Just as the debate around the first semi-final was dying down, it was time to do it all over again in the second semi-final, arguable the stronger of the two.
The show opened with a dance routine performed by a troupe called Urban Orchestra, whose routine fused the traditional and the modern by showcasing the old and the new methods of making music. The ‘platform’ they danced on for the orchestral section of the dance metamorphosed into a computer. Host Petra Mede then welcomed the audience in a similar way to the first semi-final and it was on to the music!
Latvia – PeR – Here We Go – Is it rock or is it rap? Who cares? It was hard to take your eyes of the lead ‘vocalist’ dressed as he seemed to be in bacofoil with added glitter. The audience could listen to this safe in the knowledge that things were sure to get better. It was a very long three minutes.
San Marino – Valentina Monetta – Crisalide – Hang on a minute, where did this come from? After decades of trying, Eurovision veteran composer Ralph Siegel has finally learned how to write a decent song. The Monetta/Siegel combination had its first outing last year for San Marino but was left behind in the semi-final. This year, the general consensus was that Crisalide would qualify at a canter. Her very strong performance would have helped a bit.
Macedonia – Esma and Lozano – Pred da se Razdeni – Pred da se Razdeni was the second song that was chosen for Esma and Lozano. The first one, although very popular with fans, didn’t go down well in Macedonia so it was changed. Lorenzo sang in English at the first rehearsal but switched to Macedonian thereafter. He took most of the attention while Esma, or Gypsy Rose Lee, as she could have been called, sort of floated in the background. Lorenzo took charge of the more cosmopolitan part of the vocal while Esma excelled in the gypsy chanting.
Azerbaijan – Farid Mammadov – Hold Me – The hosts of the 2012 contest came back strongly this year. The choreography on a clear box was totally unnecessary and having a dancer inside it acting as a mirror image of Farid was risky. That said, the powerful instrumental break after only the first chorus was very effective and took the song up a notch early.
Finland – Krista Siegfrids – Marry Me – And the award for worst lyrics goes to…..Finland! Krista was adorned in one of the most inappropriate wedding dresses ever designed and, although she tried her best, the whole thing was twee and irritating. The three ‘male’ backing dancers transformed themselves into bridesmaids near the end. The blatant political statement at the end of the performance should have resulted in disqualification if rules were to be adhered to, but all things considered, that was never likely to happen.
Malta – Gianluca – Tomorrow – The Maltese song tells the story of a lonely man finally finding love in a chirpy style. Gianluca couldn’t stop smiling as he presented his George Formby- in-sombre mood style ditty.
Bulgaria – Elitsa and Stoyan – Samo Shampioni – Fan favourites from previous contests have returned after a successful foray into the contest only to walk away with their tails between their legs, Dana International and Selma to name but two. Would the same fate fall on the Bulgarian couple? Possibly. As with Macedonia, what was heard tonight was the replacement for the original choice. The overall sound and generous use of drums was very similar to their previous effort. There was plenty of stage presence, but would that be enough?
Iceland – Eypor Ingi Gunnlaugsson – Eg a Lif – Things calmed down a bit with the arrival of the Icelandic song on the stage. The Icelandics seem to know how to make very effective use of the video wall, and this year was no exception, with a beautiful coastal scene complimenting the atmosphere on stage. The preview video was one of the best, too.
Greece – Koza Mostra feat. Agathon Iakovidis – Alcohol is Free – So that’s why the country is bankrupt! Anyway, do you want to have fun? Do you want to dance? Do you want to sing along? Then your time has come, my friends! The Greeks are among the biggest culprits when it comes to a vastly overblown stage presentation of a song, but this year, although there was plenty going on, it seemed to work in a bizarre way. A good thing too, as the song doesn’t scrub up to much when only listened to.
Israel – Moran Mazor – Rak Bishvilo – Tempting though it is to say she should have gone to Specsavers, that would be unfair. Moran has one of the best voices in the contest, and one of the best songs. It’s a big Israeli style ballad with all the emotional undercurrent you would expect from such a song that the Hebrew language is so good at expressing.
Armenia – Dorians – Lonely Planet – On the face of it, the Armenian entry has among the best credentials of any of the participants this year as it was written by Black Sabbath guitarist, Tony Iommi. However, the words have been heard a million times before and the melody, in as much as there is one, lacks a solid structure. As a result, it had to be one of the favourites to be dropped.
Hungary – ByeAlex – Kedvesem – Part of the charm of this song is the Hungarian language, it just wouldn’t have worked if he had sung in English. If the preview videos formed part of the scoring, there would be no doubt Hungary would be in the final and there was a lot of good feeling towards ByeAlex, but that is not always enough. What was performed was an alluring folk-like tune which had the audience clapping along with from the start. Had he borrowed Moran’s glasses?
Norway – Margaret Berger – I feed You my Love – Continuing the trend this year of the ladies dressing in white, Margaret brought with her a contemporary pop song. It would have been all too easy to create a stage show that would have been too dynamic, but the choreographer showed restraint. It was left to Margaret to deliver a strong vocal in order to sell the song and she repaid the faith put in her.
Albania – Adrian Lulgjuri and Bledar Sejko – Identitet – There is an almost anthemic quality about Albania’s rock song. No-one could accuse the duo of not trying, there are even some Lordi style guitar pyrotechnics near the end to re-enforce the guitar solo. Both Adrian and Bledar strutted around like true rockers while their band played perched on platforms.
Georgia – Nodi Tatishvili and Sophie Gelovani – Waterfall – Written by Sweden’s Thomas G:Son, who is quickly becoming the new Ralph Siegel given his prolificacy and willingness to write for any country that will have him, Georgia’s ballad is of the ‘big’ variety. The pyrotechnic golden shower at the point when the song builds is predictable but effective. Other than that, Nodi and Sophie where left by themselves to get on with it.
Switzerland – Takasa – You and Me – The Swiss were one of the first nations to choose its entry. Relief all round then when the oldest person ever to perform on the Eurovision stage, 95 year old Emil, managed to survive to fulfil his obligation. The group changed their name and their Salvation Army uniforms to give themselves greater appeal. The song is a jaunty, memorable tune that is easy to sing along to, even after it has finished. Always a good sign.
Romania – Cezar – It’s my Life – Pop-opera anyone? Cezar’s voice is remarkable but he was very close to the point of being over dramatic in his vocal gymnastics, facial expressions and hand gestures. There was nothing understated about his ‘Dracula in camp mode’ cloak, either.
After the songs had been reprised, Petra continued her voyage through the history of the contest that she started on Tuesday and which will conclude on Saturday. After a second reprise of the entries, Swedish singer Darin got the audience jumping. He was swiftly followed by another Swedish songstress, Agnes, a former winner of Swedish Idol.
It was time for the results and there were some major
surprises in store. The ten countries who qualified were: Hungary, Azerbaijan,
Georgia, Romania, Norway, Iceland, Armenia (greeted with boos from the
audience) Finland, Malta and Greece. Many predicted San Marino was virtually a
certainty for the final. who would claim to be an expert now?