Eurovision 2023: Semi-final 1 preview
After months of rehearsals and anticipation, the first semi-final of the Eurovision Song Contest for 2023 is upon us! It kicks off at 5:00am in Australia (AEST) on Wednesday 10 May 2023.
15 acts will participate in this semi-final, but only 10 will get the much coveted ticket to the Grand Final. Australia's Voyager is not among the acts performing in this semi-final - for that, you will have to wait for the second semi-final on Friday 12 May 2023.
See below for a recap in running order of who the entries are and their odds of getting through!
Alessandra - 'Queen of Kings'
Odds to qualify: 1/100 (=1st)
Norway's act for this year has already been doing numbers on social media, becoming a hit on TikTok and generating more than 40 million Spotify streams before the contest has even started.
It's not difficult to see why: 'Queen of Kings' marries the aesthetic of Game of Thrones or Vikings to a thumping Scandinavian dance beat, and Italian-Norwegian newcomer Alessandra makes for an appealing front-woman.
There's echoes of Eurovision hits from days gone by here as well, from Ukraine's Ruslana (2004) right up to Norway's own KEiiNO (2019). Expect this number to get the party started with panache in Liverpool... and maybe even make its way into the upper echelons of the scoreboard come the weekend.
The Busker - 'Dance (Our Own Party)'
Odds to qualify: 2/1 (12th)
Anything that Malta's The Busker lacks in polish, they more than make up for with their sheer dorky charm. The three-piece funk-pop band has delivered some creative staging (using a three-act structure, no less) and a cute song that speaks to the unexpected social anxiety many of us felt after lockdowns, which feels refreshing after years of polished Maltese pop divas.
There's also flashes of past Eurovision greats here, be it Sunstroke Project's saxophone riff (Moldova 2017) or Dadi Freyr's colourful jumpers (Iceland 2020/2021). The Busker stormed the televote in Malta's national final - could they be a potential surprise qualifier in this semi-final, even from the infamous "death slot" in the running order?
Luke Black - 'Samo mi se Spava'
Odds to qualify: 2/9 (7th)
Following on from the success of Konstrakta's iconic 'In Corpore Sano' last year, Serbia have returned to the well of strange, arty brilliance for 2023. While there's not much in the way of big vocals here from performer Luke Black, this has a compelling visual aesthetic and buckets of atmosphere.
Thematically, Luke is singing about the feeling of isolation during COVID-19 lockdowns as he sat at home playing video games. Viewers, however, are more likely to remember Luke's maniacal laughter or the numerous video game references which populate this performance, including onscreen graphics straight out of 'Street Fighter'. This won't be for everyone, but those who enjoy it are going to love it passionately.
Sudden Lights - 'Aijā'
Odds to qualify: 7/2 (13th)
The success of Måneskin and Kalush Orchestra appears to have inspired several up-and-coming indie groups to enter Eurovision this year, and Latvia's Sudden Lights is easily one of the more interesting ones. Sudden Lights are an established act in their home country and have brought a credible indie rock track that makes few concessions to the glitz and glamour of Eurovision.
The title, 'Aijā', is a soothing word used during lullabies, with the song itself being about the difficulty of trying to comfort suffering people. It remains to be seen how well this will translate to a mainstream audience in a Eurovision semifinal, but this is an extremely high-quality entry with some of the most interesting songwriting and production of the year.
Mimicat - 'Ai coração'
Odds to qualify: 2/5 (10th)
Portugal marches to the beat of their own drum at Eurovision, and this year they have served up a retro cabaret number with identity all of its own.
38-year-old soul singer Mimicat delivers the requisite amount of "vampiness "for this sort of thing, and hits some impressively large notes in the latter portion of the song which should make any self-respecting juror sit up and take notice during the Grand Final.
She won her ticket to Eurovision after winning the Portuguese national final, 'Festival da Cancao', where she won the televote and tied for first place with the juries.
Wild Youth - 'We Are One'
Odds to qualify: 4/1 (14th)
There's always space at Eurovision for a crowd-pleasing peace anthem, and Ireland's song hits all of the right notes in that respect. Wild Youth are a credible act, having toured with Lewis Capaldi, Westlife and One Direction's Niall Horan, and they have here teamed up with some top-quality Swedish songwriters to produce their Eurovision anthem.
It's not the most stunningly original piece of composition you'll see this year, but frontman Conor O'Donohue is clearly having a whale of a time and delivers the rousing chorus with panache (complete with a bedazzled gold jumpsuit). Beware, though - anyone playing a Eurovision drinking game might be suffering from alcohol poisoning by the end of this one!
Let 3 - 'Mama ŠČ!'
Odds to qualify: 2/5 (9th)
If you're someone who thinks Eurovision has become a bit too serious in recent years and who longs for the fun acts of the 2000s, Let 3 is coming to the rescue! With a 30-year career and numerous controversial performances to their name, the provocative punk band from Croatia is now bringing their unique brand of performance art to the Eurovision stage.
Their song, "Mama ŠČ!", has strong satirical elements - the lyrics refer to Belarussian dictator Alexander Lukashenko gifting a tractor to Vladimir Putin, while the visuals need to be seen to be believed. You might love this or you may well hate it, but one thing is certain about 'Mama ŠČ!' - you will have strong feelings about this act.
Remo Forrer - 'Watergun'
Odds to qualify: 1/3 (8th)
Switzerland have made a name for themselves with quality male ballads in recent years, and 'Watergun' is another impressive, emotional entry. This is a beautifully-produced track with shades of Rag and Bone Man and Kate Bush's 'Army Dreamers', and Remo's dark, chocolatey vocal (which led him to victory in 'The Voice Switzerland') gives the performance some gravitas.
