Impressions on the Jury 1st Semi Final

We have now seen the 16 countries competing in their 2nd dress rehearsal for the 1st semi final. Not only did we get to see what is in store for the televised program later today, the 2nd dress rehearsal is also when the juries from each country cast their vote. It is only when the countries perform one after another in the running order that one gets a better impression of whether entries look as if they work or not.

The show

Before looking back at each country, it must be mentioned that the ORF have put together a really beautiful show. The big news is that the live orchestra is back to Eurovision indeed, albeit for the opening of the show only: the introduction of Rise Like A Phoenix is heard before the background panel of the stage opens up to reveal the orchestra playing the tune, then Conchita appears on stage. She introduces the show in more ways than one, half way through singing last year’s winner, she goes down the steps and into the ‘green room’, which, like last year, it is fully visible below the stage. Conchita introduces each country, which, one by one, get one stage. After she finishes her song, she introduces the three female presenters. They all (that includes Conchita) do a rather good job of it and the opening of the show looks quite sleek and part of its success is down to the beautiful melody of anthemic Rise Like A Phoenix being used so prominently.

The countries


They have worked hard on their presentation. The intention was sexiness and, on occasion, this is achieved. However, the Moldovan presentation is sometimes on the verge of appearing funny (not in a nice way). I don’t think it is a bad song – a bit too reminiscent of 00’s boy band pop – but, from the beginning, no one seemed to be taking it seriously. That does not necessarily mean that the viewers will not like it though.


The choreography and performance as a whole looked much better last night. The idea sounded good on paper but, from the beginning, the song has failed to make me enthuse about it. I included it in my qualifier prediction because a) many viewers may warm up to the song’s message and b) Armenia normally progresses to the final. That does not mean that I did rightly so of course – Armenia is one of the countries I am not sure about.


This is one that most people think will easily make it to the final and I am one of them. Fresh and original, it manages to stand out in good way and Belgium has ended up with a polished presentation for their quirky song.

The Netherlands

It is the song that you wish you could easily say it will make it to the final but unfortunately cannot. Things seemed to be going in the wrong direction since the very beginning of rehearsals with this one. Too many ideas thrown into the presentation, without the delegation looking confident as to what to use and what not. Having said that, it looked remarkably better and congruent last night. Some predictions put the Netherlands very low in their estimated leaderboard; they may be proven correct in the end but the entry is on my ‘maybe’ list in regards to qualification.


Not a huge fan of punk/metal myself so you can gather that Finland is not one of my favourites. However I admire what the Finnish group are doing and the choice of presentation is correct. I am quite uncertain as to what its luck will be but included it in my qualifiers prediction because, overall, I guess that people will vote for it – not necessarily the Eurovision fans though…


I knew that Maria Elena would win the Greek final as soon as I saw her stage performance. I was a bit lukewarm about the choice of song, only because I felt that you had to wait too long before it reached its climax. I am now a convert though. Maria Elena’s performance is exquisite – she creates magic on stage with her vocals and elegant stage presence and I cannot wait to hear the melody of the song each time it comes on stage. As is the norm with Eurovision countries like Greece, there has been attention paid to detail with the exception of how the main singer is lit – Maria Elena’s beautiful face could still do with a stronger spotlight directed at it. I think that Greece will make it to the final again; the degree of its success will depend on how much of a phenomenon Finland will prove as their recap clip for the voting will be coming right before the Greek one and viewers may be preoccupied talking about the achievement of the Finnish group rather than vote for Greece.


One of the favourites from the beginning and quite rightly so. Even if you are not crazy about it, you cannot deny that Estonia’s is a beautiful song following a similar recipe to the one Dutch duo The Common Linnets used so successfully last year. I hate saying it but Stig, who is also the composer of the song, may be the weaker point of the Estonian entry as his vocal performance can sound a bit flat and he often looks laid back to the point of indifference. Having said that, both he and Elina look very classy on screen (Elina also sounds very good to me) and the presentation came together really well for the jury final. It should make it to the final and is widely expected to be up there somewhere on the grand final’s leaderboard.

