WHEN?: Tuesday 18 May 2021
WHERE?: Rotterdam Ahoy
The failure of Belarus to submit an entry complying with the Eurovision Song Contest’s rules mean this semi has 1 song less than semi 2 yet we think this 1 will be tougher to qualify from than its counterpart.
- Read on for reasons including predictions of who is qualifying and who won’t be making the final from this 16-song semi
- LITHUANIA The Roop Discoteque (Ilkka Wirtanen, Kalle Lindroth, Laisvūnas Černovas, Mantas Banišauskas, Robertas Baranauskas and Vaidotas Valiukevičius) PREDICTION: Qualifier
A song of the week for us in January, we think Discoteque is Lithuania’s best shot at a Eurovision victory since they first competed in 1994. We saw LT United finish 6th in Athens, Greece, in 2006 and, although The Roop’s 2020 entry was not to our tastes, we think this year’s entry is a quirky twist on lockdown life that is catchy and could resonate. We said: ‘The band has history and has already released 2 albums and the video displays a Tik Tok influence while its formation dancing reminds of last year’s big Eurovision winner-that-never-was Daði Freyr.‘
2. SLOVENIA Ana Soklič Amen (Ana Soklič, Bojan Simončič, Žiga Pirnat and Charlie Mason) PREDICTION: non-qualifier
Soklič returns with a better song than in 2020 and with a title that is shared with the Austrian entry in semi 2 but which we prefer. It builds, it has a gospel feel but in the tougher of the 2 semis we fear this might just miss out. Mason co-wrote 2014 Eurovision winner Rise Like A Phoenix for Conchita.
3. RUSSIA Manizha Russian Woman (Ari Avni, Ori Kaplan, Manizha) PREDICTION: Qualifier
Little Big’s poptastic bop Uno was our favourite 2020 entry and so we were a little disappointed to see the band, which had attracted some controversy along the way, not feature this year. Manizha is a Russian/Tajik singer/songwriter who supports the LGBT community, campaigns against domestic violence and studied in London but we’re finding little else to convert us to her cause. Day 1 rehearsal update: Staging includes a remote-controlled Russian doll dress which Manizha climbs inside for parts of the song as it is propelled. Inventive and enhances the performance no end. We now think this is qualifying.
4. SWEDEN Tusse Voices (Joy Deb, Linnea Deb, Jimmy ‘Joker’ Thörnfeld, Anders Wrethov) PREDICTION: non-qualifier
Voices was the runaway winner in Melodifestivalen this year as well as the highest charting entry in Sweden but we preferred Dotter’s Little Tot which finished 4th. It’s Voices bland lyrics which have disappointed us most about this entry and we think Tusse’s best chance at qualification in this tight semi is to really go for a big, emotive performance because polite and straight could see him fail to make the final for his home country for the 1st time since Anna Bergendahl in 2010. Can the juries save Tusse?
5. AUSTRALIA Montaigne Technicolour (Jessica Cerro, Dave Hammer) PREDICTION: non-qualifier
Montaigne is 1 of a number of artists returning in 2021 who were selected in 2020 but unable to compete when Covid-19 forced the 1st cancellation in the contest’s history. Ironically she’s 1 of a number of these artists to use the time wisely to return with a better song but we think the competition in this heat is too strong for the upbeat if slightly jarring Technicolour to make it through but it will be touch and go. If she doesn’t make it, it will be the 1st time in 6 attempts that the country is not represented in the final. Easy to mishear the lyrics as ‘time to take off your clothes’ although the final word is actually ‘cloaks’. Obvs.
6. NORTH MACEDONIA Vasil Here I Stand (Vasil Garvanliev) PREDICTION: non-qualifier
An unmemorable musical theatre-inspired number that has already experienced a domestic backlash before its arrival on the much tougher international stage. The country has made 9 finals at 19 attempts and we don’t see this adding to the former tally.
7. IRELAND Lesley Roy Maps (Philip Strand, Emelie Eriksson, Lesley Roy, Lukas Hällgren) PREDICTION: non-qualifier
Roy was also selected in 2020 and once again the entry is not generating much love from either fans or bookmakers but we think its stronger than its predecessor Story Of My Life and reminds us of Katy Perry in its style. Question marks have been raised over Roy’s ability to perform it and we won’t know for sure how strong a package this is until we’ve seen it live. Day 1 rehearsal update: Staging looks complicated and it will be impossible to know how successful this is until the night of the semi but it has a lot more work now to do.
