Düsseldorf 2011: Semifinal 1

Tonight, the following nineteen countries will fight for ten tickets for the big final this Saturday:

01: Poland – Magdalena Tul – ‘Jestem’
02: Norway – Stella Mwangi – ‘Haba Haba’
03: Albania – Aurela Gaçe – ‘Feel The Passion’
04: Armenia – Emmy – ‘Boom Boom’
05: Turkey – Yüksek Sadakat – ‘Live It Up’
06: Serbia – Nina – ‘Čaroban’
07: Russia – Alexey Vorobyov – ‘Get You’
08: Switzerland – Anna Rossinelli – ‘In Love For A While’
09: Georgia – Eldrine – ‘One More Day’
10: Finland – Paradise Oskar – ‘Da Da Dam’
11: Malta – Glen Vella – ‘One Life’
12: San Marino – Senit – ‘Stand By’
13: Croatia – Daria – ‘Celebrate’
14: Iceland – Sigurjón’s Friends – ‘Coming Home’
15: Hungary – Kati Wolf – ‘What About My Dreams?’
16: Portugal – Homens Da Luta – ‘A Luta É Alegria’
17: Lithuania – Evelina Sašenko – C’est Ma Vie
18: Azerbaijan – Ell & Nikki – ‘Running Scared’
19: Greece – Loukas Giorkas feat. Stereo Mike – ‘Watch My Dance’

Stay tuned for live updates of this semifinal!

And we’re off, ‘Te Deum’ has just kicked in!

We see our hosts, Anke Engelke, Judith Rakers and Stefan Raab welcoming us, with a ‘Good evening Europe!’

Anke Engelke tells us who will be the automatic finalists. When Italy is mentioned, the audience starts clapping loudly.

The lines will soon be opened, as Anke and Judith explain to us. It is clear Anke Engelke will be the one speaking French tonight!Judith also speaks French, which surprises Stefan and Anke. They thank Oslo for hosting last year!

And the lines are open!!

All hosts at the same time say ‘Let Eurovision begin!’ We see Magdalena Tul from Poland giving us a hand kiss. The postcard gives us a ‘love story’.
‘Jestem’ will be her song and here she goes!
Magdalena and her dancers are dressed in white, it all looks well produced and Magdalena sure knows how to perform, that’s one thing we know for sure. The stage is used well and the choreography looks good.
She has a good chance of qualifying for the final, although being the opening song could be a disadvantage. Still, Magdalena’s voice and song are strong enough. Poland’s first appearance in the final since 2008? Let’s see at the end of the show!

Norway is up next! Stella Mwangi will sing ‘Haba Haba’. With that she will introduce the Swahili language at Eurovision!
The backing vocals / dancers are dressed in red and black, Stella wears a gold dress similar to the one in the National Final.
Stella’s vocals aren’t what they’re supposed to be, she sounds quite tired and runs out of breathe quite a few times. The stage is however used in a perfect way. The African happy tune of this song will probably bring this song a spot in the final, but it surely isn’t because of Stella’s vocals. She has a lot of charisma and also knows how to use it.

Next is the energetic Aurela Gaçe for Albania, with ‘Feel The Passion’!
The song starts very ethnic, you feel  that there will be an explosion of sound soon. Aurela’s voice is strong, though a bit weaker than we are used to in the beginning of the song. She picks it up after the chorus, though. The flames shooting on stage work perfectly with the song and make it even more energetic. Aurela is dressed in a beige dress, and she tries to look like an eagle…
For the final, not sure, but her voice is definitely the strongest so far tonight!

Emmy is next for Armenia with ‘Boom Boom’!
A chair, shaped like a boxing fist is on stage, with Emmy’s name on it. Emmy starts the song sitting in this, with a boxing cape. She soon stands up, the cape goes away and the positive energy starts going to incredible levels. Unfortunately no one can deny Emmy’s vocals are rather weak. The choreography is very good, and I think it’s smart Emmy leaves the dancing to her dancers and not starts to dance herself, it wouldn’t have done her vocals good.
This might be the weakest Armenian song since their debut, but as Emmy herself said, Europe will probably vote for this. A final? Almost a sure thing.

