Today's Eurovision results aren't quite as pleasing as the first semifinal's, but they're still better than I'm used to. Ideally I'd have found room for Hungary and Ireland to qualify (I like Cyprus's song, but the singer? No thanks) and ditched Croatia and Lithuania, but neither Hungary--camp disco, though not as camp as the '00s benchmark of Deen--nor Ireland--'80's female-sung pop-rock meets bouncy early '00s teen pop-rock--was anything better than a second-tier song in my eyes. A few quick comments on the other qualifiers from the night:
Norway: have I properly written about Alexander Rybak and "Fairytale" on here yet? The first time I heard it, back before the Melodi Grand Prix, I found the incredible buzz among Eurofans about it incomprehensible: it was fine, sure, but no more--"and I thought I was supposed to be a sucker for strings in a pop song and a young male face!" was my confused reaction to its popularity. Before the MGP final came around, though, I was completely sold. It's a great song, one perfect for the contest--pop with basically "Western" or "Nordic" style and sense of melody but with that so-called "ethnic" flair--but one that I can imagine myself playing outside of that context, too. Alexander is a great performer, too, and, if the song should do as the oddsmakers predict and win the whole contest, I think it would easily be my favorite winner of this decade. Given the songs predicted to do well in the final, it's most likely the song I'll be cheering for on Saturday.
Ukraine: song + performance = kind of the definition of a hot mess, but the mental, schizophrenic "Be My Valentine! (Anti-Crisis Girl)" has quickly risen through my personal rankings in recent days (it's now become one of very few songs I play just whenever and not only when I'm in a Eurovision mood), and I expect my opinion of it to keep improving. The staging isn't the perfect slick delivery of last year's "Shady Lady," but Ukraine always knows how to put on a show; this time, that show includes giant spinning gears, half-naked men in Roman gladiatorial getup, and Svetlana strutting over to a drumset and vigorously playing it while her centaurions push it to the center of the stage. Maybe Sweden could take some notes--not go all the way, but get yanked a bit more in the direction of Ukraine, which generally does bold, eye-catching, stage-filling, memorable-in-a-good-way performances more reliably than most other countries.
Azerbaijan: Arash's music makes a natural fit for Eurovision and, as Len pointed out, "Always" could be by Antique (Helena Paparizou's original group): it's a catchy mid-to-up-tempo pop song with Mediterannean flourishes. I really, really like it, really want it to do well, and yet somehow find myself rarely inclinded to actually play it on my own.
Greece: I've praised the combination of Sakis Rouvas and Dimitris Kontopoulos who knows how many times on here, but I've also said that this isn't quite up to their usual standard. It's still decent, though, with a welcome harder electronic dance production style. Sakis has energy, but he often seems to not be able to channel it, resulting in moments where it seems like he's lost or out of sync. I'm hesistant to say that it would be better with another performer because swapping him out for someone else could easily be a setback, but if the selection was careful enough, there is some room for improvement on that front.
Albania: also a case of electronic production that is better than the song but a song that is still good and with a performer who has some noticeable flaws but who changing out might have resulted in someone with even more problems (in Kejsi's place, I didn't get the feeling of confidence from her movements that I would have preferred). I kind of prefer the original Albanian lyrics, I think, at least in the chorus, but I may completely change my mind on that in a day or two.
Moldova: the instruments and the performance gave me flashbacks to Ukraine's "Show Me Your Love." Danceable, shoutalong-friendly chorus, and more infectious than I originally thought it would be.
Denmark: yes, it's a Ronan Keating-written song, a style that's never popular among Eurofans, but as far as middle-of-the-road radio pop from Denmark goes, this is better than the country's entry last year. I like it. Don't love it, but it deserves its place in the final.
Estonia: I want to like this haunting ballad more than I do, but sadly, I'm not properly connecting to it yet. Once again, though, I song I wanted to see progress and a song I have some degree of appreciation for.
That's probably roughly my order of preference of the qualified tracks, too, give or take a few places for some of them.