United by Music: A Eurovision 2023 Preview
March 16, 2023 12:26 PM   Subscribe

The most musical time of the year is nearly upon us. That’s right, it’s almost time for Eurovision! The 2022 version of the Contest was won by Kalush Orchestra for Ukraine with the song “Stefania”. Due to the ongoing conflict in Ukraine, the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) will officially host the 67th edition of the Contest in Liverpool, United Kingdom. Thirty-seven countries will be competing in this years’ Eurovision, participating in two semifinals on May 9th and 11th, with the Grand Final scheduled for May 13.

Some basic background on Eurovision, for those unfamiliar with the Contest: The European Broadcasting Union (EBU) organizes an annual international song competition, featuring participants representing primarily European countries. (But what about Australia, you say? Let’s just say that the primarily European part refers to countries that are primarily culturally European and leave it at that.)

Eurovision 2023 is already off to an unusual start. Traditionally, the winner of the previous Contest hosts the next one, and the Public Broadcasting Company of Ukraine (UA: PBC) really wanted to have it in Ukraine. However, the security risks proved to be too much, and the second-place nation, the United Kingdom has agreed to host. The UK is also no stranger to stepping in to host when other countries are unable to. They’ve hosted Eurovision more than any other participating nation – the 2023 edition will be their ninth. This will be the fifth time they’ve agreed to host on another country’s behalf. (They’ve won the Contest five times, but one of those victories was in 1969, which had four winners.)

Thirty-seven countries will participate in Eurovision 2023, the fewest amount since 2014. As has been the case since 2008, there will be two semi-finals and one Grand Final. Fifteen countries will participate in Semi-Final 1, and sixteen will be in Semi-Final 2. The top ten from each semi-final, along with the Big Five countries (France, Italy, UK, Spain, Germany) responsible for funding most of the Contest, and last years’ winner (Ukraine) will then go on to the Grand Final.

A massive vote-rigging scandal last year has led to a few rule changes for 2023. The biggest one? No juries will be submitting votes for the semi-finals – it’s televote only! Additionally, nations that are not participating in the Contest will be able to officially vote for the very first time. The “Rest of the World” will award one set of points in both semis and the final, essentially being treated as one extra vote-giving nation.

Highlights include two returning entrants from the 2012 Edition – Moldova’s Pasha Parfeni and Loreen. She won the 2012 contest with a song called Euphoria that absolutely no Eurovision fan has ever heard of and wouldn’t ever consider groundbreaking (/sarcasm). Lithuania’s Monika Linkytė placed 18th in 2015 as part of a duo. Marco Mengoni from Italy finished seventh in 2013.

From the Class of 2023, Austria wants to you know about streaming royalties for artists, Finland just wants to get drunk on pina coladas and dance, and Australia's act has been trying to participate since 2015. Poland wins the most controversial national final award by a landslide, and Portugal’s artist forgot she submitted a song for the national selection.

Anyway, enough backstory! Let’s get to the music already. Without further ado, here are the artists and songs that make up the 2023 edition of the Eurovision Song Contest!

Semi-Final One – Tuesday, May 9:
Croatia: Let 3 - "Mama ŠČ!"
Ireland: Wild Youth - "We Are One"
Latvia: Sudden Lights - "Aijā"
Malta: The Busker - "Dance (Our Own Party)"
Norway: Alessandra - "Queen of Kings"
Portugal: Mimicat - "Ai coração"
Serbia: Luke Black - "Samo mi se spava" (Само ми се спава)
Azerbaijan: TuralTuranX - "Tell Me More"
Czechia: Vesna - "My Sister's Crown"
Finland: Käärijä - "Cha Cha Cha"
Israel: Noa Kirel - "Unicorn"
Moldova: Pasha Parfeni - "Soarele și luna"
Netherlands: Mia Nicolai and Dion Cooper - "Burning Daylight"
Sweden: Loreen - "Tattoo"
Switzerland: Remo Forrer - "Watergun"

Semi-Final Two – Thursday, May 11:
Armenia: Brunette - "Future Lover"
Belgium: Gustaph - "Because of You"
Cyprus: Andrew Lambrou - "Break a Broken Heart"
Denmark: Reiley - "Breaking My Heart"
Estonia: Alika - "Bridges"
Greece: Victor Vernicos - "What They Say"
Iceland: Diljá - "Power"
Romania: Theodor Andrei - "D.G.T. (Off and On)"
Albania: Albina & Familja Kelmendi - "Duje"
Australia: Voyager - "Promise"
Austria: Teya and Salena - "Who the Hell Is Edgar?"
Georgia: Iru - "Echo"
Lithuania: Monika Linkytė - "Stay"
Poland: Blanka - "Solo"
San Marino: Piqued Jacks - "Like an Animal"
Slovenia: Joker Out - "Carpe Diem"

