• Dami Im second rehearsal at Stockholm’s Globe Arena (Photo by Andres Putting for EBU) (EBU)Source: EBU
Meet the contestants performing in the 2016 Eurovision Semi Final 2. Tune in to watch LIVE at 5am Friday 13th May and 7:30pm Saturday 14th May on SBS Australia.
By
Chris Zeiher

9 May 2016 - 11:25 PM  UPDATED 12 May 2016 - 10:53 AM

1. Latvia: Justs - 'Heartbeat' 

There’s plenty of buzz around the Latvian entry this year and with just cause. Scribed and composed byAminata, who took Latvia to a stunning top 6 finish in 2015, “Heartbeat” is the kind of sparse contemporary pop that Eurovision audiences and voters have embraced in recent contests.

Latvia is also adding to the quota of seriously good looking young male soloists who’ll be performing in Sweden. 21 year old Justs will have a few heartbeats racing and, given a late run in the Grand Final, Latvia could again be troubling the top of the scoreboard.  Keep your eyes on Latvia Australia even if it’s just for Justs.

2. Poland: Michał Szpak - 'Color of Your Life'

A key theme running through the 2016 contest is the “surprise” winner that has emerged from many of the various National televised selections. Michael Szpak caused a mighty upset at the Polish national final when he triumphed over the much fancied Margaret’s cooler-than-cool “Cool Me Down” to take his “Colour of Your Life” to Stockholm.

Szpak is a serious contender for 'Best Hair of Eurovision 2016' and his soft-rock ballad is an earnest effort that actually is, to its determent, a bit too black and white.  

Poland have produced some much talked about entries over the past couple of years (milkmaids anyone?) but this paint-by-numbers effort may bring an end to their recent success. The Poles should have stuck with Margaret.

3. Switzerland: Rykka - 'The Last of Our Kind' 

Ex-pat Canadian Christina Maria (aka Rykka) will attempt to qualify her adopted Switzerland with a contemporary pop ballad concerning love at the end of the world. Described as a mega-ballad this is a big song and is comparable to Dami's “The Sound of Silence”.

Rykka channels a bit of bombshell with her glam look and sports a set of eyebrows that will give some of the lads a run for their money in the “best brow” stakes.  Current, dramatic and accessible “The Last of Our Kind” may surprise some of the more fancied contenders in this Semi Final.  Dami: don’t take your eyes off the eyebrows.

4. Israel: Hovi Star - 'Made of Stars'

To its detriment the 2015 contest was littered with ballads and fortunately 2016 sees very few entries of the same ilk. This plays to Israeli Hovi Star’s advantage with this quieter entry really standing out from the pack.  

“Made of Stars” is a contemporary ballad both beautiful and haunting; a piano-heavy alternative to last year’s hedonistic “Golden Boy” which will light up the Stockholm’s Globen Arena with mobile phone torches. Hovi Star has a significant profile in Israel and this contest will do well to raise his profile and showcase his stunning voice to a wider international audience.  

A worthy Grand Finalist should he find his way out of the stars and one which could give our Ms Im a serious run for her money.

5. Belarus: IVAN - Eurovision 2016

Beware the gigantic ginger-haired Belarussian’s baying at the moon. Hirsute Alexander Ivanov will be representing the Eastern European nation of Belarus with his guitar-driven “Help You Fly”.  This semi-soft rock number, complete with wolf bays, is a surprise grower and Ivanov or IVAN is a mesmerising presence on stage. 

And if rumours are to be believed then this young man may just be performing his number in the buff

IVAN better strategically place those tresses to get through the European censors; a mane that beats outPoland’s Michal Szpak for best hair in Semi Final 2 but only by a follicle.       

6. Serbia: ZAA Sanja Vučić - 'Goodbye (Shelter)'

An ethno-infused and dramatic anthem delivered by a powerhouse chanteuse sets this entry apart from most of the others in Semi Final 2.

Serbia’s Sanja Vučić ZAA oozes stage presence and her confident delivery of “Goodbye (Shelter)” should see her safely through to the Grand Final but only by a stylish feather.

The downfall of the song is that it’s a bit “heard it all before” so Sanja will need to sing her heart out on stage to guarantee that glittery ticket to the final.  

7.  Ireland: Nicky Byrne - 'Sunlight'

Former Westlife boyband member and Leeds United Goal Keeper Nicky Byrne was, somewhat surprisingly, internally selected by Irish broadcaster RTE in a break from its traditional public contest to choose the Irish participant.  

This Eurovision powerhouse has been scratching its head of late and, in an effort to rectify some of their recent poor showings, the Irish are hoping a change up in selection tactic will assist them in getting a hand on the glittery prize.  

