Grab your sparklers, print your bingo cards and tell your friends you’re busy. Semi-Final 1 of Eurovision 2023 starts tonight at 20:00 Liverpool / 21:00 Paris.
The show opens with a moving montage of Liverpudlians celebrating the news that Eurovision is coming to their city. And as part of that Ukrainians start arriving — finding refuge in a city known for its welcoming spirit. Yellow and blue appears everywhere — from slices of cake to flags across the city. A child who appears in the montage then appears on the actual stage inside M&S Bank Arena and walks hand-in-hand with a British child, conveying the unity between the UK and Ukraine.
It’s a weepy start — and one that reminds viewers of the significance of Ukraine hosting alongside the UK. But joy soon arrives with pyro geysers and a bright dance number. The hosts tackle the war head on, saying that it’s the first time a country has hosted on behalf of another during a time of war.
In any case, below is our quick preview of all the action to come. Consider it our pre-recorded notes. Tonight’s show coincides with the launch of William’s book “Wild Dances: My Queer and Curious Journey to Eurovision.” You can celebrate by downloading these bingo cards for whatever party you’re throwing — available in colour or black-and-white for easy printing.
1. Norway: Alessandra – “Queen of Kings”
Memorable lyrics: “Her name is SHE, queen of the kings”
Alessandra isn’t just queen of the kings — she’s queen of the stage. Our girl emerges from the darkness with utter confidence before her backing dancers emerge with light sabres.
“Queen of Kings” is a triumphant anthem with lyrics rooted in female empowerment. With lyrics like “broken her cage, threw out the keys”, Alessandra reminds the listener of their power to overcome adversity and take control of their own destiny.
The melodies and rhythms heard throughout the track emulate those used in sea shanties and traditional Norwegian folk songs. The lyrics also contain references to Norwegian folklore. She is “the warrior of north and southern seas” and “her smile awakes the northern light.”
2. Malta: The Busker – “Dance (Our Own Party)”
Memorable lyrics: “When the tik get tokking I’m gone”
“Dance (Our Own Party)” is about escaping a large-scale event to break away with a group of friends for their own more intimate party and to escape the anxiety of the crowd.
The Busker told wiwibloggs: “‘Dance (Our Own Party)’ is a funky tune mixed with The Busker’s signature sound. The song recounts the story of someone triggered by social anxiety at a party, who finds comfort in leaving with a couple of friends to go to a familiar and more comforting setting.
“Since COVID hit, the three of us have felt more comfortable in our own environment surrounded by people that we are closer with. The song in general is a journey of how one gets out of such a party, and heads back to their home with their friends to throw their own intimate party.”
3. Serbia: Luke Black – ”Samo mi se spava”
Memorable lyrics: “Who’s taking control of me?”
Have you ever felt so lonely and worn out by the world that all you can do is play video games to forget it all? Well, for all the gamers out there, Luke Black understands your pain. “Samo mi se spava” translates to “I just want to sleep” – and honestly, don’t we all sometimes?
“Samo mi se spava” stands out for its memorable use of metaphors that reference video game language throughout, with phrases including “I don’t wanna choose my fighter, who’s taking control of me?”, and “Hello? Game over”.
The lyrics describe Luke’s desire to escape feelings of hopelessness and despair. Right from the start, he paints a bleak picture: “Baby watch the world on fire, it is all a game to me”. Throughout the song, Luke repeats: “I just want to sleep forever, like it better when I dream” to escape a painful reality. That reality is empty and scary — a world of war, famine, and monsters.
When Luke asks “Hello?”, there is no one around to answer him back. The phrase “game over” that follows then becomes a desperate plea for whoever is controlling him to release him from this terrible game.
4. Latvia: Sudden Lights – “Aijā”
Memorable lyrics: “Don’t cry, I’ll try to say the right words at the right times”
Sudden Lights is an intimate indie ballad inspired by the war in Ukraine. The band say that following the invasion they worried the same fate could befall their own country. They wanted to calm themselves and those closest to them and encourage them to believe that everything will be OK.
