They didn’t come here to play — they came here to slay. And tonight the 17 countries competing in Semi-Final 1 of the Eurovision 2019 will do their best to convince all of you that they deserve one of ten spots up for grabs in the grand final this Saturday. As they slip into their tightest trousers and warm up the wind machines inside EXPO Tel Aviv, we thought we’d walk you through the key points you need to know ahead of tonight’s song contest showdown. Consider this our pre-recorded commentary, as countries are listed in the actual running order.

Below you can get a quick sense of each act, along with some fun facts and our reviews of the studio cuts. You’ll also see our review of the jury show.

Semi-Final 1: Jury show review

🇨🇾 Cyprus: Tamta – “Replay”

CYBC has internally selected the Georgian-Greek singer Tamta. She will sing “Replay”, written by Greek-Swedish hitmaker Alex P. Tamta moved from Georgia to Greece at the age of 22 and has made several attempts to represent Greece and Cyprus in the past, either through national finals or internal selections. In 2007, she sang “With Love” at the Greek national final and placed third.

Fun fact: When Tamta moved to Greece from Georgia, she earned a living by doing housekeeping work. Tamta’s music career in Greece came about after a recommendation from a family she was housekeeping for, who told the young singer to audition for Super Idol, Greece’s version of Idol in 2003. The show helped Tamta secure a residency permit in Greece. She went on to finish second on the show — and a career was born.

Read ’10 facts about Tamta’.

Review: “The digital horns in the final production of “Replay” cradle the drum machine whilst giving it added thrust. Tamta’s a man-killer and she knows it. She taunts and teases…and doesn’t mind who she hurts. As she sings: “You got a problem, 2am I’m in your head”. At first glance, “Replay” doesn’t appear to have a clear message. But on repeat listen you’ll find a self-assured woman fully aware of her potency. Whether you choose to intellectualise this or not, there is a strong appeal here: lyrically, musically, visually and sexually. Expect Cyprus to peak in the top five. (Deban)

Read our complete review.

Memorable lyrics: “My heart beats like an 808, you need my love on replay”

🇲🇪 Montenegro: D mol – “Heaven”

Montenegro will be represented by the six-person vocal group D mol, who won the national final Montevizija. They’ll perform “Heaven”, which talks about the insatiable feelings of falling in love. Formed specifically for the national final, the group consists of Tamara Vujacic (16), Rizo Feratovic (21),  Mirela Ljumic (17),  Zeljko Vukcevic (18), Ivana Obradović (18) and Emel Franca (18).

Fun fact: All six members of D mol attend the D-Moll (D-Minor) Singing School founded by 2005 representative Danijel Alibabić. The school is located in Montenegro’s capital Podgorica and has around 40 to 50 students. The student body consists mostly of children and teens. They receive lessons in all types of singing styles, along with media, camera and technical training.

Read ’10 facts about D mol

Review: This is like the final soundtrack from a straight-to-DVD Disney film. Does anyone remember The Little Mermaid 2? This would fit right in. D mol are very accomplished singers and together they harmonise perfectly, but this song does them no justice. It’s dreary, sappy and forgettable. Montenegro has left the building. Thank you, next. (Kristin)

Read our complete review.

Memorable lyrics: “I was ready to give up, but now you came into my life”

🇫🇮 Finland: Darude feat. Sebastian Rejman – “Look Away”

Finland’s broadcaster YLE has selected iconic “Sandstorm” producer Darude, along with vocalist Sebastian Rejman. They will perform the UMK winner “Look Away”. Darude is one of the biggest names of the 2019 contest, thanks to that duh-duh-duh-duh-duh song. He has won three Finnish Grammy Awards, released four albums and has two children. Sebastian is a TV host and currently stars in medical drama Syke, where he portrays a paediatrician in a hospital emergency room. He’s basically the George Clooney of Finland. The duo first collaborated back in 2015, when Sebastian appeared on two songs on Darude’s album Moments.

Fun fact: Soon after its 1999 release, Darude’s “Sandstorm” became an international hit. The song held the No.1 spot on the Finnish Dance Chart for 17 consecutive weeks and the single went on to sell more than 2 million copies worldwide.

Read ’10 facts about Darude and Sebastian Rejman’.

Review: For us ’90s kids, Darude entering Eurovision was a dream come true. Although “Look Away” is not quite as powerful as “Sandstorm”, it’s pretty damn enjoyable nonetheless. It has that undeniable Darude sound, whilst being approachable for those who might not be all that into late ’90s heavy techno. But it’s Sebastian’s silky smooth voice that brings the song all the way home. I’m super happy with Finland this year. More of this, please! (Kristin)

Read our complete review.

