Another year, another post with my immediate reactions to the acts. This year I wasn’t able to watch it live. Instead I’ve watched the live stream video on the official YouTube page and put my comments below as if watching it live.
[edit note: I am uploading this on Saturday so it doesn’t interfer with the poetry posting schedule. I will tidy it up during Sunday and Monday]
Eurovision Song Contest 2023: Saturday 13 May 2023
The Grand Final for this year’s Contest, hosted in Liverpool on behalf of 2022 winners Ukraine, will open with last year’s winners Kalush Orchestra and a powerful performance titled ‘Voices of a New Generation’.The official blurb off the official website at the time
During the Eurovision Flag Parade of all 26 Grand Finalists, viewers will be treated to a unique performance by some iconic past Ukrainian Eurovision contestants. Get ready for a new twist on their Eurovision entries weaved with British classics when GO_A, Jamala, Tina Karol, and Verka Serduchka take to the stage and remind us all why they became Eurovision icons.
For the first interval performance, the United Kingdom’s very own spaceman Sam Ryder will return to the Eurovision stage, before being followed by “The Liverpool Songbook”; a celebration of the Host City’s incredible contribution to the world of pop music.
The BBC have brought together six iconic past Eurovision acts – Italy’s Mahmood, Israel’s Netta, Iceland’s Daði Freyr, Sweden’s Cornelia Jakobs, Duncan Laurence from the Netherlands – plus Liverpool’s very own Sonia, celebrating 30 years since she came second at Eurovision in 1993.
The Finals are set to feature an array of Ukrainian and British stars, plus a galaxy of Eurovision Song Contest legends.
The Official Video of the entire Grand Finale
Ukrainian acts of the past do a medley for the intro. Nice. I remember some of them from the past. The song still stands up with the remix involving British musicians (and Katherine, Princess of Wales, performing on a piano at one point).
The presenters, including the UK’s commentator Graham Norton, come in. The presenter in the yellow dress, Julia Sanina (front woman of the Ukrainian alternative rock band The Hardkiss who I have liked for years), is woof although her hair looks like plastic. Everyone seems to know who Hannah Waddington is but I don’t know her. She has done a lot of acting on the stage so I’ve no doubt heard her name before but it’s one of those relatively standard sounding English names you forget quite quickly if you don’t come across it often enough.
This years theme is ‘united by music’.
We then get images of Ukraine, UK, etc. including last year’s winners Ukraine’s Kalush Orchestra.
Postcards of the entrants
Austria: Teya & Salena – Who The Hell Is Edgar?
Austria: THey have a story that someone didn’t know who Edgar Allan Poe was – thus the subject of the song. They’re favourites apparently. Red, black and white colour scheme which is nice. Dancers have a costume like early 3D animated models. Vinyl jackets, etc. ”Fashion punk”. The song… it’s okay but meh. The banter at the start reminded me of the much loathed British duo Daphne and Celeste with their song ‘U.G.L.Y.’ because they do an impression of spiteful, airheaded, (American) valley girl speak. So it was a bad tone to start the performance off with for me as there is such a fine line between playfully irreverent and rude. Also… you know… I like Edgar Allan Poe’s stories and am shocked anyone doesn’t know him.
Portugal: Mimicat – Ai Coração
Portugal: Nice feather cabaret dress and stylish dancers. Good vibe. Very ‘classic’ but maybe not the spectacle expected at Eurovision. Woof. As there is a shift towards more electro based music as the standard in Eurovision this feels like a call back to a past era. Very enjoyable but, again, spectacle tends to be part of this event whether in staging, visual effects or (mild) shock value.
Apparently the producers wanted a big ballad next according to Graham Norton or Mel Giedroyc (who was also doing some of the British commentary this year it seems)
Switzerland: Remo Forrer – Watergun
Switzerland – dancers with ribbons . Epilepsy hell. His costume is vinyl trousers, and a jacket with gauze arms which doesn’t look great to be honest. The dancers feel like they’re doing a lot for the performance as the song is bland and repetitive. It was a nice ballad but didn’t quite work for me. The line ‘I don’t want to be a soldier’ seems a bit on the nose especially from a Swiss entry considering their one of the EU nations noted for their army.
