Eurovision 2016 — Semifinal 1

Every year I listen to and rate the Eurovision songs. This year is no different. Eurovision is the world’s largest TV show and this year it airs on May 10 (Semifinal 1), May 12 (Semifinal 2) and May 14 (Final). 43 countries are participating and as every year the ”Big 5” plus the winning country of the previous year are automatically qualified for the final.

I’ve tried to find YouTube videos of the actual live performances from the national selections. Where that hasn’t been possible (in some countries, there are no televised selections) I’ve tried not to judge based on any flashy music videos and only listened to the songs instead without watching the videos.

This year, I’m giving each song two scores:

  • Personal score: Is this a song I will be playing on repeat on my Spotify play list?
  • Eurovision score: How well do I think this song will actually do in the competition?

On top of that I’ve made it easier to identify the type of song each entry is. I always find myself writing ”another ballad”, ”typical East Pop”, or ”average pop”, so this time I’ve color-coded them. Of course, this is by Eurovision standards. for example, ”Rock” simply means that the song is more rock than pop in this competition, but if you’re a metal fan or old-school classic rock geek you’ll probably think it’s all pop anyway.

  • Ballad
  • Power Ballad
  • Slow Pop
  • Pop (westernized)
  • East Pop
  • Folk Pop
  • Singer/songwriter
  • Rock
  • Techno
  • Electronic

I’m excited for this year because since Sweden won last year the show is hosted in Stockholm, and because Eurovision is so big in Australia they’re invited back for the second year in a row!

I’ll be posting my scores in three posts – Semifinal 1, Semifinal 2 and Final. This is the first one. Let’s go!

Semifinal 1

#1. Armenia – LoveWave – Power Ballad

Ever since my all-time favorite Eurovision song Jan Jan (it’s so weird but catchy) in 2009 I’ve had high hopes for Armenia. They rarely deliver. This year, they ALMOST do. This is a great power ballad, and a great start to the competition. I wish I could see the stage performance though. It could make or break the song.

  • Personal Score: 3,5
  • Eurovision Score: 3,5

#2. Croatia – Lighthouse – Slow Pop

LOVE her voice! Good radio-friendly song. I really like it. Not a Eurovision winner though.

  • Personal Score: 4
  • Eurovision Score: 3

#3. Finland – Sing It Away – Pop

Wait, what? Finland usually suck! This is not bad at all. Naturally, I’m a bit biased towards Finland (when they won in 2006 we tried and failed to get tickets in our then-hometown Helsinki, and in 2011 it was my ex-classmate who represented Finland with a beautiful song) but I can honestly say that I’m positively surprised this year. It’s a groovy pop song. HOWEVER: I measure this by Finnish standard, and I doubt this song is right for Eurovision. Even though it’s groovy, it’s simply not memorable enough.

  • Personal Score: 4
  • Eurovision Score: 2,5

#4. Greece – Utopian Land – Folk Pop

I really had to try hard not to watch the video, just listen to it (the video is quite cool when I re-watched it). The chorus is in English and the verses in Greek. I really dig it. It’s a cool mix of folk and pop. I can imagine a cool stage show as well for this song, like Greece had back in 2005 when they won with Helena Paparizou’s My Number One (which also had a touch of folk to it). Unlike Helena’s song, though, Utopian Land sounds more like a gangster rap song in the verses and I don’t think that will score as well in the contest.

  • Personal Score: 4
  • Eurovision Score: 3

#5. Hungary – Pioneer – Pop

Seriously, I’m surprised that there are so many good songs in a row. Usually most are quite bad and a few stand out as good pop songs. This year, there seems to be a lot of good pop that fit my own style but not necessarily the traditional Eurovision format. Freddie, as the singer is called, has a good beat in his song, but I honestly find it a bit boring. Mixed feelings and my lowest ”personal score” this far.

  • Personal Score: 3
  • Eurovision Score: 2,5

#6. Moldova – Falling Stars – Pop

A classic very average Eurovision pop song. Poor vocals, at least at this live performance, and not a very interesting stage show. Still a nice beat.

  • Personal Score: 3
  • Eurovision Score: 2,5

#7. Netherlands – Slow Down – Singer/songwriter, Pop

The Netherlands always deliver! I always love their down-to-earth, singer/songwriter style with good English-language songs and production quality. This year is no different. However, as every other year, Eurovision is the wrong forum. Sorry. And, even though this is good stuff, it is a bit too boring. It’s like an average American country song.

