It’s the most wonderful time of the year! The largest music festival on Earth — the Eurovision Song Contest — is nearly here.
This year the contest returns to the United Kingdom for the first time since 1998 on 9, 11 and 13 May. The city of Liverpool is hosting, on behalf of last year’s winners, Ukraine.
Every year since 2015 I’ve shared my gut reactions on this blog for absolutely no reason other than to give me something fun to do. Well, here I am again.
Usually I have some fairly strictly imposed rules: I’m only allowed to listen to each entry once, and I’m allowed a tweet-sized comment on each one.
But what even is a tweet-sized comment any more? Since Space Karen took over the bird site, you can post up to 10,000 characters now. So, much like Dua Lipa, I’ve got new rules.
This year, I’ve listened to the entirety of the official Eurovision album in one go, without looking at which song is which. I’ve then gone back and listened to each song again, before putting finger to keyboard.
As for length of commentary, I am ditching my 280 character limit. It’s all about vibes now. If it’s a crap song, I’ll write a little. If it’s a great song, I’ll write a lot.
So let’s get stuck in…
Duje by Albina and Familja Kelmendi
Don’t know what’s going on
But I want to make it stop
If you want melodramatic female warbling, you’re in luck! But pure Albanian zeitgeist this is not; after a mere 30 seconds, we get vibes of Ruslana’s “Wild Dances”, circa 2004.
It’s an impressive female vocal, but the pacing of the instrumentation is a bit too inconsistent for my tastes.
Future Lover by Brunette
I just wanna make art,
Read books and just find someone,
Who likes me enough to kiss my face
A light piano and many layered vocal define the first 90 seconds of this Armenian entry.
It switches up a bit after that, introducing some marginally heavier instrumentation and some more rapid lyrically gymnastics.
The core hook is unpleasantly droning and screeching.
Promise by Voyager
Have you ever done anything like this before?
2022 was a disaster for Australia. Honestly, I don’t know what happened. But look, I’m on record as a fan of the Australians at Eurovision. They had a strong start when they were first invited to participate, and they produced arguably one of the best not-winners in the contest’s history.
Eurovision is better with the Australian element, and we need our antipodean friends back on form!
This year the Aussies have discovered a new genre for the first time in their contest history: rock. “Promise” is a mix of shiny, 80s glam rock and — honestly slightly alarming and mercifully short lived — heavy metal. Glam rock synths and soaring electric guitars, I can get behind, but I cannot endorse the false stop and frankly alarming descent into vocal fry.
Who the Hell Is Edgar? by Teya and Salena
Give me two years and your dinner will be free
Gas station Champagne is on me
Move over Charlie Brown, you’ve been upstaged.
This is obviously a very daft song, and I am living for it. It’s whacky. It’s dramatic. It’s camp. And yet, it’s still very polished.
I challenge you not to be bopping along to this poetic pop party.
Tell Me More by TuralTuranX
Your call has been forwarded to an automatic voice message system. Please record your message.
Whilst this duo claim to be inspired by the 60s and 70s, all I’m getting is 90s and Brit Pop. The acoustic guitar in the intro gives strong Natalie Imbruglia “Torn” vibes. It kind of goes off the rails after that; spoken word, rock crescendos, false stops. It’s all a bit too shiny and just a bit naff.
Because of You by Gustaph
They’ll never kill this fire
Your love will take me higher
Imagine the scene…
It’s the early 2010s. It’s 1:00AM, or thereabouts. You’re “out out” in some random club you’ve been dragged to in Shoreditch. You can’t even point to Shoreditch on a tube map; but you’re there. There’s a camp as Christmas singer up on the stage. Everyone is into it, but not too into it, because this is Shoreditch, and people play it cool in Shoreditch.
That’s what’s this is like.
It’s a cool, dance-anthem bop.
(For clarity, I don’t have to imagine this scene. I’ve been in this situation, at XOYO. The performers were, I think, Hercules & Love Affair. I didn’t know who they were, because I was not — and still am not — cool enough.)
Mama ŠČ! by Let 3
Mommy kissed the moron
‘Trajna Nina’ armageddon-granny
There’s a lot of strange noises going on in this bizarre track.
