This year, we’ll get a record-tying 43 countries participating in the Eurovision Song Contest to be held in Lisbon, Portugal on the second week of May. After Portugal’s historic first win with Amar pelos dois and Ukraine’s win in 2016 with 1944, we’ve been getting a slightly different flavor of entries (which I really appreciate). First off, the semi-finals stand as such; each semifinal will qualify the top 10 countries chosen by the national juries and public vote:
SF1 to be held on Tuesday, May 8th:
First half: Albania, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Belgium, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Estonia, Iceland, Israel, Lithuania
Second half: Armenia, Austria, Croatia, Cyprus, Finland, Greece, Ireland, (F.Y.R.) Macedonia, Switzerland
Portugal, Spain, and The U.K. vote in this semi.
SF2 to be held on Thursday, May 10th:
First half: Australia, Denmark, Moldova, (The) Netherlands, Norway, Russia, San Marino, Serbia
Second half: Georgia, Hungary, Latvia, Malta, Montenegro, Poland, Slovenia, Sweden, Ukraine
France, Germany, and Italy vote in this semi.
Below are my rankings (no ratings; planning to rate after all 43 entries are released), opinions on the officially selected/released entries (links to an official video), and preliminary prediction of its result.
UPDATED: 3/5 (italicized entries are new; numbers in parentheses denote place changes)
- ITALY (=): Ermal Meta & Fabrizio Moro – Non mi avete fatto niente (non-ESC version)
- Opinion: I preferred Annalisa‘s song, but the more I listen to this the more enthralled by it I become. Sanremo’s biggest strength is they try to find the best song: not just for Eurovision, but the best song they have. This is definitely a deserving song of Italy’s biggest musical prize, and with contentious lyrics, who doesn’t like having even just a bit of controversy in their lives? I’m apprehensive about predicting its result since we haven’t gotten a 3-minute version yet, but I’m sure they’ll finish on the left-hand side of the scoreboard again.
- Prediction: Either Top 10 or Bottom 6. I don’t think it’ll get a mid-table result; it’s either all or nothing with this track. I’m leaning towards Top 10, though—the staging is easily replicated, and their live is much better than the studio track.
- BELGIUM (N): Sennek – A Matter of Time
- Opinion: A great song crossed between a more relaxed Bond theme and a potential Adele album track, this is only the second song to give me a winning vibe besides Italy. I can see how it’s divisive, but the musicality in it wins over everything else.
- Prediction: Top 5. Depending on the staging and her live, this could be the winner.
- SERBIA (-1): Sanja Ilic and Balkanika – Nova Deca
- Opinion: This is the Eurovision Balkan Ballad we needed this season. I would liken it to “Water on steroids” in a good way, and skews the diversity of Eurovision majorly to what the contest was before it lifted the national language restriction rule. There seems to be a lot of fan pushback to the song, but considering this song won its National Final by sweeping both the jury and public vote, it’ll be interesting to see where it ends up in the end.
- Prediction: Qualify, mid-table result. This could pull a Hungary 2017 and get a strong televote but not-as-strong jury vote, but I’m still not quite too sure.
- ESTONIA (N): Elina Nechayeva – La Forza
- Opinion: She killed this song in every live performance, and it’s probably the only song so far that made me stop being distracted and actually watch the first time I heard it. Unadulterated opera with no musical gimmick, this is poised to do really well.
- Prediction: Top 5. The Eesti Laul results speak for themselves (she won with 70+% of the vote), and the last time that happened with Ranjadad they finished in the Top 6.
- FRANCE (-1): Madame Monsieur – Mercy
- Opinion: Although initially I wasn’t sure what to think of this, it’s certainly grown on me immensely; the song is catchy yet not ‘in-your-face’/over-produced i.e. it doesn’t shove a hook down your throat. The performance, and the solidarity between Madame Monsieur and the audience, is what sealed the deal for me—if they can somehow replicate that in Lisbon, this could be another Top 10 for France.