Memorable lyrics: “When the war has just begun, we look away”

🇵🇱  Poland: Tulia – “Fire of Love (Pali się)”

Broadcaster TVP has internally selected the vocal group Tulia. They are known for performing rock songs in their traditional folk vocal style, known as “white voice”. They’ll sing “Fire of Love (Pali się)”, which explores how a heart devoid of love can dry to kindling — but be set on fire by the flames of love. The quartet consists of Joanna Sinkiewicz, Dominika Siepka, Patrycja Nowicka and Tulia Biczak and the group is named after the latter singer. They won a Fryderyk award for Debut of the Year — that’s a Polish Grammy.

Fun fact: Tulia rose to fame after their cover of  “Enjoy The Silence” by the iconic electronic group Depeche Mode. The clip is now closing in on four million views on YouTube. They have also covered Metallica’s rock ballad “Nothing Else Matters” in their own unique style. That has over six million hits!

Read ’10 facts about Tulia‘.

Review: High impact and in your face, Tulia unleash a tsunami of sound from beat one. The aggressive tonality doesn’t relent, creating a sense of urgency and thrust as these in-tune and on-point women sing of neglected hearts coming back to life through love. The sparse production has a playful, old-school feel. Paired with the traditional elements it creates a thoroughly likeable and somewhat playful package with major heart. Tulia sing that one small spark can become a flame. Well, these four sparks are strong enough create a bonfire. It’s the most surprising earworm of the year. (William)

Read our complete review.

Memorable lyrics: “A fire of a promise can melt this ice – the heart will be set free by the voice of love”

🇸🇮 Slovenia: Zala Kralj & Gašper Šantl – “Sebi”

Vocalist Zala Kralj and instrumentalist Gašper Šantl will perform their EMA-winning song “Sebi”. In 2018 they won the Zlata Piščal Award for best song of the summer and their burgeoning careers have taken off since, with the duo amassing hundreds of thousands of views on YouTube.

Fun fact: The duo first met on Instagram where Gašper stumbled across Zala and her covers. At the time, Gašper was searching for a vocalist for the song “Valovi”. Upon hearing Zala’s soft ethereal voice, he knew he had found the right singer. At first Zala was credited as a featuring artist. However, as of April 2018, the duo as we know it today signed a contract with Universal Music Slovenia.

Read ’10 facts about Zala Kralj & Gašper Šantl’.

Review: Slovenia is serving cinematic, spellbinding electronica. At first glance you may think that this unassuming couple aren’t competing — they appear to be a glimpse into the “Dare to Dream” musical programme. Intimate and atmospheric, yet somehow smouldering, “Sebi” is undoubtedly 2019’s dark horse to peak in the top quarter of the Eurovision Grand Final. (Deban)

Read our complete review.

Memorable lyrics: “You can’t always see the stars, just stay true to who you are”

🇨🇿 Czech Republic: Lake Malawi – “Friend of a Friend”

Czechia will be represented by ESCZ 2019 winners Lake Malawi. The three-piece indie pop group, led by Albert Černý, will perform “Friend of a Friend”. Jeroným Šubrt is the bassist and keyboardist while Antonín Hrabal is the drummer. They have toured internationally and supported acts such as Red Hot Chilli Peppers. However, they’ve never been to the actual Lake Malawi.

Fun fact: Why name yourself after a lake in the southern African nation of Malawi, amongst others, when you’re Czech? Well, Lake Malawi chose to have the word “lake” in their band name after a lyric in the Bon Iver song “Calgary”. Lead singer Albert was staying with friends in Prague and saw Lake Malawi on the map whilst the song was a big part of his life, and the name was born.

Read ’10 facts about Lake Malawi’.

Review: Fun, fresh, fantastic! “Friend of a friend” is a delightful pop song with not many pretentions. It’s got a great vibe: it’s happy-clappy and a bit cheeky, and makes you smile no matter what. Lake Malawi are ultra-likeable, and yes, they may not rock the scoreboard, nor get a top 10, but this entry should easily become the third one to make it to the final for the Czech Republic. (Luis)

Read our complete review.

Memorable lyrics: “There’s not much between us now, do you know what I mean?

🇭🇺 Hungary: Joci Pápai – “Az én apám”

Joci Pápai — who previously represented Hungary at Eurovision 2017 — will return after winning his national final A Dal. He will perform the song “Az én apám”.

Joci caught the eye of the public on Megasztár back in 2005. And in 2017 he earned the right to represent Hungary at Eurovision, where his mystical ballad “Origo”, which included a rap interlude, placed eighth. Since then he has been releasing his music independently. The formula is working, with Joci racking up millions of views on YouTube.

His Eurovision 2019 entry explores his relationship with his father — and the musical legacy he gifted him.