8. CYPRUS Elena Tsagrinou El Diablo (Jimmy ‘Joker’ Thornfeldt, Laurell Barker, Oxa, Thomas Stengaard) PREDICTION: Qualifier
Co-writer Thornfeldt also has credits on the entries for Sweden in this semi and San Marino. The sound is Born This Way era Lady Gaga which is very pleasing to these ears. There are also near-whispered elements which will be difficult to perform live and it is this aspect which will determine how well this does with the potential to even outdo Cyprus’ best ever result of runner-up with Fuego in 2018.
9. NORWAY Tix Fallen Angel (Andreas Haukeland) PREDICTION: Qualifier
Melodi Grand Prix 2021 runner-up Monument by KEiiNO was a song of the week for us in January and Tix’s late switch into English pre-final appeared to be the clincher sealing its victory. While the performance and visuals felt a little too obvious, the song and artist (a co-author of Ava Max‘s smash Sweet But Psycho) are class. Underestimate this at your peril. It needs work to be a winner but is 1 of a number of potential victors in this strong semi.
10. CROATIA Albina Tick Tock (Branimir Mihaljević, Max Cinnamon, Tihana Buklijaš Bakić) PREDICTION: Qualifier
There are a lot of female-fronted top quality bangers in Eurovision 2021. We think they’re likely to fare better than they might have a year previously because the world with Covid-19 feels like 1 needing little excuse to party rather than to revel in the darkness of the difficulties it continues to endure. Tick Tock has R’n’B horns, was well performed in its qualification and could well make the top 10 with a decent final running order position.
11. BELGIUM Hooverphonic The Wrong Place (Alex Callier, Charlotte Foret) PREDICTION: Qualifier
Generally Eurovision’s returning acts have improved their 2021 offerings and this is perhaps no more dramatically in evidence than with Hooverphonic. We thought they’d scrape into the final last year but this is a much more satisfying song seemingly detailing an unsatisfactory one-night stand from a woman’s point of view and the ownership of a ‘Johnny Cash T-shirt’. If you’re looking for something a little different, grown-up and sounding a little like a speeded up Portishead this is recommended.
12. ISRAEL Eden Alene Set Me Free (Amit Mordechai, Ido Netzer, Noam Zaltin, Ron Carm) PREDICTION: Qualifier
Eden once again is a better performer than the song she is singing in 2021 but Set Me Free is an improvement on 2020’s Feker Libi and we see this and Sweden tussling to make 1 of the last remaining spots available for the final. It’s received a revamp before the contest and is the better for it.
13. ROMANIA Roxen Amnesia (Adelina Stîngă, Victor Bouroșu) PREDICTION: non-qualifier
Not every returning act has improved their song and, although we had reservations about Alcohol You in 2020, we did think it would place fairly respectably in the final. Amnesia is once again lyrically difficult and Roxen will need a strong performance bringing out the full Billie Eilish potential of the material to see it progress. Eilish feels a far less relevant touchstone in 2021 than she did 12 months previously.
14. AZERBAIJAN Efendi Mata Hari (Amy van der Wel, Luuk van Beers, Tony Cornelissen, Josh Earl) PREDICTION: Qualifier
Efendi hasn’t messed with her USP which we felt would see her top 10 in 2020 with the slightly more pleasing Cleopatra. Mata Hari once again draws on a strong historical figure for its inspiration – this time also with a Eurovision connection – from 1 of the writers of her previous entry. It achieves the trick of being new, pleasing and familiar as well as being 1 of the better female-fronted bangers yet also incorporating ethnic elements. Boasting backing vocals that could have come straight from Boney M’s Rasputin or Lady Gaga’s Poker Face.
15. UKRAINE Go_A Shum (Taras Shevchenko, Kateryna Pavlenko) PREDICTION: Qualifier
Shum is much stronger than 2020’s Solevay and we think this electro folk entry will stand out in a good way and the band’s striking vocals are far better utilised here and if Europe is looking for different as well as reflecting its region this should find its audience.
16. MALTA Destiny Je Me Casse (Amanuel Dermont, Malin Christin, Nicklas Eklund, Pete Baringer) PREDICTION: Qualifier
2020’s All Of My Love was our pick to have won in that year and, while the ballad drew criticism for not being individual enough, this time Destiny, a former Junior Eurovision winner, has gone uptempo and quirky with an entry we’re not quite sure does her impressive live vocal much favours. Its stab at 1920s swing reminds these ears of ill-fated 2015 UK entry Still In Love With You by Electro Velvet. The lyric’s female empowerment theme (‘If I show some skin, don’t say I’m giving in’) however is bang on trend and this is still a potential contest winner.