Culture and Sports

United by Music

ESC2023: United by Music - Shaping Europe

An overview of all participants in the Eurovision Song Contest 2023. 

Some people schedule their Sundays around Formula 1 races, some people live for the Champions League, and some wait all year to see people from all over Europe (and beyond) perform on a stage. Yes, we are part of the last group and we have been talking about the Eurovision Song Contest (ESC) for months now. From listening to the songs when they were announced to discussing the live performances, to predicting the results to planning group viewings of the (semi-)finals. Eurovision is a lifestyle. 

Same as last year, we have compiled a list of all performances of the ESC. Who will take home the gold and who should have rather stayed at home? Let’s get into it! 

First Semi-Final – Tuesday 9 May, 2023

1. Norway | Alessandra  – Queen of Kings

ESC2023 starts off strong with power-pop song “Queen of Kings” by Norwegian-Italian singer Alessandra Watle Mele. The 20 year-old first became known in her home country as a contestant of The Voice Norway and is now set to represent the Scandinavian country after winning Melodi Grand Prix 2023, the annual contest that selects the Norwegian entry for ESC. She won Melodi with almost double the score of the runner-up and “Queen of Kings” even charted at #1 in Norway, which makes it safe to say that she has wide support from the Norwegian population. The song celebrates women and the importance of being yourself. Alessandra herself has stated that her experience as a bisexual woman has influenced the creation of “Queen of Kings”. All in all, Norway is a strong contender for the top 10 this year. “Queen of Kings” has made it in our Spotify playlist for sure! 

2. Malta | The Busker – Dance (Our Own Party)

Malta is a country that, despite its small population, continues to surprise at the Eurovision Song Contest year after year. This year they are sending The Busker, a three-man indie pop band. The song “Dance (Our Own Party)” is an ode to small, intimate parties. Leading vocal David sings of wanting to leave a large-scale event to go to a smaller party – all to escape large groups. The result is an upbeat, funky song with a saxophone (making us fans anyway). Malta will not win with this entertaining tune, it is even questionable whether they will reach the final. But the country’s originality and creativity are again appreciated by us. 

3. Serbia | Luke Black – Samo Mi Se Spava

Serbia’s entry, oh, you either love it or hate it. We haven’t quite figured out which category we’re siding with, but we think, unfortunately, with the last one. The Balkan country is, however, once again proving that it can think outside of the box. The song, “Samo Mi Se Spava” by Luke Black, is experimental, futuristic, and extraordinary. The haunted rock-metal vibe and dark performance will give many goosebumps. By the way, the content of the song will appeal to many teenagers; as it is about gaming and sleeping. Yet it is mainly about the adverse effects of gaming, which gives “Samo Mi Se Spava” an important meaning. Luke Black has been fully embraced by the general public. He will certainly make it to the finals and may yet provide a surprise. 

4. Latvia | Sudden Lights – Aijā

Another indie song, this time coming from Latvia. “Sudden Lights” by the band Aijā is not appreciated by everyone; the song finishes near the bottom according to the bookmakers. What is certain is that it is a fine song. It is well put together and the singer presents himself well during live performances. “Sudden Lights” will stand out among all the Song Contest entries and that is exactly what it was chosen for. The band name Aijā refers to ‘the process of swinging a baby to sleep in your arms’ and of course, that name was not chosen for nothing. The band wants to offer people – in these difficult and sometimes anxious times – peace and calmness above all. 

5. Portugal | Mimicat – Ai Coração

Marisa Isabel Lopes Mena, stage name Mimicat, will represent Portugal at the 2023 Eurovision Song Contest with the danceable and sexy song “Ai Coracão”. From the moment the artist enters the stage, she teleports viewers from the Liverpool Arena to a beautiful Portuguese theatre. “Ai Coracão” has a burlesque-ish vibe and is about longing for love. The song is different from most other songs and is described as intergenerational. Still, the question is whether the song will make it to the finals. In any case, Mimicat will provide a theatrical show! We like it!

