Eurovision 2017: Our country-by-country guide to semi-final 1

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Rev up your wind machines and grab your painkillers. Eurovision 2017 kicks off tonight with the first eighteen acts vying for ten spots in Saturday’s Grand Final. To keep you grounded once the stage begins to rock, we’ve put together a guide to every song in tonight’s show. For each entry we have included excerpts from the Wiwi Jury — our in-house panel of music unprofessionals, who evaluated the pre-Eurovision performances during the spring.

Below you’ll also find our Wiwi Jury video review playlist, our on-the-ground reviews playlist of the first rehearsals, and our video review of last night’s jury final, which accounts for 50% of the overall score. Scroll to the bottom of the post and you can also watch all 18 second rehearsal videos, filmed in Kyiv. Who do you think will make it? Let us know in the comments box below!

Semi-Final 1: Jury Show (Review)

Semi-Final 1 Rehearsal Reviews

Click on the song title to read our full reviews, which were written in the run-up to Eurovision prior to rehearsals. 

SONG 1:  SWEDEN: ROBIN BENGTSSON WITH “I CAN’T GO ON”

The Wiwi Jury good:  It’s a song in at least two parts — and I’m loving both of them. The opening establishes Robin as he gets ready to slay on stage. The second part shows us his strong vocals, professionalism and outstanding choreography. Yes, he knows what Eurovision needs. I can’t wait for his f*cking beautiful performance. (Rez0)

The Wiwi Jury bad: This is a genuine Swedish pop production, with Eurovision written all over it. He and his posse own the stage, no doubt, but but unfortunately this is a forgettable tune at best. It will be all about the treadmill gimmick and Robin’s strikingly beautiful blue eyes, because the song itself is just so freaking bland. (Kristin)

SONG 2: GEORGIA: TAMARA GACHECHILADZE WITH “KEEP THE FAITH”

The Wiwi Jury good: The refrain that loops throughout the song is unforgettable and seems pertinent during these trying times. “Keep the Faith” highlights the need for personal strength, tenacity and perseverance. Tamara’s song may have been banned from Eurovision 2009, but she’s bounced back this year with a more powerful message and added sophistication. (Deban)

The Wiwi Jury bad: “Keep the Faith” seems written to hit very obvious emotional cues, with both the lyrics and the “James Bond meets gospel choir” sound. But as the song progresses, that’s all we’re left with: “Keep the faaaaaith” repeated ad nauseam over a variety of musical tricks. By the time the song ends with the big orchestral fart, my faith is well and truly lost. (Robyn)

SONG 3: AUSTRALIA: ISAIAH WITH “DON’T COME EASY”

The Wiwi Jury good: Isaiah’s voice is silky smooth, and is definitely giving off some serious Sam Smith vibes. This entry exudes quality and expense and memorability. And I’m confident Australia could go three for three with top-five finishes with Isaiah. (Josh)

The Wiwi Jury bad: Despite its smooth sound and polished finish, “Don’t Come Easy” doesn’t come easy — it plods along and has a drowsy quality despite Isaiah’s undeniable power and soul. The bridge brings the life I crave, but by then I’m already asleep. (William)

SONG 4: ALBANIA: LINDITA WITH “WORLD”

The Wiwi Jury good: From the moment I heard the Albanian version I was in love — it’s a song with immense potential. Violins, screaming, drums, trembling —  everything! The tension that’s built throughout the whole song and the climax at the ending — it’s not of this world. After having one listen you’re sure of one thing — that girl can scream. (Marek)

The Wiwi Jury bad: “World” is a strange one. Initially, I was inclined to paint it with the same brush as Malta and Georgia – namely an anonymous melodramatic lady ballad. But over repeated listens, I’ve come to appreciate some of the song’s charms. Sadly, most Eurovision viewers won’t have the pleasure of hearing this more than once. And while Lindita is undoubtedly a fabulous singer, it’s hard to see past her poor diction and over-exuberant vocal showboating. A little restraint wouldn’t go amiss.  (Padraig)

