Jury rehearsal Semi 1 ESC 2018: Vocal assessment of all the songs

Tomorrow, 19 countries will compete in the first semifinal of the 2018 Eurovision Song Contest. But 50% of the results will already be decided tonight! Follow the jury rehearsal with us. In this blog you can read what we think of the vocal qualities of each country, and how we think the juries will react to their performance.

NOTE: The star ratings are our indication of how likely it is that the professional jury might vote for this performance. They do not display any personal preferences.

Please keep refreshing this blog to receive the latest updates. Timeslots are indicated in Portuguese timezone. Newest update always appears on top.

21:54 – Thank you for your attention

It was a pleasure clearing up the jury results for you. Thank you for joining us and don’t forget to tune in again for the jury show of the second semi final. We will gladly do this again for you on Wednesday (and Friday).

21:44 – Czech Republic and Bulgaria top the vote

Bulgaria has been weak all throughout rehearsal week but they saved the best for last. They will probably have finished top 3 in the jury vote tonight. Czech Republic, however, is the most likely winner of the jury vote based on tonight’s performances. Top favorite Israel was not at her best but probably still finished top 5, as did Austria.

21:41 – Incredibly tight

It was an incredibly tight jury show tonight with many strong performances. Something like Iceland this year could have easily been top 10 with the jury’s in a semi final last year – but this year they might finish somewhere way at the bottom. We have now updated all the rankings and hope we will come as close to the final result as we did in the previous years – but it was a tough one to call!

21:32 – Cyprus – Eleni Foureira – Fuego

Vocals have never been Eleni’s strongsuit, but tonight she is alright. Juries will notice that backings help her a lot in the chorus, but she does not miss too many notes. This type of ethnopop song is not generally jury food, especially not with the current lack of build-up. Solid performance should see her through to the final, but mostly based on televote.

21:28 – Ireland – Ryan o’Shaugnessy – Together

Poor Ryan – after a very strong first minute, he misses a few of the lower ranks in the second verse. The falsetto part is really good though, in the second chorus as much as in the first. The tradition, however, is that juries tend not to appreciate male falsetto’s. So no matter how solid Ryan’s technical performance was, this is not jury friendly. A good thing about the performance though: As much as Ryan wants to portray his own performance as “controversial”, it is actually quite mellow and innocent. Ryan was also in The Voice and in Britain’s got Talent, although he never really reached far.

21:23 – Switzerland – ZiBBZ – Stones

Not a lot of attention has been spent on this topic, but Coco of ZiBBZ actually has a really strong voice. She displays it tonight and is, like before, on point. She also comes across like the type of girl juries could vote for – although the clothing could drift female jurors away from her. The shout out to the audience will definitely cost Switzerland points. Song is rock, but middle-of-the-road enough for juries to be able to vote for this.

21:19 – Armenia – Sevak – Qami

Vocally solid as ever, although it always sounds as though this costs Sevak a lot more energy than for example Cesar from Austria. The song is not particularly jury friendly but definitely not offensive either. However, the same cannot be said of the way that Sevak looks and comes across. Juries tend to vote for non-threatening boys and Sevak can at times look quite aggressive. There was nothing really wrong with this performance but it was never going to be a jury’s cup of tea.

21:15 – Finland – Saara Aalto – Monsters

A few shrill notes in the first sentence, but Saara Aalto definitely nails the upside down singing part. This is a technical feat that jurors might appreciate for its sheer level of difficulty, while televoters will fail to connect to it on an emotional level. Saara Aalto obviously has a rich past of several talent shows. This will help her in the jury vote, especially because her performance today was better than any of the ones earlier this week. Both vocally and visually. Swedish Europop, juryfriendly song except for the horror-styled screeching at the start.

21:10 – Greece – Yianna Terzi – Oniro mou

Yianna’s best vocal performance of the entire week, though it should be noted that the backing vocalists carry her heavily in the chorus. Televoters might not notice this, but juries will. Juries have turned their backs on too outspoken ethnic stuff. Therefore I doubt that this song is jury friendly, particularly if you add in the instrumental bridge of the song. Higher notes in the last 30 seconds were dodgy, but not off-key.

21:06 – Austria – Cesar Sampson – Nobody but you

Cesar is an absolute professional and he shows it tonight with a flawless vocal performance. This is the kind of singer who can keep you at the back of your chair, relaxed, because you always feel confident he is going to take it home. I should mention that the control Cesar has over his vocals, is not the same as the control he has over the stage. And just when you don’t expect it anymore: Cesar misses one note at the end of the second verse! That came completely out of nowhere. He picks up where he left off though. Strong recovery. The ad-libs at the end are solid too. This is the typical example of a jury song. Middle of the road, predictable, solid build-up, completely non-offensive.