6. Ireland | Wild Youth – We Are One

I (Loes) have a soft spot for Ireland. Always have. The country sends in just really sweet songs time after time. This year is no different. The song “We Are One” by Wild Youth is again very positive. In terms of lyrics, the song is a bit like the hit ‘All Things Under the Sun’ by the Dutch singer Wulf. Music-wise the song can be described as catchy, danceable and totally suitable for radio. Even acoustically, the song is totally top notch. It is, therefore, possible that the song will reach the final – although it would be unexpected. Hope so. Did I mention already that I have a soft spot for Ireland?

7. Croatia | Let 3 – Mama ŠČ!

Formed in 1987 in Rijeka, the band Let 3 has been very well known in Croatia for years – partly because of their love for shocking audiences and their vulgar language use. With the song “Mama ŠČ!”, the band won the Croatian preliminary round Dora. They will probably make it to the European finals as well. The act is one you won’t forget. We don’t really like the music nor the performance. It’s just madness to be honest. Still, we have to conclude that a large part of the audience will vote for Croatia. Fortunately, the song does have an important meaning: its lyrics are about someone who got a tractor from his mom, but this actually refers to the relationship between Belarus’ President Alexander Lukashenko and Russia’s Vladimir Putin. Putin was gifted a tractor by Lukashenko for his 70th birthday and the song mocks both by alluding to them as ‘psychopaths’. This is done very subtly, since ESC songs are not allowed to promote political messages.

8. Switzerland | Remo Forrer – Watergun

The song “Watergun” is sung by Remo Forrer, a good singer with a special, deep but dynamic voice. The song resembles the country’s previous entries. A solid power ballad with a little dance sauce. There is nothing wrong with it. Except that it’s really no surprise that the Alpine country competes again with a song like this. Switzerland is being Switzerland once again. Not original, but successful. The country may even end up in the top-10. And not because of luck, but because they’ve figured out a formula that works.

9. Israel | Noa Kirel – Unicorn

The only 22-year-old Noa Kirel is representing Israel at the Eurovision Song Contest. The song “Unicorn” starts out electronic and bombastic, but turns into an upbeat pop song after a few seconds. The song contains many high notes. Hopefully – despite some nerves – Noa will be able to reach those easily when she is on stage. If she can, Israel is definitely a candidate for the top-10 and maybe even top-5 (notwithstanding the cringe line “The Power of a Unicorn”). Sidenote: Israel has taken a good look at last year’s Spanish entry. At the two minute mark there is a dance break reminiscent of Chanel’s SloMo.

10. Moldova | Pasha Parfeni – Soarele şi Luna

Moldova’s entry from last year was one of my favourites – just for its cheerfulness and craziness. This year’s song is completely different, but again very entertaining. Moldova is sending Pasha Parfeni this year, who also competed in the Eurovision Song Contest in 2012 and 2013 as a singer and pianist, respectively. The man can be called a Eurovision fan for sure 😉 I am especially a fan of the pre-chorus in which the title of the song, “Soarele şi Luna” , is sung in a melodic and bombastic way. The performance is as we expect from Moldova: special, over the top, a little bit crazy but authentic. What is unusual is that the song is partly sung in Romanian. A language I love. So: douze points. Although, according to the bookmakers it will result in a meagre eighteenth place.

11. Sweden | Loreen – Tattoo

Loreen is back, and how! The Swedish-Moroccan singer Lorine Zineb Noka Talhaoui, won the 57th edition of the Eurovision Song Contest in 2012 with Europe’s all-time favourite “Euphoria”, and she is also this year’s dreaded No. 1. Loreen’s song “Tattoo” is brilliant, the singer’s voice is unbelievably good and the act will be excellent, too. Moreover, the song is already storming chart after chart. Where can it still go wrong for the Swedes? It could at most be that people are a bit fed up with Sweden winning the Song Contest again, as they do every few years (myself included). Oh well, the other countries should send in better songs then, right?!

