This year’s Eurovision Song Contest is set to be one of the most memorable yet – especially for folks in the UK, who get to witness the event on home turf for the first time since 1998.
The city of Liverpool is playing host to the hugely popular singing competition over the next couple of weeks, with acts from 37 nations descending upon the city in their bid to take this year’s title, and win their country the honour of hosting in 2024.
Of course the UK is hosting on behalf of Ukraine – who won the contest in 2022 with Kalush Orchestra’s Stefania, but were unable to stage the contest due to the ongoing war with Russia.
The UK, who finished second last year thanks to Sam Ryder, have stepped in to host – and of course will be hoping for more success on the scoreboard with Mae Muller’s bop I Wrote A Song.
But could the UK go one better? Is a second consecutive Ukraine victory on the cards? Or is another country poised and ready to snatch the coveted glass microphone trophy and next year’s hosting gig?
We reckon the winner could well come from one of this lot…
Sweden (Tattoo – Loreen)
The hottest of hot favourites to take the crown, Loreen is Eurovision royalty, having taken the nation to victory in 2012 with Euphoria – still regarded as one of the greatest Eurovision songs of all time.
Tattoo is an equally memorable banger guaranteed to fill the dancefloors at Eurovision discos for years to come – and while the staging, which has been compared to a giant sandwich toaster (we kid you not!) – will differ from that at the Swedish national final (due to the prop being ‘too heavy’ for the arena) it still promises to be visually stunning.
Worth noting also that if Sweden do take the title they’ll equal Ireland’s record for the most ever wins – seven in total – while Loreen will become only the second ever artist after the Emerald Isle’s Johnny Logan to win the contest more than once.
Finland (Cha Cha Cha – Kaarija)
Eurovision 2023 is shaping up to be a Titanic battle against the Scandinavian nations, with Finnish rapper Kaarija (real name Jere Poyhonen) having been a hot favourite from the second he won his country’s national final by a landslide.
Cha Cha Cha is like nothing you’ll ever have heard at Eurovision before as Kaarija – with his lime green bolero, super-tight trousers and bowl haircut – growls through a track about one man’s simple quest to drink pina coladas on a Friday night.
Think Rammstein meets K-Pop, if you will, with the song taking a very unexpected turn midway through (presumably once the cocktails have kicked in).
With a chorus which transcends the language barrier (who can’t shout along with ‘cha cha cha?)- and epic staging (ballroom dancers in hot pink. Say no more) Finland is a serious contender to nab their second Eurovision win, the first coming with Lordi back in 2006.
Expect the celebratory pina coladas to flow if they do.
Ukraine (Heart Of Steel – Tvorchi)
Reigning champions Ukraine are defending their title with a track which couldn’t be more different from Kalush Orchestra’s folk-rap anthem Stefania.
This year’s effort, from electronic duo Tvorchi (who previously tried to represent Ukraine in 2020) is a powerful, meaningful and ultra-modern slab of electro-pop about showing resilience in the face of war – which both looks and sounds great live.
Ukraine have been one of the most consistently successful countries at Eurovision since they joined in 2003, with three wins (in 2004 and 2016 as well as last year), and a string of top five finishes. They’re also the only remaining country to have a 100% qualification record from the semi-finals.
Expect this to dazzle viewers and nab them yet another huge finish – a fourth win is not out of the question.
Spain (Eaea – Blanca Paloma)
Spain’s fortunes on the Eurovision stage have taken a turn for the better recently – the launch of their massive new national final Benidorm Fest in 2022 ended in Chanel very nearly winning the whole damn thing with Slo-Mo (she finished third in the end but the song remains belove d by fans).
The country used the same method to select their entry this year, and it’s another fan favourite – but it couldn’t be more different.
Blanca Paloma’s song is a haunting, beautiful flamenco number which is spine-tingling live. Expect more than a few goosebumps to emerge when this one takes to the stage.
Spain hasn’t won Eurovision since 1969 and is certainly in the mix to nab that long-overdue victory this time around, but even if they don’t get it this year, if they keep this up it’s only a matter of time until they do. At the very least, expect this to score them another top five finish.
France (Evidemment – La Zarra)
France have been enjoying something of a comeback on the Eurovision trail in recent years – while 2022’s Fulenn crashed and burned in 24th place, they went on to win Junior Eurovision in December (their second Junior victory in the space of three years), and of course came very close to winning the main event in 2021.
This year they’ve turned to Canadian singer La Zarra (aka Fatima-Zahra Hafdi) in a bid to score their first Eurovision win since 1977 – and in doing so have come up with one of the best songs in the entire contest.
