Eurovision 2023, The Nonqualifiers: Mildly Interesting Thought Experiment

It’s “The Mount Doom we have at home”

The thing is known.

I didn’t recap the non-qualifiers last year, which I really wish I had done, so I’ve decided to do it this year and it’s not just because I want to keep the Sudden Lights economy afloat… It’s just some speculation about why they didn’t qualify, what I liked (what I didn’t like) and some song recommendations from my extremely limited genre playlist that is somehow 46 hours long, but I tried my best to find some vague and tenuous matches.

Semi-final One

The Busker – Dance (Our Own Party)

One of the most interesting Eurovision rules is the limiting of performances to a maximum of 6 people – it really makes acts get creative with their staging and I have to say, I did love The Busker bringing out cardboard cutouts of the past Maltese entrants

and it really just set the tone for the whole performance as they took us on a rollicking adventure to Sweaterland, due east

it’s just a very fun, silly, slightly irreverent dance song that’s as catchy as it is annoying, I’ve found myself singing “I feel better in my sweater” more times than I can count, and it definitely hits different when you’re actually wearing a sweater, so I imagine these boys were high on the fumes of life because they were in fact wearing two sweaters

I absolutely cannot wait for the fan footage of the three of them frantically pulling them off during the intermission animations because for some reason they wanted to deny us an on-screen wardrobe change

it is quite impressive that none of them passed out or sweated enough to completely smudge the writing on their hands

and with the performance being so fun, I was kind of hoping that they’d bring out the first ever official Eurovision Ball Pit as per their music video

but I suppose doing so does run a very strong risk of having the same cursed energy as the infamous DashCon Ball Pit

everyone gets 5 minutes in it.

Sudden Lights – Aijā

Every year there is a song that hits you just right and you imprint on it immediately – sometimes you’re lucky enough for that song to be one of the Top 10 favs with no worries about qualifying and other times it’s… Aija by Sudden Lights. I have been going through a petty awful time this year – it’s been a long full on existential crisis and this song, in all of it’s jittery, frenetic pleading to the universe scratches a place in my brain that desperately needed to be scratched.

The thing is, I’m not mad it didn’t qualify, I knew it wasn’t going to and I had accepted its fate. When I first listened to it, I’m not sure I even liked it: that opening tippety-tappety electronic jazz-funk riff is frustrating, like trying to focus on a heartbeat in a beehive

The whole song is an introspective panic attack which unsurprisingly doesn’t entirely translate to getting votes, but I was glad that all reports say they got a great reception from the stadium crowd because I was curious as to how they were going to stage it, and I think they did the best with what they had, they made it feel like a smaller, more intimate venue

I would have loved to have had something similar to the music video but of course they can’t because there’s the rule of only allowing 6 people on stage and Sudden Lights is a band made up of four guys and 18 standing lamps – but their music video is so beautiful

I could go on about this song and Sudden Lights for pages and pages because in no uncertain terms, I do feel like this song got me through the beginning of this year, so here’s to My Boys™

I love them.

If you like Aija half as much as I did, you might like:
White Leather Electric Chair by Charming Liars
Rabbit by Big Story
Explore by Sundara Karma
There Was Time by Koethe
(just DM me for my Sad Girl Summer playlist)

Wild Youth – We Are One

I apologise in advance for this oral history. I had feelings.

One of the funniest things about the Semi-final One night was the pile up of anti-war and Love Love Peace Peace songs – I only say it’s funny because when you put Wild Youth and Switzerland’s Third Saddest Boy In The World next to the bombast of Let 3 you really realise the Radio 2 B-List of it all. The three of them did kind of perfectly encapsulate the Goldilocks Trifecta – Let 3 getting it just right which ironically makes them Baby Bear despite the dad energy and then Switzerland coming in way too hot with it all (Oh, I’ll get to you Switzerland…) leaving Wild Youth sitting in the middle as our spangly, jumpsuited Mummy Bears with their cold porridge of a song

the metaphor got a little lost somewhere.

