The time has finally come. Tonight Armenia will raise the Depi Evratesil curtain and twenty hopefuls will, over the course of two semi-finals and a grand final, be whittled down to one. With three shows over the next week, the spotlight is definitely on Yerevan. And ahead of that momentous occasion we’ve been reviewing all of this year’s acts.
Tonight at 22:15 local time (that’s 18:15 GMT and 19:15 CET) the first ten acts take to the stage. Semi-final 2 takes place on 22 February with ten more acts. Five acts will qualify from each show to compete in the grand final on 25 February. You can watch all of the action on the AMPTV live stream.
The Wiwi Jury travelled to Armenia (well, in our imaginations anyway) to review the twenty contestants. After the dust settled, Tamar Kaprelian emerged as our favourite from the first semi-final. With the rest of the Wiwi Jury’s Top 5 in the second semi-final, Tamar is well-poised to make it through to the grand final.
According to the Wiwi Jury, the four acts that should join Tamar in the final are Gevorg Harutyunyan, Lusine Mardanyan, Angel and Nemra, with the latter edging out Hayk Kasparov in a tiebreaker. Self-proclaimed winner Mger Armenia did not fare so favourably, finishing last with the Wiwi Jury.
Depi Evratesil 2018 Semi-final 1 reviews and rankings
1. Tamar Kaprelian — “Poison (Ari Ari)” (8.75)
The best: Continuing the foray into avant-garde ethnic music that “LoveWave” and “Fly with Me” carved out, “Poison (Ari Ari)” takes things one step further by being infinitely more accessible and radio-friendly than its predecessors. The talented Tamar Kaprelian has crafted a song that stands heads and shoulders above her competition and could contend for the title at Eurovision. As an Armenian, I’m so proud of Tamar and this gives me goosebumps every single time I listen to it — almost as much as Loreen’s “Statements” does. Sorry dear Iveta, step aside — “Poison (Ari Ari)” is by far the best song to ever come out of Armenia. (Antranig, 10/10)
The worst: It’s fair to say Tamar built up quite a bit of hype around this song. And while “Poison (Ari Ari)” lives up to a lot of it, it doesn’t quite go all the way. The song beautifully blends traditional instruments and modern production. But in a way, it does this too well, as it ends up landing in a middle zone between the two and doesn’t push the boundaries enough either way to become a standout. This is still one of the best songs in Depi Evratesil this year and would be deserving of the ticket to Lisbon. But staging and Tamar’s live performance will be crucial in providing this with the epic climax moment it desperately needs in order to be a Eurovision front-runner. (Jonathan, 8/10)
2. Gevorg Harutyunyan — “Stand Up” (6.21)
The best: Wow, this is like an ethnic symphony here. Those banging drums and piano keys make for a great atmosphere. And that orchestral bit in the middle is so rich and masterful, yet leads so well into those beautiful Armenian instruments. It’s incredible to think this is all packed into three minutes, yet it doesn’t feel rushed at all. Such passion and spirit, this is going to strike a chord with lots of voters. (Natalie, 8.5/10)
The worst: This very much sounds like a big number from a musical, and it feels like it’s missing the context of a musical plot. Give us some oppressed masses, y’all! While Gevorg has a strong, expressive voice, the song comes across more as empty posturing than honest expression. Staging could help, but the song really needs to stand on its own. (Robyn, 5/10)
3. Lusine Mardanyan — “If You Don’t Walk Me Home” (6.14)
The best: You would be forgiven if you mistook Lusine Mardanyan for an American country artist, as she clearly draws her influences from this genre. She isn’t a Jewel wannabe however, as she makes the song her own with her distinctive voice and sensitivity. Whether or not she would get lost on a big Eurovision stage is irrelevant at this point. As a standalone track, “If You Don’t Walk Me Home” is brilliant. (Bogdan, 8/10)
The worst: “If You Don’t Walk Me Home” succeeds where many of the Depi Evratesil songs fail: it makes you want to listen all the way through. It’s not an original concept, but Lusine’s vocal and songwriting skills do lift it. Likely to get lost because of the style (unfortunately), but a nice little gem. (Chris, 6.5/10)
4. Angel — “Heartbeat” (5.96)
The best: In an alternate universe where Tamar Kaprelian didn’t exist, this would be the song Armenia should send to Eurovision. There are some enunciation issues that are very obvious in the studio version which will need to be ironed out. However, the electronic pop drop follows current trends but manages to be unique. That’s ultimately a sign of great songwriting and “Heartbeat” has plenty of staging potential. Angel is my dark horse to win Depi Evratesil. (Antranig, 9.5/10)
