The second half of the second semi-final is an intriguing mixture.
We started today with Israel’s ‘Golden Boy’ Nadav Guedj. The concept is the right one here: three male backing dancers bringing movement and fun; two backing singers who join in for the final chorus; and a blue-to-gold stage. My one problem is that Nadav is always on the move himself, and that occasionally affects his vocals and connection with the camera. I’d rather he stayed still when singing and only danced when not.
Latvia’s Aminata is still throughout, but she’s aided by some gorgeous red-and-white ethnic graphics and her vocal prowess. ‘Love Injected’ has moments when it feels a little too minimalistic and esoteric, but there’s no doubting that this is Latvia’s best entry in a very, very long time, and it deserves to qualify.
Azerbaijan has committed itself literally to its song title, with a moon and forest backdrop, and two contemporary dancers acting as fighting wolves. They’re rather off-putting, and Elnur’s vocals weren’t always secure when unaided by some excellent, hidden backing vocalists. But the backdrop, which turns to red at the big moment of ‘Hour of the Wolf’, looks gorgeous.
Iceland’s Maria really struggled early on with ‘Unbroken’, her vocals particularly suffering when going through some fussy little choreography. She looked very lonely on stage when things weren’t going well, though the northern lights and mountains backdrop was nice enough. Hera Bjork was absent from the five backing vocalists today due to illness, and her presence may help bolster confidence all round.
Sweden gave us a facsimile of the Melodifestivalen performance of ‘Heroes’. The animation looks fantastic and Mans really enjoyed himself on stage. Some felt underwhelmed in the press centre, but it’s not surprising the atmosphere wasn’t as electric without a crowd to give it an extra lift.
Melanie Rene is the best thing about the Swiss entry that follows. She’s a strong singer who engages the camera well. The staging wasn’t holding her back: a dark blue forest scene which sees her rip open a dark cape to reveal a silver dress when it’s her ‘Time To Shine’. This is a strong section of the semi; Melanie needs plenty of close-up camera shots for her best shot at qualification.
Cyprus have kept things nice and simple for ‘One Thing I Should Have Done’. A single spotlight shines through a black-and-white lens on John Karayiannis in his prom suit. It turns to colour for the first chorus and a cosmic backdrop develops. There are some nice smokey explosions for the big moments, and John has a winning way with the camera. I could do with something extra for the final chorus – taking the mic away from the stand, perhaps – but overall it was a very pleasing first effort.
Maraaya have kept things as they were in the Slovenian national final. That means a lace dress and headphones for Marjetka, Raay at the piano clicking his fingers, and an air violinist slicing the air. There are gold lights and no backdrop. It feels a little monotonous and static at times, but ‘Here For You’ is still one of the most interesting and contemporary songs in the contest.
We finished off with some cunning staging from Poland. A pink/purple spring blossom backdrop has the subliminal message of fresh and clean, the wheelchair reveal comes in the first chorus, and for the second the focus is on clips of a pre-accident Monika in her prime. It’s a very tasteful way to bring a human element for ‘In The Name Of Love’. The vocals, aided by three backing singers, were generally fine, if lacking in power.
It’s certainly a competitive semi-final that feels in flux with regards to qualification chances. Let us know your thoughts below.