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Appreciation Of The Arts

May 9, 2017 by

Appreciation Of The Arts

Semi 1 has the feel of a strong semi this year. This was hammered home watching the jury rehearsal last night, with everyone raising their game for the big occasion.

To my ears and eyes, Belgium’s Blanche produced her best when it mattered the most. Her vocal was absolutely fine and she was selling the song better than ever. The song is undoubtedly one of the stand-outs in this semi and it could easily challenge for a place.

While Robin was competent for Sweden and the performance was as slick as ever, it comes across as a soulless, factory-made 3 minutes. Might some jurors be put off by the slickness and smarminess of it all? Opening this semi, Sweden does look at risk of falling outside of the top 3 and this is a lay worth considering as cheaply as possible, with Sweden’s Top 3 price potentially shortening in-running tonight.

It is possible to construct a case for any of Belgium, Finland, Azerbaijan or even Cyprus grabbing a place at Sweden’s expense. Where Robin re-defines smugness, Hovig is very easy to warm to. He delivered a highly polished performance last night of a modern pop song that visually works really well.

My view on Azerbaijan remains somewhat conflicted. Dihaj did really well last night and she should be rewarded highly by juries for her artistic vision. Again, it’s a modern pop song which is elevated by its surrealist staging. The concern is, might it alienate some who find it all too esoteric and borderline disturbing?

Finland definitely creates a moment of haunting beauty. It is like a cathedral of sound up there that washes over you and I think the juries should be rating this highly. The run of Finland, Azerbaijan, Portugal is a really strong section in this semi, all offering something cerebral and unique.

It felt like Portugal’s Salvador created a moment last night, with the crucial addition of a live audience holding their lit mobiles in the air, bringing out the timeless beauty of his song. And his highly nuanced performance is very special to behold. This would be my idea of last night’s jury winner and it is hard to imagine it failing to resonate with televoters tonight.

The one likely to be competing for top honours with jurors is Armenia. Artsvik had to endure a small delay as the Czech song started playing. This threw her off slightly at song start. She pulled it back well for the fantastic final minute and this is one that works very well as an audio-visual package.

Armenia has the bigger voting power and the better running order position so it’s a difficult one to work out as to who comes out on top between it and Portugal. It will probably come down to whether Salvador manages to establish clear water at the top of the jury rankings. A dutch of Armenia and Portugal for the semi win at best available odds looks the most sensible play.

If there is to be a shock in this semi, Australia could be under the most threat of a surprise NQ. Isaiah is vocally fine but performed from the 3 slot in a semi rich with excellent live vocalists and plenty of songs with more USP, this feels like it gets lost. The staging with the ‘look at me’ visuals of Isaiah could also end up making him less voteable and as a performer he is like a blank page.

Georgia’s Tamara, Albania’s Lindita and Poland’s Kasia are all tremendous live vocalists who all did a great job last night but they could risk almost cancelling each other out.

Greece’s Demy had the good fortune of being given a second run through after Latvia which looks like ensuring her safe passage to the grand final. It sounded the best it has ever done during that reprise.

This took a bit of the pimp slot impact away from Latvia. Agnese performed this well, it’s highly distinctive, has some fantastic dance beats, great lighting, and should be enjoyed by televoters tonight. With the live crowd, it will be a strong show closer.

More of a concern for Latvia’s Q chance is the blatant ramping of Moldova you will see tonight. There is a long segment chatting to the band with video of ‘Epic Sax Guy’ from 2010, and he then performs his segment from that song. This is Ukraine transparently trying to help its neighbour.

Moldova is going to need a big televote to squeeze through because it really should be bottom of the pile on the jurors’ ranking scorecards along with Montenegro.

Some here are keen to make a case for Slovenia qualifying, and it has certainly been available at a value Q price on Betfair. My issue is, this is a very competitive heat, Omar is not as strong a vocalist as others in this semi, and as a performer I am not sure he is the most voteable. The song is also an old-fashioned dirge and is squeezed between 2 songs with much more USP in Armenia and Latvia.

Montenegro looks a jury last placer. Czech Rep, while competently performed, does feel like a tea break song, and Iceland similarly could slip through the cracks. In the early section, as well as Lindita performs, you sense Georgia is a stronger visual presentation and has more of a qualification chance.

My feeling is there are possibly 12 nations fighting for 10 spots. I would have Armenia, Portugal, Greece, Finland, Belgium, Azerbaijan, Cyprus and Sweden all qualifying.

Which would leave Australia, Poland, Moldova and Latvia fighting over the 2 remaining Q spots. Kasia needs the Polish diaspora to come out and support her tonight but the doubt is she does not have the same profile Michal Szpak had last year. While she performed the song superbly last night, it is staged nicely, and it is probably deserving of a qualifying spot, it may just miss out.

Latvia is a similar case. It has the semi-final pimp slot stats on its side and as a song and performance it feels stronger than Moldova. But, you have to be cold-hearted in this game sometimes and the dark arts of TPTB in pushing Moldova may well succeed.

If you fancy taking a short-priced one on to Q, the suggestion here would be Australia. Also worth considering is who might be lined up to be the final qualifier revealed. There is an argument for Portugal but, IF it qualifies, it is possibly more likely Ukraine’s neighbour Moldova will be withheld until last, so Epic Sax Guy can have a further moment in the spotlight.

Purely for bragging rights my 10 Qs will be: Sweden, Australia, Belgium, Finland, Azerbaijan, Portugal, Greece, Cyprus, Armenia and (fetch me some self-harming accessories) Moldova.

