Jury rehearsal Semi 2 ESC 2019: Vocal assessment of all the songs

Sweden second rehearsal 2019 — Photo by: Thomas Hanses

Tomorrow, 18 countries will compete in the second semifinal of the 2019 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 CET. Newest update always appears on top.

22:38 – Thanks for following us

We hope you enjoyed our descriptions of all the performances.

Read back below if you want to know more about how all the participants in the second semi final performed tonight!

22:29 – Prototype jury entries

Sweden and the Netherlands will have topped the jury vote tonight. Both are the prototype of what an entry should have to win a jury vote, though both in a different way: Lundvik has the perfect jury friendly song, while Laurence sets a high vocal standard.

Russia was not at their best tonight and will battle Switzerland for third place in the jury vote. Ireland may have finished last place.

22:25 – Nerves

While the quality was obviously much higher tonight than on Monday, it was also a rather nervous evening. Many artists started out weak, only to recover later in their song. Perhaps they all know that the bar is set high, and they have to be at their best to qualify?

22:22 – Azerbaijan – Chingiz – Truth

Chingiz is what we would call a talent show veteran. He won Pop Idol 2007 in Azerbeidjan, finished 11th in 2013 in “New Wave”, and in 2016 he tried his luck on The Voice of Ukraine. As mentioned before, juries tend to support former talent show acts. In terms of the song, the question is whether “Truth” will be ruled a professional contemporary song (as they did with Norway in 2017), or “modern trash” because of the heavy bass beat. Juries could take it either way. Vocally, the performance was flawless tonight, though at times it is visually noticable that Chingiz relies on backing vocals for the more difficult notes. He clearly does the big note towards the end all by himself, though. And he does it well.

22:18 – North Macedonia – Tamara Todevska – Proud

A big tremble in Tamara’s voice for the first verse. No missed notes, thankfully, but not yet convincing. Just when you think she has things under control, she misses one note in the chorus. Thankfully it’s just a slight mistake. Though this is not the prototype of a jury ballad, it has a classical build-up plus the old-fashioned full orchestration, which will help the song in its jury vote. Tamara is a strong vocalist, and she shows this in the second verse and chorus more than in the first. This should bring Macedonia, with its new name, finally back into the Eurovision final.

22:14 – The Netherlands – Duncan Laurence – Arcade

The first few sentences have a couple of difficult lower notes in them, and that’s where Duncan Laurence struggles the most. He is never really off-key though and impresses the second he moves into the higher ranks. Vocally flawless, and the visuals worked – this is by far the best Dutch rehearsal so far. Juries do not, as people too often think, vote for the most outstanding, original songs in the contest. But they will take into consideration the fact that “Arcade” is by far the most difficult song in this semi final to sing. And tonight, Duncan pulled it off! Duncan Laurence took part in The Voice in the year that O’G3NE won the competition.

22:10 – Norway – KEiiNO – Spirit In The Sky

Tom Hugo starts out shaky, but he gets through the first verse without being off-key. Then Alexandra takes over, and she is more convincing in her vocals. This “division of labour” remains throughout the rest of the song: Alexandra is the stronger vocalist tonight, Tom Hugo makes you sit on the edge of your seat, wondering when he’s gonna go completely out of control. He never actually does, though. The joiker misses one note in his solo. Still one of the better vocal performances of the team so far – but will it be enough to convince juries? This type of Scandinavian “fan favorite” type of Eurodance is generally more popular with juries than you would expect. The joiking, however, can be perceived as offensive, and the ethnic elements of the song are also a potential red flag.

22:06 – Albania – Jonida Maliqi – Ktheju tokës

In yesterday’s semi final, a lot of the outspoken ethnic stuff got eliminated. Whether that was due the televote or the jury vote, we do not know yet. However, it is a well-known fact that juries (all over Europe) have a preference for mainstream and western compositions. Ballads in this darker ethnic style (take for comparison Greece 2018 or even Serbia) have always been more popular with televote than jury vote. That said, Jonida was vocally flawless tonight and gave a strong performance when it mattered. Unlike several others, she seemed to have her nerves under control.

