Welcome to my Preview of Semi-Final 2 of the 2016 Eurovision Song Contest which takes place on Thursday May 12th in the Ericsson Globe in Stockholm, Sweden. Eurovision is getting that bit closer and its time to look at the contestants!
*UPDATE* Today April 22nd the European Broadcasting Union has withdrawn membership services to Romanian Broadcaster TVR following non-payment of debts totalling over €14.5m (CHF 16m). This means that only 42 contestants will compete at the 2016 Eurovision Song Contest with 18 in each Semi-Final. There is no change to running order.
Semi Final 1 takes place on Tuesday May 10th, check out my preview here.
The new voting system will also apply to the Semi-Finals, but we won’t know the full details of the results until after the Grand Final which takes place on Saturday May 14th. Sweden, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, and the United Kingdom are automatically qualified for the Final.
19 Countries are competing for the 10 places in the Grand Final available and Irish hopes rest on Nicky Byrne. Hopes will be raised as the United Kingdom will be voting and performing tonight along with Germany and Italy.
Semi-Final 2 seems to be the tougher of the two Semi’s with some excellent songs (and some not so great) from countries who normally do well. Getting out of this Semi will be quite the task for many of the entries and will be dependent on good performances for the Juries and Televoting Public!
So on with the show!
All betting odds are from PaddyPower for outright winner and taken on 20/04/16
1. LATVIA (LTV) – Justs – ‘Heartbeat’ – Odds: 18/1
Latvia made their début at Eurovision in 2000 and 2016 will be their 17th outing at Eurovision. Latvia won the contest on their 3rd attempt in 2002 with Maria N who sang ‘I Wanna’. Latvia failed to get to the final between 2009 and 2014, but managed to qualify last year in Vienna and finish in 6th. This year they are sending Justs Sirmais a 19 year singer who takes influences from pop, rock, soul and electronic styles, and ‘Heartbeat’ certainly is proof of that. A great song to open the Semi with and should see Latvia and Justs in the Final.
2. POLAND (TVP) – Michał Szpak – ‘Colour Of Your Life’ – Odds: 40/1
Poland first appeared at Eurovision in 1994 and has appeared 18 times at Eurovision. After a string of bad results between 2008 and 2011, Poland withdrew from the contest until 2014. Poland’s best result was 2nd in its first contest in 1994. This year Poland is sending Michal Szpak who was runner up on the Polish version of X Factor in 2011. Michal is a pop singer who is using his entry ‘Colour Of Your Life’ to show his range with this opera inspired song. While it won’t be a song to dance to, it is one to sit back and enjoy.
3. SWITZERLAND (SSR SRG) – Rykka – ‘Last of Our Kind’ – Odds: 150/1
Switzerland won the very first Song Contest in 1956, it last won the contest in 1988 when a then unknown Céline Dion represented Switzerland with ‘Ne partez pas sans moi’. Switzerland has only missed 4 contests, those were 1995, 1999, 2001 and 2003. This year Switzerland is again looking at its Canadian connections and is being represented by Rykka, a Canadian-Swiss Singer/Songwriter from Vancouver. This alternative/indie pop song while starting off slow does get going and if the staging is done well it could make a big impact on the night in Stockholm.
4. ISRAEL (IBA) – Hovi Star – ‘Made of Stars’ – Odds: 100/1
Israel has entered Eurovision 38 times since its first appearance in 1973. It has won the contest 3 times in 1978, 1979 and most recently in 1999 with Dani International’s ‘Diva’. 2015 was the first time that Israel qualified for the final since 2010. 2016 could see them through again. Israel is sending pop singer Hovi Star (real name Hovav Sekulets) from Kiryat Ata in the Haifa District. ‘Made of Stars’ is only the second Israeli entry that is performed fully in English. Its good pop ballad which again you can relax and listen to.
5. BELARUS (BTRC) – Ivan – ‘Help You Fly’ – Odds: 200/1
Belarus first appeared at Eurovision in 2004 and in its 12 appearances at Eurovision, it has qualified four times for the final, most recently in 2014. Belarus’ best result came in 2007 when they finished 6th. This year the entry of Belarus is part of a “well he, won’t he” situation with talk of a naked singer on stage with wolves. I don’t think that will happen, but it is certainly getting us talking about the entry. Ivan, full name Alexander Ivanov, is from Gomel in Belarus and was selected to take part in the Intervision Song Contest 2015 representing Russia, before it was postponed. This song really plays to Ivan’s voice and it sounds deep and primal. This could surprise us, and of course we all wait to see what happens on stage!
6. SERBIA (RTS) – ZAA Sanja Vučić – Goodbye (Shelter) – Odds: 20/1
Serbia has taken part in the Eurovision song contest since 2007 and in fact won the contest on its first attempt with ‘Molitva’ by Marija Šerifović. Since then Serbia only failed to qualify for the final on two occasions in 2009 and 2013. Serbia took a break in 2014 and in 2015 returned to contest and finished in 10th. This year they are sending ZAA with Sanja Vučić who combine disparate styles from ska music and dub, to post-rock, jazz and punk. Serbia probably wish there was still an orchestra at Eurovision for this entry. Its a powerful song and will be in the mix for a top ten finish.
