Eurovision 2014 – Semi Final One

Yes gentle reader, it’s that time of the year again. Amsterdam’s “Eurovision in Concert”, London’s preview party at the Café de Paris, Boom-Bang-a-Bang preview evenings in London and Manchester, they’ve all been and gone and Eurovision fans are now girding their loins and fanning their fervour as the magic week approaches. As in previous years, I’m going to introduce you to the songs in the order in which they will be performed on the night – the night in question for Semi Final One being Tuesday 6th May – bearing in mind this has been put together by Danish TV in an order they think makes a good show (and gives an unfair advantage to the countries of their choice). I’m also giving you the betting odds, courtesy of oddschecker.com (taking all the bookmakers who will give you the first four places each way, as at 15th April) and also giving each song a star rating out of 5. Here goes!

Armenia – Aram Mp3 – Not Alone

AramMP3And we hit the ground running with the song that has been the bookmakers’ favourite since the day betting started, and certainly before the song itself was chosen, which in itself is bizarre. Not Alone is a sombre, serious ballad with a rousing arrangement; but just when you think it’s going somewhere, it doesn’t quite. My initial reaction to it was that it was a snoozefest; nevertheless, and I like it more each time I hear it. Do you reckon Mr Mp3 thought his real name of Aram 45rpm sounded a bit outdated? I know people who love this song and other people who hate it. Mind you, I think I could say that about each of these songs. He performed at the London Preview Party and I was impressed by the “Mr Entertainment” vibe he gave off. Is he really only 30? He must have endured some hard winters in Yerevan. Evens to 15/8. ***

Latvia – Aarzemnieki – Cake to Bake

aarzemniekiIt’s a funny year. The first few songs I heard during this National Finals season were all silly. Flippant daft nonsense. Too silly to enjoy. I thought I’d wait till I heard the big songs from the big countries. Trouble is, they were all the same. Ploddy female ballads, mainly. So I found myself having to reappraise the silly songs. And I have to say, Cake to Bake is the silliest, but best, of the bunch, and probably of the year. I know that’s a controversial thing to say. But this is the only song that really lifts my heart and makes me want to sing along. And I rather like the premise that the poor chap can do all these extraordinary feats of intelligence and planning, like cleaning Central Park and reversing the law of gravity, but hasn’t a clue how to bake a cake. I can sympathise with that. Live, I think they’re a little ragged round the edges. Infectiously cheerful Jöran, the lead singer, is from Germany, hence the name of the group. Didn’t you know aarzemnieki is Latvian for foreigners? I think this is going to need all the self-raising flour it can get to qualify – but I love it. This too was performed in London – and from where I was standing, all I could see was the tops of their heads. 100/1 to 400/1 *****

Estonia – Tanja – Amazing

TanjaPeople are turning off this song because they say it’s too like Euphoria. No – Germany’s Glorious last year, that was too like Euphoria. I think this song has its own personality. It has a groovy clubby feel (not that I would know what that means) and it would certainly inspire me to create some interesting shapes on the dancefloor. It went down quite well at the London Preview party post-show disco. Mrs Chrisparkle found it instantly likeable too. Excellent eurofodder, with a strangely haunting atmosphere. 50/1 to 100/1 ****

Sweden – Sanna Nielsen – Undo

Sanna NielsenSo fan fave Sanna Nielsen finally makes it to Eurovision after what seems like decades of having stab after stab after stab. And after all the lovely songs she’s had in the past, she makes it with the criminally unrewarding “Undo”. There are the makings of a good song here I’m sure, but it’s just not there yet. To me it feels whingey and self-pitying. Of course, since winning Melodifestivalen, “undo my sad” has become “undo my sad love”, in a foolish attempt by people for whom English is not their first language to pretend that it is. But whereas “undo my sad” was quite yoof and street, “undo my sad love” hardly makes any sense at all. I’ve got a new version of the chorus if Sanna is interested – “Undo my sad, I’ve been quite bad, Now you’re a dad, Guess I’ve been had”. I think it has legs. 11/4 to 5/2 ***

