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Music

Eurovision: the next hurdle

Leading up to the grand final on Saturday, May 23, the second semi-final on Thursday evening presented 17 entries. After voting from a jury and called-in votes from across Europe, 10 qualified for the final run.

The run-up to "The World's Biggest Entertainment Show" was in itself spectacular, the second semi final in Vienna's "Stadthalle" carefully staged down to the last detail in vintage Eurovision tradition and broadcast worldwide.

The packed arena gave its strongest ovations to the party ditty from Israel: "Golden Boy" by Nadav Guedj. The performance boasts a lead singer wearing gold sneakers, much athletic stage dancing and generous quantities of spewing sparks in an homage to Tel Aviv as a party city. The combination of elements clearly convinced the crowd.

Österreich Wien ESC Halbfinale 2015 Mans Zelmerloew

Dazzling special effects in Sweden's entry

Considerable excitement was also drummed up by Norway's entry, the hair-raisingly grim "A Monster Like Me." With a video production that had been perfect, Morland & Debrah Scarlett's live rendition on stage proved no less effective.

Lithuania's upbeat song "This Time" also qualified. Monika Linkyté & Vaidas Baumila are an extremely attractive couple who deliver a stage kiss and a song that flatters the ear.

Pure music, pure effects

Montenegro dispatched Knez to Vienna, who rendered one of this year's very few non-English language entries: "Aido." It too now takes the next step to the grand finale.

For over-the-top, electrifying musicality, the triumph of the evening arguably was Latvia's. Aminata Savadogo's red dress was duplicated by a stage imbued in red hues, and her cathartic refrain in "Love Injected" counterbalanced by strong bass tones.

Österreich Wien LGBTI Marsch

Outside, a demonstration for the rights of the LGBT community

Also qualifying for the final round: Azerbaijan's Elnur Hüseynov with "Hour of the Wolf." In it, an attractive young man renders a rather straight-sounding ballad while a shirtless, silent sidekick muscleman whirls a young woman around. That apparently tipped the balance for the act.

Cyprus' entry, "One Thing I Should Have Done," stood out for its bare-bones simplicity, Giannis Karagiannis delivering a ballad with a message, completely absent of effects and with austere guitar accompaniment.

In "Here for You," Maraaya, from Slovenia, proved she is a natural singer, her song with momentum, a strong refrain and no artifice.

Poland's Monika Kuszynska delivered "In the Name of Love" from a wheelchair, accompanied on a grand piano. She also qualified for the finale.

Österreich Wien ESC Halbfinale 2015 Polen Monika Kuszynska

Monika Kuszynska from Poland

Finally, Sweden's Mans Zelmerlöw demonstrated strong musicality in "Heroes." Part of the charm of the song doubtless resides in the dazzling special effects, with highly complex light projections suggesting animated characters.

Not making the qualification on Thursday evening's second semifinal were Ireland, San Marino, Malta, Portugal, the Czech Republic, Iceland and Switzerland.

The tension mounts

27 countries will compete altogether in the grand finale, including permanent members Germany, France, Great Britain, Italy and Spain as well as host country Austria and special guest Australia, invited to make a one-off appearance in the competition's 60th anniversary year.

Österreich Wien ESC Halbfinale 2015 Conchita Wurst

Conchita brought home the Wurst for Austria

Last year's European Song Contest Winner, Conchita Wurst (now called Conchita) served as a co-hostess of the show, interviewing contenders in the Green Room. The artist in drag also proved herself an effective conferencier earlier in the day, when fielding questions from journalists at a press conference with spontaneous dry wit.

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