One semi down, one more to go. Here are the first five songs of the second semi, complete with predictions and all.
Željko Joksimović - Nije ljubav stvar
Being the first song out can be a bit tricky these days, but Dino Merlin showed last year that it isn't a major problem when you are a Balkan star. Given how popular this kind of entry has been for the last eight years (since the success of "Lane moje") and what a convincing performer Željko is, this one will have no major problem in convincing the audience it deserves a spot in the final.
Surprisingly enough, it has a tougher job convincing me. I, who should be won over already by the first note, hear how well-crafted the whole thing is but find myself lacking something. A bit of a surprise element, perhaps? This is really Željko by the numbers, which is not bad. Just a tiny bit... predictable.
Oh yes. Nothing can stop Serbia at this point. The question is how far this will carry in the final. Top five? Top ten? Or is the whole formula in for an unpleasant surprise?
My grade: 3/5
2. FYR MACEDONIA
Kaliopi - Crno i belo
In a parallel universe Kaliopi would already have represented her country once in Oslo 1996, but that weird preselection mode used as a one-off that year kept her out of the running. This time she is back with a vengeance, with a song slightly more likely to hit a chord with the voting masses.
Sometimes it has proven a bit too demanding for the general audience when your entry changes its pace midway through, but Kaliopi's mere appearance and presence should be enough to keep all the bits and pieces together.
Yes, I really hope so. A fine song meets an excellent singer and stuff like that should be rewarded.
My grade: 4/5
Joan Franka - You And Me
It really took me a while to make my mind up about this entry, as it contained several components that I liked. I kind of like the folksy feeling in this song, there is something enjoyable in the rhythm, and I sense talent under all those feathers. Joan has a quality of Joan-Baez-meets-Cher-at-a-funfair that is pleasant enough.
What really bothers me is the song - bursting full of tiny things that start to annoy me as the whole thing trots along. And whenever it leaps into the falsetto register, I reach for my remote control.
No. The Dutch have seen stronger songs than this pass unnoticed in the past. But I think the Dutch would deserve a bit of happiness, and if Joan would make the final cut I would be all smiles for them.
My grade: 1/5
Kurt Calleja - This Is The Night
After Malta had made its comeback in 1991, I just kept waiting for them to win. They felt like serious contenders for victory almost every year, but now it feels like a while ago. The last couple of Maltese entries have felt a bit pale and washed-out, and this ditty is no exception.
What saves this entry a bit is Kurt himself, a cheerful chap with positive energy and perhaps the kindest eyes of all contenders. But what good will kind eyes do you when your song is not stronger than this?
No. This is too lean and uninspired to do really well, unless it stands out as a welcome little pause in the middle of more ambitious songs. I'd say that is pretty unlikely to happen.
My grade: 1/5
Litesound - We Are The Heroes
My first impression of this one was pretty positive - there is a clear sustainable chorus going on here and the group seems competent enough. And yet, when I have heard it a couple of times, the air starts leaking out. Like soufflé, it finds itself flat on the bottom of the baking tin.
There really isn't anything wrong with it. It just isn't engaging enough. Also, not everybody should wear trousers like those.
No. The unlucky draw, in the middle of some less remarkable entries, is probably sealing the fate of this group.
My grade: 1/5