Poland: Blanka – Solo
Poland – her dress, although nice, doesn’t fit with the design of the dancers’ costumes and the visuals used. It’s pleasant enough a song and performance if a bit downbeat. She looks like she has excessive make up on. The dancers look slightly uncoordinated. The song feels a bit repetitive and bland. The ‘ dance break ‘ should have come earlier to break it up a bit. It brings to mind the sort of music associated with 90s songs about ‘holidays in the sun’. It’s incredibly tame and unadventurous for a Polish entry compared to some of their entries from previous years. I’m actually a bit disappointed. But then… maybe alongside Ukraine there is an element of not wanting to risk having to host the event under the current situation in Eastern Europe.
Serbia: Luke Black – Samo Mi Se Spava
Serbia – very gothic looking. His costume reminds me of the ‘Romantic’ DLC costume for Leon in ‘Resident Evil 4 (2023 Remake)’. His breathy voice contrasting the electro music I really like. The giant robot visual and the gas masked dancers is interesting if a little out of keeping with his style. At least it’s interesting compared to Poland’s visuals. I like it but the lights needed to be toned down a little. I really like it… but know it’s not going to win. It reminds me of the theme song for a dark TV series which is more than I can say for some other entries this year. I could happily listen to this again.
France: La Zarra – Évidemment
France – The dress and staging are very good. Very Eurovision. The song grows which is always a good entry sign. Very enjoyable. The ‘tower of light was a really nice touch of spectacle. France always do well with these one person chansons no matter what the choices they make for that year are. An excellent entry. I wish this had been the first performance as it would have set the event off to such a better start.
Cyprus: Andrew Lambrou – Break A Broken Heart
Cyprus – the annual ‘look at my arms’ man in a waistcoat entry. He looks like he is from a boy band doing a solo before the others come on stage. The bare feet make it feel like he is in martial arts garb. The song is really good. I feel it will do well (again, I’m writing this after the event is over but please humour me ha ha). The visuals are very good and support the passion of the song. The shift from the water to fire visuals right at he end was very nice. Even if we tend to hear similar entries every year this one evokes some passion and compared to the ‘going through the routine’ energy of others deserves to be noted.
Spain: Blanca Paloma – Eaea
Spain – very nice aesthetics for the audience viewing from home but awful for those there. The top she has on is very nice (if 90s/Juri Han from Street Fighter in style) woof. I like the interaction with the dancers who help shape the ‘landscape’ she traverses. . The string circle is an interesting piece for filming. The song has some very good moments. The sustained notes and harmonies stand out with the rhythm of the clapping. It would have been nice if the audience could have clapped along but then they would probably continue clapping during parts where it wasn’t intended and thus affect the quality of the performance unintentionally. A very good entry with Spanish elements making it representative of the nation’s music and that always scores well with me.
Sweden: Loreen – Tattoo
Sweden – Beige isn’t a good colour for this sort of event usually. Her nails are very theatrical but the rest of the outfit doesn’t match up to them you might argue save for framing her abs (it reminds me of reading Gail Simone’s run on Birds of Prey where she had Huntress wearing a stomach revealing costume stating something like ‘I do 300 sit ups and crunches a day to get these abs – I’m going to show them off!’ Then the character got shot in the stomach). The low ceiling and pushing it up is a nice bit of theatrics but… it feels bland and something we hear every year. Don’t get me wrong this ticks all the boxes for ‘Eurovision anthem’ but line up similar ones from other years and I would challenge you selecting this as standing out. Well performed and everything but an ‘also ran’.
At which point me watching this after the event comes into play. This won. People said there was a jury rig to make Sweden win so next year’s Eurovision is hosted in Sweden to coincide with the fiftieth anniversary of Abba. All I will say on that matter is look at how this performance is filmed compared to many (but not all) of the others. Of course having one person on stage in an enclosed space sort of forced them to have to be a bit more select in how they filmed the performance but that won’t dissuade anyone from their assertion of a fix. It ticked all the boxes and was well performed. In what many felt was a bit of a lacklustre year something like this would inevitably rise to the top.
