Eurovision 2016 – Semi Final 1 Preview

Its that time of year again. Eurovision is less then a month away. Its been some time since I have done a Eurovision Preview so it’s time to get back into it, especially since I got the 2016 Album on Friday and have been listening to it since!

Now I posted about the new voting system already and this will also apply to the Semi Finals, but we wont know the actual result until after the Grand Final. We will only find out the names of the 10 qualifiers who will join Sweden, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, and the United Kingdom in the Grand Final on May 14th.

So on with the show

Semi Final One takes place on Tuesday May 10th in the Ericsson Globe in Stockholm. 18 Countries will be hoping for one of the 10 qualification places for the Grand Final. Voting AND performing in this Semi will be France, Spain and Sweden. So lets look at the participants.

All betting odds are from PaddyPower for outright winner and taken on 17/04/16

1. FINLAND (YLE) – Sandhja – ‘Sing It Away’ – Odds 150/1

esc_finlandFinland first competed in the Eurovision Song Contest in 1961 and Sandhja is their 50th entry. Finland have one Eurovision win under their belt which was the memorable Lordi who won in 2006 with ‘Hard Rock Hallelujah’. Finland failed to qualify for the Final last year, but Sandhja could change this. A great opening song for the Semi-Final. Sing it Away is a Dance-Pop song with some influences from R&B and funk which combine to a very catchy song. The slow start really hooks you in and then the rest grabs you. ‘Sing it Away’ is Sandhja’s 4th single and has reached 8th in the Finnish Charts.

2. GREECE (ERT) – Argo – ‘Utopian Land’ – Odds 150/1

esc_greeceGreece first appeared at Eurovision in 1974 and this is their 37th entry to the contest. Greece too have one win under their belt. Elena Paparizou won in 2005 with ‘My Number One’. This year Greece are sending Argo a folk band who are also inspired by hip hop and ‘Utopian Land’ certainly lives up to this. The band have six members so there probably won’t be traditional dancing on stage. The song is performed in Greek, English and Pontic Greek (a dialect from Northern Greece). I am not the greatest fan of this entry, but I find myself singing along to the chorus! Greece has always qualified for the finals, and with a few Balkan States and Cyprus(!) in this Semi and the fact that it is a good song, should see them qualify.

3. Moldova (TRM) – Lidia Isac – ‘Falling Stars’ – Odds 200/1

esc_MoldovaMoldova joined the Eurovision family in 2005 and have appeared at every contest since. They have yet to win a contest and failed to reach the final of the contest in 2014 and 2015, so they are hoping for a better result this year. Moldova’s best result was in 2005 when they came 5th. 23 year old Lidia Isac had attempted to represent Moldova before in 2013, 2014 and 2015 as part of a pop duo called Glam Girls. This year she entered as a solo singer and got selected. This pop song doesn’t stand out for me and could be from any country. May be another year out of the Final for Moldova.

4. HUNGARY (MTV) – Freddie – ‘Pioneer’ – Odds: 40/1

esc_hungaryHungary made its Eurovision début in 1994 and this is their 14th appearance at Eurovision. Hungary have yet to win a contest and in fact 1994 was their best result when they came 4th. Freddie, who came to fame on the Hungarian version of Rising Star, has already topped the charts in Hungary with the entry ‘Pioneer’. His distinctive, powerful voice will certainly stand out on stage in Stockholm. ‘Pioneer’ is a powerful pop song with a haunting backing track and could make a top 10 finish if it gets to the final.

5. CROATIA (HRT) – Nina Kraljić – ‘Lighthouse’ – Odds: 25/1

esc_croatiaCroatia first appeared at Eurovision in 1993. Croatia is returning to the Eurovision stage after a two year absence. Croatia’s best result is 4th where it finished in 1996 and 1999. A string of bad results and the financial crisis saw Croatia sit out the last two contests but is back this year with the winner of the Croatian Voice Nina Kraljić. The song ‘Lighthouse’ is a beautiful new age style song which shows the power and range of Nina’s voice. The song has reached 9th in the Croatian Charts but will it be in the top 10 to qualify?