The Big Five and Ukraine:
France: La Zarra - "Évidemment"
Germany: Lord of the Lost - "Blood & Glitter"
Italy: Marco Mengoni - "Due vite"
Spain: Blanca Paloma - "Eaea"
Ukraine: Tvorchi - "Heart of Steel"
United Kingdom: Mae Muller - "I Wrote a Song"
posted by PearlRose (26 comments total) 24 users marked this as a favorite
Gonna be wild when Ukraine wins two years in a row
posted by Going To Maine at 12:29 PM on March 16 [1 favorite]

Excited for Moldova this year, but very excited that Austria is flying the freak flag this year.

I know that getting Russia booted from Eurovision is the least of Putin's war crimes, but we are being cheated of an absoluely unhinged Little Big performance this year, and a visit from Edgar is good consolation.
posted by ivan ivanych samovar at 12:58 PM on March 16 [2 favorites]

Austria has my vote. The literary geek in me is so very happy. Winking absurdism is truly the best of the human condition.
posted by tllaya at 1:07 PM on March 16 [3 favorites]

Moldova's entry is disappointing after last year's (one of my favourite EVAR), but at least this time the song is not in English. I can take my cheesy pop in other languages better, and this one is all fakey-new-agey, which is good. Not Folk-on-a-Train-good, of course.

I felt for Ukraine in 2022, but Moldova should have won.
posted by jb at 1:10 PM on March 16 [2 favorites]

Great post. Thank you.

Marco Mengoni is pretty good Italian pop music, but his song is maybe not the strongest Eurovision entry. Cenere or Supereroi from this year's Sanremo would probably have made a better contender. Each finished just behind Mengoni, who was the favourite from even before the start.
posted by fruitslinger at 1:14 PM on March 16

Grading on a curve within Pasha Parfeni's career alone, this is the best Eurovision entry he's ever been involved with. Needs more saxophone, though.
posted by ivan ivanych samovar at 1:27 PM on March 16 [1 favorite]

I greatly enjoyed this twitter thread of highlights from the 2023 national finals
posted by sarahdal at 1:35 PM on March 16 [1 favorite]

Random observations from listening to all 37 songs way too many times during the creation of this preview post:
  • Malta's ode to introversion has the obligatory saxophone! (Is saxophone the new violin for Eurovision contestants? Sources say it's too soon to tell, but initial results seem promising.)
  • The Israel entry feels like snippets from three different songs. It and the UK entry were both written for the Eurovision Stage, so the staging is going to make or break them.
  • Čiūto tūto from Lithuania's entry is officially a meaningless phrase, but it's used heavily in Sutartinės, a form of polyphonic music that is extremely Lithuanian. (It also lives rent-free in my head right now.)
  • I like Moldova's entry purely because it saved me from having to listen to Yummy Mommy all season. (I love SunStroke Project, but that was not good at all.)
posted by PearlRose at 1:40 PM on March 16 [2 favorites]

I like Moldova's entry purely because it saved me from having to listen to Yummy Mommy all season. (I love SunStroke Project, but that was not good at all.)

Weird - I have never heard of SunStroke project before, but I quite like this song. Maybe I just have terrible taste.
posted by jb at 1:51 PM on March 16

SunStroke Project, most famous for Epic Sax Guy, competed in 2010 and 2017, when they finished third. (FUN FACT: Pasha Parfeny, Moldova's entrant in 2012 and 2023 was briefly a member of the band!)

I like the band, and look forward to seeing them represent Moldova again very soon. I just didn't care for their most recent song at all, but that's just me. No one's taste is inherently terrible. There's something for everyone, which is a big part of what makes Eurovision so great.
posted by PearlRose at 2:09 PM on March 16

I want Austria to win, though 2023 feels like the year Eurovision will go to a Scandinavian country. Of which Sweden look to be strongest (though not completely writing off Norway).

Ukraine won't win two-in-a-row.
posted by Wordshore at 2:54 PM on March 16 [2 favorites]

Other than the German & Austrian entries, these all seem kind of ... staid? I want bigger and weirder, Eurovision! There are always a lot of generic and/or earnest songs every year and I did like a lot of these, but I just wanted some more spectacle. Maybe the show itself will deliver.
posted by edencosmic at 3:03 PM on March 16

It feels sacrilegious to say, but I don’t like Loreen’s song. Euphoria was a perfect match of material and performer, and while Loreen does her best, it’s just not all that.

I like Finland’s entry this year, because it’s in the great Finnish tradition of sending some random thing Finns like, and damn the torpedoes.

