Eurovision 2017 Semi-Final Allocation Draw

The draw dividing the semi-final participants into heats of 18 and 19 has just taken place. You can see the results here. From the six automatic qualifiers, Italy, UK and Spain will vote in the first heat on May 9; Ukraine, Germany and France in the second on May 11. Hopefully, Betfair qualification markets will be with us shortly.

In the meantime, we have had four further songs chosen to represent various countries, and they deserve some early analysis. I don’t feel particularly enamoured with any of them, though I may be unduly worried that four of the five chosen so far are rather downbeat (and coincidentally, female).

The exception is Belarus, with Navi’s Historyja majho žyccia. I can’t fault the unadulterated joy of its presentation, and the authenticity of the performance. But this kind of ethno folk package has left juries utterly unimpressed in recent years, Bulgaria’s ‘Samo Shampioni’ in 2013 being a good recent example. Fans also tend to like this kind of thing more than televoters. I won’t be setting expectations high at this early stage, unless it’s up against 42 female ballads.

On the same night, Georgia selected something much more predictable. Take Gachechiladze warbled strongly through ‘Keep The Faith’, a rather aptly-timed song about remaining optimistic despite what’s going on. This song reminded me of Greece’s 2015 effort, though you can take your pick from many. These standard Eurovision ballads, if well performed and not too awful, can usually rely on a bit of jury help in the semi-final.

Last weekend, the United Kingdom was out of the starting blocks early with its national final. The winner was Lucie Jones with ‘Never Give Up On You’ which is a stripped-back pop ballad. It was well performed by Lucie on the night, but my concern is that there’s not enough musical progression in the song. It’s very much the same all the way through, which tends to bore viewers.

Finland’s entry will be Norma John with ‘Blackbird’. It’s a different kind of downbeat compared to the UK entry. Whilst I like the middle eight piano instrumental, and the overall atmosphere created, the song lacks both progression and hook to me. At this stage I can’t see televoters particularly taking to it.

If someone put a gun to my head and asked which one of these four entries would most likely land on the left-hand side of Saturday’s final scoreboard, I’d actually say Georgia. I’m assuming the song will be given a slight revamp and the country has one of the most sought-after staging experts to work with.

Let us know your thoughts below. This week sees Eurovision season take off as the first heat of Melodifestivalen, Sweden’s peerless selection show, takes place on Saturday.

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76 comments to Eurovision 2017 Semi-Final Allocation Draw

  • PurpleKylie

    The problem with Georgia is that given the past 12 months, how many other dreary peace ballads are we going to get this year? Not to mention my strict rule of “anything trying to emulate last year’s winner is doomed”

  • Hippo

    Not enough songs out there to take too much from the draw but my initial thoughts are:

    Semi 1 has more likely competition at the top based on current odds in Sweden, Australia, Greece and Poland. Obviously can all change and pure speculation but that’s 4/5 favourites (excluding the hosts).
    I would also assume that those 4 plus Armenia, Azerbaijan and maybe now Cyprus
    (Hovig has what he would have wanted in Greece and Armenia to help him through)
    are very likely qualifiers.

    Albania, Georgia, Finland all 1st half semi one has knocked at least 1 certainly out. More likely two. Belgium likely to go bland ballad route too.

    Belgium, Fyr Macedonia, Ireland and Malta might have the worst draws.

    Semi 2 is wide open. Russia the obvious leader but not many friends (Ukraine and Estonia televote, Belarus).

  • Finland: the second half from the piano part on is a thing of wonder – introspective, grand and mesmerising, finding truth and beauty in simplicity. I think it’s great, how well it’ll do is another matter (ditto the UK). Songs can be radically simple in either a facile/underwritten way (= Fredrik Kempe’s oeuvre of repetitive euroditties) or in an intelligent, stripped-back, emotionally true way, and Blackbird is definitely the latter – rather than being a failure to develop, I experience the second half as a raw, powerful reiteration that viscerally and wistfully conveys the idea of being trapped by grief, existing in an emotion that you can’t move on from.