Albania: Albina & Familja Kelmendi – Duje
Albania – traditional inspired music so automatic high praise from me. I like the detailing of the central singers costume but the backing singers are really bringing their own element to it too. Very representative of the culture with modern elements so I really like it… but we all know this sort of thing doesn’t do excellent in Eurovision unfortunately (unless there are outside influences as seen with last year’s winner Kalush Orchestra where it incorporated traditional music with hip hop/rap elements). I really like this one. One of my favourites this year. I really wish this did better as I feel they deserved it as it’s got all the elements Eurovision usually likes.
Italy: Marco Mengoni – Due Vite
Italy – a man with a beard singing in Italian. Leather trousers, A sparkly sleeveless vest to show off his arms. Seen it before. The song too is ‘seen it before’ unfortunately. It reminds me of a song at the end of an anime film if it was sung in Italian. It’s a nice song and very well sung but… it’ll do well but not win as there’s no ‘hook’ to capturing both the jury and audience votes to ensure edging a win.
Estonia: Alika – Bridges
Estonia – big shoulder jacket. Skin exposing sides. I really like the song. It’s stripped back staging. I hope it does well . Woof. A solid ballad element with a softer opening to contrast other this year who start semi-bombastic and don’t really go anywhere. It’s a very stripped back performance compared to others who over rely on the lighting and visual effects. This more or less relies completely on the singing along. One of my favourites this year easily.
Finland: Käärijä – Cha Cha Cha
Finland – in the crate was good for home viewers but, unlike earlier, the coming out of the box is incorporated into the performance until the ‘string orb’. Then it goes oddly camp yeah rock rap. This is what modern Eurovision is in a single performance. It’s very interesting with a little something for everyone and an incredibly solid hook and fun little dance. The dancers are really going far and beyond. As for his costume… I’ve seen shops selling that sort of thing in London. High energy and fun. Probably will do well. This is definitely a performance you will see clipped in future to represent Eurovision’s past glories. Finland always have good entries it seems (at least for my taste).
If ever there was a year where there was a clear winner who didn’t win it was 2023 with Finland… and you know why due to their geographical location.
Czechia: Vesna – My Sister’s Crown
Czechia – Interesting gimmick regarding their long braids. I assume they’re extensions. The costumes are pleasant. I like the song but it reminds me of other slav acts in previous years so it might get some votes but not go to the top. It’s well choreographed considering they’re also singing harmonising. Woof. Some part of me feels there is a post-Soviet element regarding the comment ‘we are not your dolls’ but I am over-reading into it considering how many decades have past since then. It’s meant to be feminist with the raised fist which you tend to see on Women’s Day logos and such. I really like it. Another of my favourites this year (but lets face it I tend to favour the Slavic entries as the languages have elements which remind me of aspects in Welsh).
Australia: Voyager – Promise
Australia – A car for stage dressing and we start with close ups in the car. again great for those at home not in the venue. It’s a fun anthemic piece. Their jackets are understated for a Eurovison entry. A lot of fun. I would listen to this again easily. But then it’s rock so that’s a given. I feel it could do well. Part of me is glad we didn’t get way too many rock entries for the year’s after Lordi (Finland entry in 2006) won but it’s always fun to see rock entries in the contest. A lot of fun and something you’ll hear in years to come no doubt.
Belgium: Gustaph – Because Of You
Belgium – Graham notes he is 42 years old. The wide brim hat calls to mind Boy George. The outfits are classy. It definitely has a very 90s vibe musically. It’s fun and very upbeat. Easy listening. I could easily hear this on BBC radio 2 and think it’s from that era. I enjoy it. I hope it does well but at the same time is it not ‘Eurovision’ enough?
Then we have a presenters skit during the break time: Graham warned us and he was in it. Mel Giedroyc is featured as a milk butter churner like 2014’s Donatan & Cleo – My Słowianie – We Are Slavic representing Poland. (Compare that to this year’s Polish entry and you see how Poland gave memorable entries previously).
