By Neil Durham
WHEN?: 8pm 9 May 2023
WHERE?: Liverpool Arena
HOW DO I WATCH?: BBC
‘Irregular voting paterns’ in 6 jury votes last year means this year’s semi finals will be televote only with this being the toughest semi and tasked with finding 10 finalists from a field of 15.
- Read on for reasons including 2012 Eurovision winner Loreen and why this is 2023’s toughest semi
- NORWAY: Alessandra Mele Queen Of Kings (Alessandra Mele, Henning Olerud, Linda Dale, Stanley Ferdinandez) PREDICTION: Qualifier
This placed only 6th in our ranking for this year’s Norwegian Melodi Grand Prix. it’s well-performed and is the sort of mix of both Norwegian and Irish folk which many would assume would be a natural fit for either country at Eurovision. We don’t really understand how it went viral after its selection but is a domestic chart hit also having topped the chart in Norway.
WATCH 30-second rehearsal clips of all semi finalists
2. MALTA: The Busker (Dance Our Own Party) (David Meilak, Jean Paul Borg, Matthew James Borg, Michael Joe Cini, Sean Meachen) PREDICTION: non-qualifier
Sunstroke Project may have just missed out on being selected for Moldova but their Epic Sax Guy is here in spirit throughout this entry. It shouldn’t work but there’s something charming about it.
3. SERBIA: Luke Black Samo mi se spava (I’m just sleepy) (Luka Ivanović) PREDICTION: Qualifier
We loved the audio and had high hopes for the live performance which is even more angular and difficult than we ever could have wished. Serbia finished 5th in 2022 with an act and song that fans’ enthusiasm for grew and grew as the Contest progressed. Buckle up for a similar dark horse result in 2023.
4. LATVIA: Sudden Lights Aijā (Shush) (Andrejs Reinis Zitmanis, Kārlis Matīss Zitmanis, Kārlis Vārtiņš, Mārtiņš Matīss Zemītis) PREDICTION: non-qualifier
An indie rock band with the intention of creating a lullaby to make people sleep more easily during tough times. We think this is the tougher of the 2 semis and have this down as a borderline qualifier. It’s an unusual song that we suspect juries rather than televoters would prefer.
5. PORTUGAL: Mimicat Ai coração (Oh heart) (Marisa Mena, Luís Pereira) PREDICTION: Qualifier
We absolutely love this because it is so camp and theatrical. Emma Bunton’s Maybe ran so this could fly. Very 60s and Portuguese – and an utter banger.
6. IRELAND: Wild Youth We Are One (Conor O’Donohoe Ed Porter Jörgen Elofsson) PREDICTION: non-qualifier
Ireland’s contradiction is that it is the country which has won the Contest most (7 times, last in 1996) although it hasn’t made the final since 2018 and has only done so once in the last 9 years. This benefits from a Scandi sensibility in the songwriting and is well performed live. Expecting the UK audience to react positively to this 1 in the arena. Simple and anthemic. Having watched the 30-second rehearsal clips (see above) we think this vocal is struggling and we’ve swapped this 1 out for Croatia.
7. CROATIA: Let 3 Mama ŠČ! (Mama) (Damir Martinović, Zoran Prodanović) PREDICTION: Qualifier
A change in the rules means this year the semi finals are televote only and we can’t help but think this madcap nonsense is going to benefit from the lack of a jury to snuff it out. Unfortunate. Perceived as anti-Russian, that may be its only redeeming feature in the current climate. The rehearsal clip gives it a cartoonish feel that starts to make sense.
8. SWITZERLAND Remo Forrer Watergun (Argyle Singh, Ashley Hicklin, Mikolaj Trybulec) PREDICTION: non-qualifier
Co-writer Hicklin’s biggest Eurovision success was with Tom Dice and Me And My Guitar in 2010 which finished 6th for Belgium. Watergun‘s theme is the futility of war which should strike a chord. Perhaps just a little too earnest to do well however particularly in this televoter-only semi.
9. ISRAEL: Noa Kirel Unicorn (Doron Medalie, May Sfadia, Yinon Yahel, Noa Kirel) PREDICTION: Qualifier
Co-writer Medalie was 1 of the authors of Toy by Netta which won for Israel in 2018. Noa topped the charts in Israel with 4 singles between 2019 and 2021. Over the top intro, handclaps, potential for many stand out moments and great build to the chorus. ‘Feminine, phenomenal’ indeed. Love the very Israeli breakdown too three-quarters of the way through and ‘U-NI-CORN’ chanting. Fantastic rehearsal clip, another dark horse or, ahem, unicorn.
10. MOLDOVA: Pasha Parfeny Soarele și luna (The Sun And The Moon) (Pavel Parfeni, Andrei Vulpe, Iuliana Parfeni) PREDICTION: Qualifier
Listening to the audio 1st, we were surprised this beat SunStroke Project in the Moldovan selection. Parfeny finished 11th at Eurovision in 2012 and used to also front SunStroke Project. We’re enjoying the nose flute and folk vibe but think in this competition it may not be enough.
11. SWEDEN: Loreen Tattoo (Jimmy “Joker” Thörnfeldt, Jimmy Jansson, Lorine Talhaoui, Moa Carlebecker, Peter Boström, Thomas G:son) PREDICTION: Qualifier
We thought Sweden’s best chance of a Eurovision win in 2023 was to pick 2012 victor Loreen in Melodifestivalen who is the red-hot favourite to triumph again with this memorably staged and catchy song. It reminds us a little of the ethnicity of Madonna’s Frozen in its relaxed middle 8 but it is the claustrophobic staging and hooks of a Cazzi Opeia co-write that has us most buzzing for this. Sure, Loreen’s diction can be worked on but we think this would do very well in Liverpool in May. And who wouldn’t love a Eurovision in Sweden in 2024 – the 50th anniversary of ABBA’s 1974 victory? The less impressive than MF staging here in Liverpool puts more focus on the song.
12. AZERBAIJAN: TuralTuranX Tell Me More (Tural and Turan Bagmanlovar) PREDICTION: non-qualifier
Welcome shift from Swedish-written pop to something more authentically from this country and these Azerbaijani twin brothers. The song however is a little slow to get going, guitar-led and rather over-earnest.
13. CZECH REPUBLIC: Vesna My Sister’s Crown (Patricie Kaňok Fuxová, Tanita Yankova, Kateryna Vatchenko) PREDICTION: Qualifier
Combining an ethnic melody, with a professional presentation and a clear feminist message, this makes for an extremely strong entry. There’s rap and a sound that’s bang up to date that should see this finish strongly in Saturday’s final. Strong not tacked-on anti-war message also.
14. NETHERLANDS: Mia Nicolai and Dion Cooper Burning Daylight (Duncan Laurence, Jordan Garfield, Mia Nicolai, Dion Cooper, Loek van der Grinten) PREDICTION: Qualifier
Co-writer Laurence won Eurovision in 2019 and this is an impressive song we have yet to see performed live. The lyric is quite dark although contains positivity and shows much promise ahead of any live performance. However, without juries this may need your televote to progress.
15. FINLAND Käärijä Cha Cha Cha (Aleksi Nurmi, Johannes Naukkarinen, Jere Pöyhönen, Jukka Sorsa) PREDICTION: Qualifier
We rated this 4th in Finland’s extremely strong UMK. We said: ‘Its simple title is a bit of a red herring because there is a lot going on here with a number of genres at play including rock, pop and electro. Likely to find its fans in the more hardcore Eurovision element of the fandom we would imagine.’ It’s gathered far more momentum than we would have predicted however. The angry dancers add to its appeal but it’s the juries we suspect that will need to be won over.