    The draw: Slavko’s in trouble, the Yugo and diaspora countries are almost entirely in the other semi, and his characteristic brand of gay eurodance isn’t likely to go down well with juries or even necessarily televoters. Aside from Montenegro, Albania is similarly isolated from its neighbors and diaspora countries. There’s a remarkably even split of Slavic countries and post-USSR countries between the two semis, but SF2 really is the Central and Eastern Europe semi what with Germany/Austria/Switzerland + Croatia/Serbia/Macedonia + Hungary/Romania/Bulgaria.

    I think the UK made a very good choice and I hope they keep it as simple and as tightly-focused on Lucie’s performance as it was in the NF. It needs that slightly raw stage feel, it’s all about her – the song being fine but not amazing, it instead functions as a vessel for her performance which is the real selling point here.

  • Ermn, I don’t watch EuroVision and I have no where to put this but I think Richard Ayoade is a decent bet to be the next Doctor Who.

  • Phil

    I absolutely love the Finland song. Stunning.

  • James Martin

    What’s the best way to watch Melfest in the UK? I’ve got the SVT Play add on for KODI but it won’t stream SVT1 or SVT2 live (the latter ironically showing a chat show with Petra.)

    • Chris Bellis

      I have a big dish which I can move, so I get SVT as it comes. You need a card only for the premier channels. If you want to watch over the internet you need to spoof the server that you have a Swedish IP so you will have to do the same as if you watch the BBC away from the UK. Use a VPN. Windscribe is free, and if you register you get 10gb (which you will soon reach if you are streaming) as is Surfeasy. Hotspot Shield (free version) only allows you to pretend you are in the USA, so is only any use if you pay a subscription, when you can pretend to be in Sweden. I think Opera includes a free VPN but I haven’t used it. I wouldn’t recommend using the Tor network as although it’s free, the bandwidth varies so much. There are loads of others, but if you want a reliable stream you will end up paying a subscription. If I’m wrong and anyone here has better advice we’d all like to hear it.
      Some advice here:http://svt.fromabroad.org/

      • eurovicious

        It normally just streams on the website. They remove the region restriction for MF.

        • Chris Bellis

          Now that’s the easy way! However, one of the free vpns will be useful for some of the other programmes. The Eurovision comments programme (daily on Finnish tv as you get closer to May) is very entertaining.

          • James Martin

            That’s a bit useless as I don’t speak a word of Finnish. Neither do I understand any Swedish (yet sat through said random Petra Mede programme “Dolly” earlier!) which is why I’ve never watched Melfest in its entirety but fancy taking the plunge this year.

        • James Martin

          Eurovicious – does this mean that the live stream of SVT1 on the KODI add on will work?

          I have a 50inch telly and would rather watch it on that not hunched over my PC…

          • eurovicious

            Try it. If it doesn’t, just plug your computer into the TV.

          • Chris Bellis

            Jumping in here although I’m not EV. Just cast it to your TV from your phone or tablet. Each device needs a different app. EG I use easycast on android, but there are umpteen others, depending on your TV and phone. If you have KODI on your tv I think you should be ok. Also, because Scandinavian countries all speak English, you’ll often find there’s an option for English subtitles. Finns and Norwegians often use English to communicate anyway, as their languages are very different, and not all Finns speak Swedish, and not that many Swedes speak Finnish.

          • James Martin

            SVT Play working very nicely on my Sony Bravia! Looking forward to this after the rugby lol

  • Chris Bellis

    Re Finland
    Very nice though it may be it stands no chance. Anouk, “Birds”, anyone?

  • Melodifestivalen was beyond awful tonight. Very poor standard of songs. G:Son’s got his fingers in way too many pies and his songs always sound very interchangeable and not tailored for the artist. I hold him in lower and lower regard as time goes on.

    Nano’s “Hold On” was essentially Malta’s “Walk on Water” sung by Rag’n’Bone Man. Not in a plagiarism way, but it had many of the same core elements in the music and the staging was essentially the same. I’m gobsmacked that people think it could win Eurovision. I’ll sit on a burning hot stove arse naked if it does.