Iceland – Pollapönk – No Prejudice

pollaponkThis song was complete drivel when it won the Icelandic National Final but since then it’s been French polished and given some clean straw to sleep in and now it’s not half so bad. Originally “no racism” it’s now the slightly less specific “no prejudice”, but I’m sure its heart is still in the right place. Performing from position 5 in a semi is about as bad as it gets though, so I don’t suppose we’ll see the Pullaplonkers on the Saturday night. 100/1 to 300/1 ***

Albania – Hersi Matmuja – One Night’s Anger

HersiOne Night’s Anger is rather an in-your-face no-holds-barred title for such a sweet sounding little song, although apparently it’s all about the dangers of letting anger guide one’s decisions, and the importance of thinking before reacting – so you have been warned. Hersi’s a graduate of the prestigious National Academy of St Cecilia in Rome, whose alumni include piano maestro Rachmaninov; so she ought to know her onions. The song doesn’t really do a lot for me, but Albanian songs rarely do, and the timbre of Hersi’s voice grates on me a little. One night’s anger might be how she reflects on failing to qualify on Wednesday morning. 80/1 to 250/1 **

Russia – Tolamchevy Sisters – Shine

Tolmachevy SistersJust what the Eurovision Song Contest needs – another song called “Shine”. Almost pointless their being there really, as I can’t imagine many countries are going to clasp Mother Russia to their hearts this year, seeing as how she’s generally behaving like a right old cow at the moment. At the age of 17, the Tolamchevies are old hands at this Eurovision lark, having won the Junior version back in 2006. The song is perfectly pleasant and I’m sure Mr Putin will be singing along to the lines, “sending out a message up above, telling all the world to show some love”. Five people are credited with creating this masterpiece including Russian volcano-lover Philipp Kirkorov and Maltese pop-creator Gerard James Borg. Bananarama-lite, this is going to sink deeper than Putin’s human rights record. 14/1 to 50/1 ***

Azerbaijan – Dilara Kazimova – Start A Fire

Dilara KazimovaI have a sneaking regard for this one. It ticks lots of the boxes and whilst never really becoming the sum of its parts, they’re quite good looking parts on the whole. Dilara’s got a great voice and she’s rather a sultry lass too. Too jazz-based for Eurovision perhaps? 1979’s Heute in Jerusalem resurrected for the modern era. It’s Azerbaijan, of course, so there’s probably already several hundred thousand votes in the bank before it started. Oops, did I say that out loud? #justjoking. 10/1 to 22/1 ***

Ukraine – Mariya Yaremchuk – Tick Tock

Mariya YaremchukMay I refer you back, gentle reader, to our earlier discussion regarding Latvia, when I said how I initially disliked all the early silly songs and then went back to them after I’d heard all the later dirgey ones. Well, this is one song where my initial impression hasn’t budged an inch. I don’t care for it at all. 21 year old Mariya’s performance at the London party was sexier than it ought to have been because although the lyrics are all about “lurve”, the tune, with its Tick Tock Title, is like a nursery rhyme. No doubt there’ll be some international border-incursion-based sympathy votes, but musically it’s vapid. 10/1 to 16/1 **

Belgium – Axel Hirsoux – Mother

Axel HirsouxHere’s a Marmite song if ever there was one. Three minutes of contrasting emotions to grapple with. Axel is a terrific singer, and it’s a stirring, memorable tune. In the cynical UK it’s going to go down like a lead waffle, this big girl’s blouse singing romantically about his mum. Unless, that is, you are a Saturday night, light entertainment-watching mother or grandmother yourself, because your heart will go all gooey at M. Hirsoux’s plaintive serenade, directed personally at you. I think it will also do well in countries where they don’t speak a lot of English, and they can’t understand quite how essentially icky the lyrics are. But all power to his larynx, he’s a great performer. And the Go Compare man had better fear for his job. 16/1 to 28/1 ***