Armenia: Brunette – Future Lover
Armenia – she is 21 years old Graham notes. The piano and soft dark pink lighting is very nice. The stitched together design of her outfit is nice although it feels like the costume for the Swedish entry in a way (maybe there was a mutual influence?). I really like the song and it breaks into a much more passionate section. The use of lighting effects is striking and much more in the style I prefer compared to the epilepsy health risk ‘if we bombard you with flashing lights you’ll feel this is exciting’ style others use throughout the majority of their performance. A good entry. Hopefully she will compete again in future.
Moldova: Pasha Parfeni – Soarele şi Luna
Moldova – Traditional elements mixed with modern so you know I already like it. The flashing lights a little less. I like the outfits. The short flute player no doubt might get some comments (both positive and negative). The two backing singers’ hair is used to good effect to create momentary staging elements. I wish more had this element of mixing culture and experimental modern elements. It was a song I really enjoyed and rank quite highly amongst this year’s entries.
Ukraine: TVORCHI – Heart Of Steel
Ukraine – Very nice mirror arms on the costume. It feels like a good piece but something stops me fully investing. Possibly that it’s very much one tone throughout with no development. The staging was good… I think it’s the slow steady rhythm of the beat which doesn’t anywhere. It’s well performed and staged. Everything is very well done but it’s not very ‘Eurovision’ compared to others if that makes sense. A masterclass in staging and use of lighting for effect though.
Norway: Alessandra – Queen of Kings
Norway – The costume is very opera-superhero styled. No really go compare with the villain in the recent film Shazam: Fury of the Gods. Woof. The song very traditional in rhythm with modern instruments and the shifts we expect in anthemic Eurovision entries. Fun but maybe a bit old fashioned? I enjoyed it though and the lighting effects were not excessive with the dancers performing with light sticks.
Germany: Lord of the Lost – Blood & Glitter
Germany – Rammstein followers. The costumes really stand out and it’s a good rock piece until the screaming end. They deserve to do well as they put on a good performance. The lyrics are solid and they get the audience worked up. I guess the lyric ‘we could die’ worked against them with the jury vote. They came to the event knowing what was expected of a Eurovision entry and worked with the concept. The raspy voice parts too probably did too which would be a shame as this is a solid anthemic piece.
Lithuania: Monika Linkytė – Stay
Lithuania – Her dress is more ‘going to a daytime event’ than performing on stage. In fact it’s very ‘protagonist of a romantic comedy forced to perform on stage unexpectedly and then giving a professional level performance though she is a wallflower’. Woof. It’s a really good song but the staging will be held against it for not being enough of a spectacle. No, it’s definitely the dress. It’s too cutesy to the point it’s distracting. Then the backing singers come out and it’s like a karaoke event after a wedding reception. Anthemic but there have been a few others this year which puts it up against stiff competition.
Israel: Noa Kirel – Unicorn
Israel – the slightly tilted frames of the ‘corridor’ are a good aesthetic. The costume is in keeping with the ‘costume of a beat ’em up computer game’ designs we have seen with other entrants. The song is good but doesn’t feel like it will rise about the midpoint. Enjoyable and the dancers are well coordinated with their costumes complimenting, but not outshining, the one worn by Noa. There’s a nice little ‘call to the audience’ bit to hype them up. Arguably her dance should have come at the midpoint not the end of the performance but then she would have been out of breath for the second part probably. She probably would have got more ‘dad vote’ points once the trousers were shed and the figure hugging tights revealed.
Slovenia: Joker Out – Carpe Diem
Slovenia – It’s a fun rock band entry but they’re dressed like a 1960-70s boy band. Their clothes remind me of Oliver Bonas (a homeware store in the UK). They seemed very positive and had a little audience interaction at the end. I could see this be the theme tune to a TV series. Again it has ‘anime opening song’ vibes. One of the more fun and energetic entries this year.
Croatia: Let 3 – Mama ŠČ!
Croatia – They said if they win they’ll do the reprise in the nude. Clearly going for the ‘only in Eurovision’ joke vote. The song is very… art house… It finally gets into it about 30 seconds in. Very interesting. I like parts of it. It ends with them in vests and briefs. Having no context I can only say I wish this was featured around the midpoint of the entries to mix things up a bit. I can’t tell if Croatia felt they’d never win so they just put in a ‘make sure we are memorable’ entry or are trying to make a point here. No doubt there is some political element to this I’m completely missing.
