Yeah, Yeah Fire

May 9, 2024 by

Yeah, Yeah Fire

Semi-final two has been far more unanimous this year making its mind up over the ten clear qualification favourites, prices hardening up as we’ve progressed through the rehearsal period.

But as we saw on Tuesday evening, that’s not to say it’s going to be proved correct. Poland and Australia NQ, Serbia and Slovenia Q. Even in this 100% televote era, there is always scope for upsets.

We saw six of the seven in the first half qualify on Tuesday night and all the first five qualifying, which was still something of a stat breaker. In semi two, there’s a possibility the last seven could all qualify, which would set another precedent.

Whereas semi-final one had a low qualification bar, semi-two is the exact opposite and sets a standard only Javier Sotomayor would consider a breeze. Strange old Eurovision year this.

First, the anticipated NQs. Denmark feels like semi two’s Iceland. It’s far too bland, mid tempo pop to stand out enough and Saba’s vocal was extremely ropey during last night’s jury performance.

Albania is only respected because it’s always loitering close to 10th in semi-finals but Besa’s ’Titan’ is doing everything to ensure Albania doesn’t qualify this year.

Whereas semi-final one had a low qualification bar, semi-two is the exact opposite and sets a standard only Javier Sotomayor would consider a breeze

Sarah Bonnici tries her hardest to sell the uptempo ‘Loop’ but it all comes off as second rate. ‘Hollow’ is a quality entry well performed by Latvia’s Dons but the staging completely fails to bring it to life. Similar to this year’s Germany, the visuals don’t help.

So who’s in? Georgia was an entry the market prevaricated on earlier in the season but Nutsa’s superb live performance has seen it drop to 1.18 to qualify. She is a compelling frontwoman, who owns the stage and has the vocal prowess and attitude to sell ‘Firefighter’ memorably. If Georgia doesn’t end its 6 NQ streak with this entry it will be a real shock.

The three entries the market has most doubts about now are Belgium, Estonia and Austria. The former two have never flown with the fan community across the season and Mustii has endured a severe beat down conjuring recollections of Blanche who endured a chorus of similarly harsh criticism back in 2017.

It comes down to whether or not Mustii’s live performance is as televote-repellent as some think. He got to perform his entry twice last night and despite all the negativity, he delivers ‘Before The Party’s Over’ well enough, and the song seems too good to miss out on qualification.

Estonia comes alive in front of a live audience, and is well executed by 5miinust & Puuluup, It’s a self-deprecatingly catchy entry, and should be enough of a televote magnet this evening to get through.

Austria’s Kaleen has, for the most part, been magically transformed courtesy of a backing vocalist doing all the heavy lifting. But there are moments during ‘We Will Rave’ when she still sounds exposed. As good a job Austria has done with the staging and the sound mix it risks coming across as a wafer-thin 90s house music throwback.

This is a friendly semi for Greece and Armenia, and both arrive with diaspora-pleasing efforts. Clear national identity can be a winning quality at ESC and each has this in abundance. Western ears may struggle with ‘Zari’ but Marina Satti is charismatic in carrying this in a one-shot take. And in the game of giving good camera, Ladaniva’s Jaklin Baghdasaryan can see Satti’s charm and raise her a winning smile.

As good a job Austria has done with the staging and the sound mix it risks coming across as a wafer-thin 90s house music throwback

One fascinating aspect with semi two lies in three rock entries each offering televoters something slightly different. Czechia and San Marino are both total staging triumphs, up there with Georgia 2016.

Squeezed between Nemo and Slimane in the first half is cruel beyond words for Aiko and makes things that much more difficult for her. But ‘Pedestal’ wouldn’t sound out of place on a Paramore playlist.

San Marino is possibly trying to sell something a bit more niche in appeal but Megara is outstanding and ’11:11’ stands out as something credible and authentic following the horrendously cabaret Spanish entry.

Norway has everything in its favour. Penultimate slot, a higher profile and more voting friends compared to Czechia and San Marino, and a Nordic mystical rock entry the fan community has fully embraced.

The occasionally off-key screeching of Gate lead vocalist Gunnhild Sundli threatens to send ‘Ulveham’ towards unappealing din territory. To these eyes and ears it has the hallmarks of Greta Salome’s ‘Hear Them Calling’ in 2016 fused with Alvan and Ahez’s ‘Fulenn’ in 2022, the former a shock NQ, the latter a much hyped fan fave that ending up languishing in 24th place. The chance of a successful 1.07 lay should never be passed up but it’s probably too fan-friendly to miss.

Eden Golan should be aided by those who will be keen to express support for Israel, especially if we get the same noticeable boos among the audience as was the case last night

Nemo is excellent performing ‘The Code’. It’s just that the staging of it feels like an empty canvas and purely a showcase for the genre assault course of the track. It still looks the main threat to Croatia in this year’s Contest. The fan community love Switzerland and it could challenge Netherlands for the semi two win.

Netherlands pimp-slotted ‘Europapa’ just seems to miss the mark. It’s hard to get beyond the primitive nature of the track, the novelty factor, and the visuals don’t marry together well enough, prior to the epitaph to Joost’s father at the climax being crowbarred in.