12. Azerbaijan | TuralTuranX – Tell Me More

Twins Tural and Turan will represent Azerbaijan under the stage name TuralTuranX with “Tell Me More”.  We are excited about the song, but apparently, we are the only ones; the adorable duo is likely to finish somewhere at the bottom. Reactions online are not too positive either. Still, trust us “Tell Me More” is underrated. It grows on you. The love song is romantic, dreamy, dynamic, and retro. Sometimes it reminds you of the Beatles’ repertoire, other times it seems like you’re listening to a 90s pop/rock/rap song. By the way, the bridge is also very nice! So, give the song a try and listen to it once more. You’re welcome. Nice job, Azerbaijan!

13. Czechia | Vesna – My Sister’s Crown

Slavic representation, feminism and amazing beats. What is there not to love about this entry?! One of our personal favourites of this year is brought to you by Czech folk band Vesna, and we do not just say this because one of our editors is Czech. The song is a wonderful mix of Czech, English, Ukrainian and even some Bulgarian. “My Sister’s Crown” celebrates slavic heritage and is a response to Putin’s Pan-Russianism. The sister that is being referred to is Ukraine, a country that should not exist according to Putin’s worldview. The song is an anti-war anthem, and was blocked in both Belarus and Russia within 24 hours of its release. For this reason alone, Czechia is the true winner of ESC2023 in our eyes. We can only hope that this fan favourite ends up as high on the ranking as it deserves!

14. Netherlands | Mia Nicolai & Dion Cooper – Burning Daylight

The Dutch talk shows have been dominated by only one topic in recent weeks: the Eurovision Song Contest. Unfortunately, it is for all the wrong reasons. The reactions to this year’s entry – “Burning Daylight” by Mia Nicolai & Dion Cooper, written by former winner Duncan Laurence – were fifty-fifty at first, but after seeing the live performances everyone agreed; this can’t be real. Mia and Dion sang almost the entire song out of tune (twice) and this put a big dent in the trust of the Eurovision fans. The result: a lot of angry Dutch people. How did the selection committee allow this to happen? And why isn’t Duncan Laurence guiding Mia and Dion well enough? “Burning Daylight” is definitely not going to win. Their chances of reaching the final are also getting smaller by the day. Hopefully, the damage to the careers of Mia and Dion will be minimal, and this debacle will cause a new way of selecting. Are you reading, Avrotros? The Netherlands has plenty of very experienced singers or bands that can represent the Netherlands next year. What to think of Floor Jansen, Son Mieux, DI-RECT, Davina Michelle, Within Temptation, or Karsu? Plenty of choices! Oh, and please stop sending in power ballads. We, speaking on behalf of the Dutch, are tired of it.

15. Finland | Käärijä – Cha Cha Cha

There are two types of Eurovision entries: the serious ballads and the insane songs that shoot dopamine into your body while you listen to them. Käärijä definitely belongs in the second category and deserves all the love it is getting from the ESC fandom. “Cha Cha Cha” has the potential to become an iconic Eurovision entry like “Dancing Lasha Tumbai” (Ukraine, 2007), Fuego (Cyprus, 2018) and “SHUM” (Ukraine, 2021). We certainly cannot wait to see it live during the first semi-finals and the predicted second place is, in our eyes, well-deserved. 

Second Semi-Final – Thursday 11 May, 2023

16. Denmark | Reiley – Breaking My Heart

Gen-Z has entered the competition as Denmark’s entry to this year’s Eurovision. Everything about Reiley’s “Breaking My Heart” screams that it was created in order to go viral on TikTok. It was proven last year by Armenia that this is not the most fruitful tactic. Even though “Snap” by Rosa Linn went incredibly viral as a TikTok sound, it only managed to become 20th during ESC2022. Since the bookmakers predict a 31th place out of 37 for Denmark, we think it is safe to say that the Eurovision crowd is not the same demographic that spends most of their time in the online world.