United Kingdom: Mae Muller – I Wrote A Song
United Kingdom – She is 25 years old. The opening of the head reminded me of Monty Python. I like the visuals on the screens. The song is fun. Her outfit is a bit ‘night on the town but trying to be casual smart while sexy’. Woof. Her voice doesn’t sound quite right at points and I feel like she might have given better performances of it previously. It’ll do quite well hopefully but it’ll be straddling the left and right boards score wise. (Spoilers: We came last but one). All I’ll say is Sam was amazing last year and rightly is brought back to do some of the interval stuff this year. It’s just a shame we couldn’t capture that lightning in a bottle once more.
The Voting Part and All That
Sam singing with dancers. He has good energy and since its the interval you know they throw everything at the staging etc. The drummer from Queen was on drums. Yeah, Sam is one of those ‘could have won during another year’ kind of competitors…
Graham interviews a former host who did it on her own unlike in more recent times.
Julia Sanina changes from a yellow dress to a blue one and speaks with the Ukrainian crowd members present.
We then got a sequence of songs in the Liverpool Songbook section. Notably omitting the Beatles apart from John Lennon.
A cover of Imagine by Mahmood (the Italian entrant in 2019 and 2022).
Netta, Israel’s entrant in 2018, performs ‘You Spin My Round (Like A Record) in a very woman woman 84 style costume.
Daði Freyr (Iceland entrant 2020/21) performed Whole Again
Cornelia Jakobs (Sweden entrant 2022) performed I Turn To You. Woof. Water. Risk of electrocution with the microphones battery pack.
Sonia (United Kingdom entrant 1993) performed Better The Devil You Know (the song she entered with)
Duncan Laurence (Netherlands entrant, 2019) performed You’ll Never Walk Alone which is the Liverpool Football Club’s anthem.
Then there was one of the guy’s from ABBA talking about how the contest changed peoples lives. Acts like Maneskin, Rosa Lynn, etc. featured in clips reiterating how life changing it is.
The Jury Votes
Mel compared Sweden’s announcer to Claudia Winkleman. It was a cheeky, but well intended, compliment I’m sure.
I will just list who gave the UK points and how many as there were so few: Ukraine (4), Ireland (2), Finland (4), Denmark (1) and Sweden (4).
During the interval in the vote Julia interviewed the Swedish entrant, Loreen, who was getting a lot of 12s across the board. She said she was in a meditational mood and kept calling Julia ‘darling’.
The jury voted concludes. Italy is second. There is chanting in the venue. The experts adored Sweden (massively), Italy and Israel. Another interview with Sweden’s Loreen. She seems very calm but says she is bursting inside.
The Public Vote
The head of Eurovision talks and they’re verified the audience votes.
The audience gave the UK…. 9 points At least we are not at the bottom.
Norway got a big points spike. Ukraine too. Suddenly Finland and Italy are above Sweden…. Israel goes to second…Finland – 526… Sweden – 340… Sweden gets 243 at the last moment which Finland can’t get more than that now…
Uk gave 12 to Finland.
Sweden has 6 wins under their belt.
UK came in 25 with 24 points.
Julia Sanina speaks in Ukrainian thanking everyone, etc. Then it’s done in English.
The reprise of the winner’s performance has more elaborate camera work done for it from multiple cameras with panning etc. Apparently she won it before?
It felt a bit lacking this year. I’m not sure if that’s due to behind the scenes things, like rules on what competitors could do, or something else. It just felt like few entries were taking risks or were going all out. Was the writing on the wall that, no matter what, Sweden was going to host next year? I can’t possibly say but, if nothing else, it tarnishes Loreen’s victory that such speculation is made. One thing I noticed this year is the Eurovision being called The Gay Olympics. Perhaps it had been called that before but it’s the first time I heard it said in more than just passing. This year the BBC began to show all the preliminary rounds not just the finale although they had, in fairness, built up to doing so by first having them on BBC3 for a few years before having them all on BBC1 and 2.
So… see you in Sweden next year.