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April 2012
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In no particular order... Now, where have I heard that before?! Quite surprised to see several of them wearing exactly the same dresses as last night. Odd. Maybe the BBC's budget didn't stretch to two.

This is the results show. Mercifully short and Tom has to choose between Gandalf & The Fringe and Sam. I'd thought Sam would have got the granny vote but clearly there weren't enough and it would have been a reasonable bet that the odd couple would get the lowest votes.

Will.i.am had to choose between Joelle and Sophie. Not the two I would have predicted so that's an interesting guide to who's voting.

Lana Del Rey is the guest act. Nice to see she's not miming to a backing track so that's one good feature of the Beeb production. Having said that, either her mic was malfunctioning, my ears are no good any more or her diction is virtually non-existent. Pity, because her song-writing produces some of the more interesting lyrics but I have no idea what that was about.

I do like the way she just stands there and doesn't feel it's necessary to prance around. Reminds me of Florence of similar style and genre but without the big show and maybe better for that.

Tom sends Sam home. Didn't expect that. Nor did Gandalf & The Fringe. Let's hope they do more Fleetwood Mac next week and not Nina & Frederick. Sam hoped that it wasn't the end for him, whatever that means. No-one liked to tell him that it probably was.

Will.i.am keeps Joelle which seems reasonable. Hopefully he'll get her a new dress in a colour other than salmon now. Sophie was, in my view, the better in terms of a modern artist but he could be right about Joelle - she is probably the more reliable. I see a commercial number from her next time.

So that's it. Hollie is a good presenter but is just a little bit too warm and cosy for a show like this. Reggie sounds like he's reading the autocue - not as wooden as Steve Jones thank goodness but still pretty boring to watch. The whole programme lacks spark and sparkle. Everyone is professional - perhaps just a bit too much so. It's only when Danny or Jessie let loose that it tends to come alive.

Will.i.am and Tom Jones' 10 acts start the live shows off as The Voice UK gets properly under way. If you recorded it you may want to fast forward through a terrible performance by the four judges at the start. However brilliant they may be in their own right, they were not very good together at all. In fact you could run right through and see the summaries at the end and you will not have missed a great deal. Generally, yes, a far higher standard of vocal ability than the Top 20 of X Factor or American Idol give you at this stage but there's something missing.

Joelle

The very last bit was good. Maybe she'll do Roberta Flack next. Reliable performer to start the show but not very inspiring. Dated, 90s sub-Beyonce style. One of the few 'normal' contestants, though, which is in her favour and she'll stay a while.

Sam

The BGT entry, grandmas will love this odd fellow. Oh isn't he a dear, I can hear them saying. Hilarious to watch, initially, but that'll soon wear off. He does have a great voice in the higher range and an Erasure track sounded pretty good. He's entertaining, I suppose. Well, for some.

Frances

More today than the first two with a nice Lulu-esque raunchy sound. If the show is about a talent for today's market then she could do well. The oldies won't get her, though.

Adam

Another odd chap. He has a disturbing manner and vacant look. Does a Foo Fighter's rock track which was rubbish to start but ended in some style. The very strange persona, though, makes strange television and he won't last unless someone sorts him out or ends up as the only young male and gets the girlie vote, if his mannerisms don't put them off too.

Jazz

With a name like Jazz Ellington he's off to a good start. Everyone says how brilliant he is but I thought he was off key. Clearly I have a lot to learn. We'll see more of this guy for sure - with so many accolades he'll get plenty of votes and is, at least vaguely normal.

Leanne

A superb singer and Tom did well by getting her to do a Pink number instead of some anthem. Excellent performance, maybe one of the most natural and, although still middle-of-the-road and hardly likely to hit big time in the charts after Christmas is over, she is in the right genre to attract a good number of votes across the board.

Sophie

This youngster suddenly seemed to wake up after a dodgy start and produced a pretty cool performance. She deserves to get through but, once again, much depends on the audience and how she appeals to it.

Matt & Sueleen

Choosing Tom as their mentor by flipping a coin was bad manners and plain wrong in the audition round. However, he still chose them in the battle round so I guess that's been forgiven. An odd couple - seems to be the norm though for this show at the moment! The old bloke with the Gandalf hair and beard did an good job and, together, they produced a good cover of the Fleetwood Mac number. That's about it, though. No-one's going to rush to their gigs.

