One of the most drawn out national selection processes in the Eurovision calendar trudged its way to the semi-final stage last Saturday – and boy has it felt drawn out this year. Once again, all eyes were on Budapest for an evening that promised half of the very best that A Dal 2019’s three preliminary heats had to offer. This time around, nine songs competed, only four of which would qualify for the Final to be held in two weeks time. As usual, the top three of those would qualify based on a combined judge/televote score, with the other six facing a run-off public vote for the final spot.
There was, it seemed, a lot at stake last Saturday. Three of the nine acts (USNK, Yesyes, Deniz) that had qualified from the heats in sixth place thanks to the public alone would be looking to secure a podium place for a direct path to the Final. A further three (Petruska, Acoustic Planet, Konyha) had finished in second place in their respective heats and would be looking to go one better.
What certainly didn’t improve however is my feeling of disappointment at the quality of entries this year. Perhaps I’m tending towards holding Hungary to a higher standard than other countries given its pretty decent record since 2012, but this year’s entries have lacked anything standout. Since late January, we’ve been aware that Hungary will perform in the first half of SF1; a semi-final that counts amongst its ranks some potentially very big players. They just might need something better than what’s on offer to qualify.
In any case, the semi-final went textbook. Freddie and Bogy were pretty decent hosts. The judges spent what felt like three hours giving comments to each act, and once again, I failed to agree on most occasions. It’s so frustrating to see the arbitrariness of their scores as well as the massive weighting their opinions can have on the final result. Nevertheless, there were few positives.
The automatic qualifiers from the combined judge/public vote were:
1) Acoustic Planet - Nyári zápor
2) Petruska - Help Me Out of Here
3) Vavra Bence - Szótlanság
The public run-off vote put The Middletonz and Roses in fourth place who therefore also qualified.
After tonight, I remain convinced that A Dal will produce a Eurovision winner, but I strongly doubt that that will be in 2019.
These were my thoughts on the night in order of appearance:
Song 1 - USNK – Posztolj
Heat 3’s sixth place, these budget Eminems showed little hope of progressing to the final. This is rap at its worst for me. The public must have agreed as they scored the duo one point less than in their heat. 7766 + 8 = 34.
Song 2 - Yesyes- Incomplete
I actually quite liked this. The lead had seemingly improved his vocals, at least slightly, from heat 2 and the stage show was effective. A sixth place in heat 2 however always suggested an uphill struggle. 7677 + 8 = 35. Same score as in heat 2.
Song 3 - Konyha - Százszor visszajátszott
I saw no change from their heat 1 performance where they had finished, unbelievably, in fourth place. If I were to say anything positive, it would be that it gave me faint Kedvesem vibes but, it’s a very budget Kedvesem if anything. 8868+8 = 38. Same score as in heat 1
Song 4 - The Sign - Ő
Not really to my taste. Very repetitive and the harmonies were all over the place, but the staging was reasonably effective making good use of the confetti rain. A half-decent musical bridge wasn’t enough to save it however and it finished with one point lower than in its heat. 8778 + 7 = 37
Song 5 - Petruska – Help Me Out of Here
First song of the night in English and a pretty exact replica of its heat 3 appearance. A sweet performance of a very average song. Should this go to Tel Aviv, I feel that enunciation would need improving. And again, it feels repetitive. Something about this reminds me of Silvan Areg from the French selection but I’m not entirely sure whether that’s a good thing or not. Still they managed a two-point improvement on their heat 3 second place to place second once again. 9889 + 8 = 42
Song 6 - Acoustic Planet - Nyári zápor
The overall package wasn’t bad amongst the mediocrity of the rest. But that’s not really saying much. Another fairly average song but probably one of the better and more polished entries of the night. I wouldn’t bet it on it, but I would think this would qualify for Hungary out of a weaker semi-final in May. They rightly received the first 10 of the night (although again it’s all relative), and secured a two-point improvement on their heat 2 second place to take first place in this semi-final. 999 10 + 8 = 45
Song 7 - DENIZ - Ide várnak vissza
No real change from their heat 1 performance. I think overall it was reasonably solid but rap/singing has been done at Eurovision and it has to be done extremely well to be passable. This, for me at least, didn’t meet that standard. For some reason it reminded me of something we’d see in Junior Eurovision. Again, not sure why. 7676 + 9 = 35. One-point improvement on heat 1.
Song 8 - The Middletonz – Roses
I’d been waiting for this in anticipation of a major improvement. I saw András live at Copenhagen 2014 and had expected, pre-A Dal, something equal or better than his 2014 attempt. But like many before him, he probably should’ve stuck to the one attempt. This isn’t “Running” and as Ronny said in his review, ultimately comes across as pretentious. Still, the performance was memorable and with multiple pyros, the staging was probably the most ‘impressive’. With his experience, the song may qualify out of the semi if it goes to Tel Aviv. His qualification as the winner of the public run-off vote highlighted his substantial national support not replicated by the jury. 8888+9 = 41.
Song 9 - Vavra Bence - Szótlanság
Finally, after what seemed like 17 hours, the show reached its anti-climactic final entry. I actually quite liked the song and the staging seemed to hold a deeper meaning than the other entries. Does it have potential? Yes. Should they change lead singer? Also yes. I almost felt sorry for him as if this was his first performance ever. He seemed very uncomfortable on stage, lacking both charisma and vocal power. Not speaking Hungarian, I don’t understand the lyrics, but any message the song was intending to have was definitely lost. Still, I reluctantly think it deserved its 3rd place and it managed to garner a three-point improvement on heat 2. 8899 + 8 = 42