Europe is gearing up for the biggest event of the year once again - the Eurovision Song Contest 2023.
A total of 26 acts have now been confirmed for the grand final of the event on Saturday evening (13 May). The party has already begun in Liverpool, where the UK is hosting the contest on behalf of last year's winner, Ukraine.
As a self-confessed Eurovision devotee, it's my favourite time of the year. It's the one day a year when you sit down to enjoy the delights on stage as culture from around the continent converges on the same stage - and also it's a good excuse to party.
The fun aspect is also choosing your favourite songs and performances of the night (and disagreeing with however you're watching with). This year's contest is a strong one, with some heavy hitters attempting to claim the 2023 title.
Here are NationalWorld's picks for those likely to do well and the moments to look out for on the night.
Who will win?
Sweden: Loreen - Tattoo
The Queen of modern day Eurovision has returned to the stage. Loreen was graced with the title after her stunning win in 2012 with Euphoria.
The song, believed by fans to be Sweden’s strongest winner, broke all kinds of records at the time, at the time becoming the song to gain the most amount of sought-after 12 points from the vote and even breaking through to mainstream charts across the continent. With Tattoo, Loreen is sure to continue her reign.
The moody dance hit is staged perfectly on screen - the image of Loreen giving us the performance of her life sandwiched between two huge LED screens with added hand-ography will be seared into the minds of voters across Europe. Paired with the Swedish star’s immaculate vocals and her icon status, Tattoo will spell success for Sweden on the night, and bring the country up to join Ireland as the country with the most wins in the contest.
Who should win?
Finland: Käärijä - Cha Cha Cha
Loreen’s main competitor - at least in the bookies’ eyes - is Käärijä from Finland. His performance during the first semi-final captured the imagination of the entire continent with Cha Cha Cha.
Describing this song as an industrial rock dance hit doesn’t do it justice. Cha Cha Cha’s dark synthy bassline pulls you in from the moment the song kicks off, with Käärijä’s gritty vocals, pulsing high-pitched horn and feisty guitar riffs marrying up perfectly.
The party starts when tempo kicks up a