The worst: “Heartbeat” is full of cluttered ideas and lacks memorability for the right reasons. Angel sings like she’s got blocked sinuses, and without getting a sense of where this is going visually, the frantic shift in pace makes this a hot mess. (Deban, 2.5/10)
5. Nemra — “I’m a Liar” (5.5)
The best: This is enjoyable easy listening. While it may be more suited to a seniors’ centre than the Eurovision Song Contest, it has an infectious beat that gets stuck in your head. The repetitiveness works here and makes this memorable, with easy lyrics to remember. It has a clever ending as well. This may not be one of the best Depi Evratesil entries but after listening to all 20, this is one of the 4 or 5 I remember best. (Antranig, 7.5/10)
The worst: I’d be a liar if I said I enjoyed this song. Monotonous and one-note, it never really goes anywhere. The electric guitar solo at least provides a little interlude, but in the end isn’t enough to elevate the song from the bottom of the pile. I get very little emotional connection from the vocals, and it doesn’t particularly sound like they’re enjoying the song themselves. This can of course improve live, but I can’t see it being enough for Nemra to reach the final. (Jonathan, 4/10)
6. Hayk Kasparov — “Enamorame” (5.5)
The best: Hayk may be singing in Spanish, but this is weirdly giving me Armenia meets Bollywood – and I am loving every moment of it. The mix of traditional instruments and modern production culminates in a rather catchy and danceable beat. Admittedly, the song’s structure gets a bit weird towards the end, with what feels like three bridges, one after another. Nevertheless, I’ll be dancing along contently when this comes on at the national selection. (Jonathan, 8/10)
The worst: Everyone is presenting Latin-inspired tracks except for the ones that could actually do it with quality, meaning Spain. “Enamorame” is just another failed attempt to capitalise the style that made “Despacito” as is, even though it’s remotely different. Hayk’s voice doesn’t work here and his Spanish accent is cringe. (Bernardo, 3.5/10)
7. Gata Band — “Shogha” (5.36)
The best: This is like an interval act when Armenia win Eurovision. I love when folk music meets modern music, like Eurovision is all about, to share different cultures and I would love to hear some traditional sounds in every Eurovision entry. I wish them much success! (Cinan, 7.5/10)
The worst: The mix of traditional and modern doesn’t work here. “Shogha” sounds like a poorly remixed song that wasn’t even that good to begin with it. It’s too repetitive and the many instruments thrown together makes it too crowded and distracting. The vocals are not impressive either. What a hot mess! (Bogdan, 3.5/10)
8. Robert Koloyan — “Get Away With Us” (5.21)
The best: Robert has a good voice and the song is well-produced, but the package has no lasting effect. Eurovision is always overflowing with wannabe dramatic mid-tempo songs, and whilst it might work as a 2004 Britney Spears B-side, Armenia can give us something much more exciting for Eurovision 2018. (Edd, 4.5/10)
The worst: Well, look who bought an English rhyming dictionary! Truly cringeworthy lyrics throughout, that Robert can’t elevate with his performance. “Wanna shake your brain” and “Ooh, I wanna take a train” (thankfully, not put together to rhyme) are particular low-lights. Perhaps suitable for an Armenian attempt at a Bond theme, but not for Eurovision. (Chris, 4/10)
9. Zhanna Davtyan — “Unbreakable” (4.57)
The best: The verses may be cheap, but this is one cool chorus. Very reminiscent of Rita Ora’s recent smash hit “Anywhere”, the production is interesting and would certainly stand out if it made it to Eurovision. And that key change catches you completely off guard! The success of this song depends greatly if Zhanna can come across as cool — and if the vocal manipulations required still work when sung live. (Edd, 7.5/10)
The worst: Forget about “Puerto Rico”, because we found the real joke entry of Depi Evratesil. Seriously though, who thought this so-called song would be 1) a good idea and 2) worthy of inclusion in the Armenian national selection? “Unbreakable”? More like “Unfathomable”. (Bogdan, 1/10)
10. Mger Armenia — “Forever” (4.11)
The best: I loved the way the song started, with these traditional sounds. Not a bad song by the way, but the lyrics could have been better. Also why is his stage name called Armenia? Like that’s amazing. Another key change on this song, yaaas! Loved it! (Cinan, 6.5/10)
The worst: The song is dated, Mger’s singing style is dated, the lyrics are ridiculous. It’s like the soundtrack to a soap opera that only middle-aged housewives with poor musical taste will enjoy. To make matters worse, the repetitiveness of the chorus is grating. By no means should this be sent to Lisbon. (Bogdan, 2/10)
What do you think of the first semi-final? Which five acts should advance to the grand final? Did the Wiwi jury underestimate Mger Armenia? Let us know in the comments below!