Eurovision 2023, Grand Final, Part 1: Not Like Other Girls Reflex

Onwards brave steed! (Steeds?)

It’s crazy, it’s party.

We’re going in performance order so Part 1 covers Austria to Finland.

Austria (15th)
Teya and Salena – Who The Hell Is Edgar?

Who The Hell Is Edgar? had great momentum coming into the competition – it often felt like the talking point of most TV show discussions about Eurovision because everyone is obsessed with the Poe15 chorus – I think you’re either a Poe Person or a Oh, Mio Padre person in terms of which of the 19 earworms in this song you are

I cannot count the amount of times that line just sneaks into my head and I am powerless not to sing it.
I do think the song’s success is that it kind of hit that same spot that Wednesday’s revival of Goo Goo Muck did and the song dropped right after that trend had run its course, aided by the fact WTHIE? is extremely social media friendly – it’s got a tonne of personality which Teya and Salena certainly brought to the stage and delivered the reaction meme of the season

and the beat is easy to dance to and their live performance falls into one of my favourite Eurovision genres: Easy To Recreate In Your Living Room because large parts of it are performed like Teya and Salena are misbehaving at the back of a junior school play’s chorus line

it’s cute, but behind the novelty and humour of it all, the song is a dagger sharp skewering of the music industry – the 0.003 chant being a reference to how much Spotify pays artists per stream

and prior to the line-up announcement I would have said they were dead certs for the top 10 but opening the show and recency bias really killed their momentum – the last time a show opener finished in the top 10 was Belgium in 2016 and it was mostly thanks to the jury. I was just glad they got over 100 points and they seemed to be having a great time misbehaving behind Hannah and Graham all night

I need one of the Edgar Allan Poe plushes to go with my Frida Kahlo doll, I’m sure they probably would have hated one another in real life.

Jury Score: 104
Public Score: 16
Total Score: 120 Points

Portugal (23rd)
Mimicat – Ai Coração

Now that we’re kind of in the Golden Age of Streaming, I think the contest is beginning to reflect that quite a bit with there being something of a “pop-ification” so it’s always nice and a welcome addition when a country sends something that’s uniquely and distinctly theirs and Mimicat with her mix of traditional Portuguese fado music and cabaret theatricality was, in all honesty, a God send

I personally would have put her in the last half of the show and not just because the lyrics would have perfectly spoken to how the Unofficial Eurovision Drinking Game was going

Ai Coração is the perfect song to give you a bit of a kick up the arse when you start flagging around song 20 and I’d probably have swapped her and Noa – (oh I’ll get to you Unicorn if it’s the last thing I do.)

I also just really like her and the fact she looks like an art teacher living her best life on Stars In Their Eyes as Renee Zellweger in Chicago

I just really think she deserved better than 23rd place.

Jury Score: 43
Public Score: 16
Total Score: 59 Points

An Entirely Neutral Switzerland (20th)
Remo Forrer – Watergun

Is Switzerland ok? Because it’s been three years of just the saddest boys

it’s melancholic men all the way down, huh?
I get the reflex and urge to do an anti-war song, I can respect it even from famously neutral Switzerland, HOWEVER – a smidge of nuance and an acknowledgement of self-awareness are very much needed if you’re going to sing lines like “Just body bags we’ve become” while your cherubic levels of highlighter beam to outer space

and “We ain’t playing now” while it distinctly feels like you’re cosplaying other people’s fear and grief

and if the lyrics weren’t tasteless enough, the Swiss delegation decided that using the lighting effects to simulate a drone strike was absolutely a fine thing to do in a competition that is in part being hosted by a country currently being terrorised by drone strikes – and they still went with it after social media dragged them for it!

I gasp every time I see it because I cannot believe the insincere, self-congratulatory Miss Universe world peace pageantry of it all. I hate it, I’m sure there are lots of people who found it incredibly moving, I think it’s a puddle pretending to be an ocean.

