Article: Eurovision 2022 Pre-Rehearsals Qualifier Analysis

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It’s almost time for rehearsals to start for this year’s Eurovision, and while this year might very well prove that a good or bad staging can change absolutely everything, we’re still going to have a good old crack at making an analysis of how things look at this stage of the game regardless.

The analysis made in this article is not meant to be a definitive “my word is gospel and everyone who disagrees is stupid” type of analysis that a lot of the betting community make on Eurovision, but is meant to be a modest illustration of my current headspace at time of writing and I am completely open to the idea that I might completely change my mind later. As I said earlier, it could be a year where stagings could completely destroy all preconceived theories and new contenders emerge out of nowhere.

It will be fun to see how much of this article will end up aging like milk in the Sahara Desert in a week’s time…

Semi 1

Albania – Albania makes for an impactful opener to the show, and they do have some friends and diaspora to rely on in terms of the televote. My main concern is with the juries: despite the song and the likely stage show having an impact, towards the final minute, the song does get rather incoherent musically, which will likely knock a lot of points off with juries who more often than not are musicians/songwriters/producers who are familiar with music theory, and being first on could dampen its televote potential which could put it in trouble, especially as the first half has a lot of countries with a strong qualification record.

Latvia – I was initially confused as to why both semis have uptempo songs in the #2 slot… after thinking about it for a bit, my theory is that the producers wanted to try something slightly different and use both #1 and #2 as joint openers. Latvia is a real conundrum where you wouldn’t be the slightest bit surprised either way if it qualifies or not. While it is a very gimmicky and (arguably) not a very respectable song, I can’t discount it for two main reasons: 1) the TikTok factor. This song went viral when it was initially released and considering the overwhelming influence the app has on the music charts right now, a strong televote is not out of the question. And 2) it has potential to actually get a decent jury score. Once you get past the lyrics and gimmicky presentation, musically it is very well constructed and has a lot of elements that I can imagine the odd jury member appreciating. Whether either of those two factors actually come into play come May is a big question, but to completely discredit its qualifying chances is a bit short sighted in my opinion.

Lithuania – As stated earlier, I feel that in both semis the producers might be using the first two songs as joint openers, while using the #3 slot as the graveyard slot to throw slower songs they’re not keen on which would traditionally be the #2 slot… which considering that I both like Lithuania and Serbia stings quite a lot. But personal opinions on the song aside, I am concerned about the song’s appeal outside of their neighbours Latvia and the Lithuanian diaspora. However it does have the potential to gather a few 2s or 3s across the board as there is a likeability to the whole package even if you can’t understand what Monika is singing about, thanks in large part to her charismatic stage presence. Her Euro Jury score is not looking good but the people voting base it off of the videos on the official YouTube playlist, and in Lithuania’s case it contains the music video as opposed to any live performance.

Switzerland – First and foremost I have to commend Switzerland for taking a risk in sending a super understated jazz ballad. However, because of the first half of Semi 1 being much stronger than the second half, its fairly early position and said understated-ness of the song, I do worry that it is going to get memory-holed. The staging is once again being done by the SJB Group, which is one positive in its arsenal. Another positive is that it is getting a solid Euro Jury score, and I can see juries putting it in their top ten, but that isn’t exactly an accurate predictor for how well a song will do with juries and one has to assume that its televote will be too weak to push it over the line.

Slovenia – It didn’t matter where they were put, Slovenia were going to struggle regardless, as the song is just not competitive. Last place in the semi is going to be between them and Bulgaria, however I think Slovenia is less likely to do so as I can imagine this having more jury appeal than Bulgaria.

Ukraine – The first ad break traditionally comes after song 6, so having Ukraine close the first section of the semi makes sense. Regardless of the *cough* current situation *cough*, the entry is strong enough to qualify from the semi on its own merits, as one should expect a good televote score and a decent jury score to boot.

Bulgaria – Coming after the ad break and between two of the most anticipated songs in the whole semi, it feels like the producers really treated Bulgaria like lambs to the slaughterhouse. But like Slovenia above, no running order position could have saved this, and I would actually go as far as to make this my tip for last place in the semi, as this song has zero appeal on both sides of the vote.