SONG 5: BELGIUM: BLANCHE WITH “CITY LIGHTS”

The Wiwi Jury good: Belgium has metamorphosed from ugly duckling into Eurovision powerhouse in a very short time, and Blanche is further proof of that. “City Lights” blends innocence with darkness and creates a moody atmosphere, which is tailor-made for Blanche’s deep vocals. This entry is so intelligently crafted that I could go on for hours on how delighted I am to have it at Eurovision 2017. (Luis)

The Wiwi Jury bad:  While I enjoy “City Lights” I feel like there is something missing in this magical formula — probably staging. Blanche’s voice is unique and competent, but ultimately the song falls flat without a decent stage show. While it feels very contemporary, it also seems to last longer than three minutes. (Bernardo)

SONG 6: MONTENEGRO: SLAVKO KALEZIC WITH “SPACE”

The Wiwi Jury good:  It takes a brave man to spend three minutes shirtless while whipping his six-foot hairpiece back. And Slavko is a very brave man. From his talk of wet dreams to his references to ejaculation, he goes where no Eurovision singer has gone before — and then he thrusts and slut drops to punctuate his arrival. Musically he’s managed to pull the discotheque into 2017, delivering a feel-good track that should draw votes from all corners of Europe. It’s Montenegro’s best entry to date and — in the vein of Conchita and Cleo — it could climb the scoreboard despite its divisiveness. Slayko, indeed! (William)

The Wiwi Jury bad:  This song is dated (you could hear it in the clubs in the 90s) and the lyrics are veeeryyy sexual. I wouldn’t be surprised if this song is banned in Russia. But somehow it makes my body move and it makes me laugh every time I see the music video. Kudos to Slavko. It will probably become a guilty pleasure — a perfect song for vacuuming! (Mikhail)

SONG 7: FINLAND: NORMA JOHN WITH “BLACKBIRD”

The Wiwi Jury good:  Arguably the best song Finland has ever sent to the contest, “Blackbird” is pure poetry. Comparable only to the likes of Susanne Sundfør or Ane Brun, Leena’s other-worldy voice slowly pierces the heart like a black dagger, and you can’t but surrender to its arresting power. Lasse’s piano solo marks a departure from the recipe, stressing once again the uniqueness of this dark but utterly beautiful song. In an ideal world, entries like “Blackbird” should win Eurovision. (Bogdan)

The Wiwi Jury bad: “Blackbird” seems to be a song people either connect with or they don’t. Unfortunately, in this case, I find myself in the latter. Whilst Leena’s vocals are certainly haunting, the entire piece feels too empty around them. Whilst simplicity can certainly work at Eurovision, this feels like it’s gone a step too far. Too often on listens it just passes by without being a standout — there may be trouble for Finland. (Chris)

SONG 8: AZERBAIJAN: DIHAJ WITH “SKELETONS”

The Wiwi Jury good:  “Skeletons” won’t have the widest appeal at Eurovision but it’s exactly my cup of tea. This is the only song of the contest that is absolutely perfect. This is the Margaret Berger of 2017 in the sense that it’s the best song and will do really well but is a bit too alternative to actually win. Azerbaijan will likely stage this superbly and should return to the top ten with ease. Dihaj is light years ahead of the competition. (Antranig)

The Wiwi Jury bad: “Skeletons” isn’t the most immediate song in the contest: it took a good couple of listens before I fell for it. That’s a potential flaw, but one that the song should push through.  (Chris)

SONG 9: PORTUGAL: SALVADOR SOBRAL WITH “AMAR PELOS DOIS”

The Wiwi Jury good: Salvador Sobral brings to Eurovision what the competition has needed for many years now. Among fireworks, LED displays, big shouty divas and technology, “Amar Pelos Dois” is a timeless piece of jazz/pop art that reminds us of the genesis of the contest. Yes, the Eurovision Song Contest. It’s 1956 and it’s 2017. His performance transcends borders, transcends language and touches hearts. (Bernard0)

