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Eurovision: Semi-final 1 guide including performers, running order and predictions

Check out Media Mole's complete guide to the first semi-final of the 2021 Eurovision Song Contest.

Eurovision is back! After the 2020 edition was cancelled due to a certain Miss Rona, organisers have pulled out all of the stops to ensure that the show can go ahead this year, direct from the Ahoy Arena in Rotterdam.

The live action begins tonight with the first of the semi-finals and here, Media Mole previews what to expect.

Goedenavond Rotterdam!

Duncan Laurence celebrates winning the Eurovision Song Contest on May 19, 2019© Reuters

We find ourselves in the Netherlands this year, of course, after Duncan Laurence triumphed in Israel two years ago - in the process earning his country their fifth Eurovision win and their first since 1975. His winning track, 'Arcade', has since gone on to become somewhat of a global phenomenon, thanks in part to its viral appeal on TikTok over the last year, which led to him performing the song on some of the biggest TV shows in the US.

Rotterdam - the second largest city in the Netherlands - was due to host the 2020 contest but after it was cancelled, organisers decided to give the city a second attempt in 2021.

The Ahoy Arena can normally house more than 15,000 people but due to coronavirus restrictions only 3,000 fans will be attending each of the shows over the next few nights. Eurovision is being used a test event by the Dutch government and the good news for the lucky few in the arena is that they are not required to observe social distancing or wear masks as everyone in attendance will have had to test negative for COVID before being let in.

The format

The stage at the Rotterdam Ahoy, host venue for Eurovision 2021© EBU

Six countries are already guaranteed places in Saturday's grand final - host nation the Netherlands, plus the so-called 'Big Five' countries. Italy, Germany, France, the UK and Spain get free passes to the final every year as the national broadcasters in those countries contribute the vast majority of the funding for the contest.

The rest of the countries taking part have to first earn qualification for the final through one of the two semi-finals. Sixteen countries will compete tonight, with the other 17 taking their chance on Thursday night. Ten places are up for grabs in each semi, meaning that the grand final will have 26 participants in total.

Voting in the semi-finals is comprised - just like the final - of 50% jury votes and 50% viewer votes. The various international juries actually cast their votes after a special run-through of the semi-final last night, and after the viewers have had their say, the number-crunching will be done and the top 10 will be revealed.

The semi-final is nowhere near protracted as the final, however, and rather than tallying up the votes from each country live, all of the calculations will be done off-screen and the results will be revealed in the space of a few minutes at the end of the show.

The hosts

Eurovision hosts 2021© EBU

Our four hosts for the semi-finals and finals are, from left to right: Jan Smit, a singer who fills the Graham Norton role for Dutch audiences; Edsilia Rombley, who represented the Netherlands at Eurovision in 1998 and 2007; Nikkie, known internationally for her 'NikkieTutorials' makeup videos online; and Chantal Janzen, an actress and singer who originated the role of Glinda in the Dutch version of Wicked.

The foursome will be hosting the shows primarily in English, although expect Janzen to show off her French (to much applause) on several occasions.

The running order


Artist: The Roop
Song: 'Discoteque'

Our verdict: Sounds like a bizarre cross between Alcazar and Muse, with even more bizarre dance moves and garish yellow costuming. It's undeniably catchy though and a favourite among the fans.

Bookmaker odds: 40/1


Artist: Ana Soklic
Song: 'Amen'

Our verdict: Poor Ana. This is actually a decent song - think an X Factor winner's track, as well as the staging of an X Factor-winning performance. Ana really belts it out impressively, but it's likely to get lost on the night.

Bookmaker odds: 300/1


Artist: Manizha
Song: 'Russian Woman'

Our verdict: All over the place. The performance starts with Manizha inside a motorised Russian doll outfit that is moved around stage like a remote control toy car, before she emerges in a jumpsuit and starts rapping. The second half of the song - an anthemic chant - is where it comes into its own, though.

Bookmaker odds: 50/1


Artist: Tusse
Song: 'Voices'

Our verdict: Melodifestivalen winner Tusse was one of the early favourites with this anthem of change but has slipped down the rankings in recent weeks, such is the level of competition this year. We challenge you not to feel empowered - from, erm, the comfort of your sofa - while watching this, though.

Bookmaker odds: 66/1


Artist: Montaigne
Song: 'Technicolour'

Our verdict: Due to coronavirus travel concerns, Montaigne is the only contestant not actually in Rotterdam this year and has submitted a pre-recorded performance for consideration. It doesn't quite work when stacked up against the other arena-based performances, however, which is a shame because this track is an absolute Marina-esque BOP.

Bookmaker odds: 250/1


Artist: Vasil
Song: 'Here I Stand'

Our verdict: Oi, Vasil, Andrew Lloyd-Webber called and he wants his everything back. This is a big emotional ballad that could have been ripped straight from the big finale of a West End musical and as the name suggests, Vasil does indeed just stand there and sing it. It must be said he does so beautifully, though, and his performance even includes a Doctor Who regeneration.