Whilst it’s sung in Croatian, I encourage you to go and read the lyrics — because they are even more unhinged.
I’m sure there’s something profound we are collectively supposed to take from this, but honest I’m lost on the link between tractors, alligators, old-age pensioners and armageddon.
Break a Broken Heart by Andrew Lambrou
Oh I miss your kiss, gasoline and a matchstick
Cyprus has been consistently sending scantily-clad women with gay club, slut-dropping beats for the past few years, and it has been wonderful.
For 2023? Something new!
A male vocalist with a mid-tempo, high energy ballad about heartbreak. It’s a big song, a big vocal and a wall of sound in the instrumentation, rising to a powerful crescendo on the crest of a soaring falsetto hook in the chorus.
My Sister’s Crown by Vesna
You can take your hands back!
No one wants more boys dead.
The Czech Republic has ripped a page out of the Ukrainian Eurovision playbook for its 2023 offering, with a song that’s reminiscent of Go_A’s “Shum”, which for some reason was very popular and I never really got it.
A blend of 6 female vocals atop a mechanised and intentionally overproduced instrumentation makes for an intense three minutes.
Breaking My Heart by Reiley
If we could go back to the start
Bet we’d still be falling apart
If Owl City and Carly Rae Jepsen were to collab, I imagine that this would be the result.
It’s got light and bouncy vocals, with a vocoder making a memorable appearance in the chorus. The instrumentation is crisp, with a vibrant and thumping rhythm. It’s pop brilliance.
It’s the first song of the second semi-final, too; so it’s should set a high bar for the rest of the pack to meet!
Bridges by Alika
There is always time
To get back on track
You could be forgiven for mistaking this song for the lament of a project manager at a failing construction project. If you did think that, you would be wrong; and that’s the power of metaphor, my friends!
What is the bridge construction metaphor banging on about? Damned if I know, but Alika seems awfully passionate about it as she belts out this primarily piano-accompanied ballad.
Cha Cha Cha by Käärijä
There’s no tomorrow when I grab a pint tightly like a
Cha cha cha
Käärijä is clearly the kid whose parents allowed him to smash guitars up in their garage to let out his teen angst.
“It’s crazy, it’s party!” says the artist when describing this “rap-electronic-schlager-metal fusion” anthem to the bods at Eurovision. Crazy it certainly is. A party, for me at least, it is not. More of a confused, noisy, crashing mess. Yes, I realise that makes me sound like an old man, but I’m in my 30s now and that’s my vibe.
Questionable stylistic choices aside, I can at least get behind the spirit of the song which – if I were to summarise – appears to be suggesting you get absolutely mullered on pints and forget the horror of the daily life.
Évidemment by La Zarra
I kill myself
To give them life
Is it another very French chanson? The first fifty or so seconds lulls you into that trap, as La Zarra does a riff on “Heads shoulders, knees and toes”. It’s sultry, it’s en francais. It’s exactly what you would expect from this proud nation.
And then… disco, obviously!
I’m generally not a fan of the French chanson style, so throwing a few glitter balls in on top? Well, c’est super!
Echo by Iru
Words getting worthless
(‘Cause) Love is a wordless
TikTok is doing a weird thing to songs; its making them start the wrong. More and more, artists are starting with their key hook; usually the chorus, not the verse.
That’s what this former Junior Eurovision entrant has done here. Meat first, vegetables second.
It’s a forceful start to this mid-tempo entry. The problem with forceful starts is that it doesn’t give you anywhere to go; which is not helpful if your song is pretty flat and your lyrics make literally no sense.
Blood & Glitter by Lord of the Lost
Blood and glitter
Sweet and bitter
We’re so happy we could die
I, for one, am glad that the Germans have taken a long, hard look at themselves and realised that their 2022 Eurovision entry was pitiful, and that they needed to do something drastically different. Different is what we got.
You get 10 seconds of male vocal layered on top of a few quiet piano chords, and then WHAM! High-octane, face-punching, “genre-fluid” rock music, replete with excessive vocal fry. It’s not my style, of course, but I can appreciate it for what it is — a moshing good time.