21:02 – “Mikolas composed his own song”

The presenters meet Mikolas Josef in the green room and emphasize that he wrote the song and the lyrics himself. Juries are obliged to watch this part, and therefore this might help Czech Republic’s chances.

21:00 – Croatia – Franka Batelic – Crazy

Franka struggles with one or two lower notes in the verse. However, this easily falls away when you see her perform. She owns the stage, as she has done all week. In total control of all her movement, extremely professional and confident – although she showed slightly more nerves tonight than earlier this week. Fewer laughs. Still looking almost like a winner. The parlando part is not particularly jury friendly though. This is not a typical middle-of-the-road jury song but suitable in the sense that it does not really offend anyone. The ending is technically difficult to sing but Franka gets through it. High level of difficulty, which juries will reward. Franka won talent show Showtime in Croatia.

20:56 – FYR Macedonia – Eye Cue – Lost and found

In the intro, lead singer Marija cuts a few notes short. She then misses one note in the reggea part of the song. She has always sound slightly hissy in the pre-chorus. Harmonies in the first chorus are off-key. This is a messy song, the three different styles will not be understood by juries. Any of the three genres could be perceived as offensive. Dress change won’t particularly work either. Vocals remain sloppy towards the end and the harmonies in particular are not good. At the final chorus, one of the backing dancers is out of rhythm in the dance routine. This gives the performance a sense of amateurism.

20:52 – Bulgaria – Equinox – Bones

The first solo singer misses a note in his first block. The harmonies of the first pre-chorus are not balanced either and one of the two guys is out of tune. Then the chorus start and we hear a clear and convincing harmony. Second solo singer is flawless. From here on, vocals only get stronger towards the end. Definitely one of Equinox’ stronger vocal performances tonight. Song is modern and could be perceived as experimental in the good sense (like Belgium 2015 and Norway 2017). However, it could also be ranked in the “too artsy/ethnic” category that Artsvik fell into last year.

20:47 – Estonia – Elina Nechayeva – La Forza

A tremble in Elina Nechayeva’s voice during the first line. She finds her volume back quickly, but – like Netta – we can hear her breathe at times. She even misses one note at the start of the second verse. Nerves? I should mention that this song is very difficult to sing and that Elina still catches almost every note. The question, however, remains whether juries will appreciate the technical difficulty of this song (or that the genre will be too divisive for them). Opera is usually more impressive for televoters than for jurors. Singing in a non-pop-style, no matter how vocally strong and impressive, does not always receive the jury reward that you would expect (think of Yodel it from 2017). Elina is a former talent show candidate. This could help her win some extra points. She also definitely owns the stage and looks like a confident performer who is in control of everything.

20:42 – Belarus – Alekseev – Forever

Several missed notes in the first verse from Alekseev. He has not been able to sing the lower notes in the first verse all week, but now he also sounds shrill in the higher ranks. After the first chorus, he starts to slightly pick it up (with help of his backing vocals too). The composition in itself could be a rather juryfriendly ballad (although not as much as Iceland for example). But what about the totally overdone act? That might look jokish to professional juries. Alekseev was a former semi finalist on The Voice and he is well-connected within the Eastern European music scene. After a rocky start, he gets through the performance okay, but I doubt western jurors will appreciate the over-the-top act.

20:38 – Israel – Netta Barzilai – Toy

Netta seems nervous in the first 20 seconds. She cuts several notes short and breathes heavily between them. Not a single missed note though and the first verse is on point. The bridge towards the first chorus is again nervous, with a heavy sigh right before the chorus. After the chorus, she shouts out to the audience – juries don’t ordinarily like that.  Netta misses one note in the second chorus. After that, she gets through the performance without mistakes but she is definitely out of breath at times, particularly in the bridge before the last chorus again. Juries will notice this. The big question has always been: Will juries see this  as a serious entry, with a message of women empowerment? That usually works well with particularly female jurors. However, they could also perceive it as being messy or even a kind of joke.

Netta Barzilai wanted to use a looper in her performance, but she was not allowed to. Read more about that HERE.