Fun fact: The hitmaker believes that his beard and ponytail hold great power. During his appearance on the Hungarian version of “Your Voice Sounds Familiar”, he had to shave his beard off, saying — “I feel like half a man without it!”

Read ’10 facts about Joci Pápai’.

Review: Joci Pápai speaks to my soul despite the fact that I don’t speak a lick of Hungarian. This man is one of a kind — nobody can create atmosphere the way Joci does. I am absolutely mesmerised by this and when I close my eyes, I feel like Joci transports me to a different place and time. He is so talented and this effort is breathtaking. (Antranig)

Read our complete review.

Memorable lyrics: “I will tell my boy with my head held high: This is my father”

🇧🇾 Belarus: Zena – “Like It”

Belarus once again used their national final, Nationalny Otbor, to determine their representative for Eurovision 2019. Ultimately, 16-year-old Zinaida Kupriyanovich, who performed as ZENA, won the selection with the song “Like It”. She began her career as a child singer in 2013, winning several international competitions. and has dubbed Disney characters including Moana. Our girl is animated!

An uptempo dance track full of sass and charm, “Like It” has major urban swag and a major high note toward the end. ZENA isn’t a stranger to Eurovision — she cohosted Junior Eurovision 2018 in Minsk.

Fun fact: At sixteen years and eight months of age, ZENA will be this year’s youngest participant. She is also the first sixteen-year-old to participate in the contest since San Marino’s Anita Simoncini in 2015.

Read ’10 facts about Zena’.

Review: “Like It” lives up to its name – it’s likeable, appealing and friendly. While a hook is there, it doesn’t offer anything revolutionary – more like a B-side track that you’d see by the likes of Zara Larsson or Ava Max. Zena, however, knows how to work a stage and look expensive at the same time. This isn’t going to win Eurovision. But the girl next door, who has major attitude, will win over countless new fans with her swagger and charm. (Sebastian)

Read our complete review.

Memorable lyrics: “I feel the flow of energy and you go with me, baby”

🇷🇸 Serbia: Nevena Božović – “Kruna”

Eurovision 2013 star Nevena Božović will return to Eurovision after winning Beovizija 2019. She will perform “Kruna”.

Nevena is a talented pianist. Her music has been featured on Serbian movie soundtracks and she came second on the Serbian edition of The Voice. She has snatched plenty of crowns in her day, having won a Junior Eurovision pre-selection and two national finals for Eurovision.

Fun fact: 2019 will be Nevena’s third time on a Eurovision stage. Nevena was part of Moje 3, the girlband who represented Serbia at Eurovision 2013 in Malmö. She, alongside Sara Jo and Mirna Radolovic, finished 11th in the semi-final with the iconic “Ljubav je Svuda”. In 2007, Nevena represented Serbia at Junior Eurovision in the Netherlands with the song “Pisi Mi”. She finished third, Serbia’s best result at the contest.

Read ’10 facts about Nevena Božović’.

Review: The writers of “Kruna” have done a masterful job of blending traditional violin sounds with more modern guitar, with a little bit of electric charge thrown in thrown in by Nevena’s incredible vocal. Stirring that all together, they’ve somehow magically created a song that sounds all at once like a throwback folk-and-rock-tinged ballad, and yet one that is taken next level modern with all the layering of instrumentation. One can peel back each layer and appreciate how each component stands strongly on its own, yet combines to form a song that is a complete heart-tugging vision from beginning to end. This song is a gift, plain and simple. (Josh)

Read our complete review.

Memorable lyrics: “Just let everybody know that I am yours forever”

🇧🇪  Belgium: Eliot – “Wake Up”

Walloon broadcaster RTBF has internally selected The Voice Belgique singer Eliot Vassamillet as its act for Eurovision 2019. He will perform “Wake Up” in the first semi-final. View his Instagram page and Eliot’s warmth comes shooting out like a sunbeam. He has approached Eurovision as a chance to build relationships across Europe through music and we salute that spirit.

Eliot hails from Mons near the French border. The song is a call for action regarding climate change. Eliot is passionate about the issue and wants to raise awareness around the issue among young people.

Fun fact: Spare a thought for poor Eliot as the concept of free time has almost become a thing of the past — at least until Eurovision ends in May. Because he is still at school, he is only allowed a limited number of days off, and Eliot needs to save them all for his trip to Tel Aviv.

Read ’10 facts about Eliot’.

Review: There’s an expensive sheen to Eliot’s “Wake Up”. Clearly born in 2019, it smacks of the art-pop Belgium has come to be known for. But Eliot’s take is less dark and brooding than in recent years, serving something light and ultimately uplifting. The verses are charming. They pulsate, quicken and progress in a linear fashion, avoiding the theatrics so often found in ESC entries. The chorus stays within this theme, but for me it doesn’t feel quite big enough. No matter. The bridge brings me back into it and I’m rather satisfied by the end. (William)

Read our complete review.