Wild Youth’s journey to the main stage has been, well, Wild. The song wasn’t greatly received, it’s just very generic, radio friendly pop rock. I have the same issues with it as I have with Imagine Dragons in that it feels like it’s tailormade to be an unobtrusive song played over an advert for an aspirational electric car – it can kind of mean anything to anyone anywhere, there’s a lot of ifs, buts and mights

which isn’t a problem, that’s commercial music in a nutshell but in Eurovision, it pays to be more niche and to pick a more explicit battle (not like that, Switzerland.)
So with their song already kind of floundering within the more dedicated areas of the fanbase (and drawing them a bizarre amount of vitriol alongside San Marino’s Piqued Jacks), they released their music video which did nothing to warm them to anyone because they were dressed like Scarlet Envy trying to make a swamp monster costume

there’s a very potent Covid Era Eurovision about it – not even because of the masks, but just because of the… emptiness of it all. The music video is one of your big introductions to people and a statement of how you intend to approach the competition and a lot of people now don’t know what you look like AND THAT’S NOT EVEN YOUR GIMMICK! Your gimmick is a sparkly jumpsuit – a strong choice, it worked for everyone’s favourite golden retriever last year!

Hope was not all lost though as basically within the space of 4 hours on April 25th, Wild Youth became The Best Boys™ as it emerged that their staging director was liking anti-trans content (and hardcore conspiracy theory) on Twitter and they dropped him like a hot potato – there was no choice but to stan

and it, at least somewhat, rallied the online fandom to Wild Youth’s side. Obviously it brought out the TERFs, and of course none other than Joanne™ came out swinging for a man that was also a Covid denying conspiracy theorist nutjob but when has that stopped her in the past? – the TERFs having to learn that Eurovision is explicitly not for them every year is extremely funny. Never forget the Icelandic flag palaver.

And so we arrive at the semi-final with everyone having a new found appreciation for Wild Youth because they really stuck with the vague concept of a meaning in their song

it is however still not a good song and live in the stadium it very much came across as wanting to be Harry Styles but kind of landing in small town X-Factor Contestant performing Coldplay in Week 2

there was an understandable fear in his eyes, but it might have just been the tightness of that jumpsuit – sir, this is a family event. Wild Youth did not take the nonqualifying particularly well, I can understand the urge to blame “nobody ever giving you a chance” given that they received a lot of mockery, but that’s a slippery slope to becoming The New United Kingdom. However it did give us the best Eurovision headscratcher of the year with Ryan O’Shaughnessy telling us his planned staging at one point may have involved an exploding cake

When? How? WHY? Nobody knows but at some point someone in a meeting said “No, you cannot have the gay dancers, but you may have this man-sized self-combusting cake to sit inside.”

The biggest disappointment about We Are One (aside from the constant reflex to sing We Are Young by fun. during the chorus) is the fact it is NOTHING like Wild Youth’s back catalogue, which is really good fun pop rock and I think they would have stood a much better chance with something that leaned a little more into the realms of their other songs, which I would suggest taking a look at to give them a bit of a chance.

After all that, if you still like We Are One then you might like:
Horizons by Carry The Crown
Who I Am by The Score
Oh Listener Mine by Double Experience

TuralTuranX – Tell Me More

After last year, Azerbaijan perhaps doesn’t have the best reputation – there was all sorts of jury and voting shenanigans, so what better way to launder your reputation than a pair of Hobbits leaving The Shire to make it big in the big city

I can’t say I love their song, half of it toes the line of going full John Lewis a little too much for my liking, but I would absolutely follow their aesthetically pleasing Instagram accounts because the pair of them have a VERY strong blouse game

and what you wear is a good third of what makes a great Eurovision act – the other two thirds of course being a good song and stage presence. What these two had was more of a mildly interesting thought experiment – less Stanford Prison and more “if we place two Azerbaijani twins in separate rooms, can they still write the same song?” – the answer is no, but you can Frankenstein them into one song and it’s cute enough, I just don’t think it managed to be big enough for the event – they were drowning in that stadium.