17. Armenia | Brunette – Future Lover

“Future Lover” sounds like the love child of an Agnes Obel song and an Ariana Grande song. That combination shouldn’t work, yet it somehow does. We only hope that the song has the same energy on stage as it does in the studio version. If Brunette manages to deliver, we for sure believe that Armenia has a good shot at reaching the finals this year. “Future Lover” brings an eccentric mix of genres and shows us exactly why we love Eurovision: it is a great stage where you can experiment with sound and introduce new things to a European audience.

18. Romania | Theodor Andrei – D.G.T. (Off and On)

Romania has the questionable honour of a predicted last place in this year’s Eurovision. Is “D.G.T (Off and On)” that bad then? As a song it might not even be the worst one of this edition, but we do believe that Romania’s entry suffers from some sort of identity crisis. The performance includes Theodor Andrej being dressed in an outfit which peaked on Tumblr in 2013, a voodoo doll, neon coloured backgrounds and dancers that would fit in perfectly in a Broadway production of The Rocky Horror Show. We do not know what to make of it, and it looks like we are not the only ones. 

19. Estonia | Alika – Bridges

Another year, another ballad. Once again, Estonia has chosen a young, upcoming artist. There is no denying Alika’s talent. Her voice, the song, the cinematography. It is all stellar quality. But “Bridges’” predicted 22nd place just proves that ballads and Eurovision are not mixing well the last couple of years. Estonia will probably struggle with being memorable between the fifteen other performances that will be given during the second semi-finals. It remains to be seen if they manage to qualify for the finals. 

20. Belgium | Gustaph – Because Of You

Europop is back! Gustaph is riding the millennial nostalgia train with “Because of You”. The song definitely feels like a 90’s dance hit; a sound that has been making a strong comeback in the music scene. It is very difficult to predict how well Belgium will score with this entry. Even though the bookmakers are not very enthusiastic, the song has everything in it to become a fan favourite. We are only worried that the live performance does not have what it takes to really sell the dancepop aspect of Belgium’s entry, which let’s be honest, is its main selling point. 

21. Cyprus | Andrew Lambrou – Break A Broken Heart

Ever since Cyprus almost won the contest with Eleni Foureira’s “Fuego” back in 2018, all their entries since have followed the same upbeat powerdance recipe. This year, they break that tradition by sending Australian-Cypriot singer Andrew Lambrou to the stage in Liverpool. “Break a Broken Heart” is an up-tempo ballad with some impressive high notes in between. The song will most likely end somewhere in the middle of the scoreboard. Very unfortunate that the country will not finish higher. In recent years, Cyprus has proven to be a true Eurovision country. How nice it would be if it could finally take home the trophy! Next year another chance, Cypriots!

22. Iceland | Diljá – Power

“Power” will not make it into the finale according to the bookmakers, and we are gonna have to agree with that prediction. Iceland has had a solid reputation within Eurovision in recent years, sending colourful, eccentric and overall great performers like Daði Freyr (2020 and 2021) and Hatari (2019). Iceland was one of those countries that you simply looked forward to seeing in ESC. With Diljá’s “Power”, they have settled for a generic pop song with mediocre lyrics. “You’ve got no power over me”, is the main part of the chorus. As Miranda Priestly would say: groundbreaking.

23. Greece | Victor Vernicos – What They Say

In 2021, Dutch-Greek Stefania Liberakakis represented Greece at the Eurovision Song Contest. At the time, she was 17. Very young, but Greece is proving again this year that it is not afraid to choose young artists. Victor Vernicos is, namely, just 16 years old. He has written Greece’s entry for this year, “What They Say”, all alone. A very impressive achievement. But just like some other entries this year, Greece has fallen in the “this sounds very similar to songs going viral on TikTok” pitfall. This is not the first upbeat ballad of the year, and we fear that it will not stand out among other performances.

