Before we move to the semi final two lineup, let's take a moment to remember our fallen 8 - the first casualties of this year's contest. First up is Georgia, which despite being Tamara's strongest performance of Keep The Faith yet, was unable to overcome the graveyard slot of 2nd. I also believe that Poland's Kasia Mos absorbed her votes with a similar presentation later in the running order. Albania's Lindita, one of my favourite contestants of the year, unsurprisingly didn't capture the hearts of viewers (or the jurors, probably) with a very abstract and intense performance - which I happened to enjoy but hey. We then had the bonkers but oh-so wonderful Slavko from Montenegro, who presents the queer-est entry of the year...unfortunately the weakness of the track itself let him down. He was still the talk of the Twittersphere (along with Moldova and Portugal), so I guess that's a win in some kinda way...
As many expected, Iceland, the Czech Republic and Slovenia did not qualify despite giving some of the strongest vocal performances of the night. Conversely, we had two shock non-qualifiers in the form of Finland and Latvia, two of my personal faves and 'likely qualifiers'. It appears that many of my fellow Eurovision fans agreed with me, taking to Youtube and Twitter to express their disgust, particularly in the case of Finland. It breaks my heart because a) the final could've really done with both of them and b) they both gave stronger performances than some of those that did qualify (*cough* Australia *cough*). Regardless, most of my faves did make it and the silver lining is that they have still acquired new fans across the world and gigs in the coming years related to the contest, so everyone wins!
Now, let's look ahead to the line up for semi final 2:
Unlike semi final 1, there is far more variety - pretty much every song is totally different and special in its own way - both tonally and sonically - and thus has its own devout fanbase willing it through (yes, even Lithuania).
The definite qualifier
Bulgaria: Kristian Kostov - Beautiful Mess
Interestingly, I can see only one clear qualifier from this semi final and it's Bulgaria. After a string of disappointing results (#JusticeforNaInat) and a break, we saw Poli Genova come through with a top 4 finish last year with the ever-fantastic If Love Was A Crime (seriously, what a song). This is a rare case of my love for the delegation exceeding that of both the artist and the song - but I like it enough to will it on. Beautiful Mess is an example of a genre I don't care for (male-sung ballads) executed impeccably. With a wealth of experience [insert patronising comment about him 'only being 17], it is no surprise that Kristian is an absolute pro, so I'm not concerned about the staging. I can see this winning the semi-final with ease, or at least the jury vote. However, at this point I'm not entirely convinced that it will beat Poli's result from last year...
Will probably also go through/these BETTER go through...
Romania: Ilinca and Alex Florea - Yodel It!
This. Has. To. Qualify. Not only is it one of the most fun entries in recent memory (let alone this year's contest), but it is also a quality song. In a year of balladry, this sticks out for all the right reasons and never fails to put a smile on my face. The fusion of pop and yodelling has always been risky in a Eurovision context...add in [admittedly shoddy] rap to the mix and you have a recipe for disaster...EXCEPT it ends up being completely genius. It helps that the wonderful Ilinca sells the hell out of this, along with Alex, who's limited abilities as a rapper somehow enhance the song further, as does their on-stage chemistry. I can easily see this as a runaway televote winner, I just hope the juries don't decide to kill it!
The Netherlands: O'G3NE - Lights and Shadows
I'm a sucker for harmonies so this one has a special place in my heart this year, especially due to the lack of vocal harmony groups that have participated in the contest over the years. A tribute to their mother in the midst of health issues; the O'G3NE sisters radiate light and positivity in a genuine way. A song that could very easily be soppy and twee ends up feeling empowering, especially when performed live. The only thing that lets this down for me (hence why it isn't a surefire qualifier for me) is the visual side of the performance; the way the girls are styled ages them unnecessarily and the staging itself adds nothing to the song and makes it appear more cheesy that it actually is. As long as their harmonies are on point, I'm sure this'll qualify regardless of the staging.
Hungary: Joci Pápai - Origo
Those who saw what I had to say about Portugal's entry in my semi 1 prediction post will know how much I adore songs not sung in English, and Hungary's Origo is no exception. Much like Amar Pelos Dois however, it isn't just the linguistic factor that sets this apart from the rest; Joci's passionate delivery and the hypnotic Hungarian/~'ethnic'~ production makes it one of the most striking entries of the year. It is also striking from a visual perspective; Hungary utilise the satellite stage in the middle of the crowd by positioning a violinist there whilst Joci is joined by a traditional Hungarian dancer on the main stage. The addition of the rap verse may appear dangerous in a competitive context, but the catchiness of the chorus hook more-than redeems that for even the pop-purists watching at home. I view this as a potential contender for top 10 if all goes well and Joci can control his nerves.
Estonia: Koit Toome and Laura - Verona
I know I've said this a number of times already but this might actually be my favourite entry of the year. It started off as a half-ironic enjoyment of this as it made its way through Eesti Laul (the Estonian selection contest, FYI), but by the time the final rolled around, it had evolved into straight-up admiration. I love just about everything about this entry and there's a long list of reasons why; the facial expressions, the lack of chemistry between Koit and Laura (be it intentional or that the rumours of them secretly hating each other is actually true), the ridiculousness of the lyrics ('this Western type of woman, Western type of man/ disappeared in Verona' being a highlight...or just the fact that it's a brilliant, feel-good track? It's simply genius. WE ARE LOST (I will certainly be lost if this misses the final)!