If You Liked Tell Me More Then You Might Also Like:
Saturn by Chet Santana and The Home Team
Oh Please by Sundressed
Hollow Moon by Arlington (my favourite one and done band)

Mia Nicolai & Dion Cooper – Burning Daylight

Every year at Eurovision there’s a dueting couple who you spend much of the performance concerning yourself with trying to work out the relationship of (and somehow it wasn’t TuralTuranX): Are they lovers? Do they hate one another? Are you one trans person talking to your past and future self (the music video is a vibe)? Are they… siblings? Did they meet at a poetry recital sponsored by the Humanist Society?

apparently they had never met prior to doing this song for Eurovision and their turbulent relationship is in part the masterwork of Duncan Lawrence of Ugh, And Now For The Annual Outing of Arcade fame – which does in part explain how they managed to create such an atmosphere in such a big stadium with a relatively simple song and very little staging. Of course that atmosphere was the sort of tension that can only come from having to go home to one another after you haven’t spoken since your impassioned 8am argument about the merits of Franz Kafka over the breakfast table

I’m not shocked they didn’t qualify, especially given that they were immediately followed by the powerhouse that is Kaarija – there’s only so memorable that your snazzy pinstripes and perfectly tailored pants can be

but it was nice to see the rotating platform getting an outing. (lol, I wrote that before semi final 2)

If you like Burning Daylight Then You Might Like:
Ms. Supernova by Friday Pilots Club
Steel and Flint by Koethe
Give Me Mercy by The Cult

Semi Final 2

Riley – Breaking My Heart

A pretty good litmus test for how good a Eurovision song is, is seeing how long it takes you to nudge your mouse over the time bar on YouTube to see how much longer it has left. Things were not looking good for TikTomethee Chalamet when I realised I was only 40 seconds in and had another 2 minutes left because the whole novelty of the song is the vocoded robot voice and they blow that gimmick within the first 10 seconds and just repeat it over and over again so the rest of it feels like trying to fill 3 minutes with a single 15 second TikTok video making it very repetitive and bland. And when you have a repetitive and bland song, you have to throw staging at it and Riley found himself competing in a game of Hole In The Wall with his revolving walls

Riley doesn’t have the strongest voice or the most dynamic vocal range – which is fine, it works for the genre of music he’s doing – but this performance overwhelmed him and about a minute in he is in the trenches fighting for his life, streaming Watergun by Remo Forrer and while I’m sure getting to sit down was a bit of a relief, it was not helping his diaphragm

he was definitely on the Strong Chances of Qualifying list but there was some doubt because despite his obviously marketability he qualified for Eurovision without winning the public vote or the jury vote at the Danish national final, which didn’t prove a huge problem for Riley (Sheldon’s Version) last year, but Sheldon at least had drama and a gimmick that waited until the last 20 seconds of the song! I cannot express how much I hate the robot voice, but hey, Riley can always infiltrate Junior Eurovision next year

I’m sure they might appreciate him more than this old crone.

If you like Breaking My Heart, you might like:
The Alchemist by The Faim
All Day I Dream About by Joe P
Butterscotch by Neutral Snap

Theodor Andrei – D.G.T. (Off and On)

if Riley was the TikTok of Eurovision, then Theodor Andrei was the Tumblr

the aim of the postcard was apparently “mime artist” and not The Penguin as a Tumblr Sexyman but you know, you land where you land. And then the whole performance has the same feral energy that gave us the likes of Sonic For Real Justice, Homestuck and The Bone Stealing Witch

I can’t really explain why he’s flanked by two giant versions of himself about to sacrifice themselves in a volcano while wearing thermal underwear, nor can I explain the band of women floating around in a pool blood like the last few Spaghetti Hoops you can’t be bothered to spoon up

and yet, I kind of like the song. Or at least I like the sound of the song, because you do eventually have to find out what he’s saying and you know, I struggle with Piqued Jacks singing “I can smell you” so it’s only fair that “step on me” being sung with complete sincerity does the same

I am still surprised that the dramatic final pose did not in fact involve Theodor getting stepped on by his dancer

I like to think that the BBC vetoed that one immediately. They certainly weren’t going to let him get away with his national final performance, which is somehow weirder and even more offputting

he may not be an ideas man but I do think he’s a genuinely impressive singer and his music sits very well within the genres of music that I personally enjoy listening to, just someone please get him someone to say “no” to his edgelord moodboards.

if Your Liked D.G.T. you might like:
Drinking With Cupid by Voila
The Tragedy by Annisokay
Be My Fire by The Blue Stones

Diljá – Power

With all due respect,

I did find it extremely funny that just after making her powerlift at an Icelandic waterfall like a Nordic demigod, they made Greece’s entry limply flex his biceps outside the Temple of Poseidon

you’re not winning this lift war, baby!