- Prediction: Top 10. It’s a solid song overall, and if they have great staging and audience participation, it’s sure to draw a pretty good televote. (EDIT: I’m starting worry after watching the Ukraninan National Selection and seeing how it is without audience participation. The gravitas of the song is significantly diminished…)
- THE NETHERLANDS (N): Waylon – Outlaw in ’em
- Opinion: I really like this since it’s the polar opposite of Calm After the Storm (in which he duetted with Ilse de Lange and came second in 2014). The David Mitchell-esque pedantic nature of me knows ‘outlaw’ does not equal ‘fugitive,’ but I like the song anyway.
- Prediction: Qualify. Not sure if it’ll reach the Top 10, but it may stay on the left side of the scoreboard.
- PORTUGAL (N): Claudia Pascoal – O Jardim
- Opinion: I don’t quite get this song yet, but seeing the lyrics and hearing the beat, I can tell this is gonna be a song to beat come the Grand Final. She’s stylish, and the entire performance is quite entrancing.
- Prediction: Left side of the scoreboard. Arguably the best host entry since 2012.
- CZECH REPUBLIC (=): Mikolas Josef – Lie To Me
- Opinion: A lot of people argue that we only feel positively towards this song because it came from the Czech Republic (which may be true on a certain level), but the production is slick and doesn’t flat-line; Sweden’s offering last year is a great example of staging saving an otherwise dull song, and there are other songs which have great production but just don’t go anywhere. After watching his performance in Ukraine, I have confidence he’ll make it (even without high-energy staging) and attain Czechia’s best results ever.
- Prediction: Qualify; Top 15. I’m worried how juries will mark this, but I think the Czech Republic can muster up enough televotes to carry it to the left-hand side of the scoreboard on Saturday.
- SLOVENIA (-4): Lea Sirk – Hvala, Ne!
- Opinion: I’ve iterated this on my Twitter, but this sounds like a cross between an East Asian (Korean, Japanese, or Chinese) song and something Missy Elliott may have put out back in her first heydays. Lots of people feel like the song doesn’t go anywhere, but I think it sounds fine; cramming a three minute song with extra drops and other hooks will make it seem desperate instead.
- Prediction: Borderline either way. Personally I hope it qualifies, but I’m afraid it’ll be destined to remain in the SF…
- GREECE (-4): Gianna Terzi – Oneiro Mou
- Opinion: I think this is what they initially wanted in 2016 when they chose Utopian Land. This remains mysterious in a good way, and with solid backing vocalists and good staging, this already good song can be elevated in a way that puts Greece back into Top 10 contention. Another not-so-in-your-face song, which is a pleasant surprise for a Contest which rewards drama in its entries.
- Prediction: Qualify, potential Top 10. If Gianna limits her backing vocalists to ensure a good replication of the studio version, there’s every reason for the song to at least qualify.
- LATVIA (-2): Laura Rizzotto – Funny Girl
- Opinion: The more I listen to this, the more I feel like this would be an Alicia Keys album track. It’s quite enthralling, and if they up the staging a bit and make it slightly less predictable or more engaging with Laura, this could do really well.
- Prediction: Borderline Qualify. We’re still waiting on a couple countries which can send a ballad with more impact, but if there aren’t any others, this should make it through.
- ARMENIA (-9): Sevak Khanagyan – Qami
- Opinion: Armenia chose one of the best songs they had (the other probably being Lusine‘s), and the kicker? This song kills live. Vocals have been a recurring problem for Armenia, but this may be its chance to have a serious grab at the crown. It gets bonus points for it fully being in Armenian, as well.
- Prediction: Top 10. With slightly more compelling staging, there’s no reason it should finish outside the Top 10. I don’t even think a shoddier vocal performance will hinder it, to be honest.
- UKRAINE (-6): Melovin – Under the Ladder
- Opinion: Poor Tayanna—she never seems to be able to win, and this year was a huge improvement on last year’s song. However, I’m excited to see Ukraine send its first male act abroad since their first participation in 2003. The song is solid, and it’s that right mix of pop and rock (which will also contrast with Hungary). It also helps that Melovin’s attractive.
- Prediction: Top 15. I don’t think it’ll quite reach the Top 10, but this should keep Ukraine’s qualification streak alive.
- DENMARK (-4): Rasmussen – Higher Ground
- Opinion: I honestly love the instrumentation, but I feel like the song structure itself kind of lets it down. It’s going for epic, but it doesn’t quite get there until about the 2:30 mark, which is a bit late. I’m glad they kind of played up the Nordic stereotypical sound though, which I think will go down well with audiences.
