Oh HELLO you.
Second semi-final time, and even though I’m very sad to be home, we’ve got another evening of joy, delight and laughter ahead of us. It will become apparent quite quickly that we were spoiled by the first semi-final… meaning that there is both more dross and that it’s probably going to be quite easy for the few big hitters we do have tonight to qualify for Saturday night’s grand final.
But we’re in for a few surprises, so pour yourselves a drink and strap yourselves in.
One thing I do like about these four Portuguese planks of wood, I mean, hosts, is that they don’t mess around. They get straight on with the tunes. And first up, it’s a familiar face – Norway’s Alexander Rybak. Now ole Alex won the darned thing back in 2009, with catchy violin nightmare Fairytale (JK, I do quite like it and it definitely deserved to win) Sometimes coming back for another dose of Euro is a great idea; sometimes less so, and your reputation is on the line a little bit, but Rybak’s back, all right, so let’s have a listen to the 2018 model:
That, boys and girls, is how you write a song, apparently. It’s stupidly catchy again, and you can’t argue he knows how to perform (fun Eurowatcher note: one of those backing dancers is the lovely Alvaro Estrella, who tried to qualify as a performer in his own right for Sweden a few years ago with a filthy – and thus brilliant – song called Bedroom) That’s How You Write A Song is a favourite to win and I think we cannot write him off.
Up next, it’s Romania. The Humans are performing Goodbye. Yes. They are. And yes. Those mannequins are TERRIFYING.
We’ll follow that with Serbia. Their entrants are Sanja Ilić and Balkanika, singing Nova Deca. Good cape, good drums, good thigh split dresses, good staring down the barrel of the camera. But will it be enough?
To San Marino now, and I’ll warn you now, there’s a rap coming up. Jessika is our artiste, with a little help from Jenifer Brening, and the song is called Who We Are. I honestly do not expect you to get more than 45 seconds through this, but that will be enough to see the robots holding signs, and if that doesn’t pique your curiosity, then I have no idea what will. It’s almost classic Eurovision, except for the fact that the song is toilet.
NEXT! To Denmark, who have been watching Game of Thrones very closely, and send us Rasmussen, with Higher Ground:
Really reminds me of something, but that something escapes me today, for I am weary after my week of Eurofun. There’s some very poor fake snow at the end of this, but I think it will qualify, because it’s a memorable song with good performers.
To our old pal Russia next, always an issue, yet always one to watch. As you may recall (stop laughing at the back, I know you do recall), we actually did not get to watch Russia last year. The contest was in Ukraine, and Russian singer Julia Samoylova was barred from entering the country due to issues with her having performed in the contested Crimea region. She is getting a second chance to live out her Eurodream tonight, albeit with a different song, and I am really happy for her that she will get to take to the stage. This is I Won’t Break:
Now we move to Moldova. The DoReDos are representing, with My Lucky Day, and truly, it is yours because you get to see this performance for the first time. I feel like if I see it again I will not enjoy it as much but the first time is an absolute triumph.
Netherlands, next, and Waylon is singing Outlaw In ‘Em, oh yes he is. I actually think this has a good chance of qualifying, because there’s nothing else like it here tonight, and Waylon can roar out a tune in the style of Jon Bon Jovi or Axl Rose. Less sure about his dancers’ moves, but maybe I’m just jealous.
Ah Australia. Australia, Australia, Australia. I’ve seen a lot of posts of the “she doesn’t even go here” variety, but I think given this is their fourth year in Eurovision, they are most likely here to stay, so why not embrace it? Jessica Mauboy certainly is! She performed as the interval act the very first time the Aussies joined us, and now she gets to sing her heart out in her own right. This is We Got Love:
Now. I am going to be honest here, so look away now if you can’t handle that, Eurofans. I think this was not Australia’s best entry. Part of the problem is the staging. Jessica owns that stage but she’s all alone and really needs some support. I still think this will get through, and perhaps the nerves will be gone by Saturday in order for her to really sock out a cracking performance.
Halfway! And time for some ethno-jazz. No, really. Georgia’s Ethno-Jazz Band Iriao, to be precise, singing For You, caps, and, I suppose, singing for you, lower case as well. Some of the Eurocrew are still over in Lisbon and send us this report from the Altice Arena: “I really like Georgia but he’s lost the crowd. The Swedish guy to my right has gone to the toilet and the Portuguese man to my left is taking the opportunity to put in his eyedrops”.
Poland now, and it’s Gromee feat. Lukas Meijer, with Light Me Up. At least one member of this group had no idea what he was getting himself into, is my feeling.
Where are we now? Malta, of course. Our singer is Christabelle, and she is trapped in a glass case of emotion to sing Taboo. If Kendall Jenner ever should chance upon Christabelle, she will have a pretty clear outline of her own future, I would say.
Hungary is next, and it’s a big change of gear, as AWS perform Viszlát Nyár. I literally never do this, and promise it won’t happen ever again, but **SPOILER ALERT** there is a stunningly funny moment at the end when they don’t realise their name has been called as a qualifier and they look all glum before absolutely exploding.
So here we are, it’s time for the first truly hot mess of the night, and sad to say it’s Latvia, who have done some really good stuff in recent years. I honestly cannot tell you if this is a good song or not, so all over the place is it. Laura Rizzotto is our artist, and Funny Girl is the title of her song.
Now, finally, to another of our big hitters – Sweden. You can’t ever count them out and this year is no exception. Have a gander at Benjamin Ingrosso’s Dance You Off:
I mean, YES. It’s cleverly staged, young Benjamin has the moves and the charisma, and if you’re telling me you don’t like this I don’t know if we can be friends any more. LOVE.
Three more songs to go, and it’s Montenegro next. Vanja Radovanović has brought his best blue sparkly suit to perform Inje. All I can say is, good luck to him.
I’ve heard good things about Slovenia, so let’s have a look/listen:
This is Lea Sirk with Hvala, ne! Oh god guys, I’m sorry, you know I love a good gimmick but this is really a tiresome one – the old ‘let’s pretend everything’s broken but really it isn’t’ gag. This is one of the better songs tonight, mind you, so I am prepared to overlook the nightmare. Pink hair don’t care.
Saving another big gun till last, it’s Ukraine, who won two years ago with Jamala’s striking song 1944. Melovin is the 2018 Jamala (and if you’re making a McLovin’ joke, believe me, you are not the first and you will not be the last). The song is Under The Ladder, also, interestingly one of the banned things you cannot bring into the arena, in case you were trying to smuggle a ladder in – but Melovin has very much gone one better, by not only bringing one in but also SETTING IT ON FIRE:
Less said about the contact lens situation, the better, but a good entry nonetheless.
So here we are. That’s our semi-finals done for another year. There’s just a moment for our hosts to DANCE (yep) and for the BBC to smash out a couple of sketches that are actually quite funny, and then it’s results time. In no particular order…
Do you spot who is missing from that list? Russia… Heartbreaking for Julia, and I mean that in all sincerity, but a very interesting development.
I just have enough space here to bring you the good news that the European Broadcasting Union has banned Chinese channel Mango TV from airing the grand final tomorrow after it blurred out rainbow flags, tattoos and several performances including Albania and Ireland’s, which of course featured two men dancing together. The EBU says Eurovision is about diversity and they are right. See ya Saturday.