Your Guide To Eurovision 2023
This weekend brings us the Grand Final of the 67th edition of the Eurovision Song Contest, the wildest, weirdest, poppiest, campiest, most joyous event of the year. It will be streaming live on Peacock on Saturday, May 13 at 3 p.m. Eastern, and for the first time ever, viewers in the United States can vote for the winner (I think). Make time today to pick up international snacks and mimosa fixins, because it is absolutely not to be missed.
For those who have never watched Eurovision, allow me to try to explain. The whole thing began in 1956 as a kind of mixer for a post-WWII Europe, with seven countries participating. In the years since, it has expanded to forty-ish countries from around Europe (and parts of the Middle East, and now Australia), who each submit one national song, chosen through processes I don’t understand and don’t need to. After two semi-final rounds, which happened this past Tuesday and Thursday, twenty-six countries advance to the Grand Final. Vocals must be live, nothing can go longer than three minutes, mass-appeal pop tends to do best, but every now and then you hear something like authentic Moldovan folk and you’re like: I’m feeling this. Juries from each of the participating countries choose their favorites, via the kind of ranked-choice voting we really need to adopt here in the United States. The results are revealed, country by country, by local personalities who make you say things like, “I guess that’s the Kelly Ripa of Estonia.” The viewers’ call-in votes are added to the totals, a winner is crowned, everybody celebrates, and even if you’re watching it on television, you blow your nose the next day and glitter comes out.
It’s Carrie Underwood-era American Idol, where you get to meet a dozen eastern-European versions of Bo Bice. It’s that clip we all watched of the Miss Universe pageant, except the base level of energy is FRAAAAANCE. It’s a global Super Bowl, except the halftime show is two dozen artists you’ve never heard of, and nobody does any football. It’s 100 percent sincere yet also 20 percent making fun of itself, a tone we Americans can’t achieve unless the experience is mediated through Will Ferrell.
Typically, the winning country hosts the show the following year, but Ukraine won in 2022, so...that’s out. Second-place United Kingdom, who ended a decades-long flop era with Sam Ryder’s “Space Man,” stepped up. The show will go on in Liverpool, with co-hosts Hannah Waddingham of Ted Lasso, pop singer Alesha Dixon, and Ukrainian rock star Julia Sanina. Also, this year, viewers from outside of the participating countries— including us here in the United States!!!— are able to vote via some sort of website situation they haven’t even bothered to explain yet.
Now that the semi-finals are behind us and we have our twenty-six Grand Finalists, here are some notable contenders. Consider it an aperitif.
“Who The Hell Is Edgar?” Teya and Salena
The Grand Final will open with this one, a club banger about being possessed by Edgar Allan Poe, performed by the Austrian Tegan and Sara. What’s not to love?
“Mama SC!” Let 3
The chorus of this one translates to “Mama bought a tractor,” which is a dig at Vladimir Putin, who reportedly got a tractor as a 70th birthday gift from Belarusian President Alexander Lukachenko. (Later, the anti-Putin sentiment gets a little more explicit: “Mama kissed a moron, I’m going to war.”) Let 3 are five guys in giant fake mustaches who have a well-established reputation as troublemakers in their native land. In 1997, they released an album that was completely blank and still sold out its initial printing. In 2001, they collaborated with a sculptor on a giant work called Grandma’s Penis that is exactly what you think it is. And a few years back, they went on a daytime television show completely nude except for corks in their buttholes. (They popped them out as part of the performance, but by that time, the viewing audience of Wake Up, Zagreb or whatever was watching a test pattern.) These guys are wildcards, and the world needs that (in a non-governmental context).
“Break a Broken Heart” Andrew Lambrou
One of the things I love about Eurovision is that it’s a massively-popular musical event that does not center the United States. We can watch if we want, but it’s not for us, and I find that exciting. Still, this year’s Cyprian entry shows us that the global rock music market still mostly takes its cue from America, and the cue America gives the global rock music is Imagine Dragons. (Also, I’d like to point out that Cyprus was robbed in 2018 when Eleni Foureira’s “Fuego” came in second.)
“Because Of You” Gustaph
Another great thing about Eurovision is that sometimes it is gay as shit. In the last few years, there have always been one or two self-acceptance anthems, because we are in the throes of a global Lizzofication. This is the best of this year’s, and if there was not already a RuPaul’s Drag Race La Belgique, this song has willed it into being.
“Cha Cha Cha” Kaarija
A hi-NRG song about drinking—“There is only bar and piña colada on my mind…this icy shell is something I must demolish”—and I can’t tell whether it’s a celebration of getting wasted or an Another Round-style cautionary tale. What I know for sure is that Kaarija performs this one dressed like The Incredible Hulk in Christina Aguilera's "Dirrty" video. This one’s my dark horse pick to win.
But this one is the odds-on favorite. Sweden is always a formidable Eurovision contender, the second-winningest country of all time behind Ireland. (Ireland did not make it out of the semis this year, which was kind of a shocker.) Loreen herself won in 2012 with “Euphoria,” which became a worldwide club hit that summer. Three years later, Sweden won again with Måns Zelmerlow’s “Heroes,” the greatest Eurovision winner of all time (or at least since I learned how to do a VPN and watch it). There’s no way this one won’t land in the top three, and it’s great, but after a certain point you have to stop rooting for the overdog.
“I Wrote a Song” Mae Muller
The twenty-six entries in the final are the twenty who made it out of the semi-finals, plus the Big Five—UK, France, Italy, Germany, and Spain—and the previous year’s winning country. The UK has my favorite entry of the Big Five, a breakup banger from a singer who was born in 1997, the last year the UK won.
“Heart of Steel” TVORCHI
Last year, Ukraine won for the Kalush Orchestra’s “Stefania,” which married traditional Ukrainian folk instrumentation with hip-hop and was too gut-wrenching to ignore. This year is less urgent, but it’s still a defiant song and most of the world is still on Ukraine’s side, so you never know.
“My Sister’s Crown” Vesna
I’ll be honest: this is not one of my favorites. But I’m adding it here because the Czech Republic is calling itself Czechia now, and this is how I found out.
Eurovision is a beautiful thing we haven’t yet found a way to ruin. It’s a party and it’s anthropology. It gets my douze points, which is a thing you’ll understand once you watch. It’s a chance to watch Rebecca from Ted Lasso be as wild as she wants to be. It is my everything. Don’t miss it.
You Might Also Like