Turkey is the fifth country tonight. Yüksek Sadakat with ‘Live It Up’!
Yüksek Sadakat is dressed in green and black, with gold accents. The lead singer’s jeans, which are green, have caused some discussions. It works, though.
The vocals are good, the staging works out fine, although I somehow don’t get the woman in the cage. The stage is accented with fire-like colours in the background, with real flames on stage. Turkey does what it does best: sending a good pop-rock song. It’s definitely not a winner, but a spot in the final is pretty much a sure thing!

We now have a little break, where Anke and Stefan will introduce contestants to German folk. A lot of participants join in this!

We continue with Nina, singing ‘Čaroban’ for Serbia. As always, Serbia will sing in Serbian.
Nina is dressed very ‘sixties’, with a black-white dress with flowers. The stage is extremely colourful with pink, orange and white.
Her voice is incredible tonight and the retro feel of the song is used extremely well in dancing and staging. Most important thing is that you can see how much fun Nina finds it to perform this song! It’s simply magical!
I can see this qualifying, it’s happy and fun and Europe will like that!

Russia is up next! Alexey Vorobyov (/Alex Sparrow), with ‘Get You’, composed by RedOne (who writes for Lady GaGa)
After a kind of weird intro, in Russian and really slow, Alex kicks off his performance. He knows how to treat the cameras. His vocals are pretty good and together with his dancing, this works out quite well.
They’re dressed in leather jackets and on their backs they have lights!
This is a sure qualifier, a possible semi winner, as the prediction said!

Up next is Swiss Anna Rossinelli with ‘In Love For A While’, it’s song number seven!
The song starts with a cute ukelele and a clapping audience! Anna’s vocals are spot on. The screens in the back are used as weather. She is dressed in a red cocktail dress and her musicians in a casual suit, with a cello, guitar and ukelele!
This could be a qualifier, though the Russian power we just had could make this a bit forgettable. It’s still a good entry from the Swiss and for sure will do better than they did last year!

Eldrine will perform next for Georgia, with ‘One More Day’!
Lead singer Sopho Toroshelidze wears quite a remarkable dress, it looks like it’s plastic and has green squares on it. I wouldn’t be surprised if this won the Barbara Dex Award. Anyway, Sopho’s vocals are strong and powerful and just what the song needs. The rapping bit is quite unnecessary and when he starts screaming, I lost track.
However, this rock feel could appeal to Europe. It’s not a sure qualifier, but for sure not chanceless!

Anke Engelke tells us, once again, to vote. And she announces Finland and reminds us of Lordi with a good grunt of ‘Hard Rock Hallelujah’! Paradise Oskar with ‘Da Da Dam’ is next!
Paradise Oskar is all by himself on stage, together with his guitar. The staging is quite simple, with a globe showing after about fourty seconds. The audience goes wild after this. Oskar has quite a special sound in his voice, but it’s a good voice and he sings it spot on! The simplicity of this song sure makes this a good contender for a ticket to the final!

Glen Vella’s ‘One Life’ will be performed next for Malta! Enthousiasm is coming our way!
Glen’s voice sure is remarkable, though it looks like he doesn’t miss a lot of notes. The beat could give you a headache, though. The three backing vocals are standing on some kind of blocks, but that looks good. What the dancers are doing, I don’t know. It looks rather weird.
Even though his vocals are ok, there isn’t a big chance this will qualify for the final. It’s a bit messy, a bit too messy for Europe, I think.

San Marino is back in the contest! Senit will bring ‘Stand By’ to us!
Senit’s song starts with spotlights going on, followed by smoke on stage. It brings a mysterious feel to it.
Her voice is incredible and she knows how to play with the camera. She dances a bit with the guitar players, which seems a bit out of place with this ballad, but it isn’t disturbing.
This song could qualify, but I am not entirely sure. It’s a good song.

Next up is Croatia’s ‘Celebrate’, performed by Daria!
Daria’s voice doesn’t suit the song very well, she is more a ballad person. Though she knows to make the most of it.
And there we have the first dress change! The black dress is changed for a pink one. She is also the first to use the catwalk. She tries to let the audience clap and dance along, but I have the feeling that doesn’t work well.
She even pulls out a third dress, a long silver one.
I don’t know about this, it could qualify, but it’s not a favourite.

