22 May 2021

Eurovision 2021 Semi-Final 1: How They Stack Up

Let's take a look at ten of the first semi-finalists for the 2021 Eurovision Song Contest and some personal thoughts on what might and might not qualify for the Grand Final on May 22.

1. Lithuania: The Roop - Discoteque

Like many of the artists this year, The Roop return and this, their 2021 effort, was one of the early favourites but has recently faded in the face of more supposedly-popular entries.

The whole concept showcases the quirkiness that the modern day Contest demands: crazy choreography and staging, bright costumes and a song that worms its way into your head whether you want it to or not!

Consequently, I can see this qualifying for the final with ease. Once there, it's the type of presentation and song that is likely to stick in the memory of the casual viewer. It should do well and a Top 10 place is not out of the question.

2. Slovenia: Ana Soklič - Amen


Ana is back in the competition too and has, unfortunately, been hidden away in position two by the producers - the notoriously difficult Eurovision starting place. 

Ana is no slouch in the vocal department though and sings Amen - a big, ballsy ballad - with great aplomb. The backing track emits some distinct gospel vibes throughout and Ana takes us and the song to church! 

However, although she is probably the one of the most accomplished vocalists in the competition, she is going to need some divine intervention to help her through to the final. This semi-final looks tough and I feel Ana will be one of its casualties.

3. Russia: Manizha - Russian Woman

Manizha replaces Little Big as Russia's Eurovision representative with an empowering anthem aggrandizing the development of the Russian Woman.

Even after hearing the song several times, it's still not one which has climbed my personal ranking very far. At first, I didn't care for it at all but once it reaches its 'Fiddler on the Roof' style refrain, it becomes a little more tolerable. 

Whether Europe will tolerate it enough to push it through to the final is debatable. Personally, I wouldn't miss it at all but Russia is one of those countries which somehow gets through to the final come what may. A borderline finalist.

4. Sweden: Tusse - Voices

Another production line entry from Sweden as young Congolese/Swedish singer Tusse confidently brings Voices to the Eurovision stage.

He is a product of the Idol factory, winning the country's version back in 2019 and has since successfully woven his way through the Melodifestivalen minefield.

Now, there's a lot to be said for Sweden's Eurovision selection process as the country's recent successes can attest. However, now and again, the technique can throw up something so formulaic it could have been written by a robot. Voices has that quality about it.

No surprises here from Sweden (even the obligatory key change), but with their track record, I've no doubt it will qualify and feature in the overall Top 10.

5. Australia: Montaigne - Technicolour

See the main page review here.












6.  North Macedonia: Vasil - Here I Stand

Vasil is another survivor from the 2020 contest and this time around he is singing Here I Stand, a song which he has also written for the event.

Now, there's no denying that Vasil can sing. He is a classically trained baritone which is more than evident from this somewhat overblown ballad. To be honest, you would more likely hear this on a Disney movie soundtrack or as part of a West End musical rather than on the Eurovision stage.

There is nothing wrong with it, per say. It's just likely to be forgotten among more striking up-tempo entries in what has become a tough semi-final. A non qualifier, I feel.  

7. Ireland: Lesley Roy - Maps

Ireland offers up Maps this year as its entry and the returning Lesley Roy should be heading in the direction to the final if her live vocals hold up.

It's a perky bop of a song which should get you strutting your stuff around the kitchen, even if you don't know what the heck Lesley is going on about.
Her diction isn't so great - or it might just be my aging ears - so it's tough to make out where her maps are taking her.

A berth in the final should be her final destination, but this is one of those entries that could just as easily be left at the starting gate.

8. Cyprus: Elena Tsagrinou - El diablo

Cyprus has decided to go with a bop-by-numbers composition called El diablo sung by Greek singer, Elena Tsagrinou - so expect 12 points from Greece!

The track ran into trouble early on when the Church of Cyprus and many members of the Cypriot public objected to the lyrics concerning love of "el diablo". Nothing came of it, but what's more surprising is that Lady Gaga hasn't had something to say about the song, as you would be forgiven for thinking that - in part - you're listening to Bad Romance.

Nevertheless, it's well executed and has become one of the favourites to raise the Eurovision trophy. A definite qualifier and a Top 5 pick.

9. Norway: TIX - Fallen Angel

TIX's win at this year's Melodi Grandi Prix upset all the KEiiNO fans but, hey, Fallen Angel (Ut av mørket) is the better song.

Written by the phenomenally successful TIX, the track is somewhat autobiographical, as it deals with his depression caused by childhood bullying over his affliction from Tourette Syndrome.

That said, the song is an impressive composition in its own right; a soaring ballad with a memorable chorus and impactful presentation. It's the sort of package that Eurovision is all about, helped by the relatable back story which is very much an in focus topic.

The staging is a little overblown for my liking but I hope this entry does very well. A qualifier that deserves a Top 10 ranking at the least. 

10. Croatia: Albina - Tick-Tock

Having won Dora 2021, the Croatian preselection process, Albina's Tick-Tock faces off against its "banger" competitors in this semi-final.

In that quest, it could do really well as Croatia is presenting one of its strongest entries in years, courtesy of the attractive Albina. This anthemic dance track contains a very catchy chorus and feels like a radio hit, which I mean as a compliment. 

Croatia has not done well for several years, but if Tick-Tock progresses to the final – undoubtedly! – it could be on track to its strongest placing in more than a decade. Yeah, qualifier.


Lack of time has prevented any further reviews this year, but currently the bookies favour two of the Big Five countries to raise the winner's trophy: Italy or France. Could it be either of them or will we be heading to Valetta in Malta for the 2022 contest. All will be revealed on May 22!





23 March 2021

Austria: Victor Bueno | Amen


Austria
Artist: Victor Bueno
Song: Amen
Semi Final 2: First Half

It's been a bumpy few years for Austria at the Eurovision Song Contest since Conchita Wurst's victory in 2014. This year, Victor Bueno has been given a second opportunity to improve the country's fortunes with the song Amen which is a completely different proposition to his 2020 cancelled effort, Alive

Austria Victor Bueno Amen
Where the latter took on a funky Bruno Mars/Justin Timberlake vibe, Amen gives Victor the chance to show off his accomplished vocals on a respectable breakup ballad. The lyrics are fairly repetitive, bog standard, heartbreak clichés but there is a nice progression as the song develops.

As Amen begins, Bueno is in reflective, almost claustrophobic, mood. However, around the halfway mark there is an explosive change of tone and the mood switches as if the singer has finally been been released from the shackles of a doomed relationship.

Victor delivers all of this with the angst one would expect of the material and he has sufficient charisma to attract quite a few votes. He is up against some pretty tough competition in his semi-final though, and the song probably doesn't have enough of a wow factor to push him too far up the scoreboard. 

However, I'm willing it to make the Grand Final as I believe it's good enough to earn a spot. Very much a borderline hope, though.

What are your thoughts?
 
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