- Prediction: Borderline NQ. It’s in arguably the weaker SF (who would have known fans would say that?!), but I feel like it’s still not going to stack up to what else is being offered right now at the NF level.
- CYPRUS (N): Eleni Foureira – Fuego
- Opinion: I don’t quite get this now, but I have a feeling it’ll click just before the live shows. She looks great, and I can see her staging it really well with engaging dancing and styling. I’m just worried because I’ve never heard her live before.
- Prediction: Qualify, but contingent on her live. I think juries can mark her down significantly, but the public vote will be enough to save her.
- ALBANIA (-5): Eugent Bushpepa – Mall (non-ESC version)
- Opinion: Albania usually doesn’t hold much weight because it’s usually the first song we get (as it’s chosen around Christmastime), but the full version of this song is captivating and filled with emotion. I don’t quite see this slipping down past 26 for me, so I hope this brings Albania back into the Final after two years of NQs.
- Prediction: Qualify; Top 20. I think it’ll scrape by in the 7th-10th position on Tuesday, and it’ll reflect in the voting again on Saturday (unless Italy votes for it).
- POLAND (N): Gromee feat. Lukas Meijer – Light Me Up
- Opinion: We’ve been getting a lot of bands with a ‘Christian rock’ vibe, but the ‘modernization’ with the harder beats/bass is what puts it over Romania. Not my favorite, but I can see it doing quite well.
- Prediction: It’s hard to say. On one hand they’ve never missed a final since their return in 2014, but on the other hand it’s the same flavor as some other entries in SF2. If anything it’ll get a mid-table result in either their SF2 (and just miss out) or stay below the Top 15.
- ROMANIA (-6): The Humans – Goodbye
- Opinion: I like the structure, instrumentation, and vocals, but that portion right after the tempo change is a little hard to understand; if that portion were rewritten in Romanian, that would be pretty good… Chances are this will grow on me, but for now, it’s gonna stay outside my Top 10.
- Prediction: It’s hard to say. On one hand they’ve never missed a final, but on the other hand they’re the only country besides Russia left. If anything it’ll get a mid-table result in either their SF2 (and just miss out) or stay below the Top 15.
- FINLAND (N): Saara Aalto – Monsters
- Opinion: I’ll be honest, I didn’t really like any of her offerings. ‘Monsters’ was the most polished out of all of them, but none of them screamed ‘winner,’ nor did they seem like they were the best she/Finland can produce.
- Prediction: It’s hard to say. With it being in the harder SF, and it giving me real Triana Park vibes, this may barely miss qualifying.
- GERMANY (-7): Michael Schulte – You Let Me Walk Alone
- Opinion: The lyrics are great and his vocals are good, but this is still kind of pedestrian. I loved all the men in Germany’s selection, and I still think this may do all right, but I’m afraid it’ll get overshadowed.
- Prediction: Below 17. Juries may rank this higher than the public considering the public didn’t connect to O’G3NE. I don’t think it’ll rank as high as O’G3NE did though…
- MONTENEGRO (-7): Vanja Radovanovic – Inje
- Opinion: Another song with great instrumentation but mismatched vocals, this would be better if Vanja matched the amplitude of the music. I feel like this song is supposed to take me somewhere, but by the end of the song I feel like I end up in the same place.
- Prediction: Borderline NQ. It’s not quite up to par like Adio or Moj Svijet, but with some vocal tweaks this may end up on the “Borderline Qualify” side.
- HUNGARY (-7): AWS – Viszlat nyar
- Opinion: Personally, I’m not a big fan of heavy metal, but I really appreciate the lyrics and the entirely different genre we have here. I don’t recall a moment where the song gets to rest, so it’s hard to listen to since it’s so high energy the whole time.
- Prediction: Again, difficult to say. I have a feeling this will be left in the semifinals, but it’d be nice to see this in the Grand Final.
- SAN MARINO (N): Jessika feat. Jenifer Brening – Who We Are
- Opinion: They missed out with Sara de Blue. Someone else mentioned it sounds like Mans’ Heroes, and I can’t get that out of my head anymore either. Not an offensive song, but not their best choice either.