This is another one that I’m disappointed didn’t qualify, especially after her live performance – her voice is incredible, it just fills that stadium so well but I do feel like Diljá and Estonia’s Alika were locked into some kind of blood pact where only one of them could get to final and while I would have put my money on Iceland, it sadly wasn’t to be for our Number 1 Mr. Freeze cosplayer

may she one day come become back bigger, stronger and hencher than ever.

If you liked Power you might like:
Best Times by Nothing More and Lacey Sturm
Tears We Left Behind by Everyone Loves a Villain
Everyone’s a Secret by Lø Spirit

Victor Vernicos – What They Say

Greece were absolutely not trying a damn dot this year if their overwhelming cardboard box staging was anything to go by

the last time I saw this much beige was when Thomas Skinner was cooking on Celebrity MasterChef

I’m not entirely sure how you make 23,700 lighting fixtures seem a bit dull but they found a way, but truly nothing was sadder than the moment he shouted “COME ON!” while gesturing for the crowd to join in and not a single one of those 6000 people moved an inch.

I do feel a bit bad for Victor because at 16 years old he’s only just missing the cut off for Junior Eurovision AND he’s having to work as a USP delivery driver moonlighting as the protagonist in Dan Brown’s latest novel

Greece really seems a touch checked out and a bit like they’re throwing radio-friendly spaghetti at the wall to see what sticks and it’s all a little undercooked

I genuinely think they might be one of the countries that benefits from having a national selection process – you’re 9 seasons deep into The Voice of Greece, just use that! At least you then have proven audience appeal.

If you liked What They Say, you might like:
Bittersweet by Sam Tinnesz and Dashboard Confessional
Wanna Believe by LOWBORN
In Violet by Greyscale

Iru – Echo

I am entirely convinced that Iru and this song are the most elaborate pieces of AI generated art we’ve ever seen – especially the music video which sits right into the uncanny valley

and then there’s the lyrics which feel like ChatGPT is having a crisis and leaving you a secret code

I wonder who could possibly crack that sipher…

The thing is indeed… known.

So with all of that, I was curious as to how it would translate to a live performance, and in all honesty, pretty impressively well and I would have loved to have seen her qualify for the final because I really, really loved it on the night

her voice, with those two towering screens really felt monolithic and turbulent and a bit like something that might play over the credits of one of the newer Star Trek movies, which might have been exactly what she was aiming for?

I think she did great and deserved better.

If you liked Echo, you might like:
Vertigo by Valiant Hearts
Moonlit by Rivals
Angel by Poets of the Fall

San Marino
Piqued Jacks – Like An Animal

Along with Wild Youth, Piqued Jacks were the fandom’s punching bags because it seemed like everyone was supporting someone else in San Marino’s national selection process, thus splitting the vote so evenly that Sammarinese Maroon 5 won instead – Eiffel 65 came fifth, which isn’t important, I just find it quite funny that Eiffel 65 was there.

As for the song… I’ve already mentioned my issues with the “I can smell you” line but the whole song just feels a little bit… I think “greasy”, is the nicest way I can sum it up, listening to it is a bit like when a guy with far too much cologne on sits next to you and puts his arm around you without asking

but I love the tune and the lead singer’s voice, it’s very much another case of LITERALLY ANY OTHER LYRICS. I also cannot look at Andrea and not see Vivian Vanderpuss

actually, a lot of what Vivian said during that mini challenge would work as lyrics in this song

I just want to not be reminded of Adam Levine.

If You Like “Like An Animal” you might like:
Fantastic by Blame My Youth
Supernatural by Barns Courtney
Girl In Blue by Animal Sun

And that’s it! I will be doing a recap of the Grand Final, splitting the show into two halves – I’m not entirely sure when they’ll be out because I am drowning in recaps as Drag Race decided to really make this weekend The Gay Olympics – but it’ll get done!

And if you’ve enjoyed this recap and would like to support the blog, you can leave a small donation via my Ko-fi HERE.

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