Editorials & Opinion

What would XTRA do: The running order of semi 1

Ever since 2013, the producers of the Eurovision Song Contest have taken matters into their own hands. They decide upon the running order for the semifinals and the finals. Now, we like to have a bit of fun ourselves as well, so what would XTRA do? Miki and Nick sat together to come up with the perfect running order for the semifinals in Lisbon. Today, we bring you the first part: Semifinal 1.

Semi 1: A bloodbath

By now, we all seem to agree that semifinal 1 will be an absolute bloodbath. The entire top five with bookmakers at the moment (Israel, Estonia, Czech Republic, Belgium and Bulgaria) have been drawn into the first half of that semi. It’s a tough task to give them all a reasonable draw. However, as Eurovision producer, you have to make sure you don’t seem to favour one song over the other. So, how do we solve this?

Finding the right opener

When starting the show, you need to open it with a bang. Ever since 2015, the producers have opted to open the first semi with an uptempo song. Looking at the first half, you don’t have many options. You’re limited to Czech Republic, Israel and potentially Azerbaijan. Of those three, Czech Republic would probably make the biggest impact. Therefore, we’ve chosen to let them open the show.

Following the Czechs, we opt for two midtempo efforts with Belarus and Azerbaijan before we go to the classic ballad Iceland deliver. We’ve chosen to put Iceland up as #4, in similar style to Malta last year in semifinal 2.

Break it up

You always need to take into account where the breaks might go during the show. We have a feeling there might be a break after #4. Ideal for Estonia to set up their dress, if you expect the dress Elina Nechayeva wore in Eesti Laul. Estonia need that time, so to put them at #5 makes sense.

After two ballads, you need something uptempo for a change. The best way to highlight the contrast between two top favourites is by putting them next to each other. So, after putting Estonia at #5, we go with Israel at #6.

Sad, but potentially true is the near hopeless case for Lithuania and Albania. To have them as buffer zones to make the favourites stand out is not a bad idea. The contrast with the Lithuanian (beautiful) simplicity is the Bulgarian complicated common framework. Following that with a bit of Albanian rock makes sure Belgium can stand out with their jazzy bond theme in #10.

Girl power

The second half of the first semi is loaded with strong, female voices. Croatia, Cyprus, Finland, Switzerland, Greece and FYR Macedonia all have female vocalists. That means you really need to spread out the men over that bunch. Having Armenia open the second half could potentially seem like an odd choice, but looking at the songs to follow, it might just make sense.

Armenia’s ballad “Qami” is not the most accessible song of the half. You need to follow that up with a song that many people will find easy to listen to. In this bunch, Cyprus sounds like the right pick there. With the break coming up after #13 (as we guess), you’d be fine having another female singer on #13. In this case, we’ve opted for Croatia’s Franka to bring a change after Eleni Foureira brings her “Fuego”.

The break will once again be necessary for Finland to set up all their props for Saara Aalto, so you could make a case for Finland going right after the break, which we expect between #13 and #14. After Saara Aalto’s stage show, you need something to calm Europe down again. Ireland, with Ryan O’Shaughnessy’s ballad, will look good at #15. He would also be a welcome change after three strong women.

Not a lot of groups

Similar to the lack of men, there’s also a severe lack of groups. In the entire show, only three groups appear. You don’t want to stick all groups close together, so after Bulgaria on #8, you need to wait a while before you can put Switzerland or FYR Macedonia on. Switzerland could very well go into #16.

After the Swiss group, you should go back to a female. With both #16 (Switzerland) and #18 (Austria) being (slightly) uptempo, you want a ballad to split them up. Both Alpine countries deliver pop songs with a twist, so an ethnic ballad is a perfect song to split the both. That is why we opted for Greece at #17.

The Symphonix International problem

Symphonix International have got two songs in contention in this semi. Both Bulgaria and Austria deliver songs in the same style. In order to make sure that they do not cancel each other out, you need to separate them. At the same time, Austria’s Cesár Sampson is one of the few men in the show. That means Austria is a perfect fit for #18: Near the end of the show, with a male vocalist and far away from Bulgaria’s Equinox.

With a title like “Lost and Found”, FYR Macedonia build a perfect closer for their show. Their pop entry will keep people’s eyes and ears focussed until the last seconds, as a lot happens during Eye Cue’s song. Many genres feature and perhaps performing last could be a small boost to their chances?

And here it is…

After a lot of consideration and thoughts, we’ve finalised our running order. These nineteen songs aren’t easy to order, so Christer Björkman and his team will have a tough job to do. Below you can see the running order Miki and Nick came up with in full.

  1. Czech Republic: Mikolas Josef – Lie To Me
  2. Belarus: Alekseev – Forever
  3. Azerbaijan: Aisel – X My Heart
  4. Iceland: Ari Ólafsson – Our Choice
  5. Estonia: Elina Nechayeva – La Forza
  6. Israel: Netta – Toy
  7. Lithuania: Ieva Zasimauskaite – When We’re Old
  8. Bulgaria: Equinox – Bones
  9. Albania: Eugent Bushpepa – Mall
  10. Belgium: Sennek – A Matter Of Time
  11. Armenia: Sevak Khanagyan – Qami
  12. Cyprus: Eleni Foureira – Fuego
  13. Croatia: Franka – Crazy
  14. Finland: Saara Aalto – Monsters
  15. Ireland: Ryan O’Shaughnessy – Together
  16. Switzerland: ZiBBZ – Stones
  17. Greece: Yianna Terzi – Oneiro Mou
  18. Austria: Cesár Sampson – Nobody But You
  19. FYR Macedonia: Eye Cue – Lost and Found

Let us know what you think about our running order! What would you change? Make sure to let us know!

Nick van Lith

I'm one of the founding members of ESCXTRA.com. Eleven years after the start, I'm proud to say that I am now the Editor-in-Chief of this wonderful website. When I'm not doing Eurovision stuff, you should be able to find me teaching German to kids... And cheering on everything and everyone Greek, pretty much. Pame Ellada!

Comments on What would XTRA do: The running order of semi 1

  • Stephen Boddington

    Excellent analysis guys! I tried to come up with my own before reading this but didn’t even think about the male/female/group ratio or the fact there will breaks to consider. I also had Greece 17 and Austria 18 but the rest was completely different. I was tempted to put Czech Rep 1st as well but didn’t think they’d like to have one of the favourites so soon (I completely forgot about Sweden last year!) so I think you’re spot on there. Let’s see how close you are to the real thing.

  • Carlos Rubilar

    In your running order i would interchange Belarús with lithuania. Everything else is great.

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