Memorable lyrics: “Someone has the light feeding our fire”

🇬🇪 Georgia: Oto Nemsadze – “Keep on Going”

Georgia will be represented by two-time Georgian Idol winner Oto Nemsadze, who will sing “Keep on Going”. In 2013 he came second on the Ukrainian version of The Voice and performed, as a singer, at the World Rhythmic Gymnastics Championships in Ukraine. His stage show in Tel Aviv is incredibly Game of Thrones: you’ll see him walk across an LED bridge over troubled water and sing amid fire and flames. His song is a call for peace and a reminder of Georgian resilience in the face of conflict.

Fun fact: He first came to the public’s attention in 2010 when he competed in and won season five of Geostar (Georgian Idol). In 2019, he returned to Georgian Idol — this time not only for the victory, but also for the chance to go to Eurovision.

Read ’10 facts about Otto Nemsadze’.

Review: In many parts of Eastern Europe, artists have used — and are still using — rock to express their feelings towards cultural and political changes. “Keep on Going” is a song that will only be understood by Georgians, but will leave the rest of Europe cold. It doesn’t matter though. This adds to a list of “1944”, “Razom nas bahato” and “Face the Shadow”, which all showed musical expression about local pain. (Renske)

Read our complete review.

Memorable lyrics: “We heal each other’s wounds with songs”

🇦🇺 Australia: Kate Miller-Heidke – “Zero Gravity”

Classically trained singer Kate Miller-Heidke has multiple albums under her diamond-encrusted belt and is known to many as a folk-pop princess. During Australia’s national final she wore a massive dress and stood on a giant platform, transforming into a towering ice princess. But she’s promised to tone it down for Tel Aviv. She will sing “Zero Gravity”. The genre-defying song mixes opera, dubstep and club to tell her personal story of overcoming post-partum depression.

Fun fact: Not only is she a singer, songwriter and actress — she also recently wrote the musical version of one of Australia’s biggest international films, golden-globe nominated Muriel’s Wedding. 

Read ’10 facts about Kate Miller-Heidke’.

Review: After four years of respectable entries, Australia has finally sent something that is so much more. There’s personality here — something Australia has lacked in previous years, and which has hurt us with the televote. The message is personal yet completely relatable. The song structure is extremely clever — the first third whets your appetite, the second third increases the drama and the final third is truly anthemic. Vocally, she’s in a league of her own. I’m so proud of our Kate and this is going to slay! (Antranig)

Read our complete review.

Memorable lyrics: “You’re so heavy, I have got to let you go”

🇮🇸 Iceland: Hatari – “Hatrið mun sigra”

Iceland will be represented by the anti-capitalist BDSM techno performance art group Hatari. The group won Sönvakeppnin 2019 with their song “Hatrið mun sigra” (Hatred will prevail).

The three frontmen are Klemens Nikulásson Hannigan, Matthías Tryggvi Haraldsson and Einar Hrafn Stefánsson. Dancers and backing vocalists Sólbjört, Ástrós and Andrean are also considered part of the group. They consider themselves to be an art group rather than a band — they even have a graphic designer and a video editor as part of their collective.

Fun fact: Hatari owns the company Svikamylla ehf. (Entrapment Inc.). Its website describes the entity as a “transnational private holding company” whose aim is to “bring an end to neoliberal capitalism as well as managing real estate, loans, imports and exports”. During their national final Söngvakeppnin, the members of Hatari were seen holding bottles of an unknown soda drink, which was revealed to be their own brand called Soda Dream — not to be confused with the controversial SodaStream, the Israel-based maker of home carbonation products.

Read ’10 facts about Hatari’.

Review: What’s up with Hatari? Are they an edgy techno group? Leather-clad BDSM hotties? Political provocateurs? Beloved children’s entertainers? Art school kids taking the piss? Or all of the above? The strength of both the group and their song “Hatrið mun sigra” is due to that ambiguity. Hatari is what you need them to be. They promise to be one of the big highlights of Eurovision 2019, both on and off the stage, but at the centre is a really decent song, with a pure schlager core. There’s music in their message. (Robyn)

Read our complete review.

Memorable lyrics: “Life’s purposeless confusion, the void will swallow all!”

🇪🇪 Estonia: Victor Crone – “Storm”

Swedish singer Victor Crone will represent Estonia after winning the national final Eesti Laul. He will sing “Storm”, written by Estonia’s 2015 Eurovision singer Stig Rästa. Victor is a Melodifestivalen veteran, having performed a duet with Behrang Miri in 2015. They lost their andra chansen duel to Samir & Viktor.