F.Y.R. Macedonia

Many liked this song from the beginning. In my case, it has proven a slow burner but, musically, it is now one of my favourite songs this year and really enjoy listening to it when it comes up on my phone. Again, in theory, this should work: a good song and a charismatic performer as well as stage graphics which I personally like. Yet, for some reason, it looks as if this is not working as well as it could perhaps do; it looks uncertain as to where it is going presentationally and how. The performance is also inconsistent and I don’t like the new ending F.Y.R. Macedonia have chosen for the song – it is abrupt to the point when you don’t know whether it is just a musical pause. I would like to see it in the final but I am not sure I will and so I left it out of my qualifiers list.


Another difficult one to predict. I was not a huge fan of the song which, if I remember correctly, used to be quite popular with online fans in its original Serbian version. I do enjoy watching/listening to it now and I like its message. The idea of going white for the first part of the song and surprising the audience with a colourful explosion in the second part is also good. Bojana does a good job at delivering a vocally difficult song. Yet another one on my ‘maybe’ list in terms of qualification.


I was not a fan of the song even though I think that Boggie is a very classy performer and the song, like Serbia above, delivers a beautiful message. It was one of the biggest surprises during rehearsals to see how beautifully  staged this is. Last night, it looked again like the epitome of elegance and I had it on my qualifiers list right up to the very last moment, opting to put Armenia in its place right at the very last moment; the thinking behind this was that politics will probably win over sophistication – just imagine the irony of deliberating on those two for so long if neither of the songs qualify tonight…


Belarus injects some much needed energy to a predominantly low tempo Eurovision year. I cannot say I am a fan of the song and was not impressed by the staging during rehearsals. Having said that, it looked quite good during the jury performance last night and, even though it is not on my list of qualifiers, I would not be surprised if it made it to the final in the end.


When I first heard the Russian entry I thought that the song was good and that Polina looked and sounded beautiful, but nothing more; I definitely did not think that this would prove to be one of the this year’s favourites as I initially thought it sounded too middle of the road to be truly sensational for the viewers (in the way that, say, Rise Like A Phoenix is). It took about five seconds during the song’s first rehearsal run to realise how wrong I was: the staging has ‘sensational’ written all over it and the Russians have produced three minutes of textbook Eurovision. Most importantly, the staging manages to bring out the qualities of the song – I now have to control the urge to join in singing ‘a million voices’ every time the chorus comes round in case people think I am acting too young for my age. Polina looks and sounds like an angel (not that I have ever seen/heard one) and, rendition after rendition, proves her strong vocal abilities. Did not need last night’s performance to include it in my qualifiers’ list, I was certain already. A Eurovision highlight.


I have finally included this in my qualifiers list but I am not sure I will be proven right. Despite going retro, Denmark sounds and looks fresh. I thought it might do well with teenage girls (and perhaps their mums too) on top of it being in the advantageous second half of the show. On the other hand, my opinion is that it would be hard for most songs in this semi final to live up to the standard set by Russia. We shall see.


I liked the song, perhaps not as much as many other Eurovision fans, but I did. The staging looked a bit simple compared to other countries during rehearsals but, last night, the graphics looked really beautiful. What is more, a bit like Greece, the clip that will be shown during the recap of the songs looks and sounds fantastic. I have put it down as a qualifier but I don’t feel 100% sure.


Not overtly ecstatic about it but a good, quality song with a chorus that hits an emotional string in my case. The presentational idea of the black and white clips visualizing the poignant theme of the song will touch the viewers’ hearts, too, I think. On top of that, Romania, as well as countries performing second to last in the running order, always makes it to the final and so the song is on my qualifiers list.


I sort of liked the song, which is quite popular with some fans anyway. The presentation came together better than I had expected during the rehearsals. I understand that it is part of the staging concept for beautiful Nina to look like a fierce warrior but I think that her styling might still be deemed a little too severe by some viewers. Performing last in the running order, Georgia is on my list of qualifiers.

A video playlist with all the 1st Semi Final perfromances can be found here.

The voting

With the jury vote cast, there was a mock qualifiers announcement last night. There are no envelopes if I remember correctly (colleagues verified that as well) but instead the results are given to the presenter through her earpiece and, as she announces each qualifier, the name and flag of the country moves from a list on the bottom of the screen (again, provided that my memory is not failing me – I did not think of paying attention at the time) to a qualifiers list on the right part of the screen.

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