is another case of where national selection contests go bad. For me, this is one of the weakest entries in this year’s contest – I’d only rank Spain below this. In a pretty strong field, this really should not be in contention to qualify but it does have a late position in the running order and the strength of the Lithuanian Diaspora vote means that their chances of making the Final cannot be discounted fully…yikes.

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

17. Estonia: Verona – Koit Toome and Laura. 1996…1999…2001…2015… Estonia has a very good record when it comes to duets at Eurovision – in fact they never fail to do well when they sent a duet to Eurovision…and this edgy, classy, Romeo and Juliet-inspired entry from Laura Polvere and Koit Toome is likely to add to that strong history. For me, Estonia is one of my favourite Eurovision countries – they have an excellent national selection contest, the Eesti Laul, and they always send something interesting to Eurovision, even though they often do not succeed in terms of making the Final. With a really good position in the running order and an act that can only stand out when sandwiched between Lithuania and Israel, it would be a major shock if Estonia are not in the Final on Saturday night.

Past Qualification: ** (5 out of 13 attempts), Bookies: ****, Prediction Model: ****, Running Order: *****, AK Rating: ****

18. Israel: I Feel Alive – Imri. In a year dominated by competent and worthy ballads, Eurovision fans were hoping that Israel would send an Eastern-infused dance track to Eurovision and Israel did not disappoint. This is not as good as 2015’s Golden Boy by any means, but it might be enough to send Israel to the Final for the third year in a row, especially given that they have the best possible position in the semi final running order. But… This same position in the running order was not enough to save Latvia on Tuesday night. But… Commentators have issues with Imri’s live vocals and this could be an issue, especially with the Jury vote. But… Israel do not have many “friends” when it comes to Eurovision voting and one of their better friends in the original semi final draw, Russia, has withdrawn and won’t be voting. Here we go again… Again, like Austria and Hungary, like Norway and Belarus, this is by no means a 100% certainty to qualify for the Final.

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

Top 10 based on Past Semi Final Qualification Record: 1. Romania, 2. Hungary, 3. Serbia, 4. Norway, 5. Denmark, 6. Lithuania, 7. Malta, 8. Croatia, 9. Israel, 10. Ireland (Only six of the Semi Final 2 countries on this list made it to the Final. Thirs-ranked Serbia failed to qualify.)

Top 10 based on Bookie Odds to Qualify out of Semi Final 1: 1. Bulgaria, 2. Romania, 3. Netherlands, 4. Estonia, 5. Denmark, 6. Hungary, 7. Israel, 8. Austria, 9. Belarus, 10. Norway (The bookie odds were very accurate predictors in Semi Final 1, as 9 of the countries on this list made it to the Final. Croatia, the only country not on this list (replacing Estonia!!!), probably also crept into the Top 10 of the betting odds during the live show.)

Top 10 based on Semi Final 1 Running Order Positions (Average Number of Points per Running Order Position at Semi Final contests between 2008 and 2016): 1. Israel, 2. The Netherlands, 3. Ireland, 4. Belarus, 5. Norway, 6. Estonia, 7. Switzerland, 8. San Marino, 9. Hungary, 10. Lithuania (Running order did not seem to be very influential in Semi Final 2, especially given that the second last country in the Semi Final 2 running order failed to qualify (as also happened in Semi Final 1).)  

Top 10 based on AK Prediction Model Estimates 1.Bulgaria, 2. Denmark3. Romania, 4. Serbia, 5. Estonia, 6. The Netherlands, 7. Hungary, 8. Israel, 9. Norway, 10. FYR Macedonia (Not bad, but not great. Predicting 7 of the 10 qualifiers, with two of the Top 5 countries on this list not making it to the Final.)

My Own Personal Favourites – Top 10: 1. Romania, 2. Denmark, 3. Switzerland, 4. Estonia, 5. Bulgaria, 6. FYR Macedonia, 7. Ireland, 8. Israel, 9. Serbia, 10. Hungary (Semi Final 2 was a bloodbath for a number of my own personal favourites/the songs I personally liked the most. Only 5 of my Top 10 made it to the Final. 8 out of 10 did so in Semi Final 1.)

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