My guide to ESC Semi Final 2

Kristian Kostov Second Rehearsal Photo Andres Putting

Kristian Kostov (Bulgaria) Second Rehearsal | Photo. Andres Putting (EBU)

It’s Thursday and time for the Second Semi Final of Eurovision 2017. Even though Sweden doesn’t have any official entry in this evening’s Semi Final we still have a lot of Swedish people to cheer for tonight. So, keep your fingers crossed for Serbia, Macedonia, Ireland, Croatia, Switzerland and Bulgaria.

Bulgaria, Romania, The Netherlands, Estonia, Denmark, Israel, Hungary, Austria, Norway and Belarus. These are the acts the international bookmakers as this moment predict will make it to the Grand Final on Saturday. If their predictions end up being correct remains to be seen.

In addition to tonight’s competing acts we will also be seeing footage from the directly qualified acts of Ukraine, France and Germany in this Semi Final.

01 Serbia: Tijana Bogićević, In Too Deep
A new day, a new Semi Final, but the same old staging; with a woman dressed in white in the middle of the stage. If you’ve been keeping track you know we’re ticking of number four with Serbia’s Tijana, and I’m sorry to say there’s more to come later on, just you wait and see. This is a cool up-tempo song that might be just memorable enough to make it to the Grand Final, but that’s certainly not a given. If they qualify, it’ll probably be thanks to their favourable starting number; getting out on stage first (or last) has on many occasions proven to be a pretty good advantage in the history of Eurovision.
Swedish Connection: Behind In Too Deep is no less than three Swedes; Joacim Persson, Lisa Desmond and Johan Alkenäs. Better get used to it, this is only the first of three acts tonight written by Joacim Persson. I haven’t found time to confirm this, but they say Joacim will break a record tonight being the first composer ever to have three entries in the same Eurovision show. Pretty heavy, huh?
Bookmakers’ ranking tonight: 11/18
Bookmakers’ ranking in total: 24/34

02 Austria:  Nathan Trent, Running On Air
From a woman dressed in white to a man dressed in white. Austria’s Nathan Trent looks great in his white outfit and his corny winged silver sneakers and his song is a catchy tune that makes me happy every time I hear it. Once again, I find myself missing some dancers on the stage, he looks awfully alone up there and could really use a couple of friendly buddies increasing the energy. I’m pretty sure he’ll make it to the Grand Final anyway, but it would’ve been nice.
Bookmakers’ ranking tonight: 8/18
Bookmakers’ ranking in total: 27/34

03 F.Y.R. Macedonia: Jana Burčeska, Dance Alone
Oh, how I love the sound of this modern dance track. And Jana’s voice fits it perfectly. The staging is slick and cool and I really hope it will be enough for her to make it to the Grand Final on Saturday. The official video was one of the best this year but the story it told is too hard to transfer to the live stage. I recommend you to watch it though, I bet you’ll love that sweet elderly lady as much as I did – talk about girl power!
Swedish Connection: In the composing team behind Dance Alone we find Swedish Joacim Persson, his being his second entry of this evening’s Semi Final. And in charge of the choreography we’ll find no other than my favorite Swedish choreographer Ambra Succi who’s most famous for the staging of Loreen’s Euphoria in Eurovision 2012 and being a core member of the former Swedish streetdance company Bounce.
Bookmakers’ ranking tonight: 13/18
Bookmakers’ ranking in total: 25/34

04 Malta: Claudia Faniello, Breathlessly
Woman in white number… that’s right – five. Malta does what they do best, once again they’re giving us a beautiful standard Eurovision diva ballad, performed by a beautiful highly talented female singer, dressed in a beautiful gown showing off her beautiful curvy figure. Her big brother Fabrizio has represented the country twice before, in 2001 and 2006, but Claudia will have a tough time trying to match his most successful score of 2001 when he ended up in ninth place. If Claudia makes it to the Grand Final it’ll be a major surprise.
Bookmakers’ ranking tonight: 16/18
Bookmakers’ ranking in total: 32/34

05 Romania: Ilinca ft. Alex Florea, Yodel It!
Get ready for some genuine traditional Romanian… yodelling? Yep, you heard me right – and I’m not even joking. And additionally, the song title actually contains an exclamation mark to make it even more terrifying… All jokes aside, Ilinca is actually a pretty good yodeller – her singing voice on the other hand is terrible. Mix it with the rapping of her sidekick Alex Florea to make it even more unbelievable and what you get is the most surreal song of Eurovision 2017. It’ll stand out in the competition though, and sticks to your brain like glue, and crazy stuff has a way of surviving in Eurovision against all odds. And these guys even have the odds in their favour so I honestly have no idea where they’ll end up on the scoreboard on Saturday.
Bookmakers’ ranking tonight: 2/18
Bookmakers’ ranking in total: 8/34

