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Foureira Fever

May 8, 2018 by

Foureira Fever

Semi 1 looked a tough semi to decipher coming to Lisbon. Being here has only reinforced that view. This is a Eurovision that resides firmly on the ‘too difficult’ pile as things currently stand. I can’t recall ESC semi-finals that are harder to unravel than the ones we have this year, and it is especially hard to feel confident how semi 1 will play out.

The semi stats suggest 6 qualifying from the 1st half is unlikely, 7 unprecedented and yet my assessments make 7 1st half Qs totally plausible.

Part of the difficulty with semi 1 is in trying to figure out Azerbaijan and Bulgaria’s fate. ‘X My Heart’ is lightweight, generic stuff but it seems unwise to oppose Azerbaijan for Q when it has this uncanny knack for just doing enough to squeeze through and especially given the big names involved. Aisel did ok last night in front of the juries.

We have seen an all-out PR push for Bulgaria even before ‘Bones’ turned up under the ‘common framework’. and there has clearly been a lot of investment made in this entry. It has a contemporary feel in its production but visually it comes across as a pretentious nonsense trying too hard to look like it has gravitas. Both qualifying would come as no surprise; nor both NQ-ing.

We also have 5 solo females in the first half trying to qualify. All 5 going through doesn’t quite sit right and yet it could happen. Estonia has been received positively here but might jury members look beyond Elina’s amazing vocal prowess and assess her operatic song harshly, and exactly how big is the televote audience for this kind of music? Elina certainly produced her best last night in front of the juries.

Belgium’s Sennek has improved over the course of rehearsals and she should do well on the jury side with what feels like one of the quality songs in this semi. She also brought her a-game last night but it’s another one to add to the borderline list. Lithuania’s Ieva offers up a warm, tender, heart-felt 3 minutes which again feels too good to miss out on qualifying, and yet it might. Doubts, doubts and more doubts.

Israel’s Netta and Czech Republic’s Mikolas look on paper to be stronger Q prospects than most but neither is entirely bullet-proof. Israel has this nagging kookiness about it that might not be well-received by jurors, while ‘Lie To Me’ continues to feel a bit cheap and lightweight to me. Plus, the male backing vocal was too heavy in the sound mix last night which might have seen it punished by some keen-eared jurors.

In the 2nd half of semi 1 the strongest Q prospects look to be Cyprus, Greece, Armenia and Austria but Switzerland is definitely one you cannot discount. They have done the very best they could, staging-wise, to try and elevate the Swiss track, and Corinne sells it well.

Its European neighbour, Austria, offers up a modern, radio-friendly song. The nagging concern with this is, Cesar does not convince as a frontman despite his good live vocal. There felt a lack of connection with him last night with too many long shots and as a result the song suffers and becomes a bit wishy-washy. Logic dictates there is probably only room for one of these two minnow ESC nations among the 10 Qs, and both missing out would not be a shock.

When assessing ESC semi-finals a fundamental is sussing out voting strength and you naturally become more confident on a diaspora/voting heavyweight country qualifying when they send songs that are strong enough to do well on the jury side too.

This applies to both Greece and Armenia. In a normal year both would be considered qualifying locks but not in a semi of this quality. Of the two, Greece looks more vulnerable. The dry ice and pyros seemed to mis-fire last night – it was surprising there was no re-run – and it could find itself falling a long way down on the jury side. It is a song more reliant on getting a big televote and it should motivate the Greek diaspora but the power of Greek-born Eleni could also dent Yianna’s voting power.

Armenia’s Sevak was at his best last night and given Armenia’s voting strength in this semi it should be a Q. Finland’s Saara is sandwiched in between and while she performed ‘Monsters’ well in front of the juries, it feels plastic and far too X Factor in its kitsch, cabaret presentation. Again, it is one it feels dangerous to dismiss from possible Q.

Which brings us to the massive plunge on Cyprus which is now favourite to win the entire Contest. Eleni produced her best last night and the Cypriots have done an amazing job concealing her vocal frailties.

From the pimp slot, it does have a ‘steal the show’ feel to it, and it is brilliantly staged from the moment she emerges through the dry ice giving it her best catwalk strut. But you also wonder if the hype is being ratcheted up by the fan bubble here which has become fully immersed in Foureira fever.

