We’re having more trouble calling the 2nd Semi. We seem to get to about 7 countries, and after that who knows. With 5 ex-Yugoslav countries, surely at least one will be left out, right? But which one? Do we really think there’s enough oxygen for both Croatia and Macedonia? Or maybe all 5 make it in. And how about Estonia–does the big ballad with the telegenic singer stand a chance with the countries voting in this Semi? And what in the world do we do with Slovakia? And Georgia, good God, what about Georgia?
Serbia: Željko Joksimovic – “Nije ljubav stvar”
Jen says: Q. Serbia is professional, consistent, and well-known in the Balkans. This ballad is one of the best entries in the entire contest. Top 5.
Chris says: Q. This is the best of all the ballads you’ll hear tonight, whether it’s from a former Yugoslavian republic or not.
FYR Macedonia: Kaliopi – “Crno i blo”
Jen says: NQ. She’s working it with the press and hardcore fans, but I’m going to say that casual viewers will pass because the song isn’t good enough, and she’s going too early in the draw.
Chris says: Q. Normally, I would not bet on this, but with four other former Yugoslavian republics voting tonight, I would be shocked if this didn’t go through.
The Netherlands: Joan Franka – “You and Me”
Jen says: NQ. The staging is out of sync with this retro folk song. Folks at home will remember her for the headdress, not the song.
Chris says: NQ. Eurovision is about immediate impact, and if you’re spending three minutes trying to figure out why the performer is dressed the way she is, then the song is not going to have an impact.
Malta: Kurt Calleja – “This Is the Night”
Jen says: NQ. I hope I’m wrong about Malta, because this is a likable performance and I would love to see it qualify. But Kurt’s tonality doesn’t stand out enough.
Chris says: NQ. I’m with Jen: I so want to be wrong, because I really enjoy what Kurt and the Maltese team have done here. But I don’t know if this is memorable enough, particularly with “Be My Guest” coming up in three songs.
Belarus: Litesound – “We Are the Heroes”
Jen says: NQ. This was a good mainstream rock song, and they blew it.
Chris says: Q. Some friendly voting from Ukraine and Georgia is going to help Belarus along, I bet.
Portugal: Filipa Sousa – “Vida Minha”
Jen says: NQ. Boooring. The Lisbon backdrop is pleasant, but I don’t see that as enough to make her stand out in a crowded field of ballads.
Chris says: NQ. You’ll have forgotten about this song 20 seconds into the next song.
Ukraine: Gaitana – “Be My Guest”
Jen says: Q. Ukraine doing what Ukraine often does. Gaitana has a big voice, and the song is good fun.
Chris says: Q. It’s totally overstaged, but Gaitana is an engaging performer and the song is just a blast.
Bulgaria: Sofi Marinova – “Love Unlimited”
Jen says: NQ. Sofi’s solo turn does her no favors for this Saxobeat-like song.
Chris says: NQ. This is the Bulgarian equivalent of “Rose’s Turn.”
Slovenia: Eva Boto – “Verjamem”
Jen says: Q. I’m putting her in based on the strength of the song, but it’s not a confident pick. Eva is a good singer but other 16-year-olds have betrayed nerves on the night. The Slovene organizers haven’t helped matters by sticking her in the wedding dress.
Chris says: Q. I would rather “Verjamem” does not go through, even though I like Eva Boto, because there are better songs during this Semi. I hope the juries will ding this for being a “Molitva” rehash, but I’m not sure they will.
Croatia: Nina Badric – “Nebo”
Jen says: NQ. This song comes in the middle of the show, between 2 female singers. To stand out it has to have something special. I don’t see that happening.
Chris says: Q. Nina and the Croatian organizers have not done a great job in staging this, but I suspect bloc voting is going to carry the day.
Sweden: Loreen – “Euphoria”
Jen says: Q. Loreen will sail through.
Chris says: Q. The favorite to win it all will go through easily.
Georgia: Anri Jokhadze – “I’m a Joker”
Jen says: Q. Stranger things have happened. Memorable performances can carry a country a long way, and folks are going to remember him.
Chris says: NQ. I love this and I love what Anri did with this. But come on, is this really going to qualify for the finals? I mean stranger things have happened, like “I’m a Joker” making it to Baku…
Turkey: Can Bonomo – “Love me back”
Jen says: Q. Turkey didn’t qualify last year, but let’s not be too hasty in writing their obituary this year, shall we? This song is not conventional Turkish pop, but there is something interesting about Can as an artist. This performance has also features some clever staging that may win over some folks on the fence.
Chris says: NQ. “Love me back” is probably too odd a song for voters to put through. Not “Euro Neuro” odd, obviously.
Estonia: Ott Lepland – “Kuula”
Jen says: Q. The staging is simple and reports are the camerawork does a lot of close-ups on Ott, which is a good thing as long as he remembers to keep his eyes open.
Chris says: Q. I’m picking a lot of ballads to go through. This is one of the better ballads on the night, and Ott is going to command the stage.
Slovakia: Max Jason Mai – “Don’t Close Your Eyes”
Jen says: Q. I have no idea. His vocal is great, the performance is full of energy, and the staging is as good as a hard rock song staging can be. It’s got a late draw. Sure, why not.
Chris says: NQ. Although I really, really, really, really, really, really, really want this to go through.
Norway: Tooji – “Stay”
Jen says: Q. Everything has come together for Tooji and the world is filled with butterflies, sunshine, and happiness. WERK.
Chris says: Q. Terrific song, steady staging, dreamy performer, and a pimp slot: all the stars aligned for Tooji.
Bosnia & Herzegovina: Maya Sar – “Korake ti znam”
Jen says: Q. I find her ballad dull as can be, but Bosnia has put together a competent package. She will make it in based on a lot of help from the jury, the diaspora, and the late draw.
Chris says: Q. It’s a total snoozefest and it doesn’t seem to be popular with the diehard fans, but to sound like a broken record, there are too many former Yugoslavian republics voting tonight for this to miss the Final.
Lithuania: Donny Montell – “Love is Blind”
Jen says: NQ. Despite Donny’s best efforts I don’t think his gimmicks land. Of course, that’s exactly why we love him so. He’d get my vote if I had one to give. Europe needs to experience the wonder that is Donny Montell.
Chris says: NQ. Savor Donny while you can.