22:02 – Russia – Sergey Lazarev – Scream

Oh no – Sergey misses a note in the second sentence of the first verse. What is happening here, why is everyone so nervous particularly at the start of their performance? Of course, being the amazing professional that he is, Lazarev recovers and he comes through the difficult notes in the first chorus. Russia wants the jury votes this year, and they have deliberately selected a song that will help them do it. This musical styled ballad is not only a jury friendly genre (think of Ukraine 2013), it also creates the chance for Sergey Lazarev to showcase his vocal skills. Which he did tonight, though not as much as he did in previous performances this week. This is a really difficult song to sing, and juries should realize that.

With the visual performance, Russia rides the thin line between “spectacular” and “overdone/circussy” perfectly in my opinion. Juries have no obvious reason to drag this down based on the holograms, in fact, Sergey playing with the projections in the exact right timing could get him some “Mans-factor” points.

21:56 – Lithuania – Jurijus Veklenko – Run With The Lions

Two big misses in the first verse for Jurijus, both in the high and low ranks. He, like many tonight, appears to suffer from early nerves. However, where others recovered strongly, Jurijus is again off-key in the lower ranks of the second verse. The last minute of the song is solid vocally. The only example of a male falsetto scoring well with juries is Benjamin Ingrosso from last year, but that composition and performance is of course very different from Lithuania this year. Perhaps Ireland from last year is better material for comparison – that was not popular with juries.

21:52 – Malta – Michela – Chameleon

The way Malta’s rehearsals started out this week, it is a miracle they got where they are now. Michela’s vocals have improved drastically and were very much acceptable tonight. A song like this does not need impressive notes or huge bonuses, it just needs to be adequate and that was the case tonight. The biggest issue remains Michela’s appearance on stage. She’s not in control of her act the way Mans Zelmerlöw was in 2015, and she does not give jurors a comfortable, professional feeling. Malta uses X-factor as its preselection and Michela won it. This song is really hit sensitive and even though juries were instructed to reward this for several years (not anymore), they never actually did.

21:48 – Croatia – Roko – The Dream

Roko is on the edge for a few lower notes in the first verse. As it has been all week, he gets better when he moves into the pre-chorus and the chorus, with long higher notes. Though the last note of the first chorus is now off-key. The last minute of the song was vocally the strongest. The song is a bombastic ballad. Theoretically this is a genre that juries could vote for. An important development in the jury vote the last few years, is the fact that juries are very focused on not getting fooled by something that might be “circus”, or “kitsch”. So imagine what will happen to Roko’s performance with the golden wings, which have “Kitsch” written all over it.

21:44 – Austria – PÆNDA – Limits

Particularly the choruses came out well tonight, vocally. Lower ranks in the verses not always perfect. Difficult thing is that there is no real frame of reference for this Kate Bush style of singing at Eurovision. However, I do expect bonus points from the juries for the large amount of high notes, as juries gave to Albania on several occassions (2012 and 2014). Paenda reached the quarter finals of Popstars in 2011. As mentioned before, juries pay more and more attention to the image of the songs and performances. No matter what you think of “Limits”, it will come across as a quality performance in which the focus is purely on music & voice. Big green flag for juries.

21:40 – Sweden – John Lundvik – Too Late for Love

Last year, ESCDaily was the only media outlet to predict Austria’s Cesar Sampson scoring massively in the jury vote. It set the precedent for this type of uplifting, non-offensive gospel songs to be proven jury food. Lundvik will profit from this as well. He is vocally flawless tonight, after holding back a bit in the afternoon. He knows exactly to peak when it matters. The two big notes at the end were fine tonight, though not top level as in Melodifestivalen final. On stage, he comes across as an extreme professional, which is a big green flag. While John Lundvik was not a Jury Darling in our series, it is worth noting that his Melodifestivalen jury score was far more impressive than his televote.

21:36 – Denmark – Leonora – Love Is Forever

Leonora did not won the televote in her national final and thus she was a part of our series Jury Darlings. We wrote that the jury chose her to go back to what Denmark does best: sending inoffensive, sweet little pop songs that no juror can really have anything against. “Love is forever” could therefore be a jury friendly song. However, in combination with the language change, I would also like to refer to Zoey’s jury vote for Austria in 2016: non qualification with juries in the semi, 24th in the final (while 8th with televoters). Leonora gave one of her best performances of the week tonight. Her only mistake could be marked on the German sentence “Liebe ist für alle da”.