“The initial idea had a lot of darkness in it, and a lot of fear and anxiety in it,” the band’s lead singer told us in Amsterdam. “When I took the idea to the band, we decided we wanted to have a response to all these ideas. That’s how this song came about.”
5. Portugal: Mimicat – “Ai Coração”
Memorable lyrics: “My chest is burning, my mouth is dry, I don’t know what to do, love I can’t do it like this”
“Ai coração” is about heartache and desperation. Hopelessly in love, Mimicat descends into madness as she waits for her lover — “I feel dizzy, and worse every day” / “My pulse is racing”.
In Portuguese, “Ai” an exclamation equivalent to “oh” or “ouch” in English. As the song progresses and the music becomes more frantic, Mimicat adds one more “Ai coração” to each subsequent chorus, illustrating her emotions spiralling as the heartache becomes stronger.
6. Ireland: Wild Youth – “We Are One”
Memorable lyrics: “We might be different, we might be unique”
“We Are One” is a call to celebrate diversity. The title — coincidentally — harkens back to the Eurovision 2013 slogan, following the themes of togetherness, unity, and inclusion. With lyrics like “you might be a leader, I might be a freak”, Wild Youth remind us that all humans live under the same sun despite coming from different walks of life.
7. Croatia: Let 3 – “Mama ŠČ!”
Memorable lyrics: “Mama bought a tractor”
The chaos and mayhem smack of the Rocky Horror Picture Show. But Let 3 use satire to comment on Russian aggression against Ukraine. “It’s not a political song, it’s a song against war,” they told Croatia’s N1 Info. “Our only wish is for the war to stop as soon as possible and for peace and love to emerge.”
With that in mind, fans and commentators have developed their own interpretations of the lyrics. Generally speaking, the song mocks dictators whose thirst for control and power puts the world at risk. Armageddon is a not-so-subtle reference to Russian nukes: “Armageddon nona…that little psychopath, a little vile psychopath.”
The “tractor” is thought to reference the relationship between Belarus’ President Alexander Lukashenko and Russia’s Vladimir Putin. Back in October, Lukashekno gave Putin a tractor for his 70th birthday. And then in February, Russian forces invaded Ukraine from Belarus. Minsk has continued to support Russia with supply lines and medical care for troops, among other things. In that sense Belarus is a “vehicle” for Russia to wage war.
In the song it’s “Mama” who buys the tractor for a particular idiot — and it’s clear the group don’t approve: “Mama kissed a moron, I’m going to war.” They’ve been explicit with their dismay. In a recent TV interview, they said Putin “thinks the planet is his toy.”
8. Switzerland: Remo Forrer – “Watergun”
Memorable lyrics: “Can′t turn and run, no waterguns, just body bags that we’ve become”
The Swiss entry for Eurovision 2023 “Watergun” was conceptualised two years ago. In 2021, Swiss producer Pele Loriano started writing and composing the song — which means the war in Ukraine was not the reason to create this song, as Loriano stated during recent interviews. Remo starts the song by critically thinking about a childhood memories when he — and many other boys that age — pretended to fight in war. Back then, he thought of it as very playful, not realising the seriousness of war.
But later, Remo recognises that war isn’t playful at all. Many young men around his age in many different countries have to fight and risk their lives at war — not with waterguns like Remo’s childhood self, but with real guns. With lyrics like “I don’t wanna have to play with real blood”, Remo realises his childhood delusions were far more sanitised than the reality of war. “Watergun” reminds listeners to be thankful for living in peaceful countries. Remo said he’s aware of the topic being very emotional and recognises the sensitivity at risk, but he thinks it’s important to spread the message of peace.
9. Israel: Noa Kirel – “Unicorn”
Memorable lyrics: “I got the power of a unicorn Don’t you ever learn?
Unicorns are mythical beasts with a single horn, known for their magical qualities and unrivalled beauty. And on Wednesday evening Noa Kirel made the case that she too is a divine creature by sharing “Unicorn” — Israel’s Eurovision 2023 song.
This song is all about perseverance and unleashing your inner strength. As Noa sings: “I’m gonna stand here like a unicorn, out here on my own, I got the power of a unicorn.”