Jury Score: 61
Public Score: 31
Total Score: 92 Points

Poland (19th)
Blanka – Solo

I really don’t know how to feel about this song because there is a lot of debate surrounding it and Blanka’s selection but I only ever saw bits and pieces of it as for some reason I had muted the word “Poland” on Twitter and I only realised during Semi Final 2 when for 3 minutes my timeline went completely silent. So I don’t know if there’s any actual verifiable corruption in it or if everyone was just a bit upset that the cute guy who looks like Maya Hawke in disguise didn’t win?

and having listened to Gladiator by Jann, I love it but I can see why a jury wouldn’t and would prefer Blanka who is quite charming and has a summery song that feels like it’s trying to sell you fast fashion and a package holiday

I find the fact she sings like she’s trapped in a never ending impression of Britney Spears’s “Yeah Yeah” in Oops! I Did It Again very endearing. And in a year of pop girlies doing ill-advised floor shows halfway through a song, it was nice that at least one of them was giving us something that felt doable after a few drinks when I’m comfortable enough to overestimate my dance abilities

I still think that high kick is the most impressive piece of choreo from the night

I mean look! It appears to be causing armageddon!

Jury Score: 12
Public Score: 81
Total Score: 93 Points

Serbia (24th)
Luke Black – Samo mi se Spava

If I was a purely casual Eurovision viewer, I would have thought that this was a major contender for the win because my local news was promoting the hell out of it – there was a story about it every day the week leading up to the competition purely because a guy who was tangentially involved in the making of the song was from my local area, so feel free to believe I am biased when I say I loved this, it’s very relatable

I think I see it as kind of the more refined version of whatever the hell Theodor Andre was doing for Romania

they both have that sort of very teenaged idea of what’s cool, but I understood what Luke was doing with it – the whole song basically being about immersing yourself in video games, anime and movies to keep the pain away and, however unintentionally, creating an even deeper sense of isolation. But it undoubtedly also looks like Alien: The Musical in SPAAAAAAACE!

but I love a staged performance that is incredibly high concept because it’s obviously the music video they didn’t quite have the budget to make – I love the non-copyright infringing Transformer that looks like a Swiss Army Knife

I love that he looks like an Oyster Rockefeller that reads a lot of gothic romance

I love the occasional group choreography amongst what is mostly dramatic hand waving to camera and most importantly, I just love him

he was definitely this year’s Most Likely to be a YA Fantasy Protagonist by a country mile – Danish Heartstopper had nothing on him.

Jury Score: 14
Public Score: 16
Total Score: 30 Points

France (16th)
La Zarra – Évidement

After taking a risk on a less typically French entry last year with the thoroughly robbed Alvan and Ahez, France was back to sending the most French person you could possibly imagine

her dedication to impressive hats and constantly looking like her fourth husband just died in mysterious circumstance but she’d love to get to know you over a drink is truly inspiration

so she had me hooked from the jump on the aesthetic alone, but it does help that I love her song, it very much feels like it’s cut from the same cloth as Monika Liu’s Sentimentai last year with that kind of plastic disco sound. She was another one I had down as an almost certain Top 10, and I am particularly surprised by how badly it did with the juries only getting 54 points but also… the sound mixing was horrible, La Zarra often felt completely drowned out by the backing track and instrumental.
As for the broadcast, I didn’t love what they did with the song – sure the big monolithic dress that made her look like a guppy with an over-inflated swim bladder is striking

but I think you need to do something a little more dramatic than just lowering it down, taking the big skirt away and then zooming her back into the air to become France’s second best lighthouse – the Saint-Mathieu Lighthouse will always be number one

and then because she’s 20 feet in the air for most of the performance, and they really want you to know, just about all of it is filmed in wide shots which really doesn’t really endear you to the song.

Jury Score: 54
Public Score: 50
Total Score: 104 Points

Cyprus (12th)
Andrew Lambrou’s Biceps – Break a Broken Heart

Last year Poland sent a Man Ballad™ and somehow amongst everything else that was going on last year it was one of the most unhinged performances because for some reason they’d decided to overload it with every single effect preset available in Windows MovieMaker

and I only bring that up because Break A Broken Heart was kind of that but without any of the charming naivety about what looks cool and funnily enough they both finished 12th. I was glad to see Andrew Lambrou in the competition though – he was competing to represent Australia last year with a not great song, you’ll be unsurprised to learn the most watched part of his performance is when his dancers dramatically remove his sensible trenchcoat to expose his defining personality trait: his biceps

there were no such reveals this year, he was cutting right to the chase and it was just a gun show from beginning to end – a suit jacket could simply not contain him

which was pretty much also his tactic in the music video – there’s a lot of swimming but I still think the best part of it is when he and his love interest go to a drive in theatre to watch stock footage of trains

it’s my ideal relationship. And next year I am vowing to do a pre-competition recap of the music videos, someone note that down and hold me to it.

