Our resident Eurovision aficionado Kevin Hatchard is back to preview Thursday night's second semi-final.
"Belgium have the advantage of closing the show, Laura Tesoro is an engaging performer, and the song is great fun."
Eurovision Song Contest Semi Final 2
Thursday May 12, 20:00
Live on BBC4
Firstly, a few thoughts on Tuesday's first semi-final. Greece sadly didn't make the final, which represents their first ever failure to qualify. I was hoping the diaspora would come out in force to get the song over the line, but it didn't quite happen.
I am however still hopeful of our lay of San Marino in the Last Place market, as Montenegro (joyless) and Finland (shouty) delivered awful performances. If cheesy Serhat made a few people smile, we should come out of that first semi even.
One massive shock was Iceland not making it through. I thought the song was catchy and the staging was superbly atmospheric (I wasn't alone in that), but for whatever reason it just didn't connect. A real shame.
I was confident that Russia would prove themselves to be justifiable favourites, and I thought Sergey Lazarev delivered. The complicated staging worked well, and I love the song. This column backed Russia to win the Grand Final at [2.7], and at time of writing that price was [2.24].
Now then, it's time for the second semi-final.
Ukraine is the favourite to win this second semi at [1.56], and it'll be fascinating to see how it does, as many people think it's the main challenger to Russia in terms of winning the entire contest.
"1944" by Jamala refers to the deportation of Crimean Tatars from Crimea by Stalin, and although the content is clearly political, the song has been given the green light. Given the current conflict in Ukraine, this rather dark song may chime with some televoters in the West and indeed the East.
If we're judging the song purely on its merits, it's a beautiful vocal delivered with passion. It will do well with juries and people who are moved by the content, but I just don't know if the majority of televoters will get it, especially if they know nothing about the meaning of the song. Ukraine may well win on Thursday, but I just don't see them finishing top of the pile come Saturday.
The only other entry below double digits in terms of the price to win is Australia, and you can read more about my thoughts on that entry here.
I've already backed Ireland to qualify from this semi-final at [2.56], but annoyingly events have conspired to make the price drift significantly since then. Westlife alumnus Nicky Byrne's "Sunlight" is now trading at [5.3].
The staging is disappointingly dark for a song about Sunlight, and our Nicky hasn't exactly dazzled with his vocals so far. I still think the song is televoter-friendly, and Byrne's Westlife connections will surely bring in some votes, but he needs to perform to his maximum at the jury rehearsal to make it through. I'm not giving up on him just yet.
In terms of the borderline qualifiers, I'm backing Norway to get the nod at [1.84]. The song "Icebreaker" builds up momentum as it goes along, although the changes of pace from verse to chorus and back again are a bit disconcerting. Agnete's got a bit of oomph, and bearing in mind this is on late in the running order and that the Norwegians have a strong semi-final record, I think it should garner enough votes to qualify.
If you're looking to lay a short price, Israel look a bit skinny to me at [1.19]. Hovi Star has dragged the price down with some rousing rehearsals of the ballad "Made Of Stars", but it's early in the running order in a strong half of the draw, and Israel have failed to qualify in four of the last five years.
I have to mention the Belarus entry (it's [4.6] to qualify), simply because performer Ivan wanted to perform naked surrounded by live wolves. Due to competition rules, it's highly unlikely we'll have any glimpses of wolves or willies on Thursday night.
I mentioned Netherlands as a Top 3 contender for the first semi, and we're staying within the Benelux group for the second.
Belgium has the helpful pimp slot (last in the running order), and "What's The Pressure" is an upbeat number that gets you moving. 19-year-old Laura Tesoro is an engaging performer, and this is a great way to close the show. At odds of [3.55] to finish in the Top 3 of the semi-final, this is worth a look.
There is a clear leader in this market, and it's Switzerland at [1.55]. I actually think "Last Of Our Kind" by Rykka isn't too bad. She's been slated by some people for her performances in rehearsals, but I think her vocal has improved, and it's actually quite nice in places. More of a worry is the fact she doesn't move at all, as if someone nailed her feet to the floor.
There are worse songs than this, but it's third in the running order, and that means it may well have been forgotten by the time voting starts. I think [1.55] is too short, and if you're feeling brave it's worth taking on.
At the time of writing, Denmark was [6.0]. Lighthouse X are stretching the term "boy-band" a bit far, as their juvenile days are long behind them. I haven't been able to listen to "Soldiers Of Love" without my mind wandering. It's painfully generic.
Slovenia are trading at [6.2] in this market. ManuElla distractingly resembles a cyborg version of Taylor Swift, and although "Blue and Red" is a pleasantly up-tempo country number, there's nothing magic here. Also, someone needs to tell her that if you mix blue and red, you get purple, not beautiful things and stormy weather. Did she not go to infant school?
You can read my full Eurovision final preview behind the link.
Back Norway to qualify at [1.84]
Lay Israel to qualify at [1.19]
Back Belgium to finish Top 3 at [3.55]