“Don’t you ever learn? That I won’t look back, I won’t look down, I’m going up, you better turn around. The power of a unicorn. The power of a unicorn.”
In a clever play on words, Noa chants “feminine” and “phenomenon” in quick succession, suggesting that women really do have that inner power. It’s feminine-feminine-phenomenonal.
In the video we see Noa scaling the ceilings to orchestral accompaniment before slipping into a fierce jump suit and later turning into a half-woman, half unicorn beast of beauty.
The song really comes into its own in the final minute when Noa and her backing vocalists chant Un-i-corn. The heavy beat and fierce rhythms are perfect for a dance break.
10. Moldova: Pasha Parfeni – “Soarele și Luna”
Memorable lyrics: “The sun and moon will hold…our wedding crown”
The Moldavian artist returns to Eurovision after 11 years with the hope of taking Moldova to the grand final for a third straight edition. The Etapa Națională 2023 winner loves his wife dearly. His entry is a reminder of the deep connection they share — and suggests that the universe blessed it from above.
“Soarele și Luna” describes a love as magical as the folk stories it alludes to. The English title is “The Sun and The Moon”, and the entire song is built around metaphors, folk symbols and natural elements. Together they give love a brand new dimension and elevate it to something holy and spiritual, driven by the force of the cosmos.
From the very start, we learn that this song is about a wedding: “Dense leaf forest/ I think I’ve found my bride.” The Sun and the Moon seem to take control of the nuptials, giving their most powerful blessings to the couple: “The Sun and the Moon…will hold our wedding crown”.
The lyrics include the presence of numerous natural elements. Notably, the forest and the the Nistru River create complete harmony between the lovers and the nature surrounding them. The “seventh evening” carries still more folk significance. In folk stories, the seventh day — Sunday — is the one on which God rested after he finished creating the world. It is also known as “The Day of Sun” and it is dedicated to rest, family and love.
The music video presents characters from folk stories: the women with horns symbolise “muma pădurii” — Mother Forest, who protects the wild but also the love described in the song. The man with a pan flute represents “Statu-Palmă-Barbă-Cot”, a folk character and very small old man, who also protects their love. The song transports us to a folk fairytale where nature and magic create a holy and cosmic weeding. This love is pure and never-ending.
11. Sweden: Loreen – “Tattoo”
Memorable lyrics: “This is not our time, it’s time to say goodbye”
Loreen co-wrote “Tattoo” alongside Peter Boström and Thomas G:son — the team behind her Eurovision 2012 song “Euphoria” — and Melfest songwriting veterans Jimmy “Joker” Thörnfeldt and Jimmy Jansson. Also credited is Moa Carlebecker, who competed in Melodifestivalen 2022 under her stage name Cazzi Opeia with the song “I Can’t Get Enough”.
“Tattoo” is a dark dance-pop track about holding on to love through pain. Despite proclaiming “it’s time to say goodbye”, Loreen says “this is not the end” and there will come a time when she and the subject of the song are reunited. With lyrics like “I don’t care about the pain, I’ll walk through fire and through rain”, Loreen promises she’ll do whatever it takes to get back to her love.
The “Tattoo” stage show is inspired by Loreen’s nomadic heritage. She told wiwibloggs: “I am from the mountains, so I felt like I wanted to created this nature-ly environment.” She continued: “Beautiful elements like stone and sand and sky and all these beautiful things that we sometimes forget”.
12. Azerbaijan: TuralTuranX – “Tell Me More”
Memorable lyrics: “And I just wanna know how do you feel about us right now”
TuralTuranX’s vintage soft-rock is a step away from Azerbaijan’s typical Eurovision formula, which often involves sending a mellow ballad. Whilst their musical style is refreshingly experimental, the subject they deal with is a classic: the yearning for communication in a relationship.
Whilst growing apart from their love interest remains a possibility, the singer is holding out hope that talking it out will smooth everything over. The chorus is an invitation for us to be open about our feelings – even though, sometimes, it can be difficult.
