Eurovision Song Contest 2014 – Semi-Final 1

Off to the races again this year at the Eurovision Song Contest, this time we are in Copenhagen after Emmelie de Forest’s win last year in Malmö. With our very simple and charming hosts Lise Rønne, Pilou Asbæk, and Nikolaj Koppel the show got started with a very crystal inspired box theme. So, what did I think?

Armenia – Aram MP3
=> Qualified

A decent song to start, but really lacking the energy that I feel is necessary to start the show. Vocals were already but nothing to write home about, and the English pronunciation was decent. With a strange transition from sweet ballad to angry rock, I’m left wondering what was so appealing about this song that allowed it to qualify to the final.

Latvia – Arazemnieki
❗ Personal Favourite

Cheesy as it may be, I actually do like this song because it’s just so innocent. While the lyrics leave a lot to be desired, it is more of a song that I would imagine coming from Ireland or Malta than Latvia. Having said, that having an Eastern European accent while singing made a funny little twist that added to the whole image of the song. Simple, sweet, and made me smile. A good combo in my books.

Estonia – Tanja
❗ Personal Favourite

Our first club hit of the competition, Tanja takes an ambitious dance take on Loreen’s Euphoria to present Estonia’s entry. While I really like the song, I don’t really like the visual presentation of this as it just feels like a desperate attempt to be the same as past winners. Creative dance interpretation, iffy English, but really on screen doesn’t really do much for anything. Love the song, can be presented better… better luck next time!

Sweden – Sanna Nielsen
=> Qualified
❗ Personal Favourite

What words can be said about Sanna? She’s fabulous and after what feels like a lifetime of her trying to qualify for Eurovision she comes with a freaking power ballad that is just an anthem. Classy black dress, not much skin, a great voice, great visuals, great lights, just great all around. A true contender to win – lets cross our fingers for Sweden because it would be great to head back to Sweden!

Iceland – Pollapönk
=> Qualified

At first I thought this was the Eurovision parody of the year, and to be completely frank it wouldn’t have been the first time it took the form of an Icelandic entry. But really when I started to listen to the lyrics, I realized that this was a lot more mainstream and had a deeper message and meaning that the superficial image of a bunch of men dressed in bright various colours (which by the way was awesome). I particularly find the funky pre-bridge to be a big thumps up.

Albania – Hersi

A sweet little song at the beginning that, like Albania normally does, gets harder and harder. As kinky as that sounds, it’s really not all that good. What is she saying? English is iffy, and the way that that song is written doesn’t allow for the text to be very audible. While she has a good voice and has a good image, and despite the odd rocker that comes in half way, I think it’s a decent song but not good enough to progress. Europe agreed.

Russia – Tolmachevy Sisters
=> Qualified

As expected they got booed. With recent developments of Russian foreign politics and the annexing of regions of Ukraine I’m hardly surprised that the EU went ape shit on this act. I find it a bit ironic that as a result of what’s going on, Russia sends two cute and innocent sisters to represent them and show a “softer” side of Russia with lyrics that speak of love and sending messages above. I don’t buy it, and I while I don’t agree with the crowd booing them, I say “go home.”

Azerbaijan – Dilar Kazimova
=> Qualified

Whoah bitch… back that train up sister. While this woman has a nice voice, her English is really not pleasing to the ear. Infusing ethnic sounds in a contemporary ballad is a good idea and very believable for the public and for myself, but there is something that really lacks here for me. She’s likely to place well because it’s, well, Azerbaijan, and they seem to be a strong contender every year, but I still can’t understand why.

Ukraine – Mariya Yaremchuk
=> Qualified
❗ Personal Favourite

What a show, really. Great vocals, interesting song, and fantastic and creative way to represent it. I never thought I’d be intrigued by a man running in what appears to be a hamster-wheel. It really fits with the style and aesthetics of the piece – so good job Ukraine. Can’t wait to see this one again on Saturday.

Belgium – Axel Hirsoux

Ouch – just ouch. He’s got a good voice, but it needs to be toned down like… a lot. If I close my eyes it’s a good sound, but when I open them up I’m just left to say “meh” and “www.” The lyrics of this song are strange and sadly, as a Walloon, his English is poor while singing. If it were to be more delicate and not so harsh I think it would be more effective. Better luck next year, Belgium.

Moldova – Christina Scarlat

Hair extensions like never seen before – ripped off in a bridge and heat of passion. With a deep alto voice and iffy English this oddly appealing song doesn’t really do it for me but is a decent listen to after a few times. The thing about it though, being an alto and all, is that when she’s singing higher notes it sounds like she’s shouting them and just pushing them out. As a result the unattractive sound is just hard to get out of your head, and results in lack of interest.

San Marino – Valentina Monetta
=> Qualified

For the third year in a row, Valentina has represented San Marino in Eurovision and for the first time she’s come with a success. Last year’s song was an improvement from the parody song the first year, last year was a great transition song, and third time might be the charm. Simple, stationary, with a nice voice and good lyrics and feeling of the song this one is the best of the trio. Perhaps third time is the charm. I dare say, that this might be a >5 pointer – but congrats for making it through the Semis! One thing I don’t understand is the shell behind her – hmm?

Portugal – Suzy

At the risk of sounding somewhat culturally oblivious – Portugal’s entry is very ethnic and just quite frankly a hot mess on stage. Backing vocals were less than appropriate – and despite the fact that I don’t like the sound of Portuguese, the lyrics sound alright to the year. It’s a nice change of pace, but really it just feels too cheesy – and given how much support Portugal gets every year (don’t understand that yet…) this one is a flop. The far too Portugese colours on stage just made it feel more awkward and then “aww wa waaays” were just too… off. One goo thing? The key change – yeah baby!

The Netherlands – The Common Linnets
=> Qualified

Since when do Dutch people sing country? I was a bit perturbed to find out that the range of this song is very low and makes it near impossible for me to sing along to, but also that the feeling of the song bordered in country. Now having said that the performance was okay and simple, which I think the Dutch delegation has embraced in recent years. But really, after a really weak showing in the contest over the past decade, I’m happy that The Netherlands are trying something new and mixing it up to try to find what works for them. I think in the end it will pay off dividends.

Montenegro – Sergej Ćetković
=> Qualified

When I think about Montenegro, I think about this. A typical Balkan song. I think that really the roller skating female was a nice touch, but the oddness of this song is that the Balkan aspects are highlighted by Celtic feeling aspects. The dimples on Sergej can be seen from space, and while he’s a good singer and really “sold” the performance, I don’t really like it. It will garner the votes and probably end up being Top-15 but I don’t necessarily agree with it. It’s interestingly one of the few songs that aren’t in English this year – I think that bodes well for it, however.

Hungary – András Kállay-Saunders
=> Qualified
❗ Personal Favourite

Hungary is running, running towards a win this year. With this entry it’s really quite possible, but I think that the topic of the song makes it borderline inappropriate, the performance is very simple. Hungary seems to be taking the competition seriously the last few years – sending entires that are “weird and good” but I can’t help but think, if they won would they be able to host Europe?

All in all a pretty good start to the competition as the majority of the good songs made it through. The smaller group of singers makes it a much more enjoyable show, and all of the cheesy ESC facts from the Record Book is a really good idea!

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