Byrne’s uplifting pop song “Sunlight” is a step in the right direction but he’s facing a year in where the contest is littered with contemporary male soloists and it may not be the winning goal they’re desperately searching for.    

Byrne’s profile and popularity should see Ireland back in the Grand Final but he may not trouble the scoreboard too much on the big night.   

8. F.Y.R. Macedonia: Kaliopi - 'Dona'

In 2012 the Balkan Diva Kaliopi took FYR Macedonia to the Grand Final for the first time in many years.  2012 was a leap year.  In 2016 Kaliopi will attempt to take her home nation to the Grand Final again after many years in the Semi Final wilderness.  And it’s a leap year too!  

“Dona” is a big rock chick anthem and, again, unlike a lot of entries that are contesting for this year’s top prize. Many would suggest that Kaliopi was coaxed back to the contest by fans urging her to return to the Eurovision stage but she is on record as saying that it was the song “Dona” that convinced her to re-contest.  

Expect this to go big on the night and she may just out-rock Romania’s Ovidiu.   Dami better beware the return of the Macedonian Diva.

In 2012 the Balkan Diva Kaliopi took FYR Macedonia to the Grand Final for the first time in many years.  2012 was a leap year.  In 2016 Kaliopi will attempt to take her home nation to the Grand Final again after many years in the Semi Final wilderness.  And it’s a leap year too!  

“Dona” is a big rock chick anthem and, again, unlike a lot of entries that are contesting for this year’s top prize. Many would suggest that Kaliopi was coaxed back to the contest by fans urging her to return to the Eurovision stage but she is on record as saying that it was the song “Dona” that convinced her to re-contest.  

Expect this to go big on the night and she may just out-rock Romania’s Ovidiu.   Dami better beware the return of the Macedonian Diva.

9. Lithuania: Donny Montell - 'I've Been Waiting for this Night'

Another Eurovision returnee young Donny Montell represented Lithuania back at the 2012 contest with a literal staging of “Love is Blind”.  

Montell promised his home nation that he’d return to the contest and he convincingly won, what is arguably, the longest and most complicated of all the national selections.  

“I’ve Been Waiting For This Night” has a chorus aching to be the theme for a sporty car commercial and is a slightly slicker version of Ireland’s “Sunlight”. So it's a shame to see them both drawn in this second Semi Final as they may inadvertently cancel each other out when it comes to the crucial televote.  

Montell has a knack for great mid-tempo pop and he’ll probably advance Lithuania to another appearance in the Grand Final. Skémés Donny!

10. Australia: Dami Im - 'Sound of Silence'

This is the first year Australia will have to fight its way out of the Semi Finals and qualify to the big night which is daunting for any nation.

Dami Im is a superb choice to take on that formidable task with her Fairytale backstory that Europe will adore; teaching herself English from pop songs of the Spice Girls et al.

Im’s remarkable voice, her promise to be Fashion Forward on stage and the surprisingly good mid-tempo power ballad from the incredible writing team of DNA already has Europe asking “so, what happens if Australia wins?”.

It’s not out of the question that Dami can win this heat and take some significant momentum into the Grand Final where she’ll be facing a big showdown with powerhouses Russia and Sweden.

The Sound of Silence” could prove to be the sound of victory! 

11.  Slovenia: ManuElla - 'Blue and Red'  

Slovenia’s answer to Taylor Swift, ManuElla brings a semi-Country pop offering to the Stockholm stage attempting to qualify her tiny forested nation into the Grand Final for the 3rd year in a row.    

Distinct from any other song in this Semi Final “Blue and Red” is an accessible piece of pop which should appeal across the generations. ManuElla’s bringing several wind machines and daring a risky costume reveal ensuring that the Eurovision drinking game will be kept active during her 3 minutes on stage.    

12. Bulgaria: Poli Genova - Eurovision 2016 

Poli Genova could be described as a minor Eurovision celebrity having already represented Bulgaria once at the 2011 contest.

Recent viewers may also be familiar with her as the enthusiastic host of last year’s Junior version of the contest staged in the Bulgarian capital Sofia which featured Aussie Bella Paige among the competitors.

And Bulgaria has a serious chance to break their near decade drought of Grand Final appearances with one of the strongest songs in Semi Final 2.  

There’s no surprise that there’s a lot of buzz around this Balkan gem as it was the last of the 43 songs to be unveiled. It would be criminal if this entry was left incarcerated in the Semis.  

13. Denmark: Lighthouse X - 'Soldiers of Love'

Staggeringly saccharine, this handsome Danish boy-trio Lighthouse X were the surprise winners of the Danish National Selection (Melodi Grand Prix) beating out Australia’s Anja Nissen to win the ticket to Stockholm.  

The Danish national public loves their middle-of-the-road pop (see last year’s Anti Social Media as case in point) and Lighthouse X’s nice, yet ultimately bland, offering tickled the Danes fancy and they beat out our Anja.