Netherlands – As I said in the podcast, my brain had an irrational concern about this song considering its understated nature and being in the first half. But after seeing the running order, I feel a lot more confident as being in between two loud songs that both likely have elaborate staging, it stands out like a crowning jewel. The likes of Birds and Amar Pelos Dois had similar treatments in their respective running order slots, which is a good precedent for this. The televote is a slight unknown as the last time we had a song in the Dutch language that was actually COMPETITIVE was all the way in 1998… but I’m a firm believer that a song in any language can do well if the song is strong enough, and the song packs enough of an emotional punch to tug at the heartstrings of the audience even if they don’t understand the lyrics. And it goes without saying that this is likely getting a top 5 jury score in this semi. It’s going to take a real staging disaster to sink this but considering that the staging director for this song is the same guy in charge of last year’s highly successful contest, there’s reason to be confident.

Moldova – I think this is a song that the fans will underestimate big time, I struggle to see much of a compelling reason why this would fail to qualify (and no, “this won’t qualify because I personally don’t like it” is NOT a compelling reason). The band already announced that their staging will involve a big train, so epic staging is to be expected. Also I feel that the recent revamp kind of improves their chances of getting a decent jury score, as the new guitar sections and English lyrics at the end make it musically less repetitive.

Portugal – Portugal is one of those tricky countries, the fan favourites end up bombing (2014, 2019) while those completely written off with the fandom qualify comfortably (2010, 2021). The song is very Portuguese, so either people like it for its authenticity, or it’s too subtle for the casuals to get it. On the plus side, they have diaspora in Switzerland and a voting ally in France in this semi, as well as another Southern European country in Italy being able to vote which could give it some love as I imagine this could appeal to Italian tastes.

Croatia – They have already revealed that they are completely overhauling the staging which is a good thing.  I can see the jury appeal of this song which might push it over the line if they’re super lucky, but it really depends on what they do on the big stage as well as some of its competitors falling face first. At this moment I’m failing to see how this stands out but I need to see the stage performance to fully make my mind up, I worry that too many people will say “not bad” which is probably the worst reaction you can ask for.

Denmark – Traditionally the second ad break is after song 12, so considering that a) it’s a highly energetic song (for the last 2/3rds of it anyway) and b) Denmark very rarely change their staging from DMGP and therefore there will be a lot of gear for the stage crew to wheel off, having Denmark here makes a lot of sense. On the positive side they do have a USP of being the only female rock band, and also being the only LIKEABLE rock song in this semi. But on the other hand, you can argue that it fails the One Minute Test (basically, if you fail to capture the audience’s interest by the first minute, you’re in trouble) and people will have mentally switched off before the fun part starts. Even though I err more towards this struggling, one should keep in mind that with the obvious exception of 2016 (lol), even when Denmark failed to qualify they were around the 11th-12th region, and they have Nordic buddies Norway and Iceland to count on, so if it misses out it will only just do so.

Austria – Coming after the ad break, Austria serves as an energetic intro for the last section of the semi. I kinda expected either this or Norway to be slapped bang in the middle of the second half in order to break up all the slower songs that are crammed in the second half, so I wasn’t surprised to see the producers do exactly that. My major concern is the potential live performance, particularly Pia’s ability to sing this live. Examples of EDM songs that sank due to bad vocals include Finland 2009, Slovenia 2013, Germany 2013, and probably some other examples that I’ve completely forgotten about. Sadly her performance in Israel Calling confirmed our biggest concerns, but considering her young age it’s not impossible for inexperienced singers to get a crash course in improving their performance capabilities in time for the big show, it’s happened before (Norway 2014 and Belgium 2017 are great examples). Fingers crossed it is the case though, because we all wish that everyone sings amazingly.

Iceland – They are in a very unfortunate position to be in the same half of the same semi as three other slow female acoustic songs. While I can imagine a lot of people will appreciate this for being authentically Icelandic, my big concern is that the audience will see another slow female song with minimal staging and get annoyed saying “oh, another one of these!” (I don’t think this will affect Armenia much and I will explain why when we get to it). Also the fact that didn’t win the first round of voting in the Söngvakeppnin final and only did so thanks to an anti-vote in the superfinal is a major red flag: this has actually happened a few times in Iceland over the last 10 years and every song that did this: eg 2015, 2016, 2018 all failed to qualify, and not even close either, so there’s a strong probability of history repeating here unfortunately.