Fun fact: In his spare time, he enjoys playing the classic video game Counter-Strike. It’s a multiplayer first-person shooter, in which two teams play, one plotting a terrorist attack, the other working to counter the attack. Good for sharpening reflexes and thinking strategically.

Read ’10 facts about Victor Crone’.

Review: This screams AVICII, to the point it could be a cover of an AVICII song. “Storm” is a mix of country/pop ingredients with only a small touch of house and I am totally sold! I can see this song being the big surprise in the final of Eurovision, because it will, without any doubt, qualify for the final. It feels modern, it’s radio-friendly and it is a pretty decent song that I sing along with. Top ten for sure! (Tobias)

Read our complete review.

Memorable lyrics: “Even if the sky falls down, we can turn it all around”

🇵🇹 Portugal: Conan Osíris – “Telemóveis”

Conan Osíris will represent Portugal after winning the national final Festival da Canção 2019. He will perform “Telemóveis” (mobile phones), which imagines man using the smartphone to contact the dead. Conan is an unconventional performer who draws inspiration from washing dishes, loves stuffed animals and Pokémon. He loves his anime, even taking his stage name from Japanese series Future Boy Conan.

Fun fact: Conan’s first job was working in Lisbon’s oldest sex shop. It may seem like an irrelevant curiosity about Conan’s profile and personality, but it’s one of the most interesting. Working in a sex shop allowed the Portuguese star to study and understand humanity’s deepest and most private desires. It also taught Osíris how to eradicate judgement from his life.

Read ’10 facts about Conan Osiris‘.

Review: The revival of Portugal at Eurovision has been a wonder to behold — and “Telemóveis” keeps the momentum going. Conan serves up something completely different, from look, to performance, to the track itself. It’s certainly a risk, and there’ll probably be quite a few people who won’t get “Telemóveis”. But like Salvador in 2017, it’s all about making the right people fall in love with you and your song. This could still very much be the dark horse of the contest. (Chris)

Read our complete review.

Memorable lyrics: “If life doesn’t stop and you don’t have the courage to pick up, you already know what will happen”

🇬🇷 Greece: Katerine Duska – “Better Love”

Greece has internally selected the Canadian-Greek singer Katerine Duska. She will sing “Better Love”, a song that encourages people to seek out a love that’s right for them and on their own terms.

Katerine was born in Montreal in Quebec, and got her break on YouTube with a cover of “Do I Wanna” by the Arctic Monkeys. She released her first LP Embodiment in 2015 and her music has even been used for promotional material by Nescafé. Girl is caffeinated!

Fun fact: When Katerine was 16, her family upped sticks from Canada and returned to Greece, where her parents are from. Upon finishing school she started a law degree at the University of Athens. But it wasn’t to be. She didn’t want to work in an office and music’s allure was too strong.

Read ’10 facts about Katerine Duska’.

Review: Heaven on Earth, welcome back to the game, Greece! After three not-so-good entries from the Greeks, they are taking us to Olympus with this piece of art. “Better Love” is a sophisticated journey in which Katerine’s voice takes you to the moon and back with her stunning vocals and frills. It’s delicate yet powerful, passionate yet elevated; elegant but also very catchy. Better love this, y’all! (Luis)

Read our complete review.

Memorable lyrics: “I can’t hide it, I won’t fight this yearning feeling inside”

🇸🇲 San Marino: Serhat – “Say Na Na Na”

Broadcaster SMRTV internally selected the Turkish crooner Serhat Hacıpaşalıoğlu, who previously represented San Marino at Eurovision 2016. He will perform “Say Na Na Na”. The former dentist also hosted the Turkish version of Jeopardy. His repertoire includes a duet with Eurovision 2005 winner Helena Paparizou.

Fun fact: In 2017, Serhat released a remix of his first Eurovision song “I Didn’t Know”, with guest vocals from disco diva Martha Wash. The song went on to reach No.25 in the United States on the Billboard Dance Club Songs chart. The chart isn’t based on sales, but it is a sign that “I Didn’t Know” was being played in the nightclubs and discotheques of the US.

Read ’10 facts about Serhat‘.

Review: There’s all these songs about kings, queens and crowns this year but make way, the real king has entered the building. “Say Na Na Na” is such a feel-good anthem — this is bound to put a smile on your face when you listen to it. This is by far the best song San Marino has ever sent and since Serhat almost qualified with “I Didn’t Know” in a stronger semi-final, I have genuine hope this could creep into the grand final in Tel Aviv. (Antranig)

Read our complete review.