  • Hippo

    Agree with Ben, I’ve seen some people like it but Ace is very lucky at how poor the rest of the field was. I’m sure the other heats will be stronger.
    Nano much better than “walk on water” but not as good as “running” imo.
    Maybe 6th- 10th in the unlikely event that he wins.

  • James Martin

    Her Kiss was my favourite from what I heard last night. Pirelli had an absolute shocker of a night. Can’t say I minded the Ace Wilder song – lot of stuff like that in the clubs and bars – but a real shame Dinah went.

    As for Road Trip… that looks like something the BBC would have sent ten years ago.

  • Timebelle’s Apollo for Switzerland. A pretty decent song in its own right, but will it get lost in the crowd? It does kind of feel like another one to add to the ever-growing pile of ladyballads.

    Oh well, at least she isn’t Jamaling like all the others we’ve had so far.

  • Hippo

    How well do people think Ukraine will do this year? I’m assuming Tayanna is the reason for most of the interest with
    odds pretty low for a while now.
    To me its a 4th or 5th place, strong hook and staging potential but too dated and predictable to go all the way.
    The sort of entry that no matter the field always finishes just shy of the podium.
    I’m just interested to hear if anyone thinks Ukraine can (and would want to) win two years on the run.

    • PurpleKylie

      After the organisation mess this year I think the last thing NTU want is a back-to-back victory.

      I see Tayanna getting lower top 10, maybe 5th if it’s a piss poor year and there’s not too many screamy female ballads in the final.

  • Iceland: it’s another female ballad, but am I alone in thinking this is a cut above? http://www.ruv.is/lag/paper Svala has serious form too… this isn’t quite as edgy and electronic as her Steed Lord work (e.g. below), but it’s good – sincere, icily cool, and mainstream yet with character.

    • Svala definitely has potential. My main concern is that Iceland’s final is so late this year that there’s no time for their usual revamp. If the final version of ‘Paper’ is what we’re hearing then it’s not tapping into its full potential at all.

  • PurpleKylie

    News just in, this has been officially announced as this year’s French entry: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9nMAnHRC4iE

  • Hippo

    Big five are in a hurry all of a sudden, do they think the deadline is earlier or are they just trying to steal each others thunder?

    Anyway, well played France it’s a good song – no, a very good song and should get a good result. It’s not a winner or top five for several reasons but will do respectably enough I feel. My current prediction for France this year is 7th-14th.

  • James

    Before anyone starts predicting big things for the French entry here it is being performed live:

  • Black n Blue

    Any thoughts on Sanremo? Just came across this man with a gorilla and it’s bloody fantastic!

  • German song is terrible – another one for the “generically pseudo-uplifting bullshit” pile of female ballads. A great ballad needs to have darkness and mood (Rise Like A Phoenix, Suus) for there to be any sense of drama or a journey, that’s what’s totally missing so far in all the ballads but Blackbird and arguably the UK (more because of Lucie’s theatrical performance than the song itself – she really gets the most out of it and creates a narrative). Waldfeier/Wildfire is like a soap opera theme or background music, it’s worse than Apollo. Incredibly forgettable and a fair bet for last (again).

    • annie

      …not before Police/Sting sues them. I thought I clicked on the wrong video, the intro sounds completely sounds like Every Breath You Take.

      • PurpleKylie

        I thought it sounded like Titanium personally

        • annie

          wow, youre right! wow I never realised how those two sounded similar :)))

        • Oh god, I wasn’t watching and thought Wildfire had won because of a message someone sent me… but Perfect Life won. Sorry. I retract the above comment. Yeah, the verse totally sounds like Titanium – it sounded like Titanium when the bloke was singing it but the effect is even more pronounced with Isabella’s Sia-esque singing style. It’s a little better than the other song. But it’s far too… Titanic. And it really fails to develop in the last minute.

