North Star

May 16, 2019 by

North Star

Semi-final 2 sees the arrival of this year’s big hitters in The Netherlands, Sweden, Russia and Switzerland. It looks a very strong semi on paper with Azerbaijan trying to break into the top 3 from the pimp slot.

The win market has never made much appeal in semi 2 but after last night’s jury performance it does feel like Duncan Laurence is in pole position to take the semi win. Some have questioned the song’s televote appeal but the good news is, the staging has come together much better now and Duncan managed to create a real moment in front of the juries last night.

Sweden might, undeservedly in my humble opinion, manage to beat The Netherlands on the jury side, but there are possibly much bigger televote issues for John Lundvik to overcome. Sergey Lazarev’s ‘Scream’ is what it is, and while Sergey produced the goods last night in front of the juries, the song has clear limitations and it feels like something heavily reliant on Russia’s televoting power to muscle its way to the top.

Switzerland has improved over the rehearsal period, Luca Hanni performed the song really well last night and he probably has a better chance of breaking into the top 3 compared to Azerbaijan’s Chingiz.

Regardless of the televoting power of the pimp slot (see San Marino, semi 1), the truth about ‘Truth’ is, this is a case of visuals heavily outweighing song and performance quality. Indeed, it was blatantly apparent that Chingiz was being carried throughout by his backing vocalists last night. Astute jury members should be scoring it down for this reason.

The out-of-body visual and the robots scanning him at song start feel very gimmicky. Plus, it would appear the EBU requested juries to ignore visual effects in assessing the songs last night due to so many technical issues during the earlier rehearsal. So it’s hard to see Azerbaijan doing that well on the jury side.

Regardless of the televoting power of the pimp slot, the truth about ‘Truth’ is, this is a case of visuals heavily outweighing song and performance quality

Armenia’s Srbuk is a strong performer and ‘Walking Out’ is a highly credible, modern pop song. It has impact from the opening position in the semi and while the market has been keen to oppose Armenia, it should have enough quality to get through. Srbuk put in some excellent freestyling in the last minute in front of the juries last night which should have earned her some extra points as well.

Malta’s Michela Pace has never looked entirely comfortable performing ‘Chameleon’ throughout rehearsals and they have had to keep her movement to a minimum to enable her to get through it unscathed. Vocally, they concealed her well enough in front of the juries last night, and she performed it to the best of her ability. Malta always ‘surprises’ on the jury side and it should comfortably be qualifying.

The Q springer during rehearsal fortnight has been Austria. Paenda performs the song with such emotional resonance it raises ‘Limits’ to the level of a highly authentic modern ballad. The lighting has worked wonders creating the right atmosphere for the song and the quality shines through so much it could have gone surprisingly high on the jury side last night. Austria could well be this evening’s ‘surprise’ envelope.

North Macedonia’s Tamara was vocally exceptional again last night and it’s another entry that should be able to qualify from this semi-final boosted by its jury points haul. It’s a decent, easily-accessible ballad, classily staged and performed from an excellent running order position.

Paenda performs the song with such emotional resonance it raises ‘Limits’ to the level of a highly authentic modern ballad

Albania suffers in comparison with North Macedonia, and as a foreign language ballad this could hold it back more. Albania does have a few friends in this strong semi, giving rise to hope, but you sense it is a more likely NQ.

Lithuania is trying to pull a Victor Crone in this semi. A safe, mid tempo pop song sung by a good looking guy, and this is a friendly semi for it with the likes of Latvia, Ireland and the UK likely to give it decent points. But he does look like falling well down on the jury side, as ‘Run With The Lions’ feels an all-round limp effort.

Lithuania and Albania will be seeking a televote boost to lift them into the top 10 overall, but that comment probably also applies to Denmark and Norway. Only 2 achieved the jump in semi 1 and this is a much stronger semi so it will be no easy task for any of them.

Both Denmark and Norway feel fundamentally weak and my gut instinct is, at least 1 of them will miss out. In different ways they are both relying on a nostalgic fan vote to help boost them. Norway’s better running order might give it the Q edge though the yoiking will mean there is a televote ceiling. Norway has looked far too short around the 1.4 mark to qualify and might be one to consider taking on, especially if it goes shorter in-running which it might well do.

When you consider all the strong solo females in this semi, Denmark’s Leonora has to be falling well down the pecking order. Its early draw does it no favours and there is little stagecraft in her performance while the song is as twee, dated and lightweight as they come. The notion this is going to pull in a big televote is possibly misplaced.

If one of the Scandi nations does fall, a country that might take advantage is Romania. It has an exceptional qualification record over the years, Ester Peony is a compelling artist, she performed well last night, and the song seems strong enough to be competitive in this semi.

When you consider all the strong solo females in this semi, Denmark’s Leonora has to be falling well down the pecking order

Ireland and Croatia have the feel of near no-hopers, but you can probably make a small case for Moldova and Latvia. Moldova is attempting a Mika Newton with the sand artist but this visual gimmick must have been seen so many times around Europe now on assorted tv talent shows that it will probably have only limited impact. The EBU jury directive regarding ignoring visuals last night could work against Moldova’s Q chance as well.

Latvia should be respected on the jury side. With its live instrumentation and modern lounge feel, it is well presented and performed but the song is let down by a lack of progression. My idea of the most likely last placer is Ireland. Everything about it is second rate and it has a terrible r.o..

So the 10 Qs for me in semi 2 are, with a degree of certainty – The Netherlands, Russia, Sweden, Switzerland, Azerbaijan, Malta, North Macedonia – and, with much less certainty – Armenia, Austria and Romania – as it does feel like the last 3 Q slots are much more in the balance.

Best of luck with your investments this evening and please feel free to post your semi 2 thoughts below.

Matt’s thoughts on semi 2:

After last night’s jury show, Netherlands and Sweden have strengthened at the top of the Outright market after impressive performances. Not surprisingly they are clearly through tonight, closely followed by Russia, Switzerland, Malta and Azerbaijan. North Macedonia, despite its recent qualifying travails, works well in its slot and is added to the mix.

Another to benefit from running order is Austria, which creates quite an emotional connection, coming straight after the slickness of Sweden. This is still trading at over 3s so is clearly not a lock. To get home, it will need a big jury score, but I am reasonably confident it will have enough resonance.

The last two are trickier to call. Armenia is vocally great, but staging and running order are a little less positive. Norway is a fan favourite, but walks a very fine line, and risks veering into novelty.

The competition is a vocally-secure Moldova, a nostalgic Denmark, a diaspora-pleasing Albania and a theatrical Romania. A case can be made for all, but my view is these all have more downsides than ups. As such my 10 to qualify are:

North Macedonia

Good luck with your positions.


  1. Alpie

    Rob, what is your approach to Italy?

    • Rob

      Hi Alpie. I’ve been against Italy from the get-go. I’ve seen nothing here in Tel Aviv to persuade me it can challenge the top spots. The opposite in fact, can make a stronger argument for it dropping lower. I get the jury bait argument but also think there is room for doubt. Staging hasn’t improved it. Probably still top 10 but in 6th-10th range, more likely.

  2. Q: Neth, Swe, Azer, Rus, Swi, Mal, N Mace, Nor, Aus, Lith.
    NQ: Arm, Rom, Alb, Den, Mol, Cro, Lat, Ire.

  3. stu

    With you on the Ireland last place bet – still odds against even.

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