21:28 – Romania – Ester Peony – On A Sunday

The very first note of the song is immediately far off-key (“You” in the sentence “You left me on a Sunday”). Many singers tonight seem to struggle with the beginning. The second missed note comes in the second verse, on the word “ashtray”. Ester then errs in a high note in the second chorus. In between those notes, she’s fine, but never convincing, never truly comfortable. Trying to create a rock-vibe, Peony sometimes deliberately drags down the end of her lower notes. Not off-key, yet is a well-known red flag for Eurovision juries. And yes, Ester Peony was a Jury Darling because she did not win her televote in Romania (she did not even come close). However, it is worth noting that the 12 points she received from two foreign Eurovision vloggers in the jury were highly controversial at the time.

21:24 – Latvia – Carousel – That Night

Sabine is not in top form tonight. She misses several notes in the first minute of the song, particularly in the lower ranks, and again one in the bridge towards the final chorus. Peaking at the right time is important at Eurovision, and she has not been able to do so. Not to say that this is a bad vocal performance, but yet again, in a rather flat song the few mistakes will be held against her. To those who find this song artistic and musically qualitative, I am gonna say again: juries do not tend to vote for too artistic stuff. They also do not like to be bored, and this composition is rather repetitive.

21:20 – Switzerland – Luca Hänni – She Got Me

Luca is off-key in the first verse at the words “when she arrives”. Poor start, but when the song progresses, the vocal level only goes up. I reckon that juries will reward the fact that he sings and dances at the same time. Not too many people know that Luca is actually a former talent show winner in Germany. Germany also votes in this semi final. “She Got Me” is contemporary yet not highly original or even experimental. That would be a green flag for juries were it not for the fact that there is a technical error in the build-up of the song towards the final 30 seconds. Still I would expect juries to have this song high enough up their list because of the fact that there is no really obvious reason to hate it, or to drag it down.

21:16 – Moldova – Anna Odobescu – Stay

Anna uncharacteristically misses the very first note of the song. Nerves? Concentration? She picks up immediately and the rest of the first verse and chorus come out strong. The longer notes toward the end come out strong, and that kind of vocal excercise is something juries reward. This type of ballad is the classic example of jury food: slightly dated, with a straight forward build-up. The snow artist has a slight risk of being perceived as a gimmick by juries, but I do not think this will weigh on the vote too much.

21:12 – Ireland – Sarah McTernan – 22

Sarah misses two notes in the first verse, then slides off the last “that’s got to change”. This is not the only time Sarah slides: she almost falls off one of the chairs… Juries like an artist who makes you feel relaxed – like he or she controls the stage. In previous blogs I have referenced to this as the “Mans Zelmerlöw-factor”. Sarah McTernan is quite the opposite of that: she looks uncomfortable the entire performance. The song is not necessarily unfriendly for juries. However, it is rather flat, which does not have to be a problem, but any vocal mistake made will count double. Sarah did not make a lot of those tonight, but she made a few. Juries will punish vocals more harshly in a song that’s relatively easy to sing.

21:08 – Armenia – Srbuk – Walking Out

Srbuk’s volume is a little low in the first two sentences. The rest of the verse is vocally pitch-perfect. In the first chorus, the second time she sings “Walking out”, she misses a note. This is a small exception to the rule, because this performance is vocally quite strong. The difficult higher long notes at the end are all on pitch today. The song “Walking out” is not offensive or divisive in itself. It’s not typical jury food but it could score adequately well, especially when the vocals are of this quality as they were today. The aggressive visuals are most likely more of a problem for televoters than juries, though it cannot be ruled out that some juries perceive the performance as offensive. Juries have a soft spot for talent show winners, and Srbuk finished 4th in the Voice of Ukraine.

21:04 – Quick start

No real opening act. We from ESCDaily are totally fine with that! Let’s get on with the competition

20:54 – What juries like

Just a small selection out of our long list of potential green flags:

  • Conventional songs, inoffensive and middle of the road
  • Former talent show contestants
  • Convincing performance, ‘feeling that everything will work out fine’, professionalism

20:50 – The way we blog the jury show

Over the years, ESCDaily developed a model by studying the past results of Eurovision jury votings extensively. We built a frame of reference for each entry. That way, we determine how likely it is that juries will like the song, the performance, the vocals.

Our vocal assessment is the main point of the blog. We will try to point out any mistake made tonight, as this is the show that juries will vote on. Juries tend to find vocals more important than composition.

20:41 – This blog is all about the juries

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 2 First Dress Rehearsal