Over the entire 23 years of my lifetime, the Eurovision Song Contest has been something I have always heard loads about but never got around to watching. Following plenty of 'should I, shouldn't I' questions clouding my mind, and after becoming a huge fan of last year's UK song SPACE MAN by Sam Ryder in Turin, I took the plunge with Liverpool in 2023 - and I am so glad that I did.
Even though Saturday (13 May) was an inexplicably hard day for me personally, following the relegation of my football team Southampton FC from the Premier League, I was hoping that Eurovision would be the pick-me-up that I needed. It turns out that even after nearly six-and-a-half hours of travelling to and from St Mary's Stadium, it has the power to engulf me into this huge yet quirky celebration of music and bring a smile back to my face.
I watched for hours until the dead of night, embracing and sitting in awe as the dozens of outlandish yet spectacular performances unfolded in front of my very eyes. Whether it be the catchy and groovy Unicorn by Israel's Noa Kirel, Norway's Queen of Kings by Alessandra Mele, whatever that Croatia performance was - and Who The Hell Is Edgar anyway?
Much like prime era Sean Kingston, it seemed that every single song was a banger after a banger, and while there definitely were one or two duds, the most notable being a whole lot closer to home, it all built up to the grand reveal of the jury's verdict, ending with the public vote. While I definitely sat a perplexed and confused figure as I tried to figure out how the scoring system actually worked, it was a dream to see so many recognisable faces represent each country's jury - not forgetting former Liverpool FC defender Ragnar Klavan for Estonia.
After a very drawn-out process - and plenty of banter from Eurovision hosts Graham Norton and Hannah Waddingham, who on a constant basis were seething with the Liverpudlian audience at the M&S Bank Arena for its love of Finland's Käärijä which was both hilarious yet incredibly annoying - Sweden's Loreen was crowned the winner for the second time. Much like most reaction on the night, I was not best pleased.
Now let's take a deeper look into my first-ever Eurovision Grand Final. Including what I did and did not like about the song contest, as well as who I thought should have won it.
The good, the bad and the quirky - my verdict
The first thought I had when I watched the opening performance of this year's Eurovision final was 'where the hell has this been all my life' as it helped bring out the self-confessed Abba superfan inside me. Much like the Swedish group, which won the song contest in 1974 when it was held in Brighton, I definitely could dance and jive as I was having the time of my life. But this feeling did not last for the whole show, below is a breakdown of my thoughts.
My favourite thing coming out of my first ever Eurovision is almost definitely the original songs, as well as the unique yet wonderful performances. Whether it was Croatia entry Let 3 raising my eyesbrows - if I had any - with their wacky dancing and questionable attire, the stage production of Loreen's performance of Tattoo, the jaw-dropping dancing from Noa Kirel or that wild hard-rock head banging from Germany's Lord of the Lost, it has given me memories to last a lifetime.
While I have definitely sung the praises of the Liverpool song contest, you would be amiss to think that I had absolutely no problem with the competition whatsoever and that I just had a great time, singing, dancing and still trying to find out Who The Hell Is Edgar? But that is not the case, as there are at least two things I was left disappointed with after the curtains were brought down on this year's Eurovision.
First - the UK entry Mae Muller. As an avid TikTok user, I am fairly aware of who our representative was heading into the competition and was looking forward to what she could bring to the table. Once I listened to her original track 'I Wrote A Song', however, my hopes were starting to fade. Yes, it was catchy, but also incredibly boring and unimpressive, so I knew that Mae had to pull out all the stops in the final if she was to keep the title on home soil. But she did not do well at all, when videos of her rehearsal were leaked fans grew worried at her weak vocals but were assured she was 'resting' them for the grand final, yet she was arguably worse on the night and the performance behind it did very little to live up to her fellow competitors. All this disappointment saw the UK finish a worrying 25th place, acquiring a measly 24 points (the same that my also disappointing football club Southampton currently have in the Premier League).
Secondly, and I'll keep this short and simple, the politics that surround the entire event. Whether it be the public booing certain participants or trying to understand how some juries voted, I found it incredibly distracting and took me out of the magic of Eurovision a number of times.
Eurovision 2023 has opened my eyes to the world of wacky musicians and performers, the most meaningful songwriting and a complete explosion of culture and celebration promoting unity. Not only does it bring the world together by the power of music, which is hard in recent times given the conflict between Vladimir Putin's Russian and Ukraine, but it is a boat load of fun. While I did not agree with the winner completely, I believe everyone who took part in the event are winners in the end. I will definitely be coming back for next year's contest in Sweden.
Who was my Eurovision 2023 winner?
If was on the Eurovision jury allocating the scores and announcing the winner in Liverpool, I would have chosen Israel's Noa Kirel. Not only did her song Unicorn have an incredibly deep meaning that helped me connect with it, but it was the perfect blend of spectacular stage production, vocals and especially performance given that exquisite dance break.
- Israel: Noa Kirel, Unicorn - 12 points
- Norway: Queen of Kings, Alessandra Mele - 10 points
- Sweden: Tattoo, Loreen - 8 points
- Finland: Cha Cha Cha, Käärijä - 7 points
- France: Evidement, La Zarra - 6 points
- Cyprus: Break A Broken Heart, Andrew Lambrou - 5 points
- Australia: Promise, Voyager - 4 points
- Belgium: Because of You, Gustaph - 3 points
- Austria: Who The Hell Is Edgar, Teya & Salena - 2 points
- Switzerland: Watergun, Remo Forrer - 1 point