- Prediction: Borderline… qualify. Arguable the weaker SF, and the song is quite good in comparison.
- MOLDOVA (-8): DoReDos – My Lucky Day
- Opinion: A Kirkorov production, it doesn’t strike me as something I’d keep playing after the Contest is over. Or it might be the complete opposite and I’ll get it months later (like I did with Calm After the Storm), but either way it’s not doing it for me now. They’re great as a group, but I only really like the ending of the song.
- Prediction: Borderline qualify. It helps that Russia and Romania are both in this SF, but I’m not sure what the other voting countries will think of the track.
- SWITZERLAND (-8): Zibbs – Stones
- Opinion: I didn’t really care for this on first listen when SRF released everything, and I still don’t quite feel anything after its NF performance. Zibbs is gorgeous and I love her styling, but again, this is a song that doesn’t quite get to the destination in 3 minutes.
- Prediction: NQ. Arguably in the stronger SF, I think it’s destined to be left in the SF and continue Switzerland’s bad streak of NQs since 2015..
- U.K. (-8): SuRie – Storm
- Opinion: For a backing singer who accompanied Loic Nottet and Blanche, who had probably two of the most cutting edge songs in the last decade, this song is blandly pedestrian. I don’t know if it’s the song’s arrangement or (what I believe is) her mezzo-soprano range, but something doesn’t quite add up in this song. Unlike Italy (and arguably France), The U.K. is stuck in finding a good Eurovision song, and not just a good song in general–it’s either their dismissal or apathetic nature, but their own Eurovision entries don’t chart unlike a majority of other countries. That should speak for itself, no?
- Prediction: Bottom 6, unless a miracle occurs. Lucie was able to get a decent rearrangement, so if SuRie can as well, then maybe this can creep up to the upper-right, but it’ll most likely fall back down to the 20s.
- MALTA (-8): Christabelle – Taboo
- Opinion: This is one of those songs that which seems to have good production, but again doesn’t go anywhere for me. If I didn’t know better, I’d probably call this song “animals” because of the chorus. Malta has a tendency to go for story versus the song (although I can’t say much since I didn’t follow their NF), but these past couple years weren’t at Sanna Nielsen-level when she won…
- Prediction: NQ. San Marino might be queen of the smaller countries in that SF at this rate, but I don’t think this’ll qualify.
- SPAIN (-8): Alfred & Amaia – Tu cancion
- Opinion: It may be unfair since the Spanish Eurofans are irritating everyone, but I don’t connect to the song in the same way I did with Amar pelos dois when it was released. I’m not a big fan of Alfred’s stage presence, and the story between the two doesn’t convince me that the song is any better. As my mother would probably say, it’s saccharine versus it being real cane sugar.
- Prediction: Bottom 6. The stage chemistry seems genuine, but between such young singers it seems ingenuine and fragile; I’m thinking other people will be as cynical and not vote for it.
- BELARUS (-8): Alekseev – Forever
- Opinion: It’s hard when the original Russian version genuinely outshines a rearranged and English-rewritten song. Not to mention his vocals are weak only to be masked by staging efforts which are only impressive due to the lighting technicians (versus his own merit).
- Prediction: NQ. People often make the argument that bad vocals/good song > good vocals/bad song, but there haven’t been too many which fall in the former category in the Grand Final (at least those without the help of good backing vocalists). Audiences may mark up his light show, but juries, who are supposed to judge the musical merit of the song, may not be as enamored.
- AZERBAIJAN (N): Aisel – X My Heart
- Opinion: Aisel was supposed to be on par with Sennek, but taking her agency out of writing the song was a huge mistake. It’s generic, and a huge step back from what Azerbaijan sent last year. I don’t have any other words.
- Prediction: NQ. This may be the first year they miss the Final in years, but it’s a song that really doesn’t deserve to move on.
- ICELAND (N): Ari Olafsson – Our Choice
- Opinion: They had many other songs to choose from, and Iceland voted with their eyes and chose this. He’s good-looking, but it doesn’t save the dire-ness of the song.
- Prediction: NQ. They’re gonna have one more year to sit out to think about what they’ve been doing.