The opening verses are sombre. “I’ll die from the emotions that I kept down for years” – the singer’s feelings are eating him up inside, yet he is still fearful about expressing himself.
But things start to brighten up after the second chorus, as the singer feels ready to be honest about his feelings: “Let me tell you if you’re ready, hear me out, let’s go crazy”. He contemplates what life might be like if things go right, rather than being held back by the worry that things might fall apart.
“Tell Me More” is all about embracing the complicated when it comes to love, as often the two things come as a package deal. TuralTuranX encourage us to be open and honest about how we feel, even if it does mean taking a gamble.
13. Czechia: Vesna – “My Sisters Crown”
Memorable lyrics: “Choose love over power”
There’s a good reason “My Sister’s Crown” ran away with the title for ESCZ 2023 — it has an instant hook that locks you in from the very first beat. Whilst we have heard Eastern European elements mixed with modern melodies before, this is so different. It inspires feminism and power. It creates something bigger, which comes through in the pained images of women’s handprints on the screen — and the face of a woman screaming. That these women wear pink but convey power says everything. They are not your dolls.
14. Netherlands: Mia Nicolai & Dion Cooper – “Burning Daylight”
Memorable lyrics: “I’m sorry I’m just human”
Dion Cooper, 29, is a former The Voice of Holland participant, who befriended “Arcade” singer Duncan Laurence in the Amsterdam music scene. Last year, Dion supported Duncan on his club tour in the Netherlands.
Mia Nicolai, 27, is a Dutch singer-songwriter based in the United States, met Duncan’s fiancé Jordan during a writing session. After hearing their voices together, Duncan Laurence suggested Mia and Dion should record a duet on the song “Burning Daylight”. Thus, the Dutch Eurovision 2023 duo was born.
Mia and Dion co-wrote “Burning Daylight” with Duncan Laurence, Jordan Garfield and Loek van der Grinten.
Mia and Dion said: “We all have our unique problems and challenges as human beings, which are often universal; a relationship that is ending, losing a loved one, work that doesn’t suit us, stress, or when we are just tangled up with ourselves. Sometimes it feels like we are at a dead end and days go by without meaning. But just when the old is not working and your back is against the wall, there is the opportunity for growth, for something new. Say goodbye to the old life in which you don’t feel so free – goodbye old life.”
Dion added: ”It’s an ode to falling and rising. That we’re all human, that we make plenty of mistakes. That we’re really wrong sometimes, at a dead end. And just when things are not going well, that we ourselves have the choice to go for something better and leave all the old behind. That’s especially the last part of the song.”
15. Finland: Käärijä – “Cha Cha Cha”
Memorable lyrics: “There’s no tomorrow when I grab a pint tightly”
Käärijä — real name Jere Pöyhönen — is a 29-year-old singer and rapper from Vantaa, Finland. The multi-faceted star released his debut single “Urheilujätkä” in 2016. He has followed Eurovision since he was a little boy, citing Verka Serduchka’s “Dancing Lasha Tumbai” as a memorable performance.
Käärijä entered Finland’s Eurovision 2023 selection show UMK in February. His song “Cha Cha Cha” won the competition, scoring a landslide 539 points — 72 points from the professional juries and 467 points from the voting public.
Käärijä co-wrote “Cha Cha Cha” with Johannes Naukkarinen, Aleksi Nurmi and Jukka Sorsa. The song is a party track cutting across genres. Käärijä said: “Finland is a party country, a heavy metal country and a pop country – this song brings all of those together”.
The lyrics describe Käärijä’s progressing feelings on a night out. Starting out feeling melancholic, Käärijä heads to the bar with the intention to “mess my head up and to free my mind of fear”. A few piña coladas later, the singer heads to the dancefloor and shakes his troubles away — “this world ain’t making me scared no more”.
