Following on from the first semi-final on Tuesday, tonight, it was the turn of those drawn in the second semi-final to take to the stage and compete for the support of the public and juries for the right to appear in the final on Saturday.
Hosts Stefan Raab, Anke Engelke and Judith Rakers said their hellos to the viewers and did their best to perform a potentially dull task, that of explaining the rules, in an interesting way.
The introductory postcards continued in the style of showing people from each competing country who have made their life in Germany. Then it was time for the songs.
Bosnia – Dino Merlin – Love in Rewind – Opening the songs was Eurovision veteran, Dino Merlin, who has written Bosnian entries before, including 1999, which he also performed. His experience showed, as there were no signs of nerves. It is a simple song which required a simple presentation, but the stage was very busy. There was a man with a trumpet who had some mad dance moves and a keyboard player who looked as if she had never sat at a keyboard before.
Austria – Nadine Beiler – The Secret Is Love – The Austrians returned with a song that could have been recorded by an X-Factor winner. Close your eyes and it is easy to picture the gospel choir being revealed in a burst of light as the winner belts out the future Christmas No. 1. As for Nadine, her voice was in fine shape, and her short black dress wouldn’t have lost her any votes. Nadine coped well with the vocally demanding song. A poor result for Austria would possibly see another sabbatical from the contest for them.
The Netherlands – 3JS – Never Alone – The Dutch have only qualified once since the semi-finals were introduced, in 2004. Since then, they have tried many different styles in an effort to reach the final. This time, it is the turn of the all male trio. Their song delivers less than it promises and the feeling remained that it wasn’t going to be a good year for the Dutch yet again.
Belgium – Witloof Bay – With Love Baby – Everyone likes to try to predict which countries will qualify for the final. The Belgian song was one of the hardest to call. The acapella style would either be ignored completely or go down an absolute storm. It was more likely to be the reaction of the juries, who often see things differently from the rest of us, that would seal the fate of Witloof Bay. There was some well executed, integrated choreography between the six vocalists.
Slovakia – TWiiNS – I’m Still Alive – Next, it was the turn of the first set of twins on show tonight. I’m Still Alive sounds as if it comes from the High School Musical soundtrack. The vocals featured a lot of harmonies and so a good performance from the girls was essential. Some doubted the girls’ ability to do this, but they delivered, just.
Ukraine – Mika Newton – Angel – Ukraine has never failed to qualify for the final. The presentation featured sand artist, Kseniya Simonova, who created pictures in sand on an LED backdrop as Mika sang. On paper, the idea sounds as if it would only be a negative addition. However, it actually worked very well and probably sealed the deal.
Moldova – Zdob Si Zdub – So Lucky – Zdob Si Zdub brought with them a straight rock song, but couldn’t resist creating a distraction by wearing traditional Moldovan hats the size of small pyramids. The risk was that this could as easily have worked against them as for them. It was another busy performance that included a flute playing unicyclist.
Sweden – Eric Saade – Popular – Eric’s routine is high energy and the staging features the breaking of a glass cage, so sympathies lay with the stage hands responsible for clearing it all up. His song is the kind that doesn’t go down as well as it used to, so would the gimmick have the desired effect? The volume mix between vocal and backing track seemed uneven.
Cyprus – Christos Mylordou – San Aggelos s’agapisa – The Cypriot song was the most ethnic of all those on show tonight. The beautiful ballad was given a more than decent performance and Christos certainly deserved to reach the final, but would he?
Bulgaria – Poli Genova – Na Inat – A strong rock song in the shape of Georgia qualified on Tuesday, so there was plenty of optimism that Bulgaria would follow. The performance didn’t let the song down so there was no reason to suggest the voters would, it looked like being all white on the night for Poli.
Macedonia – Vlatko Ilievski – Rusinka – Tonight’s semi-final is considered to be the stronger of the two. In that case, Vlatko could consider himself very lucky if he was one of the final ten. The rock song is bland in comparison to what viewers had just heard and his performance lacked any charisma.
Israel – Dana International – Ding Dong – The Diva returns! Those who remember the 1998 winner would have heard what is essentially a slower version of that song. The intro is good and raises hopes of what may follow, but which are not fulfilled. The fans adore it, no question about that, but…………………
Slovenia – Maja Keuc – No-One – Slovenia’s was one of the stronger ballads of the night and was well performed. At times, the camera direction left her lost in the large arena. It sounded a bit lacklustre at the start, but it all came good by the end.
Romania – Hotel FM – Change – With a British lead singer at the helm, Romania’s song was lively and catchy. It was one of the favourites to qualify for the final. Lots of smiles indicated no lack of confidence and this was reflected in the performance of their optimistic, up-tempo song.
Estonia – Getter Jaani – Rockefeller Street – A vision in pink greeted viewers as the camera focused on Getter. Her performance could be described as magical, especially as she successfully performed a trick of changing her duster type cloth into a cane.
Belarus – Anastasia Vinnikova – I Love Belarus – Patriotism and national pride were to the fore. This was the most instant song of the night and it was boosted by lots of pyrotechnics. If all that is needed to reach the final was to have a memorable song, Anastasia seemed a sure-fire qualifier.
Latvia – Musiqq – Angel in Disguise – Musiqq took us back to the 1980’s with a production very much of that era. The rap could have been left out, but didn’t take the shine off completely. Mercifully, the staging was minimalistic, letting one of the most tuneful songs of the show promote itself without distraction.
Denmark – A Friend In London – New Tomorrow – The Danish lead singer looked as if he was trying to compete within the Irish brothers for worst hair of the night. The beginning of their pop/rock song sounded nervy and uncertain. However, by the start of the second verse, confidence had started to flow and the vocals improved.
Ireland – Jedward – Lipstick – The Irish were full of hope for their most famous twins. There had clearly been lots of rehearsal and the boys knew what they had to do. It was noticeable that there were lots of long-distance camera shots which allowed viewers to focus on all the activity taking place on the video wall. Surely this wasn’t designed to detract from the vocal inadequacies of the lead singers, was it? Maximum points would have been guaranteed if United Kingdom had been voting in this semi-final. It wasn’t, and this could have been decisive.
For those countries that were voting tonight, there was an opportunity to hear a clip of each song again. In fact, there were several opportunities! After the phone lines had closed, there were clips of the ‘Big 5’ so that these songs wouldn’t be totally unfamiliar come Saturday night. Then, Lena was interviewed briefly. Then, the moment everyone had been waiting for.
The first country revealed as in the final was Estonia, followed by Romania, then Moldova, Ireland, Bosnia, Denmark, Austria, Ukraine, Slovenia and Sweden.