Jury Score: 68
Public Score: 58
Total Score: 126 Points

Spain (17th)
Blanca Paloma – Eaea

I really wanted this song to do well on the night, Blanca wrote it to honour her grandmother who had introduced her to traditional flamenco music – admittedly a nuance of the song that’s somewhat lost on the night. I do think Eaea however has the strongest opening of any song in the competition this year – Blanca’s chanting at the beginning is so arrestingly monumental

and the staging with the hands reaching through the yarn walls is very striking

between her House of Yarn and the allegedly selfmade macramed postcard poncho, I’m not sure there’s any red wool left in Europe

it was worth it.

I do think the arrangement of the song could use a little work though because after the first half it kind of runs out of steam and the final crescendo doesn’t really work because it doesn’t feel like it built up a great deal more than it did at the beginning. Also part of that rearrangement should probably be not going directly before Loreen.

Jury Score: 95
Public Score: 5
Total Score: 100 Points

Sweden (1st)
Loreen – Tattoo

The moment it was revealed that Loreen was competing at Melodifestivalen it was pretty clear she was the Eurovision 2023 Champion – which a lot of people didn’t like because it’s never nice when there doesn’t feel like there’s much of a contest in it. Even I found myself not loving Tattoo and trying to work out why because we’re all prone to the Not Like Other Girls Reflex where we just don’t want to like the popular thing and for a while I was convinced that Tattoo wasn’t even my favourite performance by a woman sandwiched between two LED screens and an aesthetic that feels like it’s pulling from 60s sci-fi properties

I am an Iru apologist – lyrics that feel like they were translated by google in 2008 and all.

I think my scepticism of Tattoo was mostly because I was listening to the studio version and that’s not where Loreen shines, it cuts so much of the raw emotion out of her voice. Loreen excels on the stage, she’s lightning in a bottle as a stage performer, especially when she really gets going and the whole song starts to feel like you’re trapped in a hurricane of her own design

I wish the lyrics of the song matched the sophistication of her voice though because the whole thing does feel like a generic pop ballad that was written using the first possible rhymes you could think of with not a lot of nuance or imagination. But even if you don’t think Loreen deserved the win, her win is still a pretty cool win for the statistic alone – she’s the first woman to win the competition twice, Sweden gets to host on the 50th anniversary of ABBA’s Waterloo win and you get to tell exactly when Loreen’s edible hits in her post-win interviews

by the end of finale night, I am not sure she even knew where she was

my personal highlight being Alesha Dixon trying to interview her during the gap between Jury results and Televote results and Loreen only wanting to talk about her nails and how they were made of stones.

Jury Score: 340
Public Score: 243
Total Score: 583 Points

Albania (22nd)
Albina & Familja Kelmendi – Duje

I do hope that at least a small part of the reason Albania managed to crack the top 10 in terms of the Televote was a backlash to a member of the Danish delegation lamenting the fact their act, Riley, was in semi-final 2 with the reasoning being that he thought the people of Albania would simply be unable to comprehend the complex musical stylings of a song that sounded like it was performed by Owl City in 2009. But beyond that there are plenty of reasons for the song to stand out – the fact it’s performed by a family is instantly extremely charming, even if Brother Kelmendi does seem a bit like he’s there under duress and mostly just occasionally heavily breathes into the mic – he’s got things to do, Fortnite to play

this is very much Albina’s passion project and everyone else is just there for the ride, as the outfits will attest to

and she’s a strong lead: her opening chant, much like Blanca’s in Eaea, is instantly attention grabbing. I was maybe expecting a little more drama from the whole thing though – obviously, I love that Albina was having the time of her life and loving every second of it, but a little part of me wishes she was conducting this like it was Eastenders: The West End Musical because she deserve an Oscar for her music video performance which looks like the weirdest Huda Beauty advert you’ve ever seen

Admittedly, uncontrollably sobbing on the stage would probably be less of a vote getter but maybe just smudge the eyeliner a little?