Evidemment (Obviously) takes retro disco vibes which wouldn’t be out of place on a Kylie album and mixes them up with a dash of French sophistication and La Zarra’s distinctive vocals for a stunning end result.
While it’s been all about Sweden and Finland so far, France’s odds are dropping – and if the two favourites split the jury and public vote there’s ever the chance this could sneak through the middle and take the crown. Don’t rule it out. Especially if La Zarra brings her sequins and fascinator to Liverpool and owns the stage.
Norway (Queen Of Kings – Alessandra)
Norway, who last year kept us all guessing with yellow-masked duo Subwoolfer (one of whom turned out to be Ben Adams from A1) gets the honour of opening the first semi-final in Liverpool this year with what can only be described as a Nordic banger, courtesy of former Voice Of Norway contestant Alessandra Mele.
And boy does she deliver. Queen of Kings, which Alessandra has said is based on her life and experiences as a bisexual woman, is the sort of track some might refer to as ‘classic Eurovision’ with its empowering lyrics, moody lighting, cool costumes (yep, it’s the first leotard of the season) and that utter earworm of a chorus.
Good luck getting this one out of your head folks.
Norway is still waiting for its fourth win in the contest, the most recent coming with Alexander Rybak’s stone-cold Eurovision classic Fairytale in 2009 – and while this may not see off the hot favourites, it’s a decent each-way bet for the top five.
Israel (Unicorn – Noa Kirel)
Israel missed out on a place in the grand final last year for the first time since 2014, but they’re back with a bang this year, fielding singer Noa Kirel, who is a huge star in her home country.
At first listen this is confusing, coming across as a whole lot of different songs stapled together, hitting its stride as it moves into bop territory – but then pulling the rug out from under us time and time again, as Noa invents the word ‘Femininal’, tells us she has the power of a unicorn, and shrieks ‘U wanna see me dance?’ several times ahead of its spectacular conclusion.
A massive grower, it might not make much impact at first but if you’re not jumping up and down shouting ‘U-ni-corn!’ by the end then we’ll eat our sweepstake sheet.
It’s not been that long since Israel’s last win, with Netta in 2018, and with four victories under their belt they certainly have form. Early word from Liverpool rehearsals suggests this could be a dark horse.
Austria (Who The Hell is Edgar? – Teya and Salena)
While Eurovision may be renowned for paying quirky tribute to famous people in its lyrics – remember Serbia singing about Meghan Markle’s hair last year? – we can’t say we ever predicted a day when a country would give us a dance banger about legendary writer Edgar Allan Poe.
And yet that’s just what Austria have done this year. Having missed out on the final every year since 2018, duo Teya and Salena have gone above and beyond with a fast, furious little number about becoming a great writer after being possessed by the ghost of the Raven author). Yep. We kid you not.
While it might sound like a novelty number on the surface, Who The Hell Is Edgar actually has a serious message – highlighting how little female songwriters are paid for every stream of their songs – between all the chants of ‘Poe Poe Poe Poe Poe’ which you might have seen dominating social media.
Could it bring the contest back to Austria for the first time since 2015? Don’t count it out. If nothing else expect Edgar Allan’s book sales to soar.
Other ones to watch
Armenia (Future love r – Brunette) – this one’s flown under the radar a bit, but it’s an arresting ballad, made all the more compelling by Brunette’s soaring vocal. Could be a surprise contender.
Georgia (Echo – Iru) – after missing out on the final every year since 2016, Georgia should return quite comfortably this year with former Junior Eurovision contender Iru, performing a quirky midtempo piece which ticks all the song contest boxes. Expect this to look amazing onstage.
Italy (Due Vite – Marco Mengoni) – you can always count on an Italian ballad to do well, and Marco has form, having finished ninth for Italy in 2013 with L’Essenziale.
Moldova (Soarele si Luna – Pasha Parfeni) – another 2012 returnee, Pasha Parfeni’s latest entry to the contest is a fun bit of ethnopop guaranteed to have you dancing – and early word from Liverpool suggests we’re in for a treat.
United Kingdom (I Wrote A Song – Mae Muller) – of course we cannot rule our very own Mae out of the running, given her female empowerment bop is proving awfully popular, having done very well in a lot of pre-contest polls and dominated many pre-contest dancefloors. Could Mae bring the contest back to the UK next year? You never know.
All odds courtesy of Betfair
The Eurovision Song Contest semi-finals are on May 9 and 11 on BBC One at 8pm. The grand final is on Saturday May 13 on BBC One at 8pm.
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First appear at Eurovision 2023: All of the songs that could win, from Sweden’s Tattoo to Finland’s Cha Cha Cha