I'm going to stick my neck on the line and briefly review the songs in bite-sized chunks. I must add that these are in alphabetical order. The actual running order will doubtless be determined in a fair and above board manner. While running order doesn't completely affect who will qualifies and who will not, no-one wants the dreaded second spot. Having said that, we have semi-finals with 16 and 17 countries taking part, so they all have a slightly better than average chance of making it through. You do only need to finish 10th after all, and a song on second can quite easily do that. And once a song's in the final, anything can happen.
With that in mind, here are the countries in the first half of the first semi-final. I suspect you won't always agree with me, but there you go.
Croatia – The contest thankfully throws up national styles and stereotypes, despite its protests to the contrary. I mean, you can tell this isn’t a Finnish song for instance. The six guys all have excellent voices – after all, they are a Klapa supergroup. It’s very pleasant so could go down well in a Bonaparti.lv sort of way. Or it could sink without trace.
Denmark – “How many words can we cram in a song?” Our waif Emmelie from Malmö Senior takes us all Celtic. So Celtic in fact it’s to the point of being too contrived. Helene Bøksen did it much better when she sang Vardlokk in a Norwegian final two years ago. Having said that, it does have the potential to be a vote sponge. And it will have a huge amount of raucous Danes in the arena to give it a boost.
Estonia – Now even though the glorious Winny Puhh didn’t make it, my Baltic nation has again done good. Again. Birgit has tried a few times, so in the time-honoured tradition of myturnology, she’s finally got there. So what have we got? A darn good ballad sung by someone who is easy on the eye and can carry a tune. It’s a song that really suits her too. This is the sort of song that made me fall head over heels in love with the Contest in the first place.
Netherlands – Every year a song comes along that all of the fannage except me seem to get. That honour this year goes to Birds. It never gets going, and I generally find it all very tedious. It’s all a bit depressing too. And here’s me thinking the Dutch were a happy race, full of interesting mind-altering substances. I wouldn’t have this as a qualifier. If I had my way, I’d have it on second. But we’ve got a fair and above board draw taking place soon, haven’t we?
Russia – When Russia won they obviously decided to take a year or two off trying to win again. This tactic almost backfired last year when our Udmurt-spouting babushki nearly won the thing again. This is a half-decent effort that I quite like. It is another one of the many ballads sung by easy-on-the-eye ladies but it does have enough about it to set it apart.
Slovenia – Our Adriatic friends shocked us all last year by being roundly ignored by half of Europe’s voters and failing to get to play with the big guns. It had the pedigree, so what went wrong? RTVSlo obviously thought the same, so they’ve plumped for the other dominant genre this year and gone for the dance-floor filler. It’s another one of those OK songs. Not brilliant, but not awful. It might be one of those you hear and remember it was in the contest, but have no idea who it represented. Borderline for me.
Ukraine – Another bug ballad with soaring vocals rounds off this little review. Zlata (Goldie to her friends perhaps?) belts this one out and seems to have the necessaries for getting out of the first semi-final bloodfest. It pushes all the right buttons, even without any alleged neighbourly voting. Definitely through.
Part II to follow soon