          After sending a good song last year and coming last thanks to the “X Factor Halloween week” staging, I kinda don’t blame Germany for not bothering this year. (Just realised that in 4 of the past 5 Eurovisions, I preferred the song that finished last to the song that finished first…)

          • annie

            well, I didnt watch this year either, I just quickly googled the result.
            I used to love germans in esc around Lena times, last two songs were terribly underrated.
            But this is simply boring.
            Nice girl but completely meh.
            Will they do a revamp like Lucy too?

  • I’ve forgotten what the German song sounds like already. That’s probably not a good sign.

    Anyone else having lots of trouble with the livestreams since Eurovision.tv started redirecting people to the national broadcasters rather than hosting on their own website? I’m starting to think the new logo is a spinning circle cos that’s all I keep seeing on the screen.

  • Black n Blue

    German entry is awful. The French entry is decent, I like it myself, but it doesn’t scream winner, or even top five in the way that “J’ai Cherché” did.

    I think if the contest were held tomorrow Belarus would win. It’s a fun, uplifting song, oozing personality, and importantly it doesn’t take itself too seriously either. Ditto Francesco Gabbani above.

  • johnkef

    We are heading to the NF month and for the moment we know 8/43 entries, though you never know with Belarus and the Albanian revamp.

    France is the only song that could be a contender. France has finally decided to take the contest seriously and is building a momentum. The song is definitely a Top10, very probable Top5. It has a feel good vibe and that girl is sooooooo beautiful!

    Germany sends another nice song that i personally like but i cannot see it finishing on the left side of the scoreboard. I wouldn’t be surprised if they end up in the bottom-5 again.

    UK sends a decent song that will get lost to the sea of euro-ballads sang by female artists. Closer to the bottom-5 than the Top-10.

    If i had to choose a qualifier between Albania, Belarus, Finland, Georgia and Switzerland, that would Albania. All the others are weak entries that won’t make it to the final.

    Like every other year, we have to wait for the pedigree countries’s choices ( Russia, Sweden, Australia, Ukraine, Italy, Denmark) plus the countries that are building a momentum to the contest ( Belgium, Netherlands, Latvia, Israel) and Greece that its national broadcaster realised that Eurovision is its most profittable show of the year and NQ means losing loads of money. Kontopoulos and Fokas know the way to send Greece again in the Top10 and that would be great for ERT.

    • PurpleKylie

      You completely lost me when you described the hook-free, completely forgettable warbling screamathon that is Albania’s song as the only qualifier out of the selected entries so far.

    • Hippo

      Latvia are out of the running for anything other than a narrow qualification from their entries and I think Belgium have backed the wrong horse this year. Russia and Australia are playing the smart game of waiting and seeing what the field is. I’m loosing confidence in Sweden, they don’t have a top 5 from the songs shown yet, the rumblings about Loreen aren’t great and there are question marks abouth all the other acts.

      The only artist announced yet that can have a run at the title is Demy, possibly O’G3N3 but their dad as songwriter puts me off.

      In terms of qualifiers, Belarus are the closest to the final for me, then Finland. Albania are in with several big hitters/ persistent qualifiers (Greece, Sweden, Australia, Azerbaijan, Armenia) and have a first half draw along with other female ballads Georgia and Finland – and Belgium too whenever they release their entry. Will really struggle in my opinion.

  • So Francesco is obviously worth highlighting for discussion here. I totally agree we need some fun entries this year which is why I want Yodel It to go for Romania and for Francesco to go for Italy. I am totally all for fun when the songs themselves are still good and aren’t trashy abrasive drag shite.

    Francesco’s song also makes me think poignantly, given the Brexit sentiment in the UK, just how much Eurovision really should start to be presented in this country as a chance to laugh WITH Europe rather than AT them!

    I also think his entry would, in the face of all Eurofan logic, benefit strongly from being performed at least partly in English in Kyiv. The usual oft-recycled reason is so that more people can understand and enjoy it rather than presenting it to Europe as some kind of Eurofan in-joke that mass televoters can’t get in on unless they start following the contest like we do.

    • PurpleKylie

      Ok, I know I’m going to come across as a cranky old killjoy, but what’s the point of discussing something that has no chance of going to Kyiv? I’m sorry but anyone who thinks this will win Sanremo or even get picked if the winner declines is deluded.