Austria: Nathan Trent - Running On Air
I'll be completely honest with you, the only reason why this is a borderline qualifier for me is because it's super basic and I am secretly hoping that some other (better) songs can edge it out. That said, I really like Nathan and he certainly sells this as best as he can. If anything, Nathan's vocals and stage presence will help this song do a lot better than it deserves to. Judging it as a package, I can see the appeal; it's accessible, it's positive, it's fun and it adds some much needed light to what will most likely be quite a heavy finale judging by the semi 1 qualifiers. The fact that it is 2nd in the running order could hurt it, but I can still see it pull through in 9th or something...
Belarus: Naviband - Historyja macho žyccia (Story Of My Life)
It's no coincidence that I put this immediately after Running On Air - I view them as direct competitors stylistically and I reckon only one of them will lap up the audience they target. That said, there is room in the final for both. For me this edges Austria out in a number of ways; it isn't in English AND boasts the honour of bringing Belarusian to the Eurovision stage for the very first time, thus introducing a new language to the contest in a year where only 8 entries contain non-English lyrics (how 'diverse'...) It is also far less twee than Running On Air, mainly because Navi ooze fun and passion in a way that is both infectious and authentic. I would really love to see this take off with the public because I fear that the jury may kill its chances.
IMRI - I Feel Alive
This is a bit of a tricky one; before witnessing the results of the first semi-final, I would've put this through immediately, but after seeing Latvia's non-qualification, I've become a lot more skeptical about the power of the closing slot. Add this with Imri's consistently shakey vocals during rehearsals and we have another potential non-qualifier on our hands. However, Imri's staging is strong and the physicality of his performance in addition to the dance-y nature of the track may well see it through to the final...after all, if a bum note couldn't kill Australia's chances (grrrr), then perhaps the same will apply for Israel?
Could scrape through...
Norway: JOWST - Grab The Moment
With Lativa's infuriating non-qualification, there is a massive gap in the grand final for a ~cool~ entry, a gap I could see JOWST filling quite nicely with this slice of Nordic electropop. Despite being a slow-burner from a sonic perspective, the modern and edgy nature of the staging looks set to pop in comparison to the dated staging of Switzerland's Timebelle, while the wackiness of Croatia's My Friend could potentially score it some extra points from televoters. However, have two major concerns with this; there is a risk of the lack of technical showmanship costing it valuable jury points, and I'm not convinced that it will stand out enough for televoters to save it from non-qualification if that is the case.
Croatia: Jacques Houdek - My Friend
Remember what I said about gaps? Well, Slavko's non-qualification left a huge gap in the final for a 'totally-bonkers-but-so-bonkers-it-kinda-works' entry. I'm gonna catch a lot of hate for saying this but I quite like this entry - it never fails to stop me in my tracks. I view myself as a Eurovision fan that appreciates entries that take risks, and there are plenty of risks here; the level of skill required to go from pop to opera and back-and-forth like Jacques does it incredibly demanding, the staging is revolting, Jacques will be off-putting for many televoters and the song is incredibly cheesy (yes, even for Eurovision). However, with risks comes a vital benefit - memorability and the generation of momentum, which may well push this through - to the disgust of many, I'm sure. Of course, this could also fall flat on its face - in which event I'll look a bit stupid...
PLOT TWIST: I genuinely don't believe that there are any entries in this semi final that don't have a genuine shot of qualification (well, minus San Marino, bless them). Serbia has a strong qualification record and a lot of respect among Eurovision fans (myself included, #Molitva4Life), however, the bland staging and its place in the running order could cost it dearly. I like both the song and Tijana herself, so I'd be happy to have this in the final. The same very much goes for [the former Yugoslavic Republic of] Macedonia's entry, the studio version of which happens to be one of my favourites in recent memory. Unfortunately, this is a song perfectly tailored for a great music video; although the strength of the video has helped it become a fan favourite, it has made Dance Alone all-the-more difficult to stage. As I suspected, the Macedonian delegation are presenting an inferior product to the music video, and as a result I can see this missing out on a spot in the final. I hope I'm wrong though...
Then we get to our remaining power ballads: Malta's Breathlessly, Denmark's Where I Am and Switzerland's Apollo. All three are fine entries, and I could realistically see one (and only one) sneak into the final. The issue is that many viewers will have already seen semi final 1 and thus would know that the last thing we need in the final are MORE power ballads...which puts these three in a tricky position. That said, all three of these women can serve a vocal like their lives depended on it, which could edge them into the final if either the juries or the voters take to their vocal performances. I would personally give Denmark the edge, but don't underestimate Claudia! Then we have Fusedmarc's Rain Of Revolution, which pretty much every commentator has ruled out entirely, but I have a sneaking suspicion that this will get closer to qualifying than people think...
Perhaps the most uncertain entry of all is Brendan Murray's Dying To Try for Ireland, which could really go either way; it will either take off completely and qualify with a strong jury vote or it could fall flat on its face like Nicky Byrne (deservedly) did last year...
Summary - my top 10 qualifiers
3. The Netherlands
Wildcard: Replace 7-10 with Denmark, Switzerland or Malta. I'm still rooting for my girl Jana tho!!
More so than Tuesday, I'm preparing myself to be massively incorrect and anticipating some shock qualifiers, for better or worse. I've always preferred this line-up due to the variety and fun within it, and as a result I could see some top 10 contenders from this semi take off in the grand final. [Rupaul voice] I can't wait to see how this turns out...