I’m so sad For Azerbaijan, Latvia and Malta!!! OMG! I cannot fathom that Serbia, Croatia and Israel went through instead. I really, really hope to see the brothers again in the future!!! I love their song, their style and they’re so very adorable and wholesome. Latvia and Malta were so good. If 11 could go through, I’d definitely have picked Ireland, too and I wanted to give Mia a hug. I think Loreen, Mimicat and Remo were amazing! For Thursday, I pray to Apollo, Brigid and Hathor to let Gustaph, Albina and Monika through to the final and they better… Read more »
I’m sad Azerbaijan is out, the song is very sweet
I hope there will be a shock on Thursday
I hope Belgium Q’es honestly.
Like how? I can hardly pick 5 of 10 to qualify…
Like, Blanka gets qualified. (or maybe the reverse. She seems popular now. *shrug*)
1) diaspora votes
2) she will be appreciated by certain male voters
Yeah, I can see her making it through. I don’t like her song (I’m a native Spanish speaker and her song comes off as gimmicky and childish to me), but I can see its appeal
Well, I guess Loreen won the SF1 (might be Croatia or Finland though)
Does anybody know when we’ll see full results ?
Usually put up online after the final.
It better be Loreen. She was impressive!
So let’s recap: my accuracy picking the finalists using divination is 70% and my accuracy picking up the finalist using my ears and my brain is 80%. Not bad if I can say so myself.
I’m so so devastated for Malta, Azerbaijan and Latvia. Some of the qualifiers (Norway, Switzerland and Israel come to mind) weren’t better than them
Just because you prefer a specific genre doesn’t mean they were objectively better than the ones you mentioned. Your personal taste is not the international standard of music exelense.
I agree with Ben, Latvia, Malta and Azerbaijan had better performances than the ones he mentioned
Was all well with the voting? Was it all televote??
Yes it was all televote. Juries will be present in the final.
I’m very happy for Croatia with their qualification!! Could they have won the public vote?
No they didn’t the public vote.
BTW I watched France’s performance and yes her vocal is amazing and all but the sound was like off? She was off from the production no?
Maybe half the semi being bad live was a sound issue more than a vocal issue? But Portugal and Sweden were perfect and Finland was good. IDK.
I’m just really disappointed with Noa… I really hated her live vocals…
Käärijä’s vocal is horrible. It is disappointing as I saw him less competitive for the championship now.
Noa, esp. in Verse 1, did not leverage very heavy back vocals. Many others however were just hiding behind.
And Remo also delivered nicely. Both the staging and the vocals are very good.
Sadly Remo’s song was dreadful
My favorites of tonight Switzerland, Serbia , Croatia and Finland are in.
So sad about Latvia ((
To me the most shocking Q is Czechia.
Norway was not that good either ….
Most disappointing results ever, mediocrity being rewarded…
The Portuguese rtp commentators so happy when Mimicat was announced. Im so glad she went through.
i’m so sad for malta 🙁
I had 7/10 correct qualifiers.
LATVIA IS OUT for Switzerland…
MALTA IS OUT for Norway…
AZERBAIJAN IS OUT for Croatia…
I feel horrible at the moment… At least, Käärija, Luke and Mimicat made it..
The outcome was kinda surprising, but not in a good way
Nothing about these qualifiers was surprising.
Exactly, the surprise was that it was the most predictable outcome and that some better songs were left behind
Most boring results ever. Disappointing.
I don’t care about the result. Sudden Light gave one of the best performances tonight. So ROBBED.
They were too good for Eurovision, the biggest robbery of the decade
Wow. I correctly guessed all 10 qualifiers at the start of the show! Time to start playing the loterry I guess. 😀
Well done! I only had one mistake. Put Netherlands in instead of Swiss. Oh well, I’m not surprised by that result.
The CRIME of Latvia’s NQ!!!!!!((( No words!
Fxck u Europe, Eurovision is over :'(
Only until Thursday
No, I’m probably done with ESC after this year
yep, nonsense mumbling love songs or ridiculous dancing acts go through instead of REAL art.
Well, robberies happen every year…
But do come back next year, at least as a kind of support for the great artists like Sudden Lights!
Sorry, I love Europe, I didn’t mean this seriously, but I do feel disappointed, though
The bookies got 10/10. It wasn’t a hard semi as everyone said. The bottom 5 were so obvious.