Tyler

Amy Winehouse's friend, we get told each week. Looks like he's been sleeping rough for months and yet another weirdo. Vaguely reasonable track and he puts his own interpretation on things well but a future successful big name artist? I doubt it.

Ruth

I don't know what they put in her hair but it made this teenager look about 85. She also wore a ridiculously silly short yellow dress which, bearing in mind her pretty massive size, made her look like a cartoon character and bending down was definitely not a decent possibility. Luckily she didn't. What she did do was warble away amazingly well, totally naturally and believably too. The audience went mad which, assuming that it didn't comprise solely her relatives, is a fair indication that she'll be way ahead in the votes this week. To be honest, the others are pretty forgettable already.

I think Danny and Jessie's contestants have more interesting talents which we'll discover next week. First, though, all eyes will be on the votes for this lot which might provide a guide to the Voice electorate and thus what chance the few potential stars may have.

All in all, now that the perverse selection process is over, this is not much different to the other programmes I  review, more BGT than X Factor so far and whereas X Factor and Idol have a clear aim - to produce a new chart act that will sell, for better or worse, and entertain us in the meantime - I can't quite put my finger on what The Voice UK is meant to do. I suspect that might depend very much on who reaches the final stages.



Here are the better entries for the Second Semi Final, again in A -Z order. To be honest, only Malta really stands much chance of making that much of an impression but they're here anyway and, if you really really want to see what the other nine have to offer before they're forgotten completely then they're all available in lovely widescreen on Eurovision.tv. Edit a few days later: listening to Sweden again, that is one good performance and a definite contender to win.


Bosnia & Herzegovina

Always in the running, this is a serious but good track and well sung. It has a nice flute section but isn't really a winning entry - again.



Estonia

Another serious entry - there are a lot this year - by a talented singer. It's a classic Balkan-sounding number which will help get support from a good tranche of nations' voters. Good song. Stands an outside chance. Top 10 maybe.



Malta

This country has tried so hard in the past but never made it to the top. This year they have an Enrique Iglesias sound-a-like with a well-written song and plenty of hooks with its Hey Hey Hey and Yeah Yeah Yeah which I'm sure will go down well. Really quite catchy and a top 10 contender if not that much higher.




Netherlands

A quirky number, quite different from the rest which might get some attention. A girl, hopefully without the feathers that she wears in the video and slightly odd costume, playing a guitar, folky and simple. You'll smile if nothing else and think that it was quite nice. Reminds me a bit of the winning norway entry a while ago. It's not as good as that, though, and not a real winning contender but deserves a mention here.






Norway

Tooji is in the same vein as Malta'a entry this year but not as impressive so the votes will be split to Norway's disadvantage and this won't be bringing them another win. It's energetic, though, and a better looking bloke than Malta. It'll make the left side of the voting board but not a great deal more.



Serbia

Here's another scenic number from the country that is trying to regain a number 1 slot from a few years' ago and which usually gets high scores from all but one or two of its neighbours. It has lots of flavours and my son says it's pretty much a Coldplay number rehashed which I suppose isn't necessarily goingto to do any harm. Well-presented and stands a chance of breaking into the Top 10 too.



Slovenia

Conspicous by their absence, due to some pretty dull entries recently, this passionate and anthemic number might change that this year for them. I'm not that sure what to make of it but, if it's really well sung on the night and it builds well on the stage I can see it being popular.



Sweden

Always in with a chance with great songwriters and production people around, this heavy trance number will meet with young voters' approval. It needs atmosphere to work best and quite how it can be presented at its best on a stage remains to be seen. It's good, though, and could be a Top 5 entry if it goes right for the girl. Edit a few days later: I am now predicting this as a possible winner, after listening again. It is very very good indeed. 





Ukraine

I always feel that I have to mention Ukraine as they always seem to do well. Sometimes they definitely deserve it, other times they don't but they're the one old Soviet State that can be relied on the present us with a good-looking, dark haired girl with an almost perfect figure and lots of appeal for the guys out there. This one is another intense dance affair in true Eurovision style but it does lose its way half-way through and you start wondering just who is actually singing - the blonde or the black girls? I guess we'll find out on the night. Not a winner but they'll be competing and stealing votes from many of the other girls no doubt.