6. THE NETHERLANDS (AVROTROS) – Douwe Bob – ‘Slow Down’ – Odds: 40/1

esc_netherlandsThe Netherlands are one the founding countries of Eurovision and have only missed 4 contests, those were in 1985, 1991, 1995 and 2002. The Netherlands have also won 4 contests most recently in 1975, but also in the 2nd Eurovision Song Contest in 1957 and the contests in 1959 and 1969. The Netherlands have been waiting a long time for their 5th win but Douwe Bob’s country folk song ‘Slow Down’ doesn’t strike me as the one to do it. Now don’t get me wrong I do like this song (I nearly always like the Dutch entry), but this song is one that that grows on me, so how it will go down with those who hear for the first time on the night could be an issue. It has reached 49th in the Dutch charts which does not inspire confidence! A possibility for the final on a good night for The Netherlands.

7. ARMENIA (AMPTV) – Iveta Mukuchyan – ‘LoveWave’ – Odds: 20/1

esc_armeniaThis is Armenia’s 9th entry to Eurovision following their début in 2006. Armenia only missed one contest, which was in 2012 in Azerbaijan, due to security concerns.. Armenia’s best result is 4th which it achieved in 2008 and again more recently in 2014. This powerfully sung song from Iveta could see another top 10 finish for Armenia.

8. SAN MARINO (SMRTV) – Serhat – ‘I Didn’t Know’ – Odds: 200/1

esc_sanmarinoSan Marino is one the newest contestants in Eurovision, only joining in 2008. When it failed to qualify that year they didn’t return until 2011. This is San Marino’s 7th appearance at Eurovision. San Marino’s best result was in 2014 when it came 24th. 2014 was also the only year San Marino qualified for the final. This year they are sending Serhat a Turkish singer, producer and television presenter. The version being sent to Eurovision is the faster dance version then what was aired initially from SMRTV and while ‘I Didn’t Know’ may have a popular following with some fans, I can’t see it having broad appeal.

9. RUSSIA (RTR) – Sergey Lazarev – ‘You Are The Only One’ – Odds: 6/4

esc_russiaThis is Russia’s 20th appearance on the Eurovision stage, having joined in 1994. Russia has only missed 3 contests, they failed to qualify in 1996 from the audio only qualification and withdrew in 1998 and 1999. Russia have a good record in Eurovision having never missed a Final since the introduction of the Semi-Finals. Russia is also still in the hunt for its second win to follow on from Dima Bilan’s win in 2008 with ‘Believe’ and as the favourite this year, they may finally get it! ‘You Are The Only One’ is Sergey’s 20th single since going solo in 2006 and his first appearance at Eurovision. And what an appearance will this entry be. This fast dance pop song will certainly have the crowd dancing in Stockholm and bopping along at home. Will most certainly qualify!

10. CZECH REPUBLIC (ČT) – Gabriela Gunčíková – I Stand – Odds: 40/1

esc_czechrepublic_rgbThis is the Czech Republic’s 5th entry to Eurovision. They first appeared in 2007 but withdrew between 2010 and 2014. They returned to the contest in 2015. The Czech Republic have yet to qualify for the final, and 2015 saw their best result when they came 13th in the Second Semi-Final. This year they are sending Gabriela Gunčíková to Stockholm with a lovely pop ballad, the first of the night which could help them stand out and make that elusive final.

11. CYPRUS (CyBC) – Minus One – ‘Alter Ego’ – Odds: 33/1

esc_cyprusCyprus has appeared on the Eurovision stage 31 time. They first appeared in 1981. Cyprus’ best result is 5th, a feat it managed three times, 1982, 1997 and 2004. Cyprus qualified for the Grand Final last year a feat it hopes to repeat this year with the rock band Minus One. ‘Alter Ego’ as a rock song will stand out from the Czech Republic’s pop ballad and could help them both to qualify. Now I always like a good rock song and this is certainly a good one. I hope to see it at the final.

12. AUSTRIA (ORF) – ZOË – ‘Loin d’ici’ – Odds: 100/1

esc_austriaLast years hosts, Austria are making their 49th entry to Eurovision. Austria have won the contest on two occasions in 1966 and of course in 2014 with the amazing Conchita Wurst and her song ‘Rise like a Phoenix’. Last year as host they finished in last place with ‘nul’ points. Austria this year are entering a song in French. The song ‘Loin d’ici’, which means Far From Here, is a fun pop song from Zoë Straub (known as ZOË) who is known for her French pop songs. This is the fourth single from the 19 year old singer and the song has reached 14th in the Austrian Charts.

