According to the betting market, there’s a clear-cut nine qualifiers in this semi-final. It’s headed by Ukraine, after an impressive set of rehearsals catapulted Jamala to second place in the outright market. Australia’s Dami Im raised her game for the jury rehearsal last night, and the two rightly dominate the win market for this heat.
Serbia is another strong package, which means I think it’s difficult for anyone else at attractive each-way odds to break into the top three. Israel’s Hovi Star is grabbing plenty of jury points in particular, and Belgium’s Laura Tesoro will be bagging lots of televotes with her disco pimp slot, but it feels to me like they will both just fall short of this solid top three.
Next in my list comes Latvia’s Justs Sirmais, who offers a passionate rendition of ‘Heartbeat’ every time. It’s a highly suitable opener to the show. My criticism is that the staging, whilst not a disaster, isn’t distinctive enough. I really enjoy the performance every time it’s on, but I find myself forgetting about it too quickly afterwards.
Bulgaria’s Poli Genova does have distinctive staging, but I’m not sure it’s particularly helpful for ‘If Love Was A Crime’. She’s far too lonely on stage for this upbeat song, with a slightly bizarre outfit and choreography. Still, she was at her best in last night’s jury rehearsal, which should help her into the final. (Although I reckon she’s the most appropriate candidate for the last envelope, so you may have to hold tight.)
Three places left, and we move onto the similar cases of Lithuania and Poland. Neither have been particularly inspiring during rehearsals, but both acts sung well last night, and have a decent set of similar voting allies to rely on in this semi-final. I think that will be enough, although I’d choose Lithuania to finish above Poland, if you feel either are in danger of slipping through the net.
That brings us to the final qualifying place – Norway occupies the position with bookmakers. However, it felt like coming right after Jamala was a disadvantage for Agnete in last night’s jury rehearsal. She starts off weakly – being much better in the higher register than the lower one – and the staging adds to a sense of coldness. The contrast with Ukraine is not a positive one. To be fair, Agnete is strong in the chorus, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see her make it.
FYROM are also in the running with bookmakers, as Kaliopi attempts to repeat her 2012 qualification. There aren’t so many voting allies this time around, but enough not to completely discount her, despite the terribly dated song. Belarus and Albania also have a few allies, which I hope isn’t enough for them to squeeze through given what’s on offer. Denmark and Ireland provide bland packages that aren’t particularly well sung. I love Slovenia’s charm but it just looks a little too amateurish, whilst Switzerland is hopeless.
I’m going to take a chance on Georgia going through instead. Describing it underlines the challenge – this slice of Britpop rock is the least Eurovision-y thing in the semi-final. But ‘Midnight Gold’ has musical credibility, and it might score well enough with juries set next to a lot of vanilla radio pop that feels a little karaoke in this semi. Especially as it’s securely performed and very well visualised – the effects used for the bridge really lift that section.
Add to that a few allies in the eastern bloc, a televote appeal that’s niche but not limited to one part of the continent, and a decent slot in the running order. That’s why 11/8 with Betfred for Georgia to qualify at the time of writing is my suggestion for a small flutter this evening. Good luck to everyone tonight, and keep the excellent discussion going below.