20:30 – Lithuania – Ieva Zasimauskaite – When we’re old

The first three lines sound a little nervous, with a tremble in Ieva’s voice. She does not miss a note however, and picks it up right before the chorus. Harmonies in the echo of the chorus sound perfect. Such an outstanding quiet song usually gets picked up by televoters more than by juries. It is also hard to determine whether the screen projections and the emotional ending could be perceived as “overdone”. However, according to our team, this would deserve a high rating with jurors. Ieva was a finalist on The Voice in 2012, which could help her cause.

20:26 – Czech Republic – Mikolas Josef – Lie to me

In the first verse, Mikolas is on-key but seems to suffer from a slight lack of volume. After that, he picks things up vocally and the choruses sound convincing. For a guy suffering from back problems, he seems to be in control of the stage. The shoutout “What’s up Eurovision?” is usually a no-go for juries. The type of song that, despite what everyone thinks, could end up doing better with juries than televoters. Remember Robin Bengtson last year. Despite what the lyrics say, Mikolas looks friendly and amicable.

Check out our interview with Mikolas Josef from earlier this week!

20:22 – Belgium – SENNEK – A matter of time

In the first 1,5 minute, SENNEK scrapes through the performance without actually missing big notes. The big note at the start of the first chorus comes out better than this afternoon. She is more convincing in the second verse than in the first. However, in the second chorus, she loses her grip and misses a few notes in a row. All throughout the performance, SENNEK seems like she is searching for the camera. This could be interpreted by the jurors as a loss of control. Juries voted for Conchita when she had a Bond-ballad. The fact that it looks dark and simple will work in its favour too, it emphasizes the serious nature of this ballad. However in terms of build-up, this song does not have a strong start (long first verse) nor a good ending (abruptly).

SENNEK created the full staging herself. She told ESCDaily this at the Blue Carpet ceremony.

20:18 – Albania – Eugent Bushpepa – Mall

Bushpepa won Topstar in Albania (a talent show). As often with the Albanian songs, this entry does not have a solid build-up. Juries could end up finding it messy. However, the performance definitely does look serious. And Eugent Bushpepa, despite a few nerves at the start, shows impeccable vocal skills. He does not miss a single note, makes it look & sound easy and he even displays a few extra feats towards the end. It is very difficult to judge if jurors will let his voice prevail over the song.

20:14 – Iceland – Ari Olafsson – Our choice

This song is a jury friendly ballad. The fact that it is very dated won’t weigh as heavily with jurors as it does with televoters. Think of “Breathlessly” last year. Ari is the perfect example of a non-threatening boy. He is also a former The Voice participant. The verses sound perfect, he reaches all the lower notes. However, the minute the tunes go up, he sounds slightly shrill at times. The big high note at the end is questionable.

20:10 – Azerbaijan – Aisel – X my heart

Aisel misses one lower note in the first verse and two in the second verse. When the tune goes up in the chorus, she is alright, particularly with help from the backings. It is not a truly convincing vocal performance but not bad either, and definitely her best all week. Midway through the performance, she throws away one of her in-ear microphones (probably because it is not working). Juries might notice the technical difficulty of continuing without in-ear microphone. This Swedish styled pounder song is often more jury friendly than we think. Remember “Hero” by Charlotte Perelli as only one of many examples. Aisel also looks in control during her choreography.

20:03 – Good evening Europe

Yes we have started in time! The presenters are making their jokes as they did in the afternoon. Only now, there is a big crowd to cheer them on! If you wanna know more about the visuals of the show, the presenters, the postcards etc, then read back our liveblog from the first dress rehearsal this afternoon!

Liveblog Semi Final 1 First Dress Rehearsal

19:57 – Starting in time?

This afternoon, RTP surprised friend and foe by starting the first dress rehearsal exactly in time. Let’s see if we can achieve the same tonight. Three minutes until showtime!

19:45 – We’re ready

Team ESCDaily has studied jury results extensively over the past few years. We are confident that we know what jurors are looking for in a Eurovision performance. And tonight, we will describe each performance for you through the eyes of a juror! Stay with us, we’ll get started in about fifteen minutes.


  1. There is no way juries will vote highly for Czech Republic (over competent singers like Eugent, Saara and Sevek). It is just talk-sing and it is not the most original song there. The performance could fall flat with jury due to the borderline cringy staging.

  2. With Armenia, Cyprus, Azerbaijan, Albania and Bulgaria in this semi ….. I think Greece will get a decent enough jury vote.

  3. I’m honestly shocked at your review of Sevak. “Juries tend to vote for non-threatening boys?” WTF is that even supposed to mean? Just because the guy has a beard and defined middle-eastern look, does not make him a threat. You guys should really retract that statement. It’s so offensive. Thank God you’re not on the jury panel.

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