This morning’s semi-final allocation draw is a sign of Eurovision season getting into gear. It means the qualification markets can open. It was also the moment that the artwork and theme for this year’s show was revealed – we will “Come Together” in Stockholm this May.
You can see which of the 37 semi-finalists are in which heat here. Sweden, Spain and France vote in the first heat. The UK, alongside Germany and Italy, will vote in the second semi, which is good news for the likes of Ireland, Poland, Lithuania and Australia. Still, with 18 countries in the first heat and 19 in the second, it will take more than a few friendly voting allies to qualify. Song quality is more important than ever, which brings us onto the most recent selections.
Last weekend witnessed two national finals, one in Belarus, the other in Malta. The Belarussians have a habit of giving their selection either a production makeover, as has been the case in the last two years – or switching songs altogether, which happened for different reasons from 2011-13.
Winning artist Ivan said that the makeover route was intended for ‘Help You Fly‘. His production team have a big task ahead because it’s incredibly insipid right now. Belarus’ 2014 qualifier ‘Cheesecake’ and 2015 marginal non-qualifier ‘Time’ both had more to them at this stage of proceedings – such as a hook and performances with some sense of stage presence. As it stands, Ivan’s in line for a terrible result come May.
To no one’s surprise, Ira Losco won the Maltese national final. She gave the island one of its nearly moments at Eurovision when second in the 2002 contest with ‘Seventh Wonder‘ (which was sweet at the time but feels rather dated now). Ira entered two songs into this year’s Maltese competition. It turned out, perhaps unwisely, that ‘Chameleon‘ was favoured over ‘That’s Why I Love You‘.
In its present form, I’m not a fan of ‘Chameleon’ at all: it builds to a whimper. My view is that in its current state, it’s no better than the country’s marginal non-qualifier in 2015, ‘Warrior’. Still, the rules to this year’s Maltese selection leave open the opportunity to change the song altogether whilst keeping the performer, and the winning team have already suggested there are significant changes ahead. As with Belarus, a watching brief is advised to see what’s actually submitted by the mid-March deadline.
We can be more sure that Ireland’s internal selection, Nicky Byrne’s ‘Sunlight‘, is the finished product. The Westlife alum offers us a Zelmerlow-lite, uplifting number that’s a definite improvement on the most recent Irish entries. The song is well produced and contemporary enough to get Ireland to the final for the first time since 2013, and give them their best result since ‘Lipstick’ in 2011.
Nicky was in Westlife for his looks rather than his singing ability, but the Irish team worked well enough with Jedward’s vocals in 2011. My main concern for his fortunes is that there may well be a few other male soloists faintly echoing last year’s winning song. Nicky and the Irish team will have to make sure their ‘Sunlight’ isn’t overshadowed in May.
The favourite in the Lithuanian selection, ‘I’ve Been Waiting For This Night‘, is one possible rival fishing in the same waters, and Donny Montell has already shown what he can do on a Eurovision stage (an homage to William Tell, cartwheel and funky air guitar – all before the tempo change kicks in). Both are competent songs but need performance and stage show to lift them from feeling too much like wallpaper. These things, as well as stellar Swedish production, elevated ‘Heroes’ last year.
Meanwhile, Belgium’s national final was won by Laura Tesoro with ‘What’s The Pressure‘. This isn’t going to set the scoreboard alight after the country’s fine fourth place in 2015. As nondescript 70s funk pastiche goes, it’s not as bad as the same country’s 2007 entry. But it suffers from extreme blandness, which is often the most effective qualification killer.
Let us know your thoughts on these points, as well as the continuing selection process, below.