      I’m all for fun in Eurovision, but SERIOUSLY, this isn’t 2007 anymore, we’ve moved passed this crap-on-purpose novelty. But then again I am talking to the same fandom who thought that stupid Laika rubbish from last year was any good.

      Rant over. I’ll be checking into the Grumpy Old Hags Retirement Home now.

      • But this isn’t crap-on-purpose at all. It wouldn’t be in San Remo in the first place if it was. I’m hearing a really fun, summery, hippyish pop-rock song with a very catchy melody. It’s a proper good tune if you shut your eyes and just listen to it.

        Same goes for Yodel It in Romania – that’s not a crappy Eurovision entry, that’s a potential Macarena/Gangnam Style/Numa Numa Yay/Ketchup Song in the making! Listen past the gimmicks!

        • James

          It just sounds like a generic, run of the mill Italian pop song to me. Take the gorilla out and there’s nothing there to make you remember it.

          Yodel It on the other hand is amazing and I’ve already decided I want it played at both my wedding and my funeral.

        • Macarena and Las Ketchup? Are we drunk and in the Costa Del Sol circa 1995 now?

        • Actually, you know what? I’m going to revise my opinion. On my first listen of Yodel It I thought, “What a pile of garbage.” After a second listen i desperately wanted them to form a supergroup with Navi Band.

          Yep, screw all this hyper-produced, Melodifestivalen slickness! Away with your holgrams and your augmented reality! Begone, warbling non-stop emoting balladry! It’s like Romania heard Eurovicious’ cry of “Make Eurovision Fun Again” and responded with, “Challenge accepted!” Yodelling Romanians, I salute you!

          • You know, this being 10 years since I first started following NF season (and attended my first show – Germany 2007 at the Deutsches Schauspielhaus in Hamburg, won by Riger Cicero), I’ve been reminiscing about Eurovision 2007 and the 2007 selection season a lot, and how the contest and NFs have changed in the past 10 years… basically the 2007 NF season was really fun, I still have loads of MP3s from it and I looked forward to watching every selection – not just because it was my first year, but because uptempo, ethnopop and schlager were the norm. Obviously times and tastes change, and I could sit here and mourn the demise of ethnopop and schlager in Eurovision all day and it’s not gonna bring it back… but the much greater problem than the lack of “fun” songs is the lack of quality serious entries to make up for it. If Eurovision was 25 really well-written ballads each year I wouldn’t complain, if it was 25 really well-written uptempo songs I wouldn’t either, ideally it’d be a mix of both (like 2012)… but since 2013 we’ve largely been in a neither-nor situation – few good uptempo entries but also few high-quality ballads, instead just landfill midtempo and weak, bland ballads. Eurovision needs fun songs and it needs serious songs, which is why I’ll always defend novelty entries and gaudy entries against those concerned about ESC being “credible” – Eurovision has always been about kitsch, it’s part of what makes it what it is – but the past few years we’ve been short on both.

            Rednex (of Cotton-Eye Joe fame) were in Romania’s NF 10 years ago, for goodness’s sake, with a full-on country-pop song with Romanian folk influences (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QiJkSusYHwA). There was also a remarkably good folk/hip-hop novelty entry about Dracula (below), this highly regarded entry in 3/4 which finished 2nd and is still considered a classic today (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y_Sd1YT0F8E), a jaunty guitar number about falling in love with a “rubber girl” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cCgmOcsgYrs), and that’s only naming 4 songs out of 24… in short, lots of fun and diversity – and quality – just in one country’s NF (and there was even a G:son song, but it was disqualified!).

            I think Yodel It is absolutely awful, and my love of yodelling is well-documented (I saw Global Kryner live 7 times between 2005-2013)… Gerry and I had the exact same spontaneous reaction to it – “the guy ruins it”. It’s absolutely possible to incorporate yodelling and Alpine motifs into contemporary music in an effective and even hip way (kinda like Donatan-Cleo did with Polish folk in 2014), but this isn’t working for me at all… it’s just really cringy and a waste of the girl’s voice with that tuneless fella shouting over her like a bad hype man.

