Portugal - Vincent Colagiuri

Festival da Canção 2018 Semi-final 1, by Vincent Colagiuri

The first semi-final of the fifty-second Festival da Cançao was held in the TV studios of RTP in Lisbon on February 18th, 2018. In a different approach this year, twenty-six composers were invited to submit songs sung by the artist of their choice. Of the thirteen songs in this semi-final, seven qualified for the final. The final score for each song was a combination of a jury vote and a public televote. The singers were accompanied by a live band and backing singers. Most of the songs were slow and brimming with Portuguese saudade.

1. Austrália composed by Nuno Rafael and performed by Bruno Vasconcelos.
What a weak start to the show! The character of the song was early 1960s pop and peculiarly compared the history of Australia to a relationship. Bruno Vasconcelos, with his low baritone voice, dodgy intonation and uncool persona was just wrong. This song was doomed and failed to qualify with a score of zero.

2. Sem medo. (Without Fear) composed by Jorge Palma and performed by Rui David.
A laid-back jazz number with brass and piano backing. Rui David gave a relaxed performance of this cool, swinging song. Qualified for the final with seven points.

3. Eu te amo (I LoveYou) composed by Mallu Magalhães and performed by Beatriz Pessoa.
Beatriz looked lovely, smiling through this gentle love song. She has a lovely voice but was clearly inexperienced, producing an airy sound and swinging her body awkwardly all the way through the song. Failed to qualify.

4. Para te dar abrigo (To Give You Shelter) composed by Fernando Tordo and performed by Anabela. Fans of Portugal in the ESC will know Anabela as Portugal's young representative in the 1993 contest. She came tenth with the soaring ballad A cidade, (até ser dia) (The city, until dawn). She's back in 2018 with a bright and joyous love song composed by Portugal's 1973 ESC representative, Fernando Tordo. Anabela sang with confidence and charm and she knows how to play to the cameras. The driving rhythmic backing featuring accordion lends this song a Brazilian forró flavour. Qualified for the final with thirteen points.

5. Para sorrir eu não preciso de nada (To Smile I Don't Need Anything) composed by Júlio Resende and performed by Catarina Miranda.
A slow, beautifully ballad sung and communicated with great expression by Catarina. Qualified with sixteen points.

6. Zero a zero (Zero To Zero) composed by Benjamim and performed by Joana Espadinha.
For her presentation Joana wore a silver-spangled suit, which gave this bland song a lift. Joana was generously supported by a chorus of no less than five backing singers, who all looked as if they enjoyed performing way more than Joana did. Qualified with seven points.

7. Sem título (Untitled) composed and performed by Janeiro.
Janeiro was invited to participate as a composer in this year's Festival by none other than Salvador Sobral. This intimate love song is music distilled down to its purest. Janeiro sat alone on stage, accompanying himself on an electric guitar whilst crooning exquisitely in a very similar manner to Salvador Sobral. Starting very sparsely, it blossoms into tenderness in the chorus. Sem título qualified for the final with a total of sixteen points, twelve of which came from the jury. Janeiro is an obvious contender to represent his country at home in Lisbon. The only thing which may count against him is the close similarity of his style to that of Salvador Sobral.

8. O som da guitarra é a alma de um povo (The Sound Of The Guitar Is The Soul Of A People) composed and performed by José Cid.
José Cid has been huge recording recording star in Portugal since the sixties and represented Portugal in the 1980 ESC. His song for this year is a fado-pop fusion. The guitar of the title refers to those traditional Portuguese instruments used to accompany fado. Despite being an enjoyable song it still had an old-fashioned quality and failed to qualify.

9. Anda estragar-me os planos (Let's Spoil My Plans) composed by Minta and performed by Joana Barra Vaz.
Joana sangs this gentle, expressive ballad alone on stage almost to herself, with a simple guitar and strings accompaniment. A very heart-felt, communicative performance which qualified Joana for the final with a score of 8 points.

10. Só por ela (Only For Her) composed by Diogo Clemente and performed by Peu Madureira. Wearing a jacket that was too small for him, Peu strode to centre stage and poured out this passionate song. Emotion was in every note and written all over his face. And Diogo Clemente’s song is one continuous flow of beautiful melody. It’s also cleverly constructed so each verse starts in a low register then climbs up higher for the climactic phrases, which heightens their emotional impact. The studio audience showed their delight by applauding half way through as well as wildly at the end. Coming from the fado tradition and perhaps with a touch of Neapolitan tenor thrown in, Peu delivers his passionate plea in a completely Portuguese way. Só por ela was the top scorer of the first semi-final with a massive twenty-two points. Surely the hot favourite so far to represent the Portugal at the ESC in May.

11. Com gosto amigo (With Pleasure, Friend) composed and performed by Rita Dias.
This one was a tough one to work out. A story song, sometimes in folk style, it had a touch of Latin American sometimes, then sometimes not. Regardless, Rita did not qualify for the final.

12. Alvoroço (Turmoil) composed and performed by JP Simões.
Aptly titled, this was more like a chaotic ramble than a song. JP's vocals sounded odd too, like he was singing along to a recording of his own voice. After about two minutes it schizophrenically went double time and the lighting and the band went ballistic. This was a mess which, unsurprisingly, failed to qualify.

13. A mesma canção (The Same Song) composed by Paolo Praça and performed by Maria Amaral. This was plodding and uninteresting to listen to. Poor Maria must have been very nervous and often sang painfully sharp. Her eyes were mostly closed, she didn't know what to do with her hands and she mumbled her lyrics. A pity the night had to end with something so sub-standard. This received a big, fat zero from the jury and did not qualify.

Full details of the qualifying songs, along with voting breakdown and videos of qualifying performances, can be found on this page of the RTP website: http://media.rtp.pt/festivaldacancao/artigos/sao-os-finalistas-da-1-semifinal-do-festival-da-cancao-2018/
or on the RTP Youtube channel.