**** the bookies, they dictate the final results by manipulating the public’s general vote simply just by their presence,
So, what you’re saying is that approx 50mil people across Europe, go online to the bookies, see what they “decide” is good and should qualify (because they are music geniuses), and they vote that way?
Latvia <3 Latvia <3 Latvia <3 Latvia <3 Latvia <3 Latvia <3 Latvia <3
Tears for Malta
Yes, they managed to choose the one great song from an abysmal national selection.
Welp, time to go torch the town. I’m ABSOLUTELY gutted for Latvia and Azerbaijan 🙁 Congrats to those that qualified!
Malta and Latvia are out, i’m going to jump off a cliff….
Please don’t (unless you are hang gliding or parachuting).
Oh no, Latvia T_T….
My predictions went very well. My only mistake was to put Netherlands in instead of Switzerland. Well done me!
Are you feeling better?
Cool, no one asked thi
No one asked you to reply to my comment but here you are 😀
latvia is out 🙁
eurovision is over… bye
it is to me at least
To me too, I don’t expect next year to be better than this year musically. It’ll be on par to 2022 at best.
WOW Serbia is in!
Really, take the chance and do better in GF, dear Lulu!
Did Serbia NQ? Serbia might have actually NQ;ed
Oh goody. I foolishly got worried there for a sec.
my coracao skips a beat!! congratulations Portugal <3
Come on, Latvia!!!
Who tf voted for Switzerland and Israel xd
I voted for Switzerland
Apperently a big chunk of Europe liked them both…
That’s what I see. Didn’t expect their entries to be that appealing, though
Apparently no one cared about your expectation. You are you. Europe is some tens of millions thinking differently…
Humans with phones.
I would have been legit angry if Mimicat had gotten eliminated.
Serbia is less likely in now…
Oh my country qualified. Nice.
I’m gonna have a breakdown….
WELL DONE MIMICAT!
the last is gonna be Norway…. SIGH
Well damn, Malta ain’t making it… 🙁
Haha, Croatia is in!
15 Semi-Finalists + 3 from the BIG6, and all I can say is that the night was not too impressive vocally, and La Zarra disappointed me the most. My hopes are now shifting towards Spain. I’m not a fan of the “Eaea” shout-out or the fact that Blanca is clumsy at English, but I expect her to deliver good vocals. I have no faith in Italy, Lithuania, or Estonia winning the competition, so I go for the most fan-favourite ballad or slow-mo song on trend.
France, Germany and Italy are on ANOTHER level vocal-wise tonight!
France is, indeed, somewhere between C and C#…
These previews for France/Germany/Italy look great. So excited for Germany in particular!
I love the hosts this year. Finally something less cringy and more genuine fun!
Still pretty cringy. I got the “trying too hard to be funny” vibe.
I’m especially liking Hannah.
That will change when they Let Graham Norton onstage.
I love the UK-Ukraine solidarity.
Qualifiers in no order
Not Achille lauro, my love ;_;
My completely unrequested awards:
Live Was Better than Video: Czechia, Azerbaijan, Israel
Most Changed My Mind (pos): Czechia
Most Changed My Mind (neg): Netherlands
Aww, Why’d You Do That Bit?: Israel, Malta
Most Exposed: nah, I’ll be nice and not name the two I thought had a bad night. . .
Curious to see how others award these categories.
Czechia & Israel better than in their videos?? Are you high?
Yes. I found their videos to be ridiulous in different ways, The live performances weren’t. That simple.
The hosting is the best since Petra!
That’s not as big of a flex as you think it is
Hannah’s accent in fact reminds me of Petra. But Hannah is very nice on her own merits.
Who is gonna be a shocking NQ?
Czechia / Serbia / Croatia?
I’d go for Portugal, and I think Malta will be the shocking Q
Malta Q’ing won’t shock me. Well I guess it depends who didn’t Q
i’m worried most for portugal and serbia, i feel like maltas making it
Serbia. But not so shocking for me since I expect it.
No shock NQs, sadly
omg cultural icon Dustin the Turkey
I had a strange affinity with Irelande Douze Points when I was 13. Thankfully I’m past that phase LMAO