24. Poland | Blanka – Solo

Just like the Netherlands, Poland’s entry is causing drama at home. The overall opinion of most Eurovision fans is that the national selection was rigged and that Blanka’s “Solo” never should have won. TLDR; people believe that the jury acted in favour of Blanka and intentionally underscored other performers so that this song would win the national competition. Fan favourite Jann received three times as many votes from the televoters for his song “Gladiator”, but fell short in jury votes. The general consensus in Poland is that Blanka was supported by the jury because she personally knows the chairman of the jury. This was denied with a statement, but after listening to “Solo”, we cannot help but feel that this theory is at least somewhat true. 

It reminds us of when the Netflix show Emily in Paris got nominated for a Golden Globe back in 2021. Something which caught so many people by surprise that many claimed the award show to be rigged (the show is best known for how bad the script is). After some digging, this actually turned out to be true. The jury was treated with free trips to Paris to “visit the set”. We look forward to seeing “Solo” crash and burn this year, because there are literally no redeeming features to this entry. And who knows, maybe we will find out after the live performances if more Europeans agree that Poland’s national selection was off this year…

25. Slovenia | Joker Out – Carpe Diem

What would Five Seconds of Summer sound like if they sang in a Slavic language? With “Carpe Diem” by Joker Out we finally have the answer to that; freakin’ awesome! We are guaranteed a party on stage this year. We feel that with their predicted 19th place this year they are being robbed. Slovenia is this year’s perfect example of a performance that has not grabbed the jury’s attention, but will become a fan favourite for sure. And since the televoters get full say in the semi-finals, we believe we will get to enjoy “Carpe Diem” twice during Eurovision week this year.

26. Georgia | Iru – Echo

The past seven years, Georgia has not managed to qualify for the ESC final. With Iru’s “Echo”, they have a good shot at breaking that tragic streak. “Echo” is a great example of Eastern European alternative music that reminds us a bit of Florence + The Machine. The performance has power, mystery and manages to capture attention. Now we only have to hope that the live vocals are as good as the recording, and Georgia is all but guaranteed a spot in the finals.

27. San Marino | Piqued Jacks – Like An Animal

“Like An Animal” is a light hearted band song that reminds you that it’s not all about being out there and distinctively ‘Eurovision.’ Piqued Jacks, originally from Italy, won the song competition ‘Una voce per San Marino.’ This enjoyable number is likely to pass through its semi-final group but no fireworks light off when we hear this entry.

28. Austria | Teya & Salena – Who The Hell Is Edgar?

This entry has charisma, rhythm, personality and captures the spirit of Eurovision (and Edgar Allan Poe!) perfectly. Teya & Salena’s “Who The Hell Is Edgar?” is a song about being possessed by the ghost of writer Edgar Allan Poe. It is so absurd, we absolutely love it! Austria is predicted to make the top 10, as they should. The song has sneaked its way in our Eurovision playlist and in our hearts. Austria has for sure won the creativity category this year. 

29. Albania | Albina & Familja Kelmendi – Duje

If any country manages to surprise every year, it is Albania. The country chose a more traditional entry this year. We are treated to the main singer walking through an abandoned house once filled with a loving family. The flashbacks reveal a happier time of children playing, cooking and singing together but they have now ceased to be. In the live performance, we see that the whole ‘family’ are singing and dancing together. Overall, it is both a feel good song and confusing at the same time.

30. Lithuania | Monika Linkytė – Stay

A safe eurobeat song to get the crowd going. Lithuania’s entry will smoothly enter the grand final but it will not be turning any heads. In recent years, we have been treated to The Roop with their funky dance numbers and upbeat personalities. In comparison, this vanilla entry does the job but does not excite us in the same way.

31. Australia | Voyager – Promise

Let me just run my fingers through my hair. Techno rock. Half beautiful Australian landscape, half techno light festival. This techno rock number is sure to have you headbanging or wanting you to run your fingers through your lusciously long hair. Either way, we love that Eurovision has participants from outside the continent of Europe and that they enjoy the contest as much as us. Australia will certainly make the finals, the top 10 will be a tough one. Bummer, because how much fun would it be to host the Eurovision Song Contest down under for once? (metaphorically speaking, in case of an Australian win the next contest will be hosted in either Germany or the UK). 