13. ESTONIA (ERR) – Jüri Pootsmann – ‘Play’ – Odds: 100/1

esc_estoniaEstonia began its Eurovision journey in 1994 and this year sees it’s 22nd appearance on the Eurovision stage. Estonia won the contest once in 2001 when Tanel Padar, Dave Benton & 2XL performed ‘Everybody’. Estonia finished 7th at last years contest and will be hoping for a top 10 finish again this year and this alternative song from Jüri Pootsmann could do that. Jüri won Eesti otsib superstaari (Estonia is Searching for a Superstar) in 2015. Jüri has a distinctive voice with a large range and this song really shows it off. A good performance should see him to the final.

14. AZERBAIJAN (İctimai) – Samra – ‘Miracle’ – Odds: 33/1

esc_AzerbaijanThis will be Azerbaijan’s 9th appearance at Eurovision. Azerbaijan first performed at Eurovision in 2008 and just 3 years later they won the contest in 2011 with ‘Running Scared’ from Ell & Nikki. Azerbaijan has qualified for the final every year. This year they are sending pop singer Samra who appeared on O Ses Türkiye (The Voice of Turkey) in 2015 and The Voice of Azerbaijan. This is another pop song but its positioning in the running order will help it, but it is a good catchy pop song that will certainly do well on the Eurovison stage and see Azerbaijan through to yet another Eurovision Final.

15. MONTENEGRO (RTCG) – Highway – ‘The Real Thing’ – Odds 200/1

esc_montenegroMontenegro take to the stage for the 8th time since their début in 2007. Montenegro has only qualified for the Grand Final on two occasions, 2014 and 2015 when they finished 19th and 13th respectively. Montenegro didn’t compete 2010 and 2011. This year they are sending pop-rock band Highway who finished 4th in X Factor Adria in 2015. ‘The Real Thing’ is not a memorable song. As the second and weaker rock song of the night, this could struggle to qualify.

16. ICELAND (RÚV) – Greta Salóme – ‘Hear Them Calling’ – Odds: 66/1

esc_icelandIceland joined Eurovision 1986 and has only missed two contests, in 1998 and 2002 when its results from the previous years contests prevented it from entering. Iceland has come 2nd at the contest twice, in 1999 and 2009. Iceland holds the distinction as being the only Northern European country not to win Eurovision. This year they are sending pop and soul singer Greta Salóme. This is Greta’s second appearance at Eurovision, she previously appeared in 2012 in Baku in a duet with Jónsi when they sang ‘Never Forget’. This is yet another great Icelandic entry, a pop song which reminds of a number previous Eurovision winners. It has topped the Icelandic charts in English while the Icelandic version ‘Raddirnar’ peaked at number 3. It could be a dark horse, but certainly will be in contention for top ten finish.

17. BOSNIA & HERZEGOVINA (BHRT) – Dalal & Deen feat. Ana Rucner and Jala – ‘Ljubav Je’ – Odds: 150/1

esc_bosniaherzegovinaBosnia first entered Eurovision in 1993 and this year sees it return to the contest after missing the 2013, 2014 and 2015 editions. Prior to this Bosnia had a great record of qualification for the Final, only missing out in 1998 and 2000 due to previous low scores. Bosnia’s best result was in 2006 when they finished in 3rd place. This year Bosnia is represented by singers Dalal and Deen, cellist Ana Rucner and rapper Jala. Deen is no stranger to the Eurovision stage having represented Bosnia in 2004 with “In The Disco”. This years entry ‘Ljubav Je’, which means ‘Love is’, is a fantastic melding of pop, classical and rap. This could be an amazing performance in Stockholm!

18. MALTA (PBS) – Ira Losco – ‘Walk on Water’ – Odds: 16/1

esc_maltaMalta first entered Eurovision in 1971 and 2016 is its 29th entry and they are still looking for a win. Malta have come 2nd in 2002 and 2005, but their first win always seems out of reach. Will 2016 change that? Malta failed to qualify for the final last year in Vienna and will be looking to put that result behind them with this entry from Ira Losco. Interestingly Ira represented Malta in 2002 and finished in second place for the island. She will hoping to repeat that feat or possible do better with this rocking pop song. This has Eurovision pop all over it! I can see why a number of fans are obsessed with it!

And that is it! The 18 entries of the 1st Semi-Final. Who will be the 10 countries to qualify? Take a guess in the comments I’ll announce my predictions closer to the date!

Author: Stephen

Cork born and bred, proud European and Irishman. Involved in many organisations and politics. Also writes for SpirtualityIreland.org and UCC Express.

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