Memorable lyrics: “Who cares if you’re outta love? It happens every day.

Automatic qualifiers in this semi-final

The Big 5 — that’s France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the United Kingdom — receive automatic spots in the grand final of Eurovision. That’s down to the large sum of money they invest in the contest. They’re also joined by the host country Israel, which is, of course, paying a lot of money to put on the show.

Since they don’t compete in the semi-finals, these six countries perform an exhibition in the semis — three in the first, three in the second. it’s so they also receive a degree of exposure ahead of the final. In this semi you’ll also see Spain, France and Israel.

🇪🇸 Spain: Miki – “La venda”

Spain will be represented by Miki Nuñez, who won the Operación Triunfo Eurovision Gala. He will perform “La venda (The Blindfold). Miki was formerly part of a Catalan cover band called Dalton Bang. He was also the first OT singer to sing in Catalan across all its seasons. Miki started music at an early age, taking guitar and piano lessons.

Fun fact: Prior to Eurovision, Miki was a singer in Dalton Bang, a six-piece Catalan cover band. They perform hits all the way from the seventies to the present day and have toured most of Miki’s home region of Catalonia.

Read ’10 facts about Miki’.

Review: I love this! Without a doubt my favourite song this year. I have so much praise for “La venda” and Miki that I don’t even know where to start. But I’ll try. This is fun, this is upbeat, this is pure happiness through and through, Miki is amazing and I would not mind going to Madrid next year. Pass me the Margaritas, por favor, I’m off to the club to do some serious Latin-influenced cardio! (Kristin)

Read our complete review.

Memorable lyrics: “The blindfold fell and you will be just as you wanted to be”

🇫🇷  France: Bilal Hassani – “Roi”

Singer and popular YouTuber Bilal Hassani will represent France after winning national final Destination Eurovision. He will perform his song “Roi” (King), co-written with France’s 2018 act Madame Monsieur, in the grand final.

Bilal is the child of French-Moroccan parents and performed on The Voice Kids in France as a 15 year-old. He experiments with the blurred lines between gender and has drawn inspiration from the 2018 Top 2 in Netta and Eleni Foureira.

Fun fact: Bilal spent many of his school vacations visiting his father, who works overseas in Vietnam and Singapore. Growing in love with Asian music and culture, it was during these vacations that Bilal challenged his perceptions of the masculine “norm”, including seeing men with makeup without it being associated with sexuality.

Read ’10 facts about Bilal Hassani’

Review: An incredibly talented, youthful and exuberant pop star who bends culture, sexuality and image, it’s a little unfortunate that Bilal Hassani has been paired with a track that isn’t more deep or revolutionary in sound or lyrics. While Bilal does provide the star power, “Roi” is not quite royalty status. But it sure is solid and respectable. Here’s hoping Bilal can provide the touch of class that “Roi” really needs on stage — and the revamp will amp this up to what it deserves to be. (Sebastian)

Okay, massive update since rehearsals actually started in Tel Aviv. At France’s first rehearsal at Eurovision 2019 Bilal Hassani received his crown from members of the press center almost instantly. The French concept is an assault on the forces of hate that threaten the world today. At the start Bilal has phrases projected onto his face. At different points in the staging quotes flash up about people judging others’ appearances and the whole performance reads as a rallying cry for forces for equality. Bilal is joined by two dancers on stage: Lizzy Dances and a deaf dancer who both represent different communities that are often attacked and marginalised.

Read our complete review.

 

Memorable lyrics: “I never listen to what they say — you will never remove my crown”

🇮🇱 Israel: Kobi Marimi – “Home”

Vocalist Kobi Marimi will represent the host country at Eurovision 2019. He was chosen through the reality TV show The Next Star for Eurovision. Despite initially being eliminated in Heat 4 of the competition, Kobi was given a lifeline to return and eventually went on to win the whole thing. His Eurovision entry “Home” was then selected internally, before undergoing a revamp just before the rehearsal period.

Fun fact: Kobi has a colourful CV. In order to fund his studies, Kobi undertook a whole range of side jobs. Whatever job you need done, chances are Kobi is your man. Need someone to watch the kids? He’s worked at a nursery. Fancy some dessert? He was employed by an ice cream shop. Prefer something stronger? He was a host at a cocktail bar. Need a movie recommendation? He was a cinema cashier.

Read ’10 facts about Kobi Marimi

Review: An emotionally stirring melody serves as this year’s host entry. Impactful, appropriately titled, and fitting with this year’s theme of “Dare To Dream”, Kobi Marimi’s theatrical leanings may appear exaggerated at times, but the strength of his voice shuts down any doubt. At the Israeli national selection, he was invited to return to the competition after losing a spot. He came, sang and conquered under that pressure. With him singing “Home”, expect a decent finish for Israel this year. (Deban)

Read our complete review.