‘Fuego’ is definitely a song built for a live show when you have someone of Eleni’s quality selling it. But might the more cold-hearted jury members consider it a bit too flimsy as a pop song, not to mention trashy?

If this semi wasn’t already hard enough to predict, Belarus cannot be totally discounted; nor Ireland’s Ryan. Croatia’s Franka and Albania’s Eugent appear to have a slimmer chance in this company, while Iceland and FYR Macedonia look like banker NQ material.

It might prove wisest to stick with the semi-final qualification principles and factor in a combination of voting strength, running order, song quality, performance quality and, whisper it, corruption.

My very unconfident verdict is 7 going through from the first half – Azerbaijan, Belgium, Czech Republic, Lithuania, Israel, Estonia and Bulgaria – and three from the 2nd half in Greece, Armenia and Cyprus.

Cyprus may well do enough from the pimp slot to win this semi but looks a ludicrously short price now and a tempting lay whereas Czech Republic has been pushed out to a backable price e/w. For a surprise top 3 finish in this semi, Lithuania and Armenia are worthy of consideration.

One issue with the way the semi-finals are being perceived this year, is the preponderance of uptempo/fun songs considered front-runners, but surely they cannot all be roaring successes on the televote, or with jury members, and something has to give somewhere.

After the blood-shed anticipated to take place this evening, running order position in the final could yet prove a decisive factor. Tonight’s qualifier reveal is one to watch from behind the sofa for anyone who has taken strong positions.

Best of luck to all ESC investors tonight. What are your most confident plays and 10 Qs? Please feel free to share your views below.

 

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10 Comments

  1. Tim B

    Czech Republic
    Lithuania
    Israel
    Belarus
    Estonia
    Bulgaria
    Austria
    Greece
    Switzerland
    Cyprus

  2. I’ve hardly bet on this SF1, as you say it’s a fiendish one. A shame for the competition that they weren’t better split between semis as SF2 is on of the worst I can remember.

  3. OK I’ll go with what Tim said above except swapping Finland for Switzerland.

  4. Montell

    Azerbaijan
    Czech Republic
    Lithuania
    Israel
    Estonia
    Bulgaria
    Austria
    Greece
    Switzerland
    Cyprus

  5. Ron

    I can’t see seven first half songs qualifying from a 19 song semi final, Rob. It is more likely there probably will be carnage in the first half. I just can’t see the juries and televoters settling for seven favourites from that half and nearly switching off once we get to Song 11….it has never happened in any semi final (there may be an element too of the fanbase trying to convince themselves this year the first half is vastly superior to the second).

    • Rob

      Hi Ron. I know the historical semi stats suggest it’s unlikely but I try and treat every semi as its own unique entity. Always felt there is more quality in the 1st half.

      If you look back to ESC 2010 semi 2, under the current scoring system we would have had 6 out of 8 in the 1st half qualifying, only 4 out of 9 in the 2nd half.

      I do see Belgium as the most vulnerable among my Q picks and would not be surprised to see a 2nd half-er in there instead.

      • Rob

        Should add, Sweden (in 1st half) would have been the Q in 2010, and Ireland (in 2nd half) an NQ.

  6. Matt

    Toughest semi ever alert!

    Cyprus
    Cz Rep
    Israel
    Estonia
    Greece
    Armenia
    Bulgaria
    Austria
    Lithuania
    Belarus

  7. Cyprus
    Estonia
    Czech Rep
    Israel
    Lithuania
    Bulgaria
    Greece
    Armenia
    Azerbaijan
    Switzerland
    ———–
    Belgium, Finland, Belarus, Austria, Ireland, Albania, Croatia, Macedonia, Iceland

  8. neomichael

    “Tonight’s qualifier reveal is one to watch from behind the sofa for anyone who has taken strong positions.” hahahahahah, so true!
    For me my uncertain ranking would be as follows:
    1 Cyprus
    2 Israel
    3 Bulgaria
    4 Czech Republic
    5 Armenia
    6 Azerbaijan
    7 Estonia
    8 Belarus
    9 Greece
    10 Switzerland
    11 Albania
    12 Lithuania
    13 FYR Macedonia
    14 Ireland
    15 Austria
    16 Croatia
    17 Finland
    18 Belgium
    19 Iceland

    Good luck everybody!