06 The Netherlands: OG3NE, Lights and Shadows
These three sisters, Lisa, Amy and Shelly, sing in perfect harmony and they’re absolutely stunning on stage in their black, sparkling outfits. Their song is sweet and loveable, with a gospel flavoured a capella break that’ll give you serious goose bumps. They’ll hopefully not have too much trouble qualifying for the Grand Final since all great shows deserves a couple of quality goose bumps moments.
Bookmakers’ ranking tonight: 3/18
Bookmakers’ ranking in total: 9/34

07 Hungary: Joci Pápai, Origo
Savour the precious moments and enjoy one of this evening’s only two songs not sung in English. There were one in the first Semi Final, Portugal, and there’s two in the second, Hungary and Belarus. Even though the lyrics are lost on me, their meaning is not and Joci’s melancholy song goes straight to my heart. His soothing voice melts my defences and the mantra-like chorus brings peace to my soul. If he doesn’t qualify for the Grand Final I’ll have no idea why.
Bookmakers’ ranking tonight: 7/18
Bookmakers’ ranking in total: 20/34

08 Denmark: Anja, Where I Am
Lo and behold, for those of you who questions Australia’s participation in this contest, here’s Australian number two. 21-year-old Anja Nissen was born and raised by her Danish parents in Australia where she’s quite famous nowadays since her victory in the Australian version of The Voice in 2014. Where I Am is a massive power ballad where Anja is allowed to show off her great voice, and with a little sparkling gold rain in the background, what could go wrong? She’ll make it to the Grand Final, no doubt about that.
Bookmakers’ ranking tonight: 5/18
Bookmakers’ ranking in total: 11/34

09 Ireland: Brendan Murray, Dying to Try
I’ve found myself having a hard time accepting that this guy is actually 20 years old, three years older than Isaiah from Australia and Kristian from Bulgaria. But he is. He sounds like a fifteen-year-old though, albeit a talented one. He’s sweet, he’s cute, and he sings about love in that special innocent way that makes you go “Oh, young lad, if you only knew…” But he’s looking so peaceful up there in his hot air balloon I don’t want to ruin his idealistic view of life just yet.
Swedish Connection: Dying to try is written by Swedish Grammy-nominated Jörgen Elofsson together with British James Newman. Previous works by Jörgen includes hits for Britney Spears, Celine Dion and Westlife.
Bookmakers’ ranking tonight: 15/18
Bookmakers’ ranking in total: 19/34

10 San Marino: Valentina Monetta and Jimmie Wilson, Spirit of the Night
Valentina Monetta returns to the Eurovision stage yet again, this time with American singer Jimmie Wilson. Who could ever forget her Eurovision debut in 2012 with The Social Network Song (aka The Facebook Song)? This year’s entry, Spirit Of The Night, marks her fourth appearance on the Eurovision stage, and also her fourth collaboration with the most frequented composer in Eurovision history, Ralph Siegel, who’s notorious for a record-breaking 25 Eurovision entries through the years. The Sammarinese entry is predicted to end up dead last in this race and anything else than an 18th place in the Semi Final would be a big surprise.
Bookmakers’ ranking tonight: 18/18
Bookmakers’ ranking in total: 34/34

11 Croatia: Jacques Houdek, My Friend
Both these voices are immaculate in their own right. The powerful opera tenor and the great pop voice both go well with this song. But I still insist, he should’ve chosen one of them – either one, I don’t care which, they’re both great – for this performance. I understand he wants to show off his unique talent, but great art is never about showing off but doing what’s best for the work; in this case, the song. When he’s singing this duet with himself it just feels schizophrenic and gives me the creeps. He has a pretty cool outfit that matches the performance though…
Swedish Connection: Among the composers of My Friend we can find Swedish Tony Malm.
Bookmakers’ ranking tonight: 12/18
Bookmakers’ ranking in total: 22/34