What They Say by Victor Vernicos
Lost souls make sure no one loses their way
Hurt ones can’t stand seeing others in pain
Victor’s got a voice that reminds me of James Arthur. It’s a rich tone but he’s evidently got a limited range; so all the musical interest in this fairly swift track comes from the instrumentation.
It’s got all the bells and whistles; piano breakdowns, chippy acoustic guitar, clapping, a choir. This is the kitchen sink of male pop ballads.
It’s pleasant, and interesting, but not stunning.
Power by Diljá
I’ll take my flowers while I can
There’s a message of personal empowerment that punches through this track. It starts in a pretty chilled fashion, before turning up the drums and bass to deliver a decently rhythmical pop track.
But let’s be honest, Iceland peaked in the one year that Eurovision got cancelled. This is no “Think About Things”. It’s a song you’ve heard a million times before; you won’t remember it by the end of the show.
We Are One by Wild Youth
You might be a leader, I might be a freak
The Emerald Isle has produced more Eurovision winners than any other nation. They are royalty in these parts. Unfortunately, in recent years they’ve fallen off the wagon, struggling to qualify year after year. This is their latest effort to right their recent wrongs: a male foursome. The Irish love a boy band!
The track is zippy, it’s energetic and it’s a bit U2 crossed with Coldplay. A kind of soft pop rock. The band apparently also have pedigree, supporting major international acts and with number ones under their belt.
I’m not convinced this will be enough to change Ireland’s recent fortunes, though.
Unicorn by Noa Kirel
I got the power of a unicorn
This is a song of mixed musical styles and bonkers metaphor.
After a powerful triple blast of dramatic strings, we are thrown into a pretty predictable and generic pop bop. We never see those heady blasts again, and they are honestly the most interesting part of the song.
Lyrically, Noa spends her time espousing the virtuous characteristics of mythical beasts.
Due vite by Marco Mengoni
I’ll be there to tell you you’re wrong,
You’re wrong and you know it
My God is this dreary.
It’s very stereotypically Italy at Eurovision. An attractive man singing a overly dramatic love song in his native tongue.
And that’s why it’s boring.
I mean, come on, my amici. You gave us Måneskin only two years ago, and now you give us this? For shame.
Aijā by Sudden Lights
Please don’t wake up
It’s been 10 seconds of this song, and I already hate it. It’s soft rock in the blandest possible way.
The wonky vocals are disorienting, almost as if the vocalist is intentionally struggling to hit what are pretty unadventurous melodic highs and lows. To round it out, the ending whimpers away to nothing. Hardly worth the effort!
Stay by Monika Linkytė
Lithuanian magical incantations adorn this desperately sad but beautiful ballad. The choral “čiūto tūto” throughout adds a unique and intriguing punctuation to an already powerful vocal from singer Monika, herself a second time Eurovision entrant.
Given the mystical lyrical references, fingers crossed that we get some extraordinarily earthy and quirky staging.
Dance (Our Own Party) by The Busker
I feel better
In my sweater
According to the bods on the official Eurovision Song Contest website, this song is about social anxiety and leaving a party to go off and join your other friends in a quieter environment. This makes me think that the trio comprising The Busker are just as socially awkward as me. To this, I say buddies, I’m here for you.
Social anxiety, however, is not what I get from this saxophone-laden, sultry, pop number. No, instead, I’m getting the distinct message that chunky-knit jumpers are sexy. Again, I am here for it.
Soarele și luna by Pasha Parfeni
I sang her so many songs
Until she wanted to kiss me
Moldova has been a reliable source of quirk and comedy in recent contests. Friends, I regret to inform you that they’ve abandoned that this year.
Instead, they are leaning in heavy on drums, bass, and some kind of flute.
It’s reminiscent of last year’s Ukrainian winner, but without the cultural resonance of, you know, rocking it when your country is a war zone. No, no big picture message here; dear Pasha is just singing about how horny he is for his wife.
Burning Daylight by Mia Nicolai and Dion Cooper
I don’t find any joy anymore
From the same old cycle
Someone give these two a hug? The lyrics of this mid-tempo ballad are utterly without hope.
For a duet, it doesn’t make much of the possibilities. There’s a lot of singing in tandem, and not much in the way of interesting harmonies.
