We’re getting near the end of our series of Eurovision previews – today we’ve got the last three countries who’ll be taking part in the second semi-final a week today. Today’s blog not only previews them, it also takes a look at who the bookies have got odds on making it through to next Saturday’s final. We’ll start the previews today with Norway. It’s been a funny few years for the Norwegians: in 2009, they won with a record score; then in 2010 as hosts they finished near the bottom in the final; and then last year, somewhat surprisingly, the failed to qualify from the semis. This year one suspects they’ll be back in the game, as they send Iranian-born singer Tooji, singing Stay. There’s a bit too much farty noise going on the background early on. There’s also an Eastern trill riff nicked direct from Beyonce’s Naughty Girl. Which of course quoted the late Donna Summer. So, in a way, topical.
Fundamentally it’s the sort of power pop that the Scandinavians specialise in, and I’d be very surprised not to see Tooji amongst the contenders in the final. The penultimate country performing next Thursday will be Bosnia and Herzegovina. They’ve done consistently well in recent years, coming sixth last year. This year they’ve sent Maya Sar (who played keyboard backing on Dino Merlin’s entry last year), performing Korake Ti Znam, or “I Know Your Steps” (which sounds like reassurance given by a professional to their celebrity partner on Strictly). In one of those deeply inscrutable music videos, Maya performs on her piano in a factory and on the back of a train, whilst a random bloke with a couple of donkeys wanders about with a giant treble clef. Like you do.
It’s a solid, and very 1990s-sounding, ballad – it’s placing near the end of the running order should give it an extra fillip when it comes to qualification. As for Maya herself, she’s done a lot of really good work in the fight against cervical cancer, which in my book makes her a very good egg indeed.
On to the 36th and final semi-finalist in this year’s Eurovision Song Contest, Lithuania. Lithuania still have only one Top 10 finish to their name, and that was with the joke entry We Are the Winners back in 2006. Since then, they’ve tended to alternate between not qualifying for the final, and qualifying, but finishing well down the running order. This year they’ll be pinning their hopes on Donatas Montvydas, or as he’s better known, Donny Montell. With a name that sounds like that of a 90s R&B artist, and the appearance of a 12-year-old, Donny spends the early part of this song (which keeps promising to turn into One Night Only, but doesn’t quite deliver) blindfolded. Because, you see, Love Is Blind.
There’s a decent disco number that never makes it out in that song. Frustrating, and again will need to rely heavily on its placing in the running order to make it through.
And that’s it for the semis. 36 countries previewed, of which 20 will make it through to the final. But which 20? You may well have formed your own opinions based on what you’ve seen and heard, but what do the bookies think? Well, currently the semi-final odds would suggest that the following countries will make it through:
1st Semi-Final – Denmark, Romania, Russia, Iceland, Greece, Ireland, Moldova, Cyprus and Albania, with a tight squeeze between Israel and Switzerland for the one remaining place
2nd Semi-Final – Sweden, Serbia, Norway, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Turkey, Estonia, Ukraine, Slovenia and Belarus, with a toss-up between Slovakia, Croatia and Macedonia as to who gets the other place.
Of course things rarely run to form, so expect one or two rank outsiders to win a place in the final (although possibly not San Marino).
But whilst we can’t be sure about twenty of this year’s finalists, we can be sure about the other six, as Azerbaijan and the “Big Five” – France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK – all have automatic places in the final. So for the last two parts of this year’s preview, we’ll be taking a look at their entries for this year, in the order in which they’ve been drawn. And that means next time we’ll have our own effort from Engelbert, plus France and Italy.