Tim has just handed me a piece of paper which reveals… he has the exact same 10 Qs. And his trading advice is to back Cyprus to qualify at anything above 1.5, and to lay Azerbaijan to finish top 3 in this semi at 3.5 or lower.

Enjoy the show and good luck with all your investments. Please also do feel free to drop us a line in the Comments with your idea of semi 1’s 10 Qs.

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11 Comments

  1. Mark

    Thanks for a great review. I do agree that it is a tough semi to call. I do hope that the juries and televoters see the beauty of Belgium. Yes she is a shy / introvert performer but a quality song. The artist and performance matches the song. I know that every year we see fine examples of neighbourly votes at the expense of worthwhile acts. I hope this does not happen at the expense of Belgium.

  2. Por
    Arm
    Fin
    Swe
    Aze
    Bel
    Cyp
    Mol
    Aus
    Gre

    Pol
    Lat
    Alb
    Slo
    Mon
    Cze

    Same 10 which is a bit of a worry.

    Enjoying all your coverage, best of luck.

  3. Montell

    My 10 qualifiers for tonight.

    Sweden
    Australia
    Finland
    Azerbaijan
    Portugal
    Greece
    Moldova
    Cyprus
    Armenia
    Slovenia

  4. Matt

    Great work chaps. At the risk of sounding lame, I have the identical ten qualifiers too. Latvia and Poland the two most likely to benefit if one of the ten falls flat on the night.

    • eurovicious

      The level of consensus is interesting. Rob, Tim and Daniel appear to have the same 10 qualifiers, as do you and Paul, while mine (and a few other people’s) is only one different. Only a minority have 2-3 different. Tonight we’ll see if we have this semi as worked out as we think we do…

      • Rob

        Hi ev. I do worry when there is consensus like there appears to be ahead of tonight. I came very close to making Oz an NQ and putting Latvia in. I have a lot of respect for the power of the pimp slot and for me it has big impact and is a highly competent dance tune with cool visuals.

        Poland is the other interesting one for me. I do think the Poles across Europe are maybe a strong diaspora element now. But my Polish contact reckons Kasia won’t get the love Michal did last year.

        • Matt

          The nine out of ten shows we were all pretty much on the button, which is gratifying. Poland was always a landmine and one i navigated in running as Finland felt underwhelming on the night. I know Rob has always rated Kasia and vocally she was really impressive so not even sure we can just put it down to the healthy diaspora.

          Armenia felt a little less than the sum of its parts too but as a top ten concern it’s sailing home. Portugal looked and sounded amazing and even with the early draw will stand out a mile on Saturday. I think it will end up favourite at some point.

          Hope you all had a profitable night

  5. Tim B

    I think Australia should be ok. It’s an overall package I can compare to Israel last year with Made of Stars. Hovi was 4th in the semi jury vote with 127 points, which by itself ensured qualification for Israel. However, he was a shocking 16th on the televote side with only 20 points, but Hovi did not really need to perform on the Thursday night as he had already qualified from the jury vote alone.

    I envisage a similar sort of jury score for Isaiah, but also a higher televote. It would be a shock to see Australia as low as 16th in the semi, for me the overall package is good if unspectacular, Isaiah is more voter-friendly than Hovi and he has popularity in Sweden and other Nordic countries after having a hit single there. I could perhaps see Australia being 4th-5th on the jury side and 10th – 12th on the televote, which would be enough for a fairly comfortable qualification.

    • Montell

      Wow, Tim only now I noticed that Israel was 16th in the televote last year. I mean what the hell was wrong with people? That staging was amazing. Maybe people didn’t like how he looked?. This is a big mystery to me.

  6. Tim van Dijk

    My prediction for this tricky semi:

    – Armenia
    – Sweden
    – Portugal
    – Greece
    – Azerbaijan
    – Finland
    – Cyprus
    – Moldova
    – Australia
    – Poland

  7. Steve

    My take on last night is that Portugal romped the jury vote and more than probably placed first or second with the public. Several mates who are by no means ESC fans were on social media using words like ‘captivating’, ‘mesmerising’ and ‘creating a moment’.

    Having loved the studio version of Belgium I watched the rehearsal period with great sadness for Blanche and was truly expecting a NQ. However, there was something so endearing about her nervous, shaky performance that bizarrely added to the overall package. When she started smiling I have to admit I let out a cheer and a ‘Come on Blanche’ (thanks God I was watching alone!). ESC tracker suggests the public bought into the quality of the song and I wouldn’t be surprised to discover she did feature in the top three yesterday.

    I thought Armenia was quality. Song not really for me but the armography (is that what you call it?)was stunning. I think a first half draw alongside Italy and Portugal will really hurt its chances of a podium finish though but eastern Europe should still see a high top ten placing.

    I was so disappointed for Finland but felt like there was a minute in the song where the camera angles were off and as a viewer you kind of lost interest. Again, friends comments were along the lines of ‘started off strong but then became boring’. I do worry about the chances of a high overall finish for the UK after Finland’s result though. I think Lucie may hit top ten with the juries but then will come tumbling down the ranks as viewers won’t have picked up the phone. However, losing Finland, and a whole load of dross so far in the second half will help her to some degree.

    Robin for Sweden was a pretty uncomfortable watch and as slick as it was, it still felt pretty soulless. The second half draw might help it stay in the top ten but I’m pretty sure he aint on the podium.

    If the second semi final turns out to be as weak as perceived I think that Portugal stand the best chance of an overall win on Saturday. I absolutely adore Italy and was desperate for it to romp home but the performance shown last night (and the full video online) is extremely messy. Francisco is over egging the pudding and the whole package is now just too much. I actually found myself cringing watching it. I hope he can reign it in on Saturday