Moldova – Cristina Scarlat – Wild Soul

Cristina ScarlatAlthough Cristina really gets into it and gives it all she’s got, I find this one as forgettable as bin bags on a shopping list. She’s a pretty scary lady with no feelings of mercy and I’m not sure Europe’s voters will have either. Without their friends in Romania voting for them in this semi-final, will it make it to Saturday? Whatever, I hope they tone down that rather irritating percussion. It’s louder than a deep scratch on an old 45. 66/1 to 300/1 **

San Marino – Valentina Monetta – Maybe

Valentina MonettaMaybe – Valentina will win; maybe – their chances are thin; maybe – pestilence will begin – before Ralph Siegel retires; maybe – they might qualify; maybe – expectations are high; but I fear – it’s Terminal One on Wednesday.

To be fair, it’s a grower, but that’s not very helpful when you want instant impact. And with Italy voting on the Second Semi, I don’t think it’s going to survive. Even the Social Network song had a bit of beep beep to it, but this is just drama by numbers. Sorry, because I do think Valentina’s an excellent performer, she just never has the chance to show us! 80/1 to 225/1 **

Portugal – Suzy – Quero Ser Tua

SuzyNow here’s a song that’s really gone up in my estimation since we went to the London Preview Party. Suzy’s a great entertainer, a stunning statuesque lady, and when she does the Suzyshake you can feel everything quiver. On paper it’s nothing much, but if she can nail the vocals on the Tuesday night it’s a real feel-good number. One of those songs where the chorus just blurts out of your mouth when you’re not expecting it. Poor Suzy only seems to have one dress, but at least it’s a nice one. 100/1 to 300/1 ****

The Netherlands – The Common Linnets – Calm After The Storm

The Common LinnetsAfter some Mediterranean sunshine, the Netherlands bring us back to earth with some Blue Grass moping. Dutch singer Ilse is a highly successful country singer in her own right and she has been united with Waylon to form The Common Linnets. Anyone who likes this kind of music is not going to be watching the Eurovision Song Contest in the first place. Having gone for Anouk last year, the Netherlands are continuing to specialise in providing the wrist-slitting opportunities for the evening. A drab dirge, I’m afraid. Perhaps the “Pizazzy Linnets” would have been more uplifting. Wasn’t Sandra Reemer available? 66/1 to 250/1 **

Montenegro – Sergej Cetkovic – Moj Svijet

Sergej CetkovicIn a year with a large Balkan contingent, this would have done really well. As it is, I still think it will produce Montenegro’s best result ever (not hard, as they have yet to qualify out of the semis). Twelve points from Albania will help. Sergej’s got a very relaxed style – perhaps a trifle too underplayed, as his presentation almost became boring at the London Party – Montenegro’s answer to Val Doonican, perhaps. This is no Lane Moje but it’s not bad at all, and it has a very satisfying video. 50/1 to 125/1 ****

Hungary – Andras Kallay-Saunders – Running

Andras Kallay SaundersFrom a gently lyrical song about love to a nifty ditty about child abuse. Who would expect that at the Eurovision? It’s a powerful song, and if you don’t watch the video or follow the lyrics, it’s very enjoyable, with the urgency of its chorus and its contemporary sound. I’m just not sure it’s Saturday night light entertainment material. New Yorker Andras had a song in last year’s Hungarian National Final too, so it was only a matter of time before he represented his maternal homeland. Hungary’s maintained a really high standard of songs over the past few years, and this is up amongst them. 10/1 to 16/1 ***

So there you have it, Semi Final One. Pick the bones out of that lot and tell me who’ll qualify. I think the likely non-qualifiers are: Iceland, Moldova, Netherlands, San Marino, Albania and Latvia. You can watch the Semi Final One in the UK on BBC3 at 8pm on Tuesday 6th May. Meanwhile, I’ll be back with my run-down of Semi Final Two on Wednesday!

4 thoughts on “Eurovision 2014 – Semi Final One

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