Eurovision 2018 - SF2 Preview
Semi Final 2 ante post preview
My bets: Poland to finish top 3 in SF2, 14/1 (Marathon Bet)
Strong qualification contenders
Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Poland, Australia
In comparison to the first semi, this very much seems the weaker of the two divisions. The Scandinavian nations appear to hold all of the aces.
Nobody does Eurovision like Sweden and they are fast closing in on Ireland in becoming the winning-most nation (currently won the competition six times, while Ireland have won it seven).
Whatever makes it through Melodifestivalen (their national final) has to be respected and, in Dance You Off, Sweden have produced a slick and polished entry that could be released into the charts across Europe right now and become an instant radio hit.
The same could have been said about I Can't Go On last year, which ended up finishing fifth, and there is absolutely no doubt singer Benjamin Ingrosso will similarly sail through to the final here.
Sweden can typically rely on strong jury support as their entries are technically excellent, and it wouldn't surprise me if they won this semi (best-priced 11/4 to do so).
That said, I cannot back them in the 'to win semi final two' market because Norway, the market leaders (7/4), look to have a really funky entry in opposition.
Singer Alexander Ryback won the competition for them in 2009 with Fairytale and That's How You Write A Song is probably one of the catchiest songs in the competition - the beat kicks in almost instantly.
This is a song that will have a broad appeal on the televote and may well improve on JOWST's top 10 finish last year.
The Nordic challenge is also bolstered by a unique entry from Denmark.
There were rumours Higher Ground was originally submitted as an entry for Melodifestivalen before being rejected. Whether that is true or not is irrelevant, though. This is a powerful ballad, with a strong viking theme, that wouldn't look out of place in an epic battle scene in a film like Lord Of The Rings.
Denmark have won the competition three times previously, most recently in 2013 with Teardrops, and this looks their strongest entry since.
At the prices, the song I am most excited about at this year's competition, however, is Light Me Up for Poland. I don't think they will necessarily win, but I think they've been underrated in the betting.
Poland's past entries have never really appealed to me, though Michal Szpak finished eighth two years ago and, going further back, they finished runner-up in their debut year in 1994, so they do have some form to their name.
Sung by Swedish vocalist Lukas Meijer, accompanied by Polish DJ Gromee, they've produced an upbeat and catchy entry which has a strong feel of 'Marshmallow' and is the feel-good anthem among this year's songs - much like Romania's Yodel It! was last year.
Marshmallow (DJ from the USA), is popular in music at the moment and is mixing and producing tracks galore in the charts. I anticipate that this similar sound will therefore go down well and make broad appeal across Europe.
Everyone on stage appears to be having the time of their lives and we even get a little 'wave motion' dance out of Gromee, who seems to have styled himself on Norway's JOWST from last year with the hat.
I can't back them to qualify at 4/11, as the risk vs reward isn't worth it, but I expect them to qualify from this semi. Although they are drawn in 11th, there is a good chance they will have the arena bouncing and the song will sticks in people's heads - there are some drab entries around them.
It is thus not beyond the realms of possibility they could be battling it out with Denmark or Australia for third here, so the 14/1 with Marathon Bet for them to finish top 3 in this semi seems a big price.
If they do indeed qualify, they would also have to be of interest in the 'top 15' and 'top 10' in the overall final markets, for which they are priced around the 3/1 and 10/1 mark on Betfair and Paddy Power, respectively, heading into the second set of rehearsals this week.
Australia's performance at last year's contest was fascinating. They finished a respectable ninth overall but 171 of their 173 points came from the jury and their performance in the televote was abysmal.
Don't Come Easy was a little drabber than their previous entries but, this year, We Got Love is more upbeat, more fun and should fare better on the televote to top up another decent score from the jury to secure their progression.
Russia, Moldova, Ukraine
Russia's entry, I Won't Break, would traditionally be considered a qualifying banker due to regional voting from the public, though they seem to have a few issues to address with the staging. They should still progress and singer Julia Samoylova, who was their entry last year in Ukraine before it was withdrawn from the competition, will be keen to make up for lost time.
I don't particularly like Moldova's song but their staging seemed to go down a storm in first rehearsal (there is a prop on stage full of windows which open and reveal vibrantly coloured dancers behind) and given the amount of dross in this semi, they have a real live chance of progressing if they can score well with the jury.
Ukraine have bagged the best of the draw - they are last on the night - and their catchy song, which featured a piano on fire in the national final, has a bit of 'Bastille' about it in my opinion.
Best of the rest
Hungary's entry is unique to the competition and reminds me of Bullet For My Valentine and Funeral For A Friend. If you like that sort of screamy rock music, you'll love this, even if you don't understand a word of the lyrics. On the basis of it being different, I think they have a good chance of progressing to the final.
Malta's entry, Taboo, isn't anything flash, but it is miles better than Breathlessly, a slow, boring entry they submitted 12 months ago. It would be my sporting suggestion of a qualifier to make the top 10 in this semi, possibly just ahead of the Netherlands, with their country rock entry.