WINNER | Sweden: Måns Zelmerlöw – Heroes
It wasn’t broke, and Sweden didn’t fix it. With the exception of the re-imagined stick-man – who’s still adorable – Sweden have made only very minor changes to their performance. Måns looked and sounded great, and his post-rehearsal press conference was easily the busiest of the day. The Swedes know they’re in with a great chance this year, and the momentum is still very much in their favour at this stage.
LOSER | Israel: Nadav Guedj – Golden Boy
Israel’s Usher-meets-Tarkan party anthem has a lot of fans this year, and with relatively few straightforwardly danceable songs in the mix he has a great opportunity to make an impression. There’s a lot of choreography in this performance, and Nadav seems to be struggling to get a handle on it. His vocals were also shaky throughout. Having youth on your side can be a great advantage in this competition, but at this point the singer’s relative lack of experience is really working against him.
WINNER | Latvia: Aminata – Love Injected
A small girl with a very big voice, Latvia’s Aminata carries an remarkable air of possession onto the stage. Love Injected is a very distinctive song, and the shifting dynamics could very easily come across as messy or disjointed, but the singer does an excellent job of creating an intimate space on the big stage. In the past, Latvia have been a little too prone to unnecessary or distracting gimmicks, but they’ve wisely kept things simple here. If this doesn’t break Latvia’s run of semi-final flops, it’s hard to imagine what will.
LOSER | Azerbaijan: Elnur Hüseynov – Hour of the Wolf
Azerbaijan has one of the strongest ballads in this year’s contest, and an enormously talented singer at the helm. If they were willing to just let the performance speak for itself, they could be a real threat. However, it seems they can’t resist throwing as much as possible into the stage show to see what sticks. The werewolf-themed choreography behind this performance shoots for haunting but lands on unintentionally silly. Elnur’s vocals are also rather shrill in places – like Belgium, there’s a real danger he could give in to his worst impulses and over-sing this entry out of contention.
WINNER | Cyprus: John Karayiannis – One Thing I Should Have Done
Now this is how you let a performance speak for itself. The Cypriot team evidently understand that the low-key vibe of their song and singer is their greatest asset, and the performance is simple, understated and keeps the focus where it belongs. John Karayiannis is in excellent voice throughout and really selling the vulnerability of the song. The near-acapella moment before the final chorus is particularly effective. This has definite Tom Dice potential.
LOSER | Switzerland: Mélanie René – Time To Shine
To be fair to Switzerland, they’ve made no real mistakes here. The staging is dark and moody, Mélanie is delivering a tuneful and committed vocal, with some nice ad-libs towards the end to give the song a bit more kick. But the fact remains that Malta have delivered a much stronger version of this kind of entry earlier in the semi, and following Sweden this can’t help but feel like a major comedown. I like the song, but I struggle to think of a compelling reason for anybody to vote for it.
WINNER | Iceland: Maria Olafs – Unbroken
Iceland weren’t exactly at full capacity today – Maria Olafs was apparently unwell and backing vocalist/Eurovision legend Hera Björk was temporarily MIA. The vocal is still a little out of Maria’s comfort zone at times too, I’ve never yet heard her not mumble her way through the first verse. That said, the staging is exactly what it should be, with a gorgeous twilight backing that contrasts nicely with Maria’s youthful dress. Assuming the team are firing on all cylinders by Thursday, there should be little to worry about here.
LOSER | Slovenia: Maraaya – Here For You
Like Sweden, Slovenia have evidently decided that their national final performance is strong enough to carry over to the Eurovision stage more or less unchanged. I’m not entirely sure they’ve made the right call though. I still have serious reservations about the headphones, which create a distancing effect at odds with the warm message of the song. Singer Marjetka also closes her eyes a lot. There are moments when she does beckon directly towards the camera that are really effective, but they’re too few and far between at this point. This is one of the strongest songs in the semi final, but the presentation is going to need to get a lot warmer if it’s going to be a major contender.
WINNER | Poland: Monika Kuszyńska – In The Name of Love
The Polish team have come up with a beautifully judged staging for this song, which makes no attempt to disguise the fact that the singer uses a wheelchair, but doesn’t turn it into too much of a feature either. The backdrop is gorgeous and Monika’s was delivering consistently solid vocals. An unexpectedly uplifting way to close out the semi, this was rapturously received in the press centre, and should have no trouble passing to the finals.