Like a modern-day version of The Herreys (winners of Eurovision for Sweden in 1984) it’s hard not to like them but ultimately Anja would have been a much better selection.   It would not be surprising if Denmark miss the final for the second year on the trot.  

14. Ukraine: Jamala - '1944'

The Ukraine are another returning nation to the 2016 contest and one who will ensure the spotlight will be trained on them due to the subject matter of Jamala’s “1944”.  

Eurovision entries are not permitted to be political, see Georgia’s 2009 effort “We Don’t Wanna Put In” famously disqualified due to its obvious referencing of the Russian leader.  This makes “1944” a controversial inclusion in the contest.  

The song is an ode to Jamala’s great grand-parents and a semi-autobiographical account of the deportation of Crimean Tatar population to Central Asia in 1944.  Unsurprisingly it has drawn the cry of “boycott” from certain quarters.  

“1944” had huge resonance throughout the Ukraine when presented at the Ukrainian National selection and is a fitting song that flirts with controversy and befitting of the Ukraine’s return to the contest. 

15. Norway: Agnete - 'Icebreaker'

Echoing shades of Loreen’s massive Eurovision thumper 'Euphoria', Norwegian songstress Agnete won her internal selection in a landslide with her frozen-themed 'Icebreaker'.  

The bewitching youngster is a bit of a celebrity in her native Norway and can boast that she’s the youngest ever winner of the Norwegian version of Dancing with the Stars (another good vehicle for Dami - take note!).

Agnete’s shipping-themed effort is a strange collision of two musical styles, where both the verse and the chorus sound like they belong to different songs, but like many mash-ups the end result works and is surprisingly catchy.  

Norway ranks among the most formidable of the Scandinavian nations proving to be recent powerhouses in the contest and Agnete will easily break her way in to the final and could be sailing to another Top 10 finish.  

16. Georgia: Nika Kocharov and Young Georgian Lolitaz - 'Midnight Gold' 

An entry that is difficult to classify and one which won’t be too many voters taste. Georgia opted for an internal selection of their artist followed by a public vote on the song they felt would best represent their nation in Stockholm.

What we have with Georgia's Nika Kocharov and Young Georgian Lolitaz is an edgy alternative entry that will polarise the audience.

It has the potential to soar on stage but it also has the potential to sink pretty quickly. The odds are not in its favour either as Georgia is languishing in the bottom 5 of the betting ranks. Unlikely to progress beyond the Semi. 

17. Albania: Eneda Tarifa - 'Fairytale' 

Actress/TV Host/Singer Eneda Tarifa is a household name in Albania and neighbouring Kosovo and her victory at the Festivali I Kenges proved a very popular one across the region.

“Fairytale” was recently translated into English from Albanian and with this change it has lost little sprinkle of its magic. There's always time to flip it back Eneda! And she'd better deliver on the beautiful Albanian musical motifs.

Tarifa’s profile across the Balkans may assist in her gathering enough points to get out of this Semi-Final but that too may prove to be a Fairytale.   

18. Belgium: Laura Tesoro - 'What's the Pressure'

It’s great to see a lot of alternative musical stylings entering the contest this year and Belgium’s flame-haired Laura Tesoro will deliver a disco-licious pop-funk number in Stockholm hoping to replicate her home nations Top 5 finish in 2015.  

It comes as no surprise that Tesoro played Annie on stage but the 19 year old brings as much white-girl funk as she possibly can to this annoyingly upbeat entry. Her vocals are reminiscent of Sweden’s Robin in tone but the moves and beat are far more Bruno Mars - think Uptown Funk. The surprise packet of Semi 2. 

Don’t miss a Dami thing this Eurovision
Sign up for My Week On SBS to keep up-to-date with all things Eurovision.

The Eurovision Song Contest will be broadcast on SBS’s Eurovision Weekend - Friday 13, Saturday 14 and Grand Final Sunday 15 May, 7.30pm on SBS, with LIVE early morning broadcasts from 5am on Wednesday 11, Friday 13 and Sunday 15 May.
For all the Eurovision behind the scenes action in Stockholm make sure to follow SBSAustralia on Snapchat.

Read more from Eurovision
Dami Im’s top artists throughout Eurovision history
We asked Dami to rank her top four artists from throughout the long and eclectic history of Eurovision.
Eurovision: Go behind the scenes with Dami Im as she slays it at rehearsal in Stockholm
Dami Im has been praised by the international press after blowing them all away at the Globe Arena in Stockholm with an incredible second rehearsal of her song 'Sound of Silence'.
A 12-step guide to watching Eurovision at 5am (without wanting to cry)
If you want your vote to count towards the official outcome, you have to stay up. Sleeping is cheating!