Memorable lyrics: “You pulled my heart, I took it in – It made me someone, I am someone”

Who are you rooting for tonight? Let us know in the comments box down below!

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John B
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HERE YOU CAN SEE MY TOP FROM SEMIFINAL 1 –

https://youtu.be/KyBHXFXbfoQ

Kim
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Kim

So Australia is in third position in the betting odds to win the contest? LOL

Time-Traveller
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Time-Traveller

Hello, I came here to say that Australia is the shock NQ so save your money, no need to call for it tonight. Enjoy the show

FREDERIC
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FREDERIC

No-one seems to anticipate a shock qualifier or non-qualifier. Are we sure that Cyprus goes through? She is not fully recovered from her injuries and the singing might be bad, like Imri opening the grand finale in 2017 who was terribly off key. I am not sure Tamta goes through tonight. And then shock qualifier… How about some Georgia?

Andy
Guest
Andy

That could be the case indeed although I think with Georgia (her native country) and Greece (her current country of residence/career) in the same SF, she should be ok on the televote and go through. I can see her placing from 8-12 in the juries though based on the vocals.

Una
Guest
Una

I would much prefer Georgia to Cyprus. Reasons: Georgia come with an original song in an original style with meaningful lyrics with a great voice and great stage presence and five talented backing singers. Cyprus come with an average voice, an average commercial song written by foreigners, trivial lyrics also made by foreigners, stage act choreographed and staged by foreigners, all within a flashy package. To me, Georgia (among other acts) is everything that Eurovision should be. Again my opinion, Cyprus takes the lead in everything that Eurovision should not be: factory order-made commercial flashy acts. I hope more and… Read more »

Ben
Guest
Ben

Portugal (BIG improvement and biggest grower). Love Iceland, Greece and Cyprus. Australia might win the semi (staging is amazing).

Burger
Guest
Burger

My pre show predictors…. Cyprus Y although diminished greatly since rehearsals: Montenegro N Finland N Poland less likely to qualify: Slovenia possibly: Czech Republic Y Hungary Y Belarus N the song is kooky for a youngster: Serbia more likely at expense of Poland: Belgium possibly: Georgia N juries will kill it: Australia Y Iceland probably because it’s different: Estonia less likely unless it kicks butt tonight: Portugal maybe, too avant garde for first time viewers: Greece Y San Marino na na na. The Y plus Slovenia Serbia Iceland Belgium Portugal

Andy
Guest
Andy

Just saw AUS clip from last night (one min long). I must say that after a while this flying thing gets me a bit dizzy/repetitive.
I hadn’t seen their rehearsal before, so I don’t know what I expected – will be interesting to see how the public will react since is a rather different concept with a rather different song.

crime_dog
Guest
crime_dog

I’m afraid the wonderful Slovenia will be this year’s ‘Blackbird’ and some trash like Estonia or Belarus will qualify instead.

Miguel
Guest
Miguel

Estonia and Belarus are good, at leat better than Australia, whom even shouldn’t be in the contest.

Sam
Guest
Sam

1st place for the best female vocals of the year: GREECE!!
(Very likely to be jury winner, but may be 2nd in televote )

Dud
Guest
Dud

Jury winner AUSTRALIA
Televote winner ICELAND

poe-tay-toe-chips
Guest
poe-tay-toe-chips

Jury winner Greece, televote winner Australia, 2nd place in both jury and televote Iceland is what you mean…

Kkar
Guest
Kkar

Juries don’t really like pop-opera and the majority of people won’t like Iceland when they listen to it for the first time

Nicolas
Guest
Nicolas

They will of all a sudden love pop-opera just because…. it’s Australia.

Dud
Guest
Dud

That is a point_-)))))

Dud
Guest
Dud

People “did not like” a Finland 2006 at the end they won.

Kosey
Guest
Kosey

Australia is going to be a moment, I just know it!

Vogzal Odessa
Guest
Vogzal Odessa

Shimiya shimiya, shimiya
Kwalla la fa 😀
My favourite songs from this Semi include: Finland, Estonia, Belgium, Portugal, Czech Republic, Slovenia, Greece, Georgia, Hungary and Belarus. Of course, this is not how the actual Q list will look like tonight but anyway..

Nna
Guest
Nna

Y’all stick to your mainstream favourites from semi 2, but I prefer exciting and avangarde semi 1, can’t wait for tonight 😀
Good luck to all!

Rasmus
Guest
Rasmus

Do someone know why Dana International will sing playback in ESC? its a singing contest. Cant she sing?

Esc1234
Guest
Esc1234

She can’t.