Israel’s Eden Golan brings a solid vocal and decent staging to ‘Hurricane’. She should be aided by those who will be keen to express support for Israel, especially if we get the same noticeable boos among the audience as was the case last night.

So it may well prove an impenetrable wall of ten odds-on qualifiers getting through tonight but we wouldn’t be doing our job here without highlighting where the value lies, so Czechia takes the tenth Q spot at the expense of Austria.

Rob’s ten Qs: Netherlands, Switzerland, Georgia, Norway, Belgium, Estonia, Israel, Greece, Armenia, Czechia.

The Top 3 market in semi two is a fascinating one to trade because the battle for the third podium spot looks wide open. One that could surprise at a nice price is Georgia. Nutsa isn’t quite Eleni Foureira but she’s very good:

A brief word on France and Italy. They are the clear stand out among this year’s Big 5, both looked and sounded good last night and it’s going to be a fascinating head-to-head battle. Similar to 2021, grand final running order could prove decisive.

Best of luck tonight. As always, please let us know your semi two thoughts below.

Matt’s words of wisdom:

Another uplifting show from Malmo and on paper, an easier puzzle to solve for those of us determined to achieve the fabled full house.

Ten songs are trading odds-on and its’s actually hard to see any of these missing out. However, this is Eurovision and Slovenia on Tuesday shows that anything is still possible, especially when we have the diaspora heavy Albania in the Serbia slot, Aiko of the Czech Republic channelling Olivia Rodrigo, and San Marino pulling out all the stops with some of the best staging of the week.

This means three are not considered further. Latvia is solid, but visually uninspiring. Malta is staged well, but with little in the way of song, and Denmark is the latest in the long line of Denmark entries – a throwaway radio hit which would run Iceland close in the battle of the beige.

So who is vulnerable if Albania, Czech or San Marino step up? This is the tricky part. The obvious candidate is Austria – poorly sung and increasingly redundant. Belgium has more going for it, but Mustii is an acquired taste and his aggressive delivery remains off putting. While Estonia is the least fancied by the market – probably due to the “old men dancing” feeling anachronistic when viewed through the fan bubble.

Denmark is the latest in the long line of Denmark entries – a throwaway radio hit which would run Iceland close in the battle of the beige

With that in mind, I expect Estonia to overperform. Albania, while diaspora rich, has removed all traces of Albania from its song, so is disregarded.

This leaves Belgium and Austria in danger, but with San Marino and Czech Republic both fishing in the same waters, it makes sense to go with the better overall package, so my final qualifier will be San Marino, edging out Austria.

Matt’s ten Qs: Netherlands, Switzerland, Georgia, Norway, Belgium, Estonia, Israel, Greece, Armenia and San Marino.

Be lucky!

5 Comments

  1. Montell

    Greece
    Switzerland
    Denmark
    Armenia
    Geogia
    Belgium
    Estonia
    Israel
    Norway
    Netherlands

    I know I’m making a mistake putting Denmark in, but I’m trying to think outside of the box because the market almost never gets 10/10. I love San Marino’s song, but it took me 2-3 times to fall in love with it. Malta takes my last place. In my opinion, the worst song of the year. I look at my first impression of Latvia and I rated it 4.5/5 and was even backing it to win Eurovision. It’s very ironic that today you can back Latvia @6.0 to qualify from the semi-final. The song is good. My main issue is Dons. He lacks charisma and just doesn’t connect with the viewer.

  2. neomichael

    Although I personally hate belgium’s peformance , the data from the polls do not suggest the same. I would be very happy if any of Austria, Estonia, Belgium do not qualify and Malta or Chechia sneak in but I think that bookmakers tonight have predict all ten correctly. With regards Albania very few people likes this song in the polls and with the combination of the 2nd position I hope it will be enough to keep it away from qualification regardless the number of allies they have on their side (Greece, Italy, San-Marino, Switzerland). My prediction would be:
    1 Switzerland
    2 Netherlands
    3 Greece
    4 Norway
    5 Georgia
    6 Armenia
    7 Austria
    8 Belgium
    9 Israel
    10 Estonia
    11 Malta
    12 Czechia
    13 San Marino
    14 Albania
    15 Denmark
    16 Latvia

    Good Luck with your investments!

  3. Mark dowd

    Anyone put a ton of money on Latvia Q?

    • Rob

      I did back it initially to qualify (and top 10/15) because I had been expecting the rumours to be true that the big change this year would be top 9 on televote going through, with the 10th qualifier being the entry with the highest jury score among the remainder. I thought this was a reason to have Serbia and Latvia on side. But seeing the underwhelming Latvian staging I layed most of my stake back for it to Q.

      It was difficult to see a path to qualification. I think people were moved by his voice cracking and him showing genuine emotion singing the song. Authentic emotion can be a big vote winner, much more so than when nations try to crowbar it into a performance. See Netherlands.

      Pleased for Latvia, like Georgia. They deserved to break their 6 NQ streaks this year.

      • Mark dowd

        Agree. The stories from Ireland, Georgia and Latvia are heartwarming. Normally when you have a “shock qualifier” it’s number 11-13 in the betting odds…not number 16!

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