It’s that time of year again people, when the extravagant circus that is the Eurovision Song Contest flies onto televisions across Europe and beyond. This year the contest will be held in Lisbon, following Portugal’s first ever win at the contest with Salvador Sobral and “Amar Pelos Dois”. The 2018 edition sees forty-three countries, a joint record, compete for the trophy and join the likes of ABBA, Celine Dion and Katrina & The Waves in Eurovision history. The only change from 2017 sees Russia return to the contest following their ban from the Kiev edition.

In this post, the first of five, I will be rating every entry to the 2018 contest and also will discuss each of their chances to make the final and even win. This year I have chosen to split the songs up in the order that they will perform at Eurovision, so the nine discussed here are from the first half of semi-final one. Without further ado, it’s on to the reviews.

01) Azerbaijan – Aisel – “X My Heart”

Azerbaijan

A solid uptempo number to start Eurovision 2018 and it comes from Azerbaijan, who still hold a 100% qualification record since their debut in 2008. This could be under some threat however, as this semi-final is full of contenders. The song is perfectly decent to listen to, I think there needs to be more of a lift towards the end of the song; it is slightly flat right now. Its big strength is that the chorus is a real earworm and hard to forget but in the live performances that I have seen Aisel is a bit shouty. This, combined with big voters Russia, Ukraine and Georgia not being in their semi-final, could put this in jeopardy of not making the final.

Eurovision Rating: 6.5/10
Eurovision Prediction: 16-20 in Grand Final

02) Iceland – Ari Ólafsson – “Our Choice”

Iceland

Every year at Eurovision, without fail, you get a couple of peace songs regarding war, poverty and so on. Some of them manage to be powerful, attention grabbing and fresh. This is not one of those entries. This could well have been Iceland’s entry in 1988, such is its dated feeling. It also does not make me feel anything and for a song supposedly about such powerful emotions, that is death in the contest. One positive is that Ari sings really well but that is the only plus point. Iceland’s non-qualification streak, stretching back to 2015, looks set to continue.

Eurovision Rating: 4/10
Eurovision Prediction: Non-Qualifier

03) Albania – Eugent Bushpepa – “Mall”

Albania

This country has never been amongst my favourites in the past few years but they have got it right this time with “Mall”, a powerful male ballad with rock influences. Keeping the song in Albanian was a great decision as well, meaning the song keeps its power and identity. Eugent has a great voice that stands out from a lot of the other male countries. Whilst I enjoy this song, I can already see it struggling in this semi-final, with the horribly tough competition and once again being given a very early running order placing. If it was in semi-final two it may have had a decent chance.

Eurovision Rating: 7.5/10
Eurovision Prediction: Non-Qualifier

04) Belgium – Sennek – “A Matter of Time”

Belgium

Belgium have had a massive resurgence since Loic Nottet in 2015 and they are continuing it with this anthem that sounds straight from a award-winning film soundtrack. The verses are nothing special but the song explodes when it reaches the chorus; there are definitive peaks and troughs in Belgium’s entry. However, I don’t see it on the same level as Loic Nottet or Blanche’s entries, maybe the weaker verses are letting it down slightly. This is going to make the grand final easily though and maybe place on the left hand side of the scoreboard.

Eurovision Rating: 7.5/10
Eurovision Prediction: 11-15 in Grand Final

05) Czech Republic – Mikolas Josef – “Lie to Me”

Czech Republic

When I reviewed this song as part of a preview of the Czech national selection, I gave this a 5/10 and said that it was hard for me to really get into. Since then it took a landslide win and is one of the favourites with the bookies. I still have problems with the song. It can’t be denied that this is one of the most chart-friendly songs this year and that is part of the problem for me. Watching the live performances, it is very low energy yet I’m finding it hard to think of staging that would suit this entry. Maybe it just isn’t the type of song for a live show. I don’t think this will do as well as people think but it should beat the Czech Republic’s best result of 24th.

Eurovision Rating: 6/10
Eurovision Prediction: 11-15 in Grand Final

06) Lithuania – Ieva Zasimauskaitė – “When We’re Old”

Lithuania

Readers from the UK will know what I mean when I call this song a ‘John Lewis Christmas ad song’. It’s one of those slow songs with a melancholic yet optimistic feel to it, like everything is going to work out fine. Personally, I think this is good enough to be part of an advertising campaign, plus Ieva has a beautiful voice that elevates the song further. Unfortunately, Lithuania are placed early on in a difficult semi-final and these songs can slip under the radar. I really want this song to progress as I think it is beautiful and Lithuania’s best entry since I started watching in 2005 but I don’t think it will sadly.

Eurovision Rating: 8/10
Eurovision Prediction: Non-Qualifier

07) Israel – Netta – “Toy”

Israel

The bookies and fan favourite by a country mile and it’s not hard to see why. Netta combines a quirky yet powerful performance to a modern sounding song with a message behind it. On paper, it sounds like she is going to run away with the title at Lisbon. The task for Israel is bringing live staging that perfectly compliments everything that I have said above. Netta did say when performing live at Eurovision in Concert that she had some “surprises” for Lisbon but is keeping hush on what that is. If it’s something spectacular then I can see this winning.

Eurovision Rating: 8.5/10
Eurovision Prediction: 1-5 in Grand Final

08) Belarus – Alekseev – “Forever”

Belarus

This song has had a major revamp prior to the contest, going from a by-the-numbers Eastern Europe song to a by-the-numbers Eastern Europe song with softer parts randomly thrown in. Whilst the original version was nothing special, at least it was coherent. The new production does nothing for me, its stirring no emotion in me. It is also sandwiched in between three hot favourites in the running order. That, combined with the fact that Russia aren’t in their semi-final, means this isn’t going to make the cut.

Eurovision Rating: 4/10
Eurovision Prediction: Non-Qualifier

09) Estonia – Elina Nechayeva – “La Forza”

Estonia

Another massive favourite with the bookmakers and fandom is courtesy of Estonia, who is bringing you opera as authentically as you can get in Eurovision standards. I find the visuals on the dress to be the best part about the performance (think Azerbaijan 2012 or Russia 2015 but on another level). As for the song, honestly I have no strong opinions about it either way, it’s just there, overshadowed by the visuals and by Elina’s showstopping voice. Again, I don’t see this doing as well as people may think but in a pretty weak year for the contest this will easily make the top ten.

Eurovision Rating: 7/10
Eurovision Prediction: 6-10 in Grand Final

That is the first nine songs of the contest reviewed. Do you agree with my ratings or predictions, what is your favourite song of the Eurovision Song Contest 2018?

I’ll be back soon to review the second batch of songs in semi-final one so stay tuned and subscribe to receive notifications of when new posts are released.

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