The 2015 Eurovision That Almost Was: Semifinal Two

We continue our look at second placers at this year’s national finals with the countries that make up the second Semifinal in Vienna. They are presented in order of the draw so we may contemplate an alternate Eurovision universe with 1970s-inspired ballads, male-dominated showtunes, fado, reggae, and joik.

Lithuania. Second place song, “The Right Way;” second place performer, Mia. Continuing the format initiated last year, Lithuania chose its song and its artist concurrently. “The Right Way” was a milquetoast ballad that would have struggled to make an impression on the Viennese audience. Meanwhile, Mia was fine, but we think she suffered from the fact that once everyone heard “This Time” as a duet, it was hard to hear it any other way.

Ireland. Kat Mahon, “Anybody Got a Shoulder?” Whoo boy, Ireland dodged a bullet this year. This Dan Fogelberg-esque tune was handled without a whiff of irony and felt completely out of place in this decade. The Irish regional juries in aggregate went for it because it’s lovely and sentimental. Molly Sterling only barely eked out the win thanks to the public televote and the Limerick jury. Jurors of Limerick, you may stay. Galway and Dublin, what gives? Do you still yearn for the sensitivity of the 1970s?

San Marino. Internal selection, not applicable.

Montenegro. Internal selection, not applicable.

Malta. Christabelle, “Rush.” Amber was the runaway winner of Malta’s national final. Her performance of Elton Zarb and Muxu’s “Warrior” got top marks from all of the jurors and topped the televote. Cristabelle’s song was also written by Elton Zarb and Muxu. “Rush” was an upbeat dance pop song that we might expect from a teen recording artist.  She finished second with the jury. The jurors obviously saw something despite all her winking amateur theatrics, but the public was not as fooled; she finished fourth in the televote.

Norway. Erlend Bratland, “Thunderstruck.” Norway had the most suspenseful voting of the season. Up until the final votes, it was unclear who the winner would be. Mørland & Debrah Scarlett got the win over Erlend Bratland with 88,869 vs. 85,373 votes, a margin of less than 3,500 votes. “Thunderstruck” felt like a show tune from Melodifestivalen — The Musical! Erlend sang it fine, but his stiffness as a performer kept it from making an impact.

Portugal. Teresa Radamanto, “Um fado em Viena.” A little on the nose, Teresa, don’t you think? We can’t tell what was more desperately sad: the pandering to this year’s host city or the fact that a portion of the Portuguese public ate it up. It qualified second in the initial televote and finished second in the superfinal.

Czech Republic. Internal selection, not applicable.

Israel. Iky Levy & The Rasta Hebrew Men. Iky Levy & The Rasta Hebrew Men garnered the second largest amount of televotes on the finale of HaKokhav HaBa, the talent show that chose Israel’s representative for Vienna. They are alright, I guess, if you like reggae. We do not. Besides, we don’t want to live in an alternate Eurovision universe that does not contain “Golden Boy.”

Latvia. Markus Riva, “Take Me Down.” In a year where Latvia had a selection of interesting, unconventional songs to chose from, Markus Riva offered up the safest choice. “Take Me Down” was a decent if generic pop ballad with some cool electronic touches. Markus finished second in both the internet vote and the televote, but far behind winner Aminata.

Azerbaijan. Internal selection, not applicable.

Iceland. Friðrik Dór, “Once Again.” As the interval act at their final explained, Iceland has a proud history of accomplished solo male singers that finish second at Söngkaveppnin. We can add Friðrik to that list. “Once Again” was John Lloyd Young from Jersey Boys (or Elgiazar Farashyan from Belarus’s 3+2) singing Leo Sayer ‘s “When I Need You.” It was a reasonably compelling package. Friðrik was the leader going into the superfinal with a very narrow margin of public votes and jury’s nod. However, when it got down to the final two candidates, the Icelandic public picked the more contemporary song, Maria Olafs and “Unbroken.” The bottom line was Iceland had two solid candidates this year. Our choice would have been “Once Again,” but we can’t say we think the Icelandic people made a bad decision.

Sweden. Jon Henrik Fjällgren, “Jag är fri (Manne Leam Frijje).” Beautiful song, beautiful presentation. We enjoyed it and we definitely thought it was Måns Zelmerlöw’s closest competition (as much as there was close competition in this year’s Melodifestivalen, seeing as Måns dominated the voting). But we have to admit, “Jag är fri” is a little too “closing ceremonies at the Winter Olympic Games.” This could have won Eurovision in the 1990s, but it wouldn’t have been much of a contender now.

Switzerland. Timebelle, “Singing About Love.” More like bleating about love. Timebelle is made up musicians from all over Europe who met at the Bern University of the Arts. Unfortunately, their story was more interesting than their song. We couldn’t find any specific vote tallies on the websites of the three Swiss broadcasters, but in our minds, “Singing About Love” finished miles behind “Time to Shine.”

Cyprus. Panagiotis Koufogiannis, “Without Your Love.” Panagiotis Koufogiannis won the public vote during Cyprus’ selection show, but he came second because the jury placed him fifth out of six performers. Can’t say we blame them, as Cyprus is much better represented by a stripped-down love song like “The One Thing I Should Have Done” than an over-orchestrated, co-dependent ballad like this.

Slovenia. Rudi Bučar En Figoni, “Šaltinka.” If we were drinking at a Slovenian music festival, we’d probably enjoy this. In the context of a Eurovision selection show, though, it is an endless three minutes. “Šaltinka” garnered 5,449 votes from the Slovenian public, but its traditional folk sound was unlikely to translate to an international audience. Especially if you consider that Maraaya’s “Here for You” (which collected 7,311 votes in the superfinal) quickly became a favorite of diehard Eurovision fans.

Poland. Internal selection, not applicable.