Iceland sent a fine song, which grows with every listen, but it probably won’t stand out from the crowd. We could’ve sent a trio of aging rockabillies, which would’ve stood out, at least.
posted by Kattullus at 4:26 PM on March 16 [1 favorite]

For anyone else who was a big fan of last year's entry from Norway by Subwoolfer, Give That Wolf a Banana, may I recommend the excellent Yuletide holiday fanfiction exchange story alto_clef_cryptid wrote for it, which even includes remixes of the song! The chill lo-fi beats to eat grandma to version is especially excellent.
posted by yasaman at 4:42 PM on March 16 [5 favorites]

Thanks for this great post! I like Portugal and Latvia so far!
posted by daisystomper at 5:56 PM on March 16

Switzerland has an anti war song that honestly made me tear up.
posted by Chrysopoeia at 2:26 AM on March 17 [1 favorite]

Fantastic post, thanks PearlRose! Another vote for Austria, that is brilliant.

I've been following Melodifestivalen here in Sweden (for the first time since moving here) and was kind of pulling for Nordman or Smash Into Pieces. Tattoo is okay (and Loreen is quite good), just not my style of music I guess.

I like Finland’s entry this year, because it’s in the great Finnish tradition of sending some random thing Finns like, and damn the torpedoes.

posted by photo guy at 2:57 AM on March 17 [2 favorites]

I'm still annoyed that Jann lost the Polish prelims in a very hinky situation - he won the audience votes in a landslide, but the public television jurors carefully ranked him just middle-of-the-pack enough that the very queer-looking fiery song got second place. Guy's a classically trained counter-tenor and the song had good final potential. Blanka will as usual come last in her semifinal, and maybe once we kick the current anti-LGBTQ right-wingers out of government and public television we can finally send someone properly kinky in the way that historically actually gets us votes.
posted by I claim sanctuary at 4:10 AM on March 17 [2 favorites]

I take it from our entry that the UK doesn't want to host again in 2024.
posted by plonkee at 6:59 AM on March 17

I am actually pleasantly surprised by the UK entry, I think it's a reasonable effort again. It doesn't feel like it's going to sink to the bottom with 0 points like some have - although I have no idea how well it's going to come across live as we don't get the benefit of live national finals these days.

Of course those were very painful in the years where none of the entries were good enough to go.

But I suspect actually winning and thus having to host it again next year isn't something anticipated with relish at the BBC.
posted by mathw at 8:46 AM on March 17

I like the UK entry! But also, what does it matter, it's UK, they're not allowed to win for....Eurovision reasons.

I LOVE the "Who The Hell is Edgar?" song so much. That would get my vote. Also amused by "Cha Cha Cha" showing boxing but it's really about drinking pina coladas in the lyrics/subtitles. Also like "Dance (Our Own Party)" and "Unicorn"
posted by jenfullmoon at 9:46 AM on March 17 [1 favorite]

Ok, I haven't heard them all yet, but "Who the Hell is Edgar?" feels like Los Espookys bonus content, and for that reason, will be hard to displace from my top ranking.

I do also like Croatia's anti-war song and think it's a good choice for the opener.
posted by the primroses were over at 11:59 AM on March 17

I'm sort of loving Georgia and Norway.

Sweden and Iceland both have solo women singing what seem like breakup songs. Both strong voices who can also move & dance (the days of the stand-and-deliver power ballad in a swooshy gown seem to be over). Sweden brings the ANGST and DRAMA while Iceland finds reasons to be cheerful. The solution is clearly for them to date each other.

I find Austria catchy but insufficiently goth for a song about being possessed by Edgar Allen Poe, though the choral interludes are nice.

My heart is also being grudgingly won by Slovenia, though I can't tell whether it's genuinely the song or just because the video is so charming. Good voices though, indisputably.
posted by Pallas Athena at 2:54 PM on March 21 [1 favorite]

Also, I found this YouTube comment on Czechia's song (which is absolute WTF but in a very authentically Czech way):
In an interview, Patricie Fuxova, a member of the „Vesna” group, says:

„Our song „My sister's crown” is about all people who experience some kind of unfreedom, like oppression from society, trends, technology, and it's such a symbol for these people to put on a crown and feel strong enough.

The song combines four languages. As the author, I wanted the Czech language in the song, because I think that it makes sense to preserve the Czech language in a world competition and to have enough self-confidence to stand up in a foreign context.

But of course we will also find English there to connect the individual nations. And there is also Ukrainian, because this year's Eurovision is dedicated as a tribute to Ukraine. And there's also Bulgarian, because one of our member is Bulgarian, so we wanted to include this language, and pay tribute to other Slavic nations as well.”
posted by Pallas Athena at 2:55 PM on March 21 [1 favorite]

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