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Music

10 countries qualify for Eurovision final

In the downbeat to this year's Eurovision Song Contest in Stockholm, the first 18 candidates presented their songs. Most of the popular favorites will go on to the final round on Saturday.

"He could go straight to Las Vegas," was the wry remark by German Eurovision TV host Peter Urban, referring to Sergey Lazarev from Russia.

One of the country's major pop stars had an unremarkable Swedish-composed song ("You Are the Only One") backed up by breathtaking video effects that had him seemingly climbing up a staircase made of blocks of light and suspended in the air over the stage in Stockholm's Globe Arena. He is now considered a major contender at the final on Saturday.

Along with Russia, fellow contenders Hungary, Croatia, the Netherlands, Armenia, the Czech Republic, Austria, Cyprus, Azerbaijan and Malta qualified through TV voting in member countries to proceed to the ESC final.

Besides some remarkable stage effects, the show had much same-sounding Eurovision-style fare. A clear standout among the entries was ZOË from Austria, whose beguiling smile and catchy French-language chanson "Loin d'ici" proved irresistible.

Cyprus sent the rock band Minus One into the fray and passed the hurdle, as did Freddie from Hungary: a big, brown-eyed jeans model with a straight-beat song: "Pioneer."

The Netherlands dispatched an acoustic country music act to Sweden. Douwe Bob's song "Slow Down" has a message: take it a bit slower in today's fast-paced world. The point is underscored in the middle of the performance by 10 very long seconds of silence.

Azerbaijan, a predictable ESC favorite, lived up to its reputation with dark-haired Samra singing an energy-laden ditty called "Miracle" in front of spectacular videos. That country's qualification for the final came as no surprise, but the Czech Republic's did. Gabriela Guncikova sang "I Stand," a conventional Eurovision-style piece that audiences don't seem to get enough of. Another minor sensation was Malta's qualification. The tiny country opted for a pop-dance number titled "Walk on Water" and sung by Ira Losco.

Croatia's Nina Kraljic rehearses the song ”Lighthouse. Photo: Reuters/TT News Agency/M. Suslin

Nina Kraljic with her unusual - uh - dress

Nina Kraljic from Croatia was put in a monstrously wide contraption that looked like an inflated dress and would honor Lady Gaga. Viewers will have another chance to enjoy her attire - and her song "Lighthouse" - at the final.

Iveta Mukuchyan sang "Love Wave" for Armenia in the customary Eurovision pop ballad sound, complete with flowing hair, very short dress and a strong voice. Viewers were apparently pleased.

Many fans were surely disappointed by Greece having fallen through the cracks. Their mix of ethnic folk, rap, a soaring refrain and an upbeat message in times of crisis seemed calculated to please everyone, but apparently it wasn't enough. Estonia's superstar Jüri Pootsmann - blonde, cool and having recently signed a contract with Universal Records - fell by the wayside as well.

DW's correspondents will be in Stockholm to report on location from the second semifinal on Thursday and the final on Saturday.

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