The Big Five + last years’ winner

32. France | La Zarra – Évidemment

Yes, yes and yes. This song has been playing on repeat for the past weeks now. “Évidemment” is addictive. Both the song and the performance by La Zarra capture your attention. France has had some really strong entries the last couple of years (#justiceforFulenn) and will once again have an actual chance at winning Eurovision. 

33. Germany | Lord of the Lost – Blood & Glitter

The industrial metal band from Hamburg. This song combines heavy metal with a glitter and blood montage. Scream rock, heavy metal and laser blaster in the chorus. How can you not start a mosh pit? While rock music has won in the past (Lordi and Måneskin) it is unlikely that this entry will be able to finish in the top half of the table. If you are an Iron Maiden fan, you will love this song. As part of Iron Maiden’s The Future Past Tour 2023, you can see Lord of the Lost supporting them in multiple cities. Tickets are still available and it is likely to be a great night for all you hardrock fans.

34. Italy | Due Vite – Marco Mengoni

In recent years, Italy has sent only successful songs to the song contest. This year, too, the southern European country seems to be aiming high. You won’t hear us complaining. Lovely, that Italian language! With “Due Vite”, Italy has sent a slow moving ballad which is to be expected of the country. Marco Mengoni walks around sand dunes while the colour changes from black and white to full colour saturation. While we can appreciate the artistic style of this entry it is not on trend and follows that Europop vibe.

35. Spain | EAEA – Blanca Paloma

We are not sure what Spain was thinking this year. When we think of Spain, it is normally a hit or miss (normally latter, think 2021, 2017 and 2013 where they failed to win more than 10 points). While EAEA is a great song from a judges and bookmakers viewpoint, it fails to be a ‘Europop’ song that has wide appeal in our opinion. If we were Spain, we would have simply sent in a Chanel 2.0. Success guaranteed. 

36. Ukraine | Heart Of Steel – Tvorchi

This slow moving techno number is sure to get your heart going. Jeffrey and Andrii met while studying pharmacy because they both wanted to improve their Ukrainian and English skills, respectively. Historically, Ukraine has sent popular songs that Eurovision is all about. While it is unlikely that this song will win the contest, it is likely that it will still place within the top 10 and remind us all that music can unite us.

37. United Kingdom | I Wrote A Song – Mae Muller

Having broken up with her cheating ex, Mae Muller has clearly taken inspiration from Taylor Swift and has written a song in response (good for her!). After the success of Sam Ryder’s 2nd place performance, the UK decided to apply the same recruitment formula. No public vote for the representative, entrust it to a talent agency and the results will follow. As the host country, it is unlikely that the UK (or Ukraine for that matter) will win this year. While the song has a great flow and chorus, it has no real hook that makes us go ‘wow.’

Well, now you really know everything about the 2023 Eurovision Song Contest entries. We are curious about which country will run away with the top prize this year (probably: Sweden) and hope for many surprises. Which country are you cheering for? 

Artists; enjoy your experiences on stage! Europeans and other fans; enjoy this unique, festive event. We are ‘United By Music’! 

Linda den Bol has graduated in History (Radboud University) and European Governance (Masarykova Univerzita and Utrecht University) and is currently working as EU Public Affairs officer for the Dutch province Noord-Brabant in Brussels. 

Finn McCartney has graduated from the University of Amsterdam with a MA in European Policy and a BA in European Studies. He is currently a trainee in Sustainable Development Goals at the SDG House and an English Teacher with Right2Education.

Loes ter Horst is doing a master’s program in Crisis and Security Management at Leiden University with a specialisation in Governance of Crisis, after receiving her bachelor’s in Liberal Arts and Sciences (major in International Governance) last summer.

Featured image: Shutterstock

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