7. IRELAND (RTÉ) – Nicky Byrne – ‘Sunlight’ – Odds:50/1
Ireland first competed at Eurovision in 1965 and still holds the record for the most wins in the contest with 7, having dominated the contest in the 1990’s. Ireland has only missed two contests in its history, in 1983 and 2002. Ireland first won in 1970, and had to wait until the 1980’s for two more wins in 1980 and 1987, but it was in the 90’s that Ireland make Eurovision its home with three wins in a row in 1992, 1993 and 1994. Ireland lost the 1995 contest but again won the contest in 1996 with ‘The Voice’ by Eimear Quinn. Since then its been a bit down hill for Ireland. Ireland has failed to qualify for the final for last two years. Nicky Byrne will be Ireland’s 50th entry to Eurovision. The former Westlife singer was picked to sing the dance-pop song ‘Sunlight’. Reception to the song has been quite poor and has only reached number 68 in the Irish charts. It doesn’t look well for Ireland’s chances of qualifying.
8. FYR MACEDONIA (MKRTV) – Kaliopi – ‘Dona’ – Odds: 150/1
Macedonia first appeared at Eurovision in 1998 having failed to qualify for the 1996 contest. Macedonia has been a constant presence at the contest since 2004. Macedonia saw its best result in 2006 when it finshed 12th. Macedonia hasn’t qualified for the Grand Final since. This year Macedonia is sending Kalopi for the third time to the contest. Having failed to qualify in 1996, Kalopi went on to represent Macedonia in 2012 when she finished 13th. This is a beautiful pop ballad from Kalopi which should qualify for the final.
9. LITHUANIA (LRT) – Donny Montell – ‘I’ve Been Waiting For This Night’ – Odds: 100/1
Lithuania first appeared at Eurovision in 1994, after coming last at that contest it was 1999 before we saw Lithuania again on the Eurovision stage. Since then Lithuania has appeared 15 times at Eurovision. 2006 saw their best result when they came 6th. This year Lithuania is again sending Donny Montell who represented the country in 2012 with ‘Love is Blind’ (remember the blind fold) in Baku. This year he is back with a fantastic pop song which ranges from beautiful slow verses to a up-tempo chorus that will have you dancing!
10. AUSTRALIA (SBS) – Dami Im – ‘Sound of Silence’ – Odds: 10/1
Following their guest appearance last year, Australia are back at Eurovision! Last year Australia made their début and came in 5th with Guy Sebastian’s ‘Tonight Again’. Australia is again taking its participation seriously and is sending Dami Im. Dami won the 5th Season of Australian X Factor in 2013 and has released three albums since. The song ‘Sound of Silence’ reached 68 in the Australian Charts, but seems popular with the Eurovision Fans, as a pop Ballad. As the novelty factor has yet to wear off Australian participation, and another strong entry, expect another strong finish from down under!
11. SLOVENIA (RTVSLO) – ManuElla – ‘Blue and Red’ – Odds: 150/1
Slovenia first appeared at Eurovison in 1993. 2016 will be there 22nd appearance and they are still awaiting a win! Slovenia’s best result was 7th, a feat it managed twice, in 1995 and 2001. Slovenia has appeared at every Eurovision since 2001 and has qualified for the final for the last two years and will be hoping for three in a row! This year they are sending pop singer ManuElla. ManuElla is a 27 year old singer/songwriter is entering with a Country Pop song which stands out among all the entries this year. Its an enjoyable song and I can see fans of Taylor Swift voting for this song!
12. ROMANIA (TVR) – Ovidiu Anton – Moment Of Silence – Odds: 150/1
WITHDRAWN BY EBU
Romania has an excellent record at Eurovision since first appearing in 1994. Since the introduction of the Semi-Finals, Romania has qualified every time! Romania have two 3rd place finishes under their belt, in 2005 Luminiţa Anghel & Sistem with ‘Let me Try’ and in 2010 Paula Seling & Ovi with ‘Playing with Fire’. This is Romania’s 18th outing at Eurovision. This is 5th time lucky for Ovidiu Anton, has he failed on four previous attempts to represent Romania at Eurovision. This year entering a song of his own writing ‘Moment of Silence’ he got his chance at the Eurovision stage. This rock ballad again stands out among all the songs at this years contest. Ovidiu’s voice will certainly command your attention and if the staging is similar to the National Final, expect it to be a good show!
13. BULGARIA (BNT) – Poli Genova – ‘If Love Was A Crime’ – Odds: 25/1
This is Bulgaria’s 10th appearance at Eurovision having first appeared in 2005. Bulgaria skipped the 2014 and 2015 editions of the contest having only qualified once for the final since they entering the contest. That was in 2007 when they finished 5th. This year they intend to make up for this. Poli Genova has a strong Eurovision pedigree having previously represented Bulgaria in 2011 and she hosted the Junior Eurovision Song Contest last year. The entry this year is amazing. Sung in English and Bulgarian, ‘If Love Was A Crime’ is a cracking pop song that will be heard across Europe. A strong contender for a top 5 finish!