There is a pretty big crescendo near the end that bursts forth, seemingly out of nowhere, and then evaporates just as rapidly. That’s a shame because despite the desperate lyrics, the track itself is a quite lovely and reminds these ears of The Script.
Queen of Kings by Alessandra
She, queen of the kings, running so fast, beating the wind.
Nothing in this world can stop the spread of her wings
Apparently this song is blowing up on TikTok. I’m too old to keep up with all these fads that the youths are into these days, but to me TikTok seems like YouTube speed-running. Everything is overclocked to the point where quality gets crunched in something shorter and with less room to breathe.
This song is very that; a song that’s the result of a lot of caffeine! Its tempo is blazingly fast, and it hits you like a wall of sound.
As a song, it feels pretty unimpressive. But, its the first performance we’ll see in the first semi-final, and in that position I can imagine it’ll hit you like the first espresso of the morning.
Solo by Blanka
Now was it worth it?
Playin’ me dirty, but now who’s laughing baby?
This is unexpected.
Whilst Spain and Cyprus have abandoned their recent horny phase in Eurovision, it seems Poland have picked up their mantle and run with it.
It’s a bright and teasing slut-drop, popsicle. I for one am hoping for some over-the-top backing dancing from a cast of at least three alarmingly attractive men. Top marks.
Ai coração by Mimicat
The doctor says there’s nothing to be done,
“Lost cause”, I saw him writing!
In this entry, we have something obviously and recognisably from Portugal – sung in Portuguese, and with stereotyped instrumentation. It’s also obviously not Portuguese too. It has a vague chanson vibe to it; reminiscent of the wildly popular French entry, “Voilà”, from 2021.
Mimicat’s performance has a furious and confused power. The instrumentation is wild but controlled. The lyrics are like a fever dream. This is a lot of fun!
D.G.T. (Off and On) by Theodor Andrei
Take a little sip of venom, now
Apparently this is a rock song. It just sounds confused to me.
The opening is interminably dull, with no real redeeming features – either in the instrumentation or the vocals. Around the one-minute mark it starts to wake up and kicks into some bizarre instrumentation and painfully weak vocals. Another minute or so passes, and we’re listening to someone screaming out of tune as the song wraps up.
Absolute car crash.
Like an Animal by Piqued Jacks
Come on baby
Come and find me
I can smell you like an animal
I joke pretty much every year that there might not be any talent left in San Marino. This tiny country with a population no larger than Cardiff seems to churn out terrible music more often than most. It’s the country that churned out this guy. Twice. So yeah, dire.
It’s not always bad though. 2021 was legitimately a banging year, with Senhit being kind enough to let Flo Rida join her on stage as she rode around on staging that was intentionally designed to look like a giant vagina.
This year, we get another good entry. It’s a well-produced rock tune, with driving electric guitar and over-sexualised lyrics. What’s not to love?
Samo mi se spava by Luke Black
I just wanna close my eyes
And just get it over with
There is a lot of pent-up rage and angst that’s spilling out all over these three minutes of techno-pop.
Heavily processed vocals, extreme synthesiser and bass drops, and metaphors of the world burning give me the impression that poor Luke needs therapy, and fast.
Carpe Diem by Joker Out
The first rain will wash away all the fake glitter,
So it stops stealing the magic from the dance floors
The Slovenian people have gifted the people of Europe (and Australia) a “softboi” rock song this year.
“Not another one!”, I hear you cry. It’s true, there’s a lot of rock this year; the legacy of Måneskin continues.
Of all the rock entries though, I think this perhaps the one that will resonate the most. It’s got tight but intriguing instrumentation, and whilst the vocals are pretty bland when compared to “Zitti e bouni”, I have no doubt this will make for a bristling performance. That is, until the end. The climax is, well, an anti-climax.
Eaea by Blanca Paloma
May they bury me in the moon
So that I’ll see you every night
If Ukraine hadn’t been able to enter the contest last year, it’s very likely we’d be somewhere sunny and warm for Eurovision this year; like Madrid or Barcelona. Alas, it was not to be.
Riding high on near success, surely the Spanish will come out fighting fit and ready to bring the house down? Sorry, friends. No J.Lo rejected bops with unfathomably sexy backing dancers are on the horizon this year. Instead, we have a song from a mother to her child about how she’d like her funeral arrangements to play out.
