Rating the Songs of Eurovision 2018 – Part Three: Norway to Australia

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 third of five, I will be rating the first nine songs from the second semi-final of Eurovision 2018 and judging their chances in the contest. You can see the official videos on the Eurovision YouTube channel by clicking on the song titles. Without further ado, it’s on to the reviews.

01) Norway – Alexander Rybak – “That’s How You Write a Song”

Norway

The opening to semi-final two is a much stronger affair than Azerbaijan’s effort, but that isn’t necessarily down to the song. The track itself almost feels derivative of a certain Eurovision interval act and as a result feels quite shallow. “Fairytale” this is not. Because the singer is Alexander Rybak, winner of Eurovision 2009, he uses his natural charisma to win over even the most stubborn hater. Along with a few flashy special effects to accentuate the instruments used in the song, this will go down a storm live in Lisbon. Will we be returning to Oslo next year? There is a chance.

Eurovision Rating: 7.5/10
Eurovision Prediction: 1-5 in Grand Final

02) Romania – The Humans – “Goodbye”

Romania

When this song was first released, I really wasn’t a fan. I felt a massive disconnect between the verses and the chorus and that the latter was a bit too wordy to really make an impact. The more I listen to it, the more positive my thoughts on it are. The vocals sound really clean and striking and they have a solid concept in the anonymous masks, which I believe they are bringing to the stage in Lisbon. I still feel like this falls a bit short in the structure of the song and on that basis I don’t see it making much of an impact, though the presence of neighbours Moldova may give this the necessarily boost to progress.

Eurovision Rating: 6/10
Eurovision Prediction: 21-26 in Grand Final

03) Serbia – Sanja Ilić & Balkanika – “Nova deca”

Serbia

Every year we get a flavour of the Balkan ballad and mostly the songs are effective. Bosnia 2016 proved that it doesn’t always work and I feel like this is going the same way because I’m not what the song wants to be. The track starts with some traditional female wailing (I don’t know the technical term, sorry!) and the woodwind player, which seems quite strong. Then the chorus kicks in with the underlying dance beat and I am confused. I understand that Serbia probably wanted to modernise the genre at Eurovision but it comes off a bit too musical theatre rather than fully committing to the modern or the traditional, the latter being the best part of this.

Eurovision Rating: 5/10
Eurovision Prediction: Non-qualifier

04) San Marino – Jessika feat. Jenifer Brening – “Who We Are”

San Marino

We are the heroes of our…. oh wait. Now I know about Jessika and her fight year after year to represent Malta and so I was excited to see what she would bring. Sadly this song is way beneath her and honestly beneath the featured rapper, who comes in after a minute to deliver some annoying lines under the music and a rap that reminds me of Honey G from the X Factor UK (look her up). Why this song? Why the dancing robots on stage? There are so many questions running through my head. I know that as a micro state San Marino don’t have the budget or talent pool, hence why they took international singers for their selection process, but both artists deserve a better track to showcase their talents than this.

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

05) Denmark – Rasmussen – “Higher Ground”

Denmark

After three disappointing years where they ran aground, Denmark have picked themselves up, raised the sail and are going along nicely. This track is slightly musical theatre but in a good way, delivering Viking nautical vibes without taking it down the ultra camp route. Instead there is a mystical, almost fantastical undertone; maybe Rasmussen was also auditioning for a part in a new historical drama. For me this is what Eurovision is all about, showing cultural and artistic flair to make a song stand out without making it satirical. I also really appreciate the backing vocalists chanting in Icelandic. This may not do as well as I would like it to but in a weaker semi-final this should make the final pretty comfortably.

Eurovision Rating: 8.5/10
Eurovision Prediction: 16-20 in Grand Final

06) Russia – Julia Samoylova – “I Won’t Break”

Russia

I think every Eurovision fan is aware of what happened last year with Julia at Eurovision (long story short: she was banned by hosts Ukraine for performing in Crimea). Now she is back and I wish her all the best, cause she seems like a lovely person. The track starts off relatively well, her vocals seem suited to the deeper verses. However any hope I have is completely obliterated by the awful chorus, which feels like a 6 year old wrote. Even in the studio version, you can tell Julia struggles to hold the note, turning the word “break” into three distinct sections. I’ve heard that live this weakness is exposed even further and I honestly feel sorry for her, she deserves a chorus just as strong as the verses. Since this is Russia this will qualify (remember 2010’s car crash) but I don’t see much merit in this.

Eurovision Rating: 4.5/10
Eurovision Prediction: 11-15 in Grand Final

07) Moldova – DoReDos – “My Lucky Day”

Moldova

A decade ago, the Eurovision Song Contest was a very different event. There were a lot of kitschy campy entries that made the show so eclectic and enjoyable to watch. This feels like a throwback to those years but it is done in a good way. Moldova consistently send entries that bring the fun factor to Eurovision, even though the quality of the songs are hardly ever up there with the best (2013 being a notable exception). “My Lucky Day” feels like utter nonsense as a song, with the lyrics and musical interludes low in quality but high in fun. This should be a joy to watch in Lisbon and I hope that they continue to make viewers laugh and smile in contests to come.

Eurovision Rating: 7/10
Eurovision Prediction: 16-20 in Grand Final

08) Netherlands – Waylon – “Outlaw in ‘Em”

Netherlands

After many years of languishing in the semi-finals, the Netherlands have found their groove in the country genre, which stands out in a contest like Eurovision. “Outlaw in ‘Em” might well be their most Nashville-inspired entry yet and sees Waylon return after finishing runner-up as one half of The Common Linnets. When this first came out I really enjoyed the sound and how Waylon’s gravelly vocals really compliment the song. The more I listen to it, the less confident I am that this will make an impression at Eurovision. For one thing, it seems to be full of energy but never completely takes off. I’m also unsure how this will look on a grand stage like the one in Lisbon, close cuts will be needed otherwise he is going to be swallowed up.

Eurovision Rating: 7/10
Eurovision Prediction: 21-26 in Grand Final

09) Australia – Jessica Mauboy – “We Got Love”

Australia

Australia have not finished lower than ninth in the three times they have appeared at Eurovision and I don’t think they are going to do that this year, with a song that, though quite cheesy and shallow in meaning, brings pure joy to the contest. This is the kind of message that we hear every year, about how we shouldn’t give up and how we should love ourselves (Can I get an Amen?). The production values of the entry are quite good but not quite memorable to stand out. Why I feel so good about this entry is Mauboy herself, who has an irrepressible energy when she performs the song. If she can bring that same energy to the stage in Lisbon, this should do a lot better than many people would think initially.

Eurovision Rating: 8/10
Eurovision Rating: 6-10 in Grand Final

So what do you think? Do you agree with my predictions? And who is your pick for Eurovision glory?

You can let me know your thoughts in the comments section below, and I’ll see you very soon for Part Four, when I will be rating the remaining nine songs of Semi-Final Two.

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