Greece – This has the advantage of being the last ballad of the semi, and while a lot of other people are confident about Greece’s qualification chances, I’m much more tentative and here’s why: there is a strong potential of it being sunk by bad staging, and in the last several years, Greece have SUCKED at staging. You probably have to go back to 2015 for the last time they staged a song competently. We all remember how they turned their 2018 entry from a fan favourite to being hopeless in its semi thanks to bad staging. Even though the use of green screen last year was impressive, a lot of people laughed at it because the execution of said green screen was ropey to put it mildly. Allegedly our good old friend Fokas Whatshisface is behind the staging again and apparently they are aiming for something inspired by Classical Greek theatre with five women joining Amanda on stage, which could be surprisingly great or utterly bonkers. Another reason why I feel that certain people are overestimating this is because I feel that this fails the One Minute Test, and I’m not convinced that a capella first minute will work live. I’m probably being overly pessimistic here, but we’ll see…

Norway – Personal irks aside, while I have a lot of concerns about its potential result should it make the final, in terms of the semi, even I struggle to see much of a reason for it failing to qualify. It’s very late in the running order, therefore more people will remember it, and even a poor jury showing won’t stop it qualifying unless a disaster happens, assuming that they’ll get the 100 points they need from the televote alone. Personally I’m very skeptical about the casuals being in the mood for a mindless dance song due to the *cough* current situation *cough*, but I think that’s more of a concern for the final than the semi.

Armenia – now obviously when the running order was first announced, a lot of fans were very confused, as putting a midtempo acoustic toe-tapper isn’t the kind of song you expect to close the show. But the fact that it is makes me very curious, because if you look at semi 2, Czech Rep is the kind of uptempo bop you’d expect to close the semi. So my way of thinking is: there HAS to be a reason why Armenia are on last, because if it was just her alone on stage it would be super underwhelming as a closer. So maybe there’s an elaborate staging involved, possibly with some kind of prop that is difficult to wheel off in 30 seconds, and even though Norway has an elaborate stage show, if you REALLY think about it they only have one prop which is a DJ booth: not exactly difficult to wheel off stage in time for the next song. And also another possible reason for Armenia closing is that the producers wanted something with a more universal appeal to end the show with (like Czech Rep), while Norway is a lot more divisive. While a lot of fans say that being on after Norway is a severe disadvantage, I don’t think that’s necessarily true and here’s why: this is the type of song that I think has more appeal to the casuals (who, may I remind you, make up roughly 90% of the televote) than the hardcore fans, and the song is also likely to get a healthy amount of jury support (helped by the fact that she can sing very well live), and while being on last doesn’t 100% guarantee you a spot in a final, it will certainly help a lot, so Armenia have reasons to be cheerful here.

 

Semi 2

Finland – I was personally surprised that the producers put on arguably the most internationally famous act of the semi on first, but after hearing other people’s arguments I can see why: having a familiar act on first with a big stadium-filling belter is a good way of setting the tone for the semi, as it will get the casuals interested from the very beginning. While I do think their potential result should they make the final is very worrisome, in terms of the semi final I feel that name recognition will be enough for them to get through, and while in terms of musical arrangement it isn’t all that impressive, it’s hard to imagine the juries absolutely killing their qualification hopes as there will be a decent amount of respect for them as an internationally successful band, considering that all jury members are involved in the music industry to some degree.

Israel – It’s funny how in both semi finals, the #2 slot is filled by uptempo songs that are unpopular with the fandom. As cheesy and overly camp as it is, I can’t discount this because Israel knows how to elevate a song with spectacular staging. This actually reminds me of when Golden Boy was initially released, the fans initially hated it and thought Israel were hopeless, but as soon as we saw the live performance in Vienna, we all knew it was flying straight to the final, so I’m not ruling out a similar trajectory here. On the other hand, I do worry that *cough* certain countries *cough* might be put off by how overly queer the whole package is.