Next post will sweep up the remaining entries that are automatically through to the final - the countries that pay for it, France, Germany, Italy, Spain and UK, plus the Azerbaijan effort to win twice in a row.



Ok, folks, here we go. I've been through all the first semi final contenders and here are 8 that deserve a mention. The Eurovision.tv site has some very smart very widescreen videos this year which are reproduced here rather smaller. The other 10 really are not worth troubling with - some real disasters there you can check out in your own time.

The ones most likely to get through the first round, therefore, in alphabetical order:

Albania

This is an extraordinary song and an extraordinary video too. I have no idea what either are about but maybe that's Albanian 21st Century art. I have previewed this before and said that if the singer managed to reach all the notes this could be impressive. It was a bit of a screech before but in this take she's superb. It's not something I would rush out and buy nor will it appeal hugely to many Eurovision voters but it has got something about it that makes it stand out. It sounds like a typical 8th placer with respectful votes from quite a few but it's not a winner.



Cyprus

I have already promoted this big time. It's a very catchy number and if the girl performs well it should do very well. She does have a lot of competition in the pretty dark-haired girl singing pop songs category, though, so may well suffer from split votes there. despite what I said in the introduction, however, the 'official' video is terrible and totally does not do the song or the singer justice with some silly fairy tale about Snow White. So I've added the far better, albeit very scratchy, one here.



Denmark

This is great, a very US-influenced young girl leading a band with a well-written song that will definitely appeal to lots of the younger voters. She's right on tune and looks like a very young Britney or Christina mixed with someone else I can't quickly identify. Nice but that doesn't mean it's interesting enough to win.



Hungary

Theirs is a strong song - quite a protest too but, without the smart video, I doubt if it will get far. It may not even make it past the semis but I included it as there has been a lot of talk about it and the guy is very popular.



Iceland

This is a nice track, two people, which is often a good combination these days, and it seems to have come from the same stable as Denmark's 2010 brilliant number. The girl sings and plays a violin and the boy's bearable too, something which might have cost Azerbaijan a win last year as he just made us all laugh but luckily there weren't any other real contenders at the end of the day. There's a massive pause near the end which will really confuse the audience. That trick has been used many times before but seldom in Eurovision so it'll help make this a memorable track and may give Iceland their highest showing in this competition. I think it is a contender.



Ireland

Well, this has to be the best song but... can JEdward sing it live? The official video shows their badly synchronised efforts from the performance when their song was selected but, thank goodness, the soundtrack is the good studio version. Now, if they can pull off a good mime, stay fairly still and no one notices they'll win. In other words, they may well not win. Your guess is as good as mine.



Moldova

Great trumpet, rhythm, a jazzy, modern, fun feel to this. It's a bit wacky but I reckon it could have a lot of appeal. The guy singing is good and should come across well on tv and the girls are stunning. It's cool and unpretentious which I admire from this little state that has tried hard over the years. Remember the upside-down flower pots last year? At one point they were Top 3!





Romania

I have just written about this in my last post. A good number and nice video. Could do well.


Russia

If you haven't already heard, Putin has persuaded some old ladies from some distant village to perform. They look pretty sad, despite the grins, and he really is taking the p*** out of Europe with this entry. His nation has tried very hard to win in previous years with some very impressive entries but this is plain ridiculous and I won't even give it another airing here. If you want to watch five or six old women in dresses made of red carpet singing, unbelievably, in English about having a party then go and find it yourself. Putin's boys will ensure that it gets through the semis, though. If it doesn't then there'll be hell to pay.






Of course, Elena is the reason the Romanian entry by a group called Mandinga is climbing the popularity charts. She sings well too. This is one of those tracks that looks good on a video where she's changing her clothes and the scene every line for no apparent reason and the whole thing makes you feel fairly content with the world and maybe even want to visit Romania one day soon. On stage, though, with a fixed stage, one set of clothes and no beach or sunshine and it may not quite have the same appeal. Cheery stuff, though. The type that often lands up in the Top 10 but this is not a winning contender.

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