          • More greatness from Romania 2007:

        • I agree with Ben re: Francesco Gabbani – it’s a really good song.

          • Just from the title “Occidentali’s Karma” I can tell he might be making a very astute political point in the lyrics too which makes the gorilla even better.

            Occidental being the western equivalent word of oriental, for those who didn’t know.

            If Francesco did get to Kyiv, I’d estimate he could get to about 12th, perhaps a touch higher with some English. In Eurovision terms I think he’s comparable to Zdob si Zdub in the sense of it being mad staging with some actual musicality to back it up. In commercial terms – for some reason I’m coming up with “Maroon 5 meets Willy Moon’s Yeah Yeah”

          • Woohoo! He’s accepted! Eurovision’s shaping up rather nicely so far this year!

          • I like it, I can’t see it doing very well. I also think he might be Kurt Calleja in disguise. He’ll surprise us all with a foot shuffle 2 minutes in.

        • Ben Cook

          I wasn’t expecting Yodel It to be that good live but they’re surprisingly competent. Would like to see that get the ticket.

  • Hippo

    I don’t think either Occidentali’s Karma or Yodel it are either good enough songs or funny enough to do particularly well.
    Francesco’s song is average and forgettable to me, I’ve not a clue how it goes after checking out a few of the San Remo entries last night. It’s an ok song with a dancing gorilla. That will make it more memorable and would lift it above the average songs with no dancing gorilla but wouldn’t get it a particularly good result. It could be chosen, but would need whoever wins San Remo and maybe the second placed too turning down the trip to Kiev.

    Yodel it is a good song with yodelling. There’s a good hook there too. Romania have a track record of doing ok with this sort of thing too but mid table is the best this would get.

    ‘Novelty songs’ should go all out if they want to do well. Performance and song. These two don’t do that.

  • annie

    my fav from A DAL:

  • Ben Cook

    It means Westerner, not Oriental

    I like it but I feel a lot of Europe will be bemused by it because the song’s message will be lost in translation, and without something you can sing along to it’s just a guy singing with a gorilla.

  • I might be getting caught up in the wave here but having given it some thought I am prepared to agree that Italy is the one to beat so far. Let me explain why.

    If I go back to my usual criteria I look for, I first come to my “CTAN” – Commercial, Timeless or Accessible Novelty” – which I’ve explained in greater detail many times previously. The commercial relevance of Occidentali’s Karma is debatable but apparently it’s already doing well on iTunes in a few western-European countries outside of Italy. The big tick here is Accessible Novelty. I wasn’t sure if it was accessible at first because you don’t expect mad staging to be paired with an actual good song and I didn’t really understand what it was all about, but I still knew I was really enjoying watching it. That’s the important thing.

    I think to look at this entry as “it’s just a guy singing/dancing with a gorilla” once you take away certain other aspects is a moot point because the other aspects are still going to be there in Kyiv.

    Italy have had a problem since their comeback where they have won the jury vote with such high classical cred, but the lack of ‘wow’ for the televote dragged them down to 2nd place. Then in 2015 they romped the televote but the juries dragged them down to 3rd for a blatant lack of originality… something you definitely never needed to be an accomplished Italian maestro on the San Remo jury to know.

    Now in 2017 they’ve got something for the televoters in a viral-sensation ready gorilla dance with some fun music that people are buying, while the juries have before them a very well written song with a lot of clever subtext in its lyrics and in its presentation. This, in the second year of a new voting system where televoters and juries no longer affect one another, it’s like Gabbani is heavensent!

    It doesn’t pass my Everest Test in the traditional sense (1944 passed the anti-Everest Test) but it’s a feel-good, moderately uplifting song which is enough considering it also ticks the AN of my CTAN criteria and is selling outside of Italy.

    I suspect Russia, Sweden, Australia and potentially Greece will all give Italy a run for their money, but for now, it’s theirs to lose.

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