14. DENMARK (DR) – Lighthouse X – ‘Soldiers of Love’ – Odds: 150/1
Denmark is one of the more established nations of Eurovision have first entered the contest in 1957. Denmark have won the contest 3 times, 1963, 2000 and 2013 with Emmelie de Forest’s ‘Only Teardrops’. Denmark failed to qualify for the final last year. This year Denmark are sending Lighthouse X, a 3 piece boy band who formed with the goal of helping people who face challenges in their lives. They work as ambassadors of three different non-profit organizations who also receive a percentage of the groups profit. Their song ‘Soldiers of Love’ remind me slightly of Take That, but its an enjoyable song. While it isn’t a memorable song, a good performance and stage show could see it to the final. The song has reached 12th in the Danish charts.
15. UKRAINE (NTU) – Jamala – ‘1944’ – Odds: 18/1
Ukraine first appeared at Eurovision in 2003 and just one year later took home the prize following Ruslana’s ‘Wild Dances’ win! Ukraine have an excellent record at Eurovision, qualifying every year for the final, consecutive 2nd place finishes in 2007 and 2008, 3rd place in 2013 and only finishing outside the top 10 on four occasions! Ukraine skipped the competition last year due to ongoing crises’ in the country. This year they are back with Jamala with her song ‘1944’. Jamala has combined a number of influences in this song, pop, Ukrainian folk, jazz, blues, and opera. The song has been accused of being political, but the EBU have ruled against this. Are the Ukraine on the path to another top 10 finish with this entry? I think so. It could blow the audience away!
16. NORWAY (NRK) – Agnete – ‘Icebreaker’ – Odds: 66/1
Ahh Norway. Norway hold two Eurovision records, neither of which to be proud of. They hold the record for the most last places (11 times!) and the most ‘Nul’ point finishes (4 times). They have racked this up since their first appearance in 1960! On the other hand Norway have won the contest on three occasions. 1985, 1995 and 2009, who can forget ‘Fairytale’ by Alexander Ryback. This is Norways 55th entry to Eurovision and they are sending Agnete, a singer who once was the lead singer of teen punk band The BlackSheeps. ‘Icebreaker’ is not punk song, but an electrpop number who’s staging at the National Final reminds me of a former winner. The song has reached 11th in the Norwegian charts, can it do better at Eurovision to qualify?
17. GEORGIA (GPB) – Nika Kocharov and Young Georgian Lolitaz – ‘Midnight Gold’ – Odds: 200/1
Georgia started its Eurovision journey in 2007 and has appeared at every edition since, apart from 2009 when it had to withdraw over a song criticising Russian leader Putin. They saw their bests results in 2010 and 2011 when they finished 9th two years in a row. This year they are sending an indie rock band who’s name is mouthful Nika Kocharov & Young Georgian Lolitaz. I did have my first ‘WTF’ moment of this years contest when I saw the video for their entry ‘Midnight Gold’. I don’t think ‘Midnight Gold’ is going to be a lucky 10th entry for Georgia, but I have been wrong before.
18. ALBANIA (RTSH) – Eneda Tarifa – ‘Fairytale’ – Odds: 150/1
Albania made their début at the 2004 Song Contest and have had a mixed bag of results. They finished 7th at their first contest and only did better on one occasion when they came 5th in 2012. This year Albania are sending Eneda Tarifa a native singer and TV host. She entered the Albanian national final three times prior to this year and finally got selected. Her song ‘Fairytale’ was initially sung in Albanian as ‘Përrallë’. This pop ballad could struggle to stand out among the ballads, but a strong voice could see Eneda and Albania through.
19. BELGIUM (VRT) – Laura Tesoro – ‘What’s The Pressure’ – Odds: 150/1
The final song of the night is from Belgium. Belgium was one of the founding members of Eurovision and appeared at the first contest in 1956. Belgium has only missed three editions 1994, 1997 and 2001, due to low scores in the previous contests that relegated them from the contest. Belgium have only one win in the contests history and that was in 1986 with Sandra Kim and her entry ‘J’aime la Vie’. Sandra was also the youngest winner of the contest and due to rule changes, she cannot lose that title. Recent history hasn’t been so kind to Belgium and the best recent result was in 2003 when they finished 2nd. Last year they were 4th, can it be repeated? The pressure is on Laura Tesoro, a 19 year old singer and songwriter who in 2014 finished second on The Voice van Vlaanderen. The song ‘What’s the Pressure’ is one the better charting songs in this semi reaching 2nd in the Belgian charts. This pop song is an excellent way to end the show on a high.
So that is the 19 songs of Semi-Final 2. Which 10 will qualify is the big question!