10 May 2023
The first semi final of the 2023 Eurovision Song Contest in Liverpool, United Kingdom, produced 10 mostly unsurprising grand finalists while disappointed with a terribly flat and muffled sound from the host broadcaster. Unlike a recent year when a neighbour heard me tuning into Eurovision at 5am, this year I was the one that needed to be jolted into staying awake given the lack of oomph being pumped into my living room. I have a decent soundbar too, and turning it up to 80 (out of 99) it still was barely loud enough. Typically it’s set at 20, while I might notch it to 40 to really hear some music. It’s definitely a problem in the source because the poor sound is in the Youtube videos too.
Until our ears adjusted, the lack of audio resonance would have affected the first four or five songs. Reading comments online that Norway, who opened, sounded bad, and even off key, meant there was a real chance that Alessandra would not qualify, especially as we waited until the final country to be revealed before Norway got the nod. Given that Norway are one of the favourites heading into Liverpool 2023, it would have been a huge shock not to see them progress. With 10 of 15 songs qualifying for the final, it can’t be stated categorically that the early songs were disadvantaged. Suffice to say, three of the first six did fail to qualify while only two of the last nine failed. Countering that, the five that missed out – Malta, Latvia, Ireland, Azerbaijan and Netherlands – were low chances to qualify anyway.
Semi Final 1 – Review
Note, for this year’s semi finals, only the public vote was used to select the grand finalists. This typically favours the trashier and more energetic songs over the more artistic ones, and you could probably say the trend went slightly that way.
01 Norway – Alessandra – Queen of Kings
Alessandra was really hurt by the poor sound quality coming through, with her vocals weak and the whole thing sounding flat. As evidence, below is her performance from the Norwegian national final.
She’s been drawn into the second half of the grand final so at least viewers will be attuned to the sound quality by then and we will get the powerful Alessandra we know. 6/10
02 Malta – The Busker – Dance (Our Own Party)
Malta threw everything at the staging, as they usually do. It was innovative and they tried hard. The song was just too bland and repetitive. 4/10
03 Serbia – Luke Black – Samo Mi Se Spava
Luke’s vocals were never that strong, and they were especially thin during this performance. While there’s a lot going on in the song and on stage, the package doesn’t amount to much. One dreary bit plus another dreary bit equals two dreary bits, not one average bit. 4/10
04 Latvia – Sudden Lights – Aijā
I gradually pumped up the volume by this point, and I was beginning to feel the songs. Sadly for Latvia, while a good rendition of Sudden Lights, it was always a song that needed several listens to appreciate. Lights out. 6/10
05 Portugal – Mimicat – Ai Coracao
Portugal were (unsurprisingly) good. We often underestimate them. Strong vocals and an energetic performance made it a likely finalist. 7/10
06 Ireland – Wild Youth – We Are One
If only the vocals were as glittering as the performance and the bodysuit. Such an anthemic song needed big vocals, and they never arrived, and that’s, again, likely not entirely the fault of the artist. 6/10
07 Croatia – Let 3 – Mama SC
So stupid, in a bad way. Repetitive, uninspiring and a complete insult that Croatia qualify with this rubbish compared to the excellence of Mia Dimsic and Albina the previous two years. I guess, trash sells. 2/10
08 Switzerland – Remo Forrer – Watergun
Remo’s voice carried through quite well, and it was a solid rendition with nice staging. It was not a major surprise it qualified for the final, even without juries involved this time. 6/10
09 Israel – Noa Kirel – Unicorn
Finally some vocals that really stood out. Quality performance with excellent choreography and it’s a great song. Noa is a super talent. The only negative is it would be nice that the song end with one or two lines after the dance solo, not end on the dance solo. 8/10
10 Moldova – Pasha Parfeni – Soarele si Luna
Catchy song with strong ethnic elements that is held back by being too repetitive. 6/10
11 Sweden – Loreen – Tattoo
Lost impact compared to the Melodifestivalen performance. The LED screen props that she performs between are much smaller and consequently don’t allow for complete immersion into the performance for either Loreen or the viewer. Seeing a floating box clearly hanging above her made it look like a floating box hanging above her, not the sense of an alien world that she evoked at Melfest. No surprise, her vocals were a bit off too. It wasn’t just the poor sound quality; Loreen had issues herself. Hearing her breathe, she could not hold notes fully, and even licked her lips at one point. These were the opening stages, and then prop issue materialises. That nitpicking aside, still a quality song and performance. 7/10
12 Azerbaijan – TuralTuranX – Tell Me More
For my favourite entry in this year’s Eurovision, it was a disappointment, albeit not a surprise, to see the twins not qualify. As a duo, they could not have done much more. The styling was great and the staging was fine. I especially loved the heart platform splitting and the lighting. Had there been a band involved as well, that might have provide more sense of drama to the song. Note that the guitar strap broke for Turan (in green) and that might have flustered him a little. 8/10
13 Czechia – Vesna – My Sister’s Crown
Lacked power considering six women are involved and the vocals drift into that scream style of singing. As a group, they all looked good and the performance stuck out. 6/10
14 Netherlands – Mia Nicolai & Dion Cooper – Burning Daylight
Probably the issue with their exit was the song just takes that little too long to get going. Vocally strong, and a nice, simple and stylish presentation. Sad to see them go. 7/10
15 Finland – Käärijä – Cha Cha Cha
Finland changed it up slightly from the winning performance at UMK to make an unbelievable finale. Obviously it’s a major fan favourite, it’s different, and Käärijä himself is so charsimatic. He knows how to perform too. There’s still those lingering issues with Cha Cha Cha that it goes flat for far long towards the end, and that holds it back from being a completely stunning entry. 8/10
My Top 10
The only change from before Eurovision is Portugal in, Latvia out. Seven of my top 10 qualified (those in bold), while I did predict Croatia and Serbia were the dangers to knock a couple out. That was Azerbaijan and Ireland, while I always had Switzerland in the mix without finding a spot in the top 10 for them. They qualified at the expense of Netherlands.
In terms of scoring, the average of this semi final is 6.1, making it one of the poorer Eurovision shows. The best ones rate near 7 or just above. While I’d like to apportion blame to the poor sound quality, it must be remembered I never rated this year’s songs an especially high standard. Perhaps an extra point here and there with Norway and Sweden if the sound was better. Not that that would affect the average much, so, at this stage, we look forward to the second semi final and hope the sound problems are rectified and the artists can showcase their songs in the best possible fashion.
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