  • Personal Score: 3
  • Eurovision Score: 3

#8. Russia – You Are The Only One – Pop, Techno

This could be awesome on stage! It could also be a massive mess and a fail. By Eurovision-standard it’s a bit more hardcore than the rest (music-wise), but the song is quite lame.

  • Personal Score: 3,5
  • Eurovision Score: 3

#9. San Marino – I Didn’t Know – Slow Pop

Holy crap that voice took me by surprise! It’s like taking over the entire song! Not sure if it’s in a good way or not. I like the background singers at the chorus and the laid-back style, but, overall, naah… Decent song, not a winner.

  • Personal Score: 2
  • Eurovision Score: 2

#10. Austria – Loin d’ici – Pop

It’s probably not a good sign that my first reaction is ”haha, that’s cute!” That stage background could look amazing on a the big Eurovision stage, but that doesn’t save this song from being quite bland. Pass!

  • Personal Score: 2
  • Eurovision Score: 2

#11. Azerbaijan – Miracle – Pop

Hey, nice! That’s all.

  • Personal Score: 4
  • Eurovision Score: 3

#12. Bosnia & Herzegovina – Ljubav je – East Pop

In 2010 I traveled to Bosnia with my classmates to make a magasin themed ”15 years after the war”. During that trip I interviewed two teenage girls who had no or few memories from the war. They played Bosnian music for me, and it sounded something like this. I call it ”east pop”, but truth be told, I haven’t really heard this style outside Bosnia & Herzegovina. I give little to no chance at winning the contest.

  • Personal Score: 2
  • Eurovision Score: 1

#13. Cyprus – Alter Ego – Rock

The first song of this year’s competition to have a bit of a rocky edge. Rock bands rarely do well in Eurovision. Still, I can se myself listening to this.

  • Personal Score: 3,5
  • Eurovision Score: 1,5

#14. Czech Republic – I Stand – Slow Pop

She says she stands. I don’t think so. It’s hard to stand while sleeping, and that’s what I’m doing listening to this.

  • Personal Score: 2
  • Eurovision Score: 2

#15. Estonia – Play – Pop

Oh my, that voice! Deep and cool. For some reason, when this started playing, I immediately had high hopes. The chorus fails it. The song is not interesting enough. The singer makes it interesting, but that’s not enough to save it.

  • Personal Score: 3,5
  • Eurovision Score: 3,5

#16. Iceland – Hear Them Calling – Pop

Very influenced by both the oh-so-brilliant Euphoria performance as well as last year’s winner Heroes (both Eurovision winners, both from Sweden). But still, Iceland manages to mix the interpretive dancing with the visual effects in their own way. Well done! The song is good too, but not a given winning melody like Euphoria was. Still, so far into the competition, I’d say that this song is the one with the greatest chance of winning! I’m still hoping for some 5’s up ahead, though.

  • Personal Score: 3
  • Eurovision Score: 4,5

#17. Malta – Walk On Water – Pop

The BEST song in my personal opinion! Great modern pop tune. It is NOT a given winner, but with the right stage performance it will definitely be among the top.

  • Personal Score: 5
  • Eurovision Score: 4

#18. Montenegro – The Real Thing – Rock, Electronic

A weak ending to the first semifinal. Actually, by Eurovision standard, this isn’t too bad at all, but it’s been a very strong playing field overall. This song simply doesn’t live up to the rest of them. Like Cyprus this has a bit more rock to it, and again, rock doesn’t do well in this competition.

  • Personal Score: 2
  • Eurovision Score: 1,5

Summary of Semifinal 1

2015 was a very weak Eurovision year, as was 2014. Therefore I’m very happy that the quality of the songs in the first semifinal in 2016 is high, in comparison. Still, there’s a lot of ”average” out there. I’m hoping for a few 5’s in Semifinal 2 or at least the final, and I sure hope that the winner isn’t among these first 18 songs, iwth the exception of Malta which is a personal favorite.

That said, if I had to pick a winner from Semifinal 1, it would be Iceland’s ”Hear Them Calling” simply because they have a great stage show and a not-too-bad song to go with it.

My reviews of Semifinal 2 will be published tomorrow 🙂

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