Bookmaker odds: 500/1


Artist: Lesley Roy
Song: 'Maps'

Our verdict: The visual aspect of the performance is actually quite impressive - we won't spoil it, but look out for a reveal of the trickery halfway through - and while the song is decent, Lesley tries but feels a little bit overwhelmed by it all.

Bookmaker odds: 200/1


Artist: Elena Tsagrinou
Song: 'El Diablo'

Our verdict: To avoid you spending the whole performance thinking "what does this song remind me of?" we'll just tell you - it's Gaga's 'Bad Romance'. Once you get past that, sit back and enjoy one of this year's faves - it's catchy af and the choreography is knockout.

Bookmaker odds: 10/1


Artist: TIX
Song: 'Fallen Angel'

Our verdict: It's Curly Watts in a bandana. 'Fallen Angel' is every '90s boyband ballad mashed into one, complete with very literal staging. It's sweet, it's memorable, and has been quietly rising up this year's rankings over the last week.

Bookmaker odds: 100/1


Artist: Albina
Song: 'Tick-Tock'

Our verdict: Standard dance-pop fare with a not-in-the-slightest-bit-cynical choice of title. It's good, but it's probably going to get lost in the lineup.

Bookmaker odds: 100/1


Artist: Hooverphonic
Song: 'The Wrong Place'

Our verdict: Belgium bring the laid-back country vibes with a 'stand and sing' number from a Lulu lookalike. A solid favourite among the Eurovision fans, although we can't help but cringe every time Lulu sings about her "Johnny Cash T-shirt".

Bookmaker odds: 250/1


Artist: Eden Alene
Song: 'Set Me Free'

Our verdict: Another bouncy pop number - Israel never disappoint in that regard - delivered with polished professionalism by young singer Eden Alene. The best bit comes right at the end, though, when she whips out some pipes that would give Mariah a run for her money. (Seriously)

Bookmaker odds: 250/1


Artist: Roxen
Song: 'Amnesia'

Our verdict: Poor Roxen looks like she's been dragged out of bed and forced out onto the Eurovision stage against her will for this. Sure, it's part of the 'art' of the performance but even given that it just falls flat. She also had a bit of a nightmare in Monday night's jury show so will likely need a lot of viewer votes to get through.

Bookmaker odds: 125/1


Artist: Efendi
Song: 'Mata Hari'

Our verdict: The chances of you not singing the words 'Mata Hari' at some point during this performance are slim to none. Another very professional showing from Azerbaijan - a catchy song, effective staging and strong choreo. Likely to be a bigger contender among the viewers than with the juries.

Bookmaker odds: 250/1


Artist: Go_A
Song: 'Shum'

Our verdict: Think an electro-pop version of Zorba's Dance. This is frenetic, it's bombastic, it's probably a 'what the hell is this?' moment for most viewers. But the hardcore Eurovision fans? They absolutely love it.

Bookmaker odds: 22/1


Artist: Destiny
Song: 'Je Me Casse'

Our verdict: This body empowerment anthem was quite rightly the favourite for much of the buildup to Eurovision. Destiny turns out an absolute diva performance here with on-point vocals and dazzling staging. If you put money on one act to go through tonight, go for this one. Less certain though is Destiny's hair - she's sported a different hairstyle for every rehearsal so far. Fingers crossed for a giant mullet tonight!

Bookmaker odds: 5/1

Other performances

Maneskin for Italy at Eurovision 2021

Duncan Laurence kicks off the show with a brief performance (and not of the song we want to hear, sadly - you'll need to wait until Saturday for that).

The interval act of the first semi-final comes from singer Davina Michelle and actress Thekla Reuten and is a genuinely impressive homage to the Netherlands' integral relationship with water (a quarter of the country is below sea level, don't you know).

We'll also get a sneak peek at three of the acts already through to the final: for hosts the Netherlands, Jeangu Macrooy with Lion King-musical-esque 'Birth of a New Age'; for Italy, rockers Maneskin with the new favourite 'Zitti e buoni; and for Germany, Jendrik with possibly the most annoying song ever heard at Eurovision, 'I Don't Feel Hate'.

Our predictions

Absolutely going through: Ukraine, Malta, Cyprus

Probably going through: Lithuania, Russia, Sweden, Norway, Azerbaijan

Could go either way: North Macedonia, Ireland, Croatia, Belgium, Israel

Sorry hun: Slovenia, Romania, Australia

The first semi-final airs live tonight on BBC Four in the UK from 8pm. Check back on Thursday for our predictions for semi-final number two!ID:448033:1false2false3false:QQ:: from db desktop :LenBod:collect16972:

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