TV PREVIEW: Eurovision Song Contest 2018 semi final 1 starring Saara Aalto

WHEN?: 8/5/18

WHERE?: Altice Arena, Lisbon, Portugal

Fan theories would have it that this is the more difficult of the two semis but we’re not so sure. This is where our favourite sings (Finland’s Saara Aalto pictured above) and the UK votes.

  • Who’s through and who’s on the 1st plane out of Lisbon? Read on for our semi 1 predictions 

Rehearsals started Sunday and we’re updating our predictions to reflect them as they progress. Read on for our thoughts on the 19 entries vying for 10 final slots.

  1. AZERBAIJAN Aisel X My Heart PREDICTION: Qualifier

Terrific contemporary pop from a country that often punches above its weight in Eurovision. Rhymes ‘firewalls’ with ‘cannonballs’. Swedish lyricist Sandra Bjurman co-wrote the Azeri entry Running Scared which won in 2011.

2. ICELAND Ari Olafsson Our Choice 

The song sounds like it could have been written for any TV singing talent show winner over the last decade. Which is to say that while it is cliched, it does have a certain rousing and anthemic charm. Generic enough to be a borderline qualifier if only Ari wasn’t quite so rabbit-in-the-headlights. Iceland’s choice perhaps but not ours.

3. ALBANIA Eugent Bushpepa Mall 

The title means Yearning and this tattooed rocker gives his all to a song in his native tongue which could struggle.

4. BELGIUM Sennek A Matter Of Time

Sounding a little like a James Bond theme, this is a bit too dark for us but we think this is classy enough for juries to go for and could well find its audience also in the public vote. A troubled rehearsal period sees us substitute in Austria for Belgium.

5. CZECH REPUBLIC Mikolas Josef Lie To Me PREDICTION: Qualifier

A pleasant surprise from a country which often doesn’t do well at Eurovision. This reminds of last year’s Moldovan surprise success and while it’s a strong song that should grace the final, its success there will depend much upon Mikolas’s charisma and vocal.

6. LITHUANIA Ieva Zasimauskaitė When We’re Old

Delicate yet forgettable middle-of-the-road plodder with a worthy lyric.

7. ISRAEL Netta Toy PREDICTION: Qualifier

Hard to believe that this is the favourite in the betting because it’s a quite bonkers song although its female empowerment message is bang on trend. Netta’s proved she can sing live too in the selection process and her Beth Ditto look adds to its considerable quirky charms. We’re unsure whether the chicken clucking sounds help.

8. BELARUS Alekseev Forever

The only-in-Eurovision conundrum of a terrific song with bags of potential murdered by a struggling singer in the only live clip we’ve seen of this song. Perhaps it’s a tough one to perform well? Everything crossed that Alekseev gives it the performance it merits on the night. It’s Belarus out and Ireland in after the first round of rehearsals.

9. ESTONIA Elina Nechayeva La Forza PREDICTION: Qualifier

We’re no fans of popera, as barely anyone calls it, and the popularity of this with fans and bookies evades us. If she can reproduce the recorded vocal live, it will impress the juries but songs in this style are notorious for crashing and burning in the final.

10. BULGARIA Equinox Bodies PREDICTION: Qualifier

A country many feel should do well after placing 4th in 2016 and runner-up last year. This is folksy but forgettable fare that’s a little too lyrically macabre for us.

11. MACEDONIA Eye Cue Lost and Found 

Reggae is a style for which Eurovision is not especially renowned but is here in spades. A curious package but one which we can see people enjoying and voting for. This could be a surprise qualifier for the final but at whose expense? Word from the jury final was this hadn’t done well.

12. CROATIA Franka Crazy 

Amy Winehouse before she plundered Motown. We very much enjoyed the live blog of the jury final on OnEurope and agree that this has a chance in the final shake-up.

13. AUSTRIA Cesar Sampson Nobody But You PREDICTION: Qualifier

Sounding like a Sam Smith B-side and too middle-of-the-road for our tastes. However, it’s been championed in rehearsals by bloggers including Keith Mills, we agree it needs a gospel choir but we think it might just sneak in.

14. GREECE Gianna Terzi Oneiro Mou

Let there be drums! And to what these ears sound like bagpipes. A country which can normally be relied upon to send a dance floor banger has gone downbeat and ethno this year. It’s pleasant but whether it will inspire voters in countries other than Cyprus is questionable.

15. FINLAND Saara Aalto Monsters PREDICTION: Qualifier

Finland’s entry is a contender for our favourite song of the year so far. It’s Sia goes Zara Larsson. The performance at selection show UMK18 (see above), choreographed by Brian Friedman was very ITV does Lady Gaga. The fact that the UK votes in this heat and Aalto was runner-up in 2016’s UK X Factor should help no end.

16. ARMENIA Sevak Khanagyan Qami

Wind is the unfortunate title of this moody number and perhaps the most entertaining thing about it.

17. SWITZERLAND Zibbz Stones PREDICTION: Qualifier

Not one of the bookies’ favourites but this is catchy in an Amy Winehouse Back To Black-type way. Unsure it’s enough though. It’s built momentum throughout rehearsals and now we see it just eclipsing Croatia.

18. IRELAND Ryan O’Shaughnessy Together PREDICTION: Qualifier

The heartwarming and gay-friendly video, which allegedly annoyed Russia, really is the most interesting thing about this inoffensive guitar strumathon which may struggle to qualify but should notch up a few points from its neighbours in the UK who vote here. We loved the video and so have this as sneaking into the final after the first round of rehearsals.

19. CYPRUS Eleni Foureira Fuego PREDICTION: Qualifier

We’ve listened to these songs a lot since their selection and this is certainly one of the poppiest. Not especially cutting edge, it’s everything one expects and wants from an uptempo Cypriot or Greek entry. We really need to see this live however before we can be certain it’s a shoo-in for the final. Loving the heat it’s generated after its 1st rehearsal.

  • Picture via Facebook courtesy Saara Aalto. Link to watch here. Semi 2 predictions here and final predictions here. Are our predictions way off? Let us know why in the comments below.
  • Enjoyed this preview? Follow its author on Twitter @NeilDurham, email and check us out on Instagram and Facebook

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