Serbia – Like I said in Semi 1, I feel like the producers are treating #3 as the coffin slot, and I feel sad because I have great admiration for this entry. One big positive is that the song has gone viral in Serbia, and considering the ex-Yu countries basically share a music industry, I’m expecting Montenegro and North Macedonia to give it top marks, as well as a decent amount of diaspora countries in this semi. I also get the distinct impression that the Serbian delegation wants to get the message of the song across to everyone, so I wouldn’t be surprised if they have some sort of floating subtitles like Italy did in 2018. People are concerned that the #3 slot will hurt it, but if “Russian Woman” can finish 3rd in its semi from the #3 slot I don’t see Serbia having much problems. In my opinion, while running order does have an effect in the semi, it’s nowhere near as impactful as it is in the final.

Azerbaijan – They are really unfortunate in that there are two other classic male ballads in this semi, and in terms of voting appeal, I would place Azerbaijan as the Gamma Boy in comparison to Poland’s Alpha and Australia’s Beta. We will need to see how it sounds live, but still it’s not melodically catchy like Poland and not as dramatic as Australia, and you can argue that Azerbaijan’s song also fails the One Minute Test. You can always count on Azerbaijan to bring some elaborate staging and videos of his stint in The Voice demonstrate that Nadir has a strong voice, but regardless, I feel that they’re really up against it this year and the live performance needs to be top notch in order to stand a chance. This song personally reminds me a bit of their 2015 entry, and that barely qualifies by the skin of their teeth, and even Hour Of The Wolf had a stronger hook than Fade To Black does.

Georgia – This is definitely one of those wildcard countries in this semi. Judging by the official music video, we should expect a colourful, circus-themed staging, and we do know that the SBJ Group are in charge so at the very least it will look slick. The obvious comparison is 2016 (funnily enough the last time they qualified), and while Lock Me In isn’t as accessible as Midnight Gold, there’s every chance it could have a similar effect, and their performance at Israel Calling proved that the song DOES work in a live setting. And also the UK is voting in this semi, which might be a huge help if the British jury decides to give them another 12 points.

Malta – Considering that the first ad break comes after song 6, ending the first section of the semi on an uplifting note makes sense. Unless they pull out an ace in their deck, I’m fully expecting a similar result to 2017: relatively high jury score and a shockingly low televote. Based on her live performance of the song in Tel Aviv, her voice is too “sweet” to fully elevate the song in my opinion, I had the same problem with their 2015 entry, and that failed to qualify despite all the bells and whistles the performance pulled out.

San Marino – Kind of like its Semi 1 equivalent, Bulgaria, San Marino is being used as a solid midtempo rock opener to the second section of the show. Also if Achille brings the full band it makes it a lot easier for the stage crew to set up their gear in time. My main concern is that the casuals who are unfamiliar with Italian music will crassly dismiss him as a Måneskin ripoff, and while us fans all know that isn’t true at all, never underestimate the stupidity of the general public.

Australia – While their potential result should they make the final is a concern for me, Australia usually gets an overly generous jury score and will be amplified by Sheldon’s powerhouse vocals. In terms of the televote, unlike Poland later on, the song hasn’t really got much of a melodic hook, it kind of meanders along for three minutes, so getting a good televote score will be a real struggle, however I don’t think it will completely tank in the semi’s televote to cause much damage (a mid table score is more likely), the jury pull will be more than enough to get it to the final. I am also of two minds of how the public could react to the mask reveal, either no one outside of Australia would get it as they’re not familiar with his backstory, or that won’t matter at all and will actually give this song a memorable USP of being “the guy in the mask with the amazing voice”.

Cyprus – I’m in two minds about how people might react to it: either people like it because it reminds them of their summer holidays, or the song’s appeal is way too restricted to the Hellenic market. While they don’t have Greece, they do have some diaspora countries like the UK to fall back on.

Ireland – In the context of the running order, I think the running order is actually being kind to Ireland. While it is the earliest of the second half songs, the block of San Marino to Cyprus actually kind of builds up to Ireland as an uptempo high point in the middle of the show before North Macedonia hits the reset button. HOWEVER, a good running order position can only do so much and from an objective view, the song does not have much appeal in either televote or jury, and will likely struggle as a result barring a miracle.