Next up is Iceland! Sjónni’s Friends with ‘Coming Home’!
Most of us know the story behind this and the commentators mention Sigurjón’s unfortunate death.
The song has a nice folk / sixties feel to it, and it’s really cute to hear this. The vocals are really good, though they have been better in the past. The staging is very simple. A piano, drums, a guitar and six guys singing for their friend, Sjónni Brink.
They surely honor Sjónni in an awesome way, and a final is for sure possible for this song.

Judith is going to talk in the green room now, to Norwegian Stella Mwangi!

Up next is Hungarian Kati Wolf, with ‘What About My Dreams?’
People were kind of scared of Kati’s vocals, but she starts off really well. She’s wearing a blue short dress and her hair is curly. In the chorus she misses some notes, but overall she is good.
The staging is a bit flat, but it does work well. With this song Hungary could take it. However, the Eurovision-fan taste has turned out to be a bit different from European general taste in the past years. Still, this song is very strong and should qualify for sure.

Portugal is up next with their battle song, ‘A Luta É Alegria’ by Homens Da Luta.
They are dress as revolutionists, holding op signs with ‘The battle is joy’ in several languages. ‘Jel’ knows to bring the message in this song, he acts like a true revolutionist. The background is red/green, as the Portuguese flag. The social-political message in this doesn’t come across, since most of Europe doesn’t speak Portuguese. Still this song could qualify, just because of the fun element.

Evelina Sašenko is up next with ‘C’est Ma Vie’ for Lithuania!
Lithuania is the only country bringing French to us this year, a whole two lines per chorus. Evelina is dressed in a white dress, with black decoration. She looks older than she really is. 
Her voice is spot on, that is for sure. It is really touching how she uses sign language, it immediately reminded me of Latvia 2005 (‘The War Is Not Over’ by Walters and Kazha), even though the song is nothing like that. The ballad has a climax, which is a bit disappointing, not a big bang, but a simple closing.
A place in the final? Maybe, nothing is impossible.

Azerbaijan is up next, Ell & Nikki will sing ‘Running Scared’!
Ell starts off and as always he is quite good and clearly stronger (vocally) than Nikki. However, Nikki has improved vocally. The staging is mostly white. The melody is great and the interaction between Ell and Nikki is simply incredible. The performance is worked out incredibly well. Firework is coming from above at the end, which finishes this song in an awesome way.
A sure qualifier and even a chance of winning!

Last song tonight is ‘Watch My Dance’, the Greek entry by Loukas Giorkas feat. Stereo Mike!
Mike starts of rapping, with dancers behind him. As soon as Loukas starts his ballad-like singing in Greek, the dancers surround Mike. The screens in the back show ancient Greek  ornaments, Doric to be precise.
As Loukas and Mike told ESCDaily in an interview in Amsterdam, this song is about surviving, surviving what life brings you. Loukas’ vocal qualities are incredible and surely one of the best tonight. The odd combination of rap with Loukas’ ethnic Greek ballad might appeal to Europe. Especially since it is so odd.
Greece making the final is almost a sure thing, again!

Our hosts, Anke, Judith and Stefan, explain us the voting again. We are now going to see the recap.
After the recap, we saw the phone numbers with the postcards, and now we’re back with Anke and Stefan.

Another quick recap now!

We’re once again back with Anke and Stefan, closing the voting!

The interval tonight is German drum band Cold Steel! After this we will go to the ten qualifiers. Who will need to prepare for a performance on the big night this Saturday?

Judith is sitting with the Portuguese contestants. Jel says they are nervous! Anke and Stefan now introduce the big five: France, Spain, Italy, United Kingdom and Germany! We will take a quick look at the Big Five!

Judith is going through the green room, greeting Glen Vella, Paradise Oskar and Senit. She sits down with Nina and asks if she took some pills to Düsseldorf, since Nina is a pharmacy student. Nina tells her she didn’t.

Now the envelopes! We are first introduced to Jon Ola Sand, the new executive supervisor.

We are gonna start!

First qualifier (random order): Serbia!
Second qualifier: Lithuania!
Third qualifier: Greece!
Fourth qualifier: Azerbaijan!
Fifth qualifier: Georgia!
Sixth qualifier: Switzerland!
Seventh qualifier: Hungary!
Eighth qualifier: Finland!
Nineth qualifier: Russia!
Tenth and final qualifier: Iceland!

Congratulations to our ten finalists! We’re sorry for the ones that didn’t make it!

See you Thursday for Semifinal 2!