Eurovision 2021: Semi Final 1, Second Half Thoughts

We’re well into the swing to Eurovision season so it’s time to look around and have a couple of hot takes on the songs from each country.

Instead of individual entries I’ll be covering half of each semi final at a time. Instead of getting too in depth I’ll just jot down some thoughts on my first(ish) impressions. I might do a ranking and/or prediction post later on but this is just a barrel of thoughts for now. Since allocation hasn’t happened all the entries are in alphabetical order for fairness.

Azerbaijan : Efendi “Mata Hari”

Remember when I said I wouldn’t compare songs to last songs? Play stupid games, win stupid prizes because Azerbaijan didn’t really feel like they wanted to write another song so they just…didn’t. A few rearrangements, switch out one lady for another and boom! We have Mata Hari, doing absolutely the same thing with the same result from me: this is a mess and I don’t believe for one second this is going to anything but a disaster live. Efendi isn’t much of a dancer, she’s likely not much of a singer, and this song is just a trash fire that I have trouble making it through all the way especially during the long “ma-ma-ma-ma” stretches. Woof.

Belgium: Hooverphonic”The Wrong Place

This gives me the most 1997 artist on their way to Lilith Fair vibe and I am 100% here for it. The lyrics get a little left field with the Jonny Cash t-shirt but what is a Eurovision song without a moment of sheer terror and confusion? I really appreciate the progression in the verse to the chorus but it might be a little subdued for this audience and I’m unsure how it’ll be live because this could easily tip into boring with the wrong staging but I actually really like it overall and I feel like even if Belgium doesn’t qualify this isn’t anything to be embarrassed about at least.

Croatia: Albina “Tick-Tock”

I don’t know what it is about this song that both scream teeny bop and Madonna at the same time to me but it doesn’t sit well in my mind. It’s obviously never going to touch even the ghost of the memory of Mariya Yaremchuk but it’s not terrible. The thing is that I saw her at Dora (the Croatian national final) and I have to be really frank: she basically didn’t sound anywhere near the ballpark of this recorded track. She’s not the only artist who desperately wants to be Ariana Grande at this years contest but her vocals are nowhere near polished enough and this song is so oddly frantic and overproduced that I start checking out before we even hear any of the Croatian verse. I know this’ll be popular because it feels like we’re in the year of the bop but I’ve got my sights elsewhere.

Cyprus: Elena Tsagrinou “El Diablo

Cyprus has decided to bank all their money on just attempting to sending Fuego to Eurovision without…Eleni Foureira and it’s a mixed bag. On the one hand, this has literally lived rent free in my head since I heard it. On the other, it’s all in the hook and everything else is from a different song that I actually want to stop? At the best sprinkling in Spanish words gives your song flare and fun and at worst it makes my entire skin try to crawl back into my body because of how odd and nonsensical it is. I’m not convinced that Elena will sound decent without being pitch corrected to hell and back (see what I did there?) and this song kind of rides or dies on being able to get through the chorus with some stellar pipes. In my ideal world I loop the chorus and get wild in a club and El Diablo lets me forget that I ever heard the word “mamacita.”

Israel: Eden Alene “Set Me Free

If you haven’t heard Eden live this recording might fool you into thinking she isn’t anything special. I’m wondering if they can give some flare to these notes live but otherwise this is…a big downgrade in terms of a song that captures the spirit and extreme talent of Eden and that’s such a shame. The song is fine, the video is fine, but there’s just no part of this that really gets me excited. If she pulls a total Sound of Silence during this song its literally the only way I see this getting more than perfunctory marks. It’s shockingly low on my personal list and I hate to say that.

Malta: Destiny “Je me casse

It’s Malta’s game to lose. This is fun, flirty, and playful. Destiny has a crushingly powerful voice and this song is extremely well matched with her youth. This has plenty of space for her to shine during a live version and it reminds me of if you smashed up elements from Pasha Parfeny’s “Lăutar” and Eletro Velvet’s “Still In Love With You” both of which I absolutely adore. Do I love it 100%? Well, I liked last years song more and that gives me pause but it’s certainly no slouch on my scoreboard so I hope (and think) it’ll do well.

Norway: Tix “Fallen Angel

I don’t even know. Norway had four acts I would have sent in front of this but even if I pretend it didn’t, this isn’t a good song. This feels like 2003 sad boy music. The staging is overwrought, the vocals are underdone, and the lyrics are infuriatingly on the nose. I’m glad that Tix can talk openly about his struggles with mental health but at the end of the day this performance and songs reads “high school art department” and I’m pretty sure it’ll be quietly NQ’d to be forgotten by me before 2022 songs even come out.

Romania: Roxen “Amnesia

Speaking of songs I keep forgetting: Romania. What am I supposed to do with this? This is a nothing burger. I can’t stand how there is so much vocal distortion on so many of this years tracks and I suspect it’s the Billie Eilish effect and this video does nothing to dissuade me of that idea though many of the other artists employing it aren’t specifically trying for that illusion. I have almost nothing to say about this, I kind of hate it but in this vague way where I don’t actually have any feelings about it. Definitely going to be a drink refill song, sorry to this one small child for crushing all her dreams!

Ukraine: Go_A “Shum

There is something angry and haunting and bloodthirsty about this song and it makes me grin. I only worry about the flute section and the hyper repetition turning some people off but this is my trash its wild and frantic nature makes it feel so relevant to “these unprecedented times.” While the song seems to be about bringing in the spring and making the world over, the tone of the song makes me kind of feel like the way to do that is to burn it all down and really, I’m here for it. I really hope this song makes the final but it feels like a long shot. Stranger things have happened though so, hope springs eternal.

Stay tuned for the first half of semi final two coming up tomorrow!

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