Lithuania (semi 2) - Kent Acott

Former Eurovision backing vocalist Jurijus Veklenko has emerged as one of the top contenders to represent Lithuania at this year’s song contest with his winning performance in the second semi0final of Eurovizijos Atranka.

With much of the focus on Monkia Marija – who has qualified two songs for next weekend’s Eurovizijos Atranka final – Jurijus’ performance of his song Run With the Lions was strong and captivating.

Jurijus has been to Eurovision twice before, providing vocal backing to the Lithuanian entries.

But it was in 2015 in Vienna, when he met Australian entrant Guy Sebastian, that he was able to get his career on track.

In a magazine interview, Jurijus said he had met Sebastian – his favourite Australian singer – in a corridor at the performance venue. They started talking and Sebastian shared one of his basic rules for songwriting: “Write songs until they are good.”

Jurijus said Sebastian’s words were “the greatest motivation” and he started writing his own songs, based on his own life experiences.

Jurijus did not write Run With Lions, described as an ethereal-pop song, but that has not precluded him from taking ownership of the song with his unique vocal talents.

Dressed in black, with little staging fanfare, it was an assured and joyful performance.

Second (after finishing equal second with the jury and third with the public) was the zany Mazule, by Antikvariniai Kašpirovskio Dantys. It’s not a great song but its cheerful presentation and catchy music has ensured its popularity. In many respects, it is reminiscent of last year’s Eurovision entry from Moldova, My Lucky Day bu DoReDoS.

Third in the second semi-final was Criminal, the second song of Monika Marija. Despite asking the public to not vote for it, the song was awarded equal second by the jury and fourth by the public. Most people do not believe Criminal is as good as her other entry, Sine On, which won through to the final in the first semi-final.

The fourth and last spot in the final went to a duet made up of former Eurovision entrants. Jurgis Didžiulis (LIthuania’s 2010 representative) and Erica Jennings (a member of the band SKAMP that represented Lithuania in 2001) and combined for the catchy song Sing.

It is a fun and playful song that is almost impossible to resist. That being said, it is hard to see it winning next week’s final.