The Wiwi Jury bad: Eurovision songs of the 50s and 60s often have a charming, dreamy quality about them. That’s great for the 50s and 60s — not 2017. Salvador’s performance is uncomfortable and confusing to watch: his illness doesn’t explain those head throws. There will be people who love this (and there obviously are), but I feel that the Eurovision bubble may be protecting it somewhat. Anywhere else, this would bomb. (Chris)

SONG 10: GREECE: DEMY WITH “THIS IS LOVE”

The Wiwi Jury good: It’s about time we had Demy on the Eurovision stage! And with a Dimitris Kontopoulos produced song this couldn’t possibly fail! Athens 2018! Except the odds aren’t as enthusiastic. In a year of ballads, this song will definitely be well-received, especially with its killer dance break after the chorus and the epic build-up to the end. (Natalie)

The Wiwi Jury bad: “This Is Love” feels torn, like it can’t decide if it wants to be a cute love song or a dance banger. The result is that it doesn’t end up doing either all that well. It’s not a terrible song, it’s just that Greece is capable of doing so much better. I suspect it will have more energy and cohesion live in Kyiv, but in the studio version, it’s not quite working as well as it should. (Robyn)

SONG 11: POLAND: KASIA MOS WITH “FLASHLIGHT”

The Wiwi Jury good: “Flashlight” is varied, textured and crafted with metaphorical depth. Although it may not have the immediacy that one would have hoped for, there’s enough atmosphere and subliminal messages here to power a grid. Kasia Mos is no stranger to the Polish pop scene. She’s showing up this year with a heady mix of activism and flesh. Not many stars can slay this way.  (Deban)

The Wiwi Jury bad: I try to be a positive person, and although I appreciate artists who dare to include deep stories in their songs, I can’t feel the same for those who sing dramatic songs just for the sake of it. That’s exactly what Kasia does. This song is over-the-top and apocalyptic… and what’s the point, really? It’s too pretentious. Also, lyrically it’s a mess. Rhyming “fire”, “desire”, “higher” and “wire” should be illegal. (Luis)

SONG 12: MOLDOVA: SUNSTROKE PROJECT WITH “HEY, MAMMA!”

The Wiwi Jury good: This is pure delight through and through. Funky beat, mandatory solo from Epic Sax Guy and Sergei’s amazing vocals give this song an edge that cannot to be found anywhere else. “Hey Mama” is entertainment with a capital E, and the boys look super relaxed and just ready to goof around and have fun, and as always, they simply ooze charm and stage presence. This is a slam dunk. BOOM! (Kristin)

The Wiwi Jury bad: Sunstroke Project has dated very badly. Their continuous use of the Epic Sax Guy is abuse of a one-trick pony. Their sound doesn’t travel beyond their landlocked republic. As I rush to put other songs on repeat, “Hey Mamma” gets played in full solely for critiquing purposes only. (Deban)

SONG 13: ICELAND: SVALA WITH “PAPER”

The Wiwi Jury good: This is by far the best Icelandic entry in years. Svala is both appealing and edgy, combining the fire and ice elements like never before. “Paper” is a song that would definitely make it worldwide, given the chance. And the girl knows her stuff. She will bring Iceland to the finals again, and regardless of results from there on, Svala is a major force to be reckoned with.  (Kristin)

The Wiwi Jury bad: If Björk had a daughter with Jay Z and invited Gwen Stefani over to dress her, the tot might grow into Svala. She’s at once other-worldly and electro with the faintest hint of hip-hop in her soulful vocals (and her decidedly urban styling). She’s great. But the live performance was bland and monotonous. Like paper, the song is flat and one-dimensional. But thankfully it can also be folded and recast, giving me hope this stunning ice queen will salvage it by the time Kyiv rolls around. (William)