Jury Score: 17
Public Score: 59
Total Score: 76 Points

Italy (4th)
Marco Mengoni – Due Vite

I am fascinated by Italy in this competition because it really seems like they can just send whatever the hell they want and they’ll do great – since rejoining the competition in 2011 they’ve only ever finished outside of the top 10 twice. So I do kind of wish they were taking wild swings like Germany – I am a Lord of the Lost fan but I am also… realistic. Instead we got a lovely but pretty straightforward ballad in an admittedly very nice vest

I just personally wasn’t looking for a ballad this year, I do love the lyricism and the melody of this and I adored how they filmed it and wish the French delegation had done something similar. On paper as “A ballad with a trampoline” I was worried that it would look a bit silly but for a man up against said trampoline, he still managed to captivate you enough for that to not become the central focus

I am not surprised by the jury vote, I’m a little surprised by how well it did with the public, but thrilled that both he and Albina prove a non-English ballad can be real vote getters. And in fact, half of the top 10 Televote countries performed in their native languages, so I hope that becomes more of a trend next year because I do love seeing and hearing it at Eurovision.

Jury Score: 176
Public Score: 174
Total Score: 350 Points

Estonia (8th)
Alika – Bridges

Had this been in the competition about 8 years ago I think it could have been a real contender and admittedly it did better than expected, mostly at the behest of the juries because Alika does have a really beautiful voice. But 8 years ago? I think the self-playing haunted piano would have been a charmingly memorable little gimmick

by the way, it was made in Estonia as this loving close-up will inform you

there were a lot of strange close-up choices in this song, but I too would have maybe insisted on this one if I had a cute manicure

and I was quite appreciative of the close-ups because every time they went wide I found myself worrying that Alika was going to trip over at least one part of her rather drapey suit

which did have a tendency to look like a Girlboss Straightjacket

I wouldn’t be overly surprised if we saw her return to the competition in the future – I’d certainly be eager to if I had done that well with the juries and had something to gain in terms of the public vote.

Jury Score: 146
Public Score: 22
Total Score: 168 Points

Finland (2nd)
Käärijä – Cha Cha Cha

Once Cha Cha Cha hit the semi-finals and was exposed to The Normies it was clear that Kaarija was the only competition Loreen faced, that is unless you, like me, were a slightly delusional Gustaph stan. Kaarija was stiff competition for good reason though, being one of the most bombastic performances in easily the most memorable outfit – how could you forget he’s wearing the Poddington Peas as armbands?

shout out to his dancers who I’m pretty sure had to be wearing false teeth because I can’t imagine he managed to find 4 people who have mouths like a cursed ventriloquist dummy but their rigid smiles are only the second most cursed thing their mouths do

and yet, despite being what I’m sure has to be Eurovision’s first foot licking incident, it’s still not the major talking point of this performance as this is sure to be the lingering image everyone has of The Time Eurovision Came to Liverpool, behold The Human Cha-Cha-pede:

they call it “the piggy train” which possibly inspired The Peppa Pig Conga Line during Semi Final 2 – the Finnish delegation will be seeking financial compensation, Ms. Pig

but the best part of Kaarija’s performance, other than him yo-ho-hoing across the stage

is the fact it’s not bombast and chaos for bombast and chaos’s sake – and if you think the performance feels like it’s being performed by a man that got arrested for getting too drunk on a stag do and peeing in The Trevi Fountain, that’s kind of the point. The song is pretty much about feeling the need to drink to have a good time, so it’s not just a silly nonsense party song and I would advise people from using words like “nonsense”, “illy” and “insane” to describe Eurovision acts, especially if that Eurovision act isn’t performing in English.

Jury Score: 150
Public Score: 376
Total Score: 526 Points

And that’s it for part 1, Part 2 will be up… sometime, I’m a little swamped!

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.

Leave a Reply