The lyrics, however, mix moments of genuine poetry with some very clunky metaphors - the titular "watergun" - and that's if you can get past the weirdness of neutral Switzerland sending a song about war in the first place. Nonetheless, in a semi-final with so few convincing ballads, it won't be a surprise if we see Remo sail through to the Grand Final.
Noa Kirel - 'Unicorn'
Odds to qualify: 1/100 (=1st)
21-year-old Noa Kirel is Israel's hottest young talent, having won "Best Israeli Act" at the MTV Europe Music Awards four times. Her Eurovision participation has therefore generated huge anticipation, with rumours running rampant on social media about a massive budget and show stopping staging.
The results have certainly lived up to expectations. Despite some unusual lyrics, 'Unicorn' mixes elements of K-Pop and middle eastern dance-pop to great effect and brings a level of polish that sets it apart from its competitors. Keep an eye out for Noa inventing a new word ("femininal") and for a dance break that will go down in Eurovision history alongside the likes of Eleni Foureira (Cyprus 2018) and Chanel (Spain 2022).
Pasha Parfeni - 'Soarele și luna'
Odds to qualify: 3/50 (6th)
Pasha previously represented Moldova at Eurovision 2012 with his jazzy folk bop "Lautar" and joins the growing list of Moldovan acts who have represented their country multiple times, including Sunstroke Project (2010/2017), Natalia Gordienko (2006/2020/2021) and Zdob si Zdub (2005/2011/2022). His entry this year takes inspiration from recent Eastern European success stories at Eurovision, most notably Ukraine's Go_A.
This is an intense three minutes which combines a driving dance beat with Eastern European folk influences, including a very memorable flute solo. The staging will also appeal to anyone who likes their European entries colourful and quirky - keep an eye out for the two dancers with matching antlers.
Loreen - 'Tattoo'
Odds to qualify: 1/100 (=1st)
If you have been watching Eurovision for a while, you will be familiar with Sweden's representative this year. After winning Eurovision in 2012 with her iconic EDM banger 'Euphoria', Loreen topped the European (and Australian) charts and became one of the contest's most iconic winners. This year, she has returned with a track which builds on the symphonic dance sounds of her previous Eurovision entry.
Even if 'Tattoo' doesn't have you running for the dance floor, it will keep you entranced with its impactful melodies and next-generation staging (which has been compared to everything from a sandwich toaster to the movie 'Dune'). With 50 million Spotify streams already, this is a strong favourite for a reason.
TuralTuranX - 'Tell Me More'
Odds to qualify: 11/2 (15th)
For anyone familiar with Azerbaijan's usual Eurovision output, 'Tell Me More' is a noticeable contrast - instead of an expensive Swedish-produced track, we have an unassuming retro throwback. There's more than a touch of 1998's 'Kiss Me' by American band Sixpence None the Richer here, but this is mixed in with other influences, including (appropriately, given this year's host city) a chorus straight out of a Beatles album.
Twins Tural and Turan, for whom this will be their first performance, also have a likeability which grounds the song. The whole thing is perhaps a shade too subtle to do much damage results-wise, but this will definitely have its fans - and it wouldn't be the first time a charming, laidback number did unexpectedly well.
Vesna - 'My Sister's Crown'
Odds to qualify: 1/25 (5th)
Czechia has been one of the quiet achievers of recent Eurovisions, and have this year picked another strong act. 'My Sister's Crown' easily won the Czech national final with its message of female empowerment and Slavic solidarity, and has been a strong fan favourite since.
The group behind the song, Vesna, is a collaboration between six Prague-based artists from around Eastern Europe and the song features several languages to reflect this, with sections in English, Czech, Ukrainian and Bulgarian. The rehearsal clips for this number also look compelling, with an aesthetic that looks like a cross between 'The Handmaid's Tale' and a Slavic fairytale. If Vesna pull this off on the night, expect this to do very well indeed.
Mia Nicolai & Dion Cooper - 'Burning Daylight'
Odds to qualify: 5/8 (11th)
'Burning Daylight' has some impressive pedigree behind it - it's written by Eurovision 2019 winner Duncan Laurence, who also handpicked the two performers. Mia and Dion have come under a bit of scrutiny from Dutch media after a couple of ropey live performances, but all that is behind them now, and their rehearsal clips look slick and emotive.
A rare example of a male/female duet with no romantic themes, this is a quiet, reflective three minutes about feeling like life is passing you by. This should also find another gear with an audience waving their phone lights. Amongst all the party anthems, there's definitely space for a quality ballad in this year's final... and the Netherlands could easily be the one to fill that niche.
Käärijä - 'Cha Cha Cha'
Odds to qualify: 1/100 (=1st)
One of the only acts tipped to challenge Loreen for the win, Käärijä has been the breakout fan favourite of the year. 'Cha Cha Cha' is a truly original piece of composition, with an aggressive, industrial first minute that gives way to a joyous schlager bop about getting drunk on pina coladas and champagne.
The staging for this song also hits all of the right notes for anyone playing a Eurovision drinking game at home - spoiling this performance would be a crime, but watch out for the most viscerally terrifying cha cha dancers you've ever seen. Anyone who has been to a Eurovision preview party this year will also tell you that this song gets the crowd going - expect the arena to go absolutely wild for this. Helsinki 2024? It's certainly possible.
Can I vote?
Australian viewers are unfortunately not eligible to vote in semi-final 1. Tune in later in the week for semi-final 2 (featuring our own Voyager) where you will be able to cast for your vote for your favourite acts.
How can I watch?
The show will be broadcast live. You can tune into SBS from 5:00am AEST on May 10 with the show also available on SBS On Demand. SBS will also be airing a primetime repeat of the broadcast at 8:30pm AEST on Friday.
For continued updates on all the Eurovision 2023 news follow Aussievision on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube. All links at: https://linktr.ee/aussievisionnet