If you believe the adverts on my telebox, people worry about the costs of their funeral, but not Blanca. No, Blanca wants burying on the bloody moon. No expense spared as she overuses her vibrato and warbles through this psychedelic, mid-tempo train wreck.
Tattoo by Loreen
No, I don’t care about the pain
I’ll walk through fire and through rain
Just to get closer to you
I make no secret of the fact that I adore *Loreen’s music. Her 2012 Eurovision winning track, “Euphoria”, is sublime. I want it played at my funeral. Her album, “Heal”, took my appreciation to another level. So you’d expect me to be excited for her return and to love “Tattoo”. For the record, I am and I do.
But this isn’t just sycophancy. I listened to the entire album blind, without looking at which song was playing or which country it was. I got all the way to Sweden before I sat up in my chair and thought, “wow”.
This song slaps.
It’s a return to form, akin to the style of her 2013 album. That means, yes, it follows a similar formula to “Euphoria”, but who cares?! That song is one of the best, if not the best, song in Eurovision history and it was a huge success all around Europe. “Tattoo” is every bit the club banger that “Euphoria” was, and I can’t wait to dance along to it after too many gin and tonics in The Two Brewers.
Watergun by Remo Forrer
I don’t wanna be a soldier, soldier
I don’t wanna have to play with real blood
Switzerland has had a wild ride the past few years. In 2019 they brought extreme sex, with “She got me”. In 2021 we saw Gjon’s Tears belt out a brilliant song whilst dancing like an octopus. Last year, the Swiss fell completely off the wagon with a dreary and miserable ballad about snivelling children.
Inconsistency has been the plat du jour.
So what is in store for 2023? A ballad about pacifism. Which, for Switzerland is probably appropriate. It’s a deep and earthy track, primed for some dramatic but twee staging.
Heart of Steel by Tvorchi
Despite the pain
I continue my fight
For a brief moment, I was convinced that this Ukranian entry was headed in a Phantom of the Opera direction, with those big and brassy opening blasts. Unfortunately, it was not to be. No, our reigning champs have instead given us a heavily orchestrated rap that is lyrically tapping into themes of the nation’s current situation. Poignant and powerful, and musically distinct from pretty much anything else in the contest this year.
I Wrote a Song by Mae Muller
When you said you were leavin’
To work on your mental health
You didn’t mention the cheating
I’m still up in space, man, after last year’s stratospheric performance from Sam Ryder. It proved that we can do well at Eurovision if we can capture the zeitgeist and put some proper effort in.
Can TAP music — the label behind this year’s entry once again — pick out another breakout star to showcase the best of British in Liverpool? I’m hopeful.
Following in the footsteps of Taylor Swift and Myley Cyrus, this break up spits through a vengeful set of lyrics, all hopping across a staccato melody.
It’s good. I don’t like it as much as I liked our previous entry — especially the spoken word breakdown (I have a bias, ok?) — but I can see it hitting home with Gen Z and the TikTok generation. Importantly, it stands out.
It is however in the doomful final slot of the show, possibly sealing its fate to score badly from the outset.
There’s a lot to like in this year’s Eurovision Song Contest entries.
The qualifiers from the semi-finals are more unpredictable than ever. The jury votes will no longer happen following last year’s vote rigging scandals, so it’s all on the public vote.
The first semi-final seems like the weaker of the two to me. I’d expect some weird selections from that crop, and some great songs to get knocked out from the second semi-final.
As for some of my favourites: Sweden has, as usual, brought its A-game. A powerhouse anthem that will shake down the rafters of the M&S Bank Arena in Liverpool. Austria is a bit bonkers, but in the best possible way. Denmark’s entry is very much my vibe. Poland is set to bring the sexy. Lithuania is memorable and enchanting. And, for the second year in a row, I actually have some hope for our own chances, here in the United Kingdom.
Wooden spoons go to Romania, Croatia, and Finland.
But those are just my opinions. The beauty of Eurovision is that we all get an opinion; it’s one of the biggest referenda you can take part in! Go find your Eurovibes, tune in and vote on 9, 11 and 13 May 2023 at 8:00pm on BBC One.