North Macedonia – While it has support from Balkan friends Serbia and Montenegro, you have to assume that in terms of the ex-Yu bloc pecking order, North Macedonia is the Gamma Girl to Serbia’s Alpha and Montenegro’s Beta. Add in the fact that NM don’t exactly have the budget for a spectacular staging, I struggle to see how this will stand up against a very strong second half.

Estonia – Assuming that the second ad break comes after song 12, putting high energy and bombastic Estonia in this spot makes a lot of sense. Like Czech Rep below, while there are no major reasons for it to not qualify, the second half is stronger than the first, and assuming that only 5 or 6 of the second half songs will qualify, there will be some painful cuts. I need to see its competitors to make up my mind. The major asset it has in its arsenal is that the song sonically stands out in the semi and has a likability to it, as well as having an optimistic message that could connect with the public.

Romania – A lot like its Semi 1 equivalent, Austria, Romania is being used as an uptempo intro for the final section of the semi. There is a potential televote appeal to this as it feels like the kind of tacky club song that is popular in Eastern Europe, and that dulcimer(?) hook is ridiculously catchy. However juries are obviously a major concern, especially when this second half has a lot more jury friendly competitors which could see it get squeezed out, and its 0 points in Euro Jury confirms those fears.

Poland – Considering that Poland is one of the favourites to win the semi, it’s one of those few songs where you could’ve put it anywhere in the second half and it wouldn’t hurt its chances. Ochman said that they’re overhauling the staging to be more dark and minimalistic, and the staging director is the same guy behind their 2014 and 2015 stagings which were very effective (and also 2021, but the staging was the least of their problems last year, lol). Sweden is the other contender to win the semi and it will be very interesting to see which one will prevail as in the blue corner, Sweden has a lot of friends to count on, and in the red corner, Poland has a lot of diaspora countries in this semi, very much helped by the fact that the Poles are VERY excited about this song and their chances in Turin, so expect a huge televote as they will be motivated to vote for the motherland this year.

Montenegro – This part of the running order confuses me, because the producers for some reason put both Poland and Montenegro together, both being classical ballads that build. You could argue that there is some differentiation as Poland has a more contemporary production while Montenegro has a more organic sound. Also, Vladana said that she’s going for a very high fashion, artistic aesthetic for the big stage which would be a visual contrast to Poland’s more straightforward staging. I worry that this might hurt their chances due to them being negatively compared to the more highly anticipated Poland. However they do have a few friends to rely on which could push them over the line, especially if the live performance is impactful.

Belgium – Despite being on before one of the favourites to win the semi in Sweden, I don’t think this is a disadvantage for Belgium at all, as assuming that they’re bringing backing dancers to Turin like the video, there’s more than enough of a distinction between the two songs and presentations where it’s not going to hurt either entry and steal votes from each other. Speaking of the video, I feel that RTBF have more of an impetus to give this a good staging considering that this is the most recent winner of their flagship talent show, and the cinematic look of the music video reflects that. There is a potential for Belgium to get a high jury score, as the song highlights Jérémie’s vocal ability wonderfully which is jury catnip, especially when paired with a fairly enjoyable song. The televote potential is more questionable, however if the staging is well done, I struggle to see it completely tanking on that side of the vote.

Sweden – Obviously it goes without saying that Sweden got a pretty sweet running order position, although like I mentioned with Poland above, this could have been placed anywhere in the second half and it wouldn’t have hurt its chances. Pre show, one would expect the semi win to be between this and Poland, both pre show favourites with huge appeal in both televote and jury. Like I said earlier, it will be interesting to see which one prevails…

Czech Republic – This is the kind of song you would expect to close the semi, and for once the Czechs have been given a late running order position. This for me is a tricky one, because while on paper there aren’t any major reasons for this not qualifying, as I have said before this semi is very bottom heavy. I can make a compelling case for seven of these second half songs qualifying whereas traditionally only five or six from the second half qualify, so without knowing how they all look on the big stage, it’s a matter of trying to figure out which of those seven will make it, and there’s a possibility of a few heartbreaks. I’ll make up my mind once I see all the stagings.


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Author: Kylie Wilson

Editor-in-chief of ESC Pulse. A British-New Zealander who's an unashamed Norwegophile, has watched Eurovision every year since 1999, and is not afraid to speak her mind and step outside the general consensus.

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