SONG 14: CZECH REPUBLIC: MARTINA BÁRTA WITH “MY TURN”

The Wiwi Jury good: Somehow “My Turn” is able to stand out among the sea of ballads and proves to be among the better ones. It has a point of difference and manages to maintain my interest throughout. Its melody is so calming, like the ocean, and it doesn’t need any energy boost, because that’s not what it represents. The end of the song always arouses a small smile from me, because it’s just so pure. I am happy that it’s in the contest. (Mikhail)

The Wiwi Jury bad: Despite the fleshy awakening in Martina’s music video, she still manages to put me in a deep slumber. This entry is positively depressing! I can appreciate the merits of Miss Barta’s jazzy vocals, but 170 million viewers won’t be missing out on much if this entry slipped by. (Deban)

SONG 15: CYPRUS: HOVIG WITH “GRAVITY”

The Wiwi Jury good: Well structured and the chorus is a particular highlight. It won’t be a song for the Eurovision record books, but “Gravity” is another solid entry from Cyprus. (Chris)

The Wiwi Jury bad: “Gravity” is like a slice of moussaka. Delicious at first, but if you have the whole thing it’s too heavy and leaves you feeling bloated. The first minute is dark and intense, but squanders all of that promise in what follows because it just repeats. Even the middle eight, normally a guaranteed offer of something different in a Eurovision song, flatlines. Cyprus will need superlative staging to put this through to the grand final. (Angus)

SONG 16: ARMENIA: ARTSVIK WITH “FLY WITH ME”

The Wiwi Jury good: Artsvik’s song begins with a whisper and ends with an explosion. Every 25 seconds or so, new instruments are added and the track is infused with new, infectious, irresistible energy which makes it soar like Ravel’s “Bolero”. The red line that binds it all together beautifully is Artsvik’s flawless voice, bringing an Eastern flavour that is missing in other songs this year. This is special, this is unique, this is powerful and this is going to slay on the big stage. (Bogdan)

The Wiwi Jury bad: Last year Armenia brought the drama. This year they’re promising the drama but never quite deliver. “Fly With Me” sounds like the first half of a song in a musical, something that’s building up to a big chorus. But that doesn’t happen. The end result is a catchy but ultimately unsatisfying song — with little to remember. (Robyn)

SONG 17: SLOVENIA: OMAR NABER WITH “ON MY WAY”

The Wiwi Jury good: Omar’s vocal flourishes are a wonder to behold. “On My Way” captures much of this vocal drama whilst retaining a very strong melody. Warm, soothing, uplifting and soaring, Omar Naber’s voice is a fine instrument, and his self-composition bears the hallmark of a modern classic. (Deban)

The Wiwi Jury bad: Truly dreadful. This entire package comes together to be one of the worst entries at Eurovision in the last five years. Omar’s voice is more often than not grating, whilst the song flops for three minutes of off-Broadway attempts at showboating. Entirely unmemorable and just wrong for a song contest in 2017. He’s right about one thing: he should never have come back. (Chris)

SONG 18: LATVIA: TRIANA PARK WITH “LINE”

The Wiwi Jury good: From the moment Triana Park took to the stage in Supernova, it was clear that this was the best song for Latvia. “Line” stands out both audibly and on stage: it’s different, but in a good way. It might be a song about getting over a lover, but it doesn’t go for grandiose drama unlike other entries this year. Instead, Agnese almost entrances us to join her ragtag group of ravers. Bring me to that party, get me wasted and cover me in UV paint: I’m all in for this one.

The Wiwi Jury bad: It is an upbeat club banger that lends itself well to a great show on stage. But for some reason it doesn’t work for me. Maybe because I have a feeling I have heard it a thousand times before. It will probably qualify for the final, but on my personal list there are a lot of better songs that deserve a spot in the final over this. (Jovana)