12 Norway: JOWST, Grab The Moment
Welcome to the present, Eurovision! This is the most contemporary and modern entry in the competition in I don’t know how long. So contemporary in fact, that it has awakened discussions about rule changes again due to the voice samplings it contains. This doesn’t feel like Eurovision at all, more like Avicii – and that’s a good thing, folks! And the lyrics, presented by the excellent voice of Alexander Walmann, are sending a great message of confidence and independence that I absolutely love. If it doesn’t qualify for the Grand Final I don’t know what I’ll do…
Bookmakers’ ranking tonight: 9/18
Bookmakers’ ranking in total: 23/34

13 Switzerland: Timebelle, Apollo
A Swedish song, a gigantic yellow dress, a spiral staircase and a pink grand piano, specially made and shipped from London. I don’t know if that’s the magic recipe to make it through to the Grand Final but he Swiss seem to think so. To date, Switzerland has two remarkable victories in Eurovision history; the very first one in 1956 with Lys Assia, and the other one in 1988 when the up-and-coming Canadian singer Céline Dion swept the floor with the competition in Dublin.
Swedish Connection: Apollo is written by the Swedish team Elias Näslin, Alessandra Günthardt and Nicolas Günthardt.
Bookmakers’ ranking tonight: 14/18
Bookmakers’ ranking in total: 30/34

14 Belarus: Naviband, Story of My Life
A friendly, catchy, folksy tune – and the first Eurovision entry ever sung in Belarussian. The duo is so enthusiastic and energetic you have to be dead, or at least paralyzed, not to move at least a part of your body to the rhythm of their song. During the rehearsal week, this act has climbed in the bookmakers’ lists and suddenly everyone seems pretty sure they’ll make it to the Grand Final. And, did you notice… a white dress (!)
Bookmakers’ ranking tonight: 10/18
Bookmakers’ ranking in total: 29/34

15 Bulgaria: Kristian Kostov, Beautiful Mess
17-year-old Kristian Kostov is one of this year’s absolute favourites to compete with Swedish Robin Bengtsson and Belgian Blanche for the third place – all of them seemingly hopelessly behind Italy’s Francesco Gabbani and Portugal’s Salvador Sobral if you analyse any statistics connected to this year’s Eurovision. Whatever happens on Saturday everyone seems certain Kristian will win the second Semi Final comfortably. The song is a powerful ballad, his voice fits it perfectly and the staging is superb.
Swedish Connection: Swedish Joacim Persson’s third entry for the evening. And to top it off, we once again find Swedish Sacha Jean-Baptiste involved in the Bulgarian act as Artistic Director for her fourth entry this year.
Bookmakers’ ranking tonight: 1/18
Bookmakers’ ranking in total: 3/34

16 Lithuania: Fusedmarc, Rain Of Revolution
From the peak of the evening to its lowest valley in a heartbeat. Lithuania’s Fusedmarc might possibly be the worst thing you’ve heard all year. And that’s such a shame, for if you try to tune her out and just listen to the backing track it’s actually quite good, like it could have been another monster hit for say, Robbie Williams perhaps? But the shrill screaming voice of Fusedmarc’s singer Victorija Ivanovskaja makes these three minutes feel like three eons of torture. If she could just keep quiet for a couple of bars once in a while, but nooo… she just has to keep yay-yay-ing all the way through. I’m afraid Lithuania will be competing with San Marino for the last place this year.
Bookmakers’ ranking tonight: 17/18
Bookmakers’ ranking in total: 33/34

17 Estonia: Koit Toome & Laura, Verona
Koit and Laura both have previous Eurovision experience, having represented Estonia in 1998 and 2005 respectively. They’re both successful solo artists in their home country and their voices fit well together. My love for this song is pretty non-existent, with its old-fashioned pop sound that almost smells like Modern Talking, only with worse lyrics (if that’s even possible). They’ll make it to the Grand Final, I’m sure – but it’s not thanks to my vote. And… what is she wearing? Have you lost count yet or do you still keep track?
Bookmakers’ ranking tonight: 4/18
Bookmakers’ ranking in total: 15/34

18 Israel: IMRI, I Feel Alive
This is IMRI’s third time on the Eurovision stage, competing as a backup singer behind Nadav Guedj, in Vienna 2015, and Hovi Star last year in Stockholm. That’s probably the reason he’s practically oozing confidence up there, delivering this upbeat song with a certainty many other contestants should be jealous of. I Feel Alive is a good finish of this evening’s show and IMRI will make it to the Grand Final for sure.
Bookmakers’ ranking tonight: 6/18
Bookmakers’ ranking in total: 28/34


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