La Signora
Guest
La Signora

She can sing but her voice is ruined and sounds bad compared to before. I hate that fake pre-rec of Diva, I prefer her to sing with her voice. Listen to her cover of Tainted Love from Finland Pride, It’s not even that bad

Helene
Guest
Helene

My favorite is Hungary. Good luck to all.

Richard
Guest
Richard

Great review video, you Wiwi boys are a scream and I pretty much agreed with all your choices. This is an amazing semi, I’m so excited!!

Mark Max
Guest
Mark Max

Prediction to Final 
Order of announcement
Behind the countries the place in the semi final
1 Hungary (7)
2 Australia (1)
3 Poland (10)
4 Greece (2)
5 Slovenia (6)
6 Belgium (9)
7 Cyprus (5)
8 Serbia (4)
9 Czech Republic (8)
10 Iceland (3)

Roelof Meesters
Guest
Roelof Meesters

Belarus should finish in the top 5 in this semi imo.

Sheren
Guest
Sheren

I hope so… I don’t like so many people hate her… The song is light, not bad at all. She sings well, she dances well. All organic on stage with lots of energy. I hope she qualifies….

Peters
Guest
Peters

Greece, the winner of the jury vote.
Australia, the winner of the televote.(Yes. This has televote winner written all over it.)

Loin dici
Guest

So guys, regarding Madonna… um… an awkward situation is happening.

euroMaster
Guest
euroMaster

Madonna is the last think i care we having freaking Eurovision week with or without her

Loin dici
Guest

Exactly.

La Signora
Guest
La Signora

Nobody dies if she’s not a guest, doesn’t change my life at all

Luli
Guest
Luli

1.AUS
2.SRB
3.ICELAND
4.GRE
5.CYP
6.HUN
7.POR
8. POL
9. CZH
10. SAN MARINOOO

euroMaster
Guest
euroMaster

my prediction for semi final1
1.Greece(2nd Jury 2nd Televote)
2.Australia (1st Jury 4th Televote)
3.Cyprus (1st Televote 5th jury)
4.Slovenia(3rd Jury 5th televote)
5.Iceland(3rd Televote)
6.Serbia(4th jury)
7.Czech Republic
8.Hungary
9.Portugal
10.Estonia or Poland or Belgium

Catriona Colville
Guest
Catriona Colville

Australia will win the televote.

ESCFan2009
Guest
ESCFan2009

My Top 2: Australia and Greece! Masterpieces by strong women with flawless vocals 🙂 Wouldn’t mind seeing Kate or Katerine win the whole thing <3

CookyMonzta
Guest
CookyMonzta

Without having watched a second of the rehearsals on video; here is how I graded them, based on the audios and music videos (or national finals videos) they submitted:
HUN 9.52, SMR 9.43, CZE 9.42, POR 9.41, SLO 9.40, POL 9.40, ISL 9.34, GRE 9.31, SRB 9.30, CYP 9.30. [Straight-to-final: SPA 9.42, FRA 9.37, ISR 9.22. I use 10 criteria.]
[If Kate from AUS is suspended in mid-air, given the one picture that I saw, she might just knock one of my top 10 prospects out.]

Kris
Guest
Kris

My prediction is very close to the bookies tbh!!

Cyprus , Serbia , Australia , Greece

Iceland , Czech Republic , Hungary

Slovenia , Belgium , Belarus
—————————————–
Guys vote for Slovenia , Belgium and Belarus if you like their performances cause they’re firmly borderline and may miss out.

Kris
Guest
Kris

I sincerely hope Belarus , Slovenia and Belgium make it.
Belarus did better than Cyprus and It not qualifying while doing a better performance in the same genre would be sad .

Sheren
Guest
Sheren

Agree!! I’M VOTING FOR BELARUS

INAMOO
Guest
INAMOO

Is there by any chance that Tamta will discard her camera replay effect? It’s… not looking good.

JJ09
Guest
JJ09

My Qualifiers in random order
Greece (Winner of Semi-1)
Iceland
Belgium
Australia (although the song is just terrible)
Cyprus
Czech Republic
Portugal
Estonia
Slovenia
Hungary

Rasmus
Guest
Rasmus

Australia is the best:) Winner of this semi for sure

Conchitaah
Guest
Conchitaah

Oh god Rasmus NO

Catriona Colville
Guest
Catriona Colville

Stop voting down people just because they like Australia.

Miguel
Guest
Miguel

Portugal Australia

Dea
Guest
Dea

1. Australia
2. Iceland
3. Portugal
4. Georgia
5. Serbia
6. Cz Republic
7. Greece
8. Slovenia
9. Hungary
10. Cyprus or Belarus

( I love Estonia , Belgium too )