Tijana Bogićević / In Too Deep
The second semi starts pretty much like the first semi ended: with a perfectly fine and perfectly contemporary pop number. It is slick, it sounds good, it is well sung - by one of Nina's crazy background singers from Düsseldorf 2011. It has pretty much everything anyone could ask for, except for any kind of profile or anything that would set it apart from anything else. Good and credible but too generic. Will need some really extraordinary and explosive staging in order to stand out.
Borderline. There are so many of these radio-friendly, tailor-made for the commercial airwaves-type of songs in the lineup. Why would anyone remember this one in particular?
My grade: 3/5
Tijana Bogićević / In Too Deep (Serbia 2017 preview)
Nathan Trent / Running On Air
Ever since their last comeback in 2011 - and especially since Conchita's impressive victory - it seems like Austria would actually have a pop scene where quality stuff is being made. Quality stuff that could compete on an international level. Nathan Trent is surely the most charming male performer in the running but while his song sounds bang-up-to-date, it takes a disappointing turn in the chorus which is far from as strong as it should be.
Borderline. Nathan will really need to knock Europe over in order to make up for the slightly weaker chorus. Far from impossible.
My grade: 3/5
Nathan Trent / Running On Air (Austria 2017 preview)
Yulia Samoylova / Flame Is Burning
After many weeks of plot twists, Russian tv decided not to broadcast the 2017 ESC, rendering themselves ineligible for participation. This entry has been most revealing in many ways. It has showcased how naïve the EBU as well as many fans are in these times of information wars and propaganda machinery. It has also shown an alarming degree of ableism among ESC fans, quickly concluding how anyone confined to the use of a wheel chair could not possibly knowingly be part of a political scheme. Like Yulia was some poor vegetable, unable to understand the world around her. Instead of performing in Kyiv, she will headline a concert in Crimea on the day of the final. Oh well.
Would this have qualified?
Borderline. The song is really weak - as is the performance - and it's highly debatable whether it would have been enough. But that's also a highly hypothetical question. Russian tv never intended to compete with this entry. It was designed to be shark feed and nothing else.
My grade: 1/5
Yulia Samoylova / Flame Is Burning (Russia 2017 preview)
Jana Burčeska / Dance Alone
After four consecutive semi final failures, FYR Macedonia has internally selected one of their best entries ever. Swedish Joacim Persson has co-written no fewer than three entries in this semi, which must be a record. What really set me on fire here was the fantastic video clip, which is captivating and heartbreakingly sad. If the same amount of emotion can be communicated in the live version, then this could be the republic's best showing to date. But on the other hand - no other country has been so consistently effective in ruining their songs on stage.
Borderline. It all comes down to Jana's vocal performance and the staging of this number. Also, the single edit lacks some of the emotional depth of the version used in the video clip. But it is my own personal second favourite of the lot this year.
My grade: 4/5
Claudia Faniello / Breathlessly
The Maltese clearly have determination. This is the kind of ballad they have failed with multiple times in the last ten years or so and yet they plunge headlong into competition with yet another version. Claudia tends to over perform more than a bit but is otherwise a good singer and through no fault of my own, this entry has grown on me. Just like Poland it has some really clunky and unfortunate lyrics here and there but the chorus is lush and luxurious. I fear it won't help much in the end.
No. A better starting position could have helped but this one is very unlikely to pass. It's pleasant for as long as it goes on but will be forgotten as soon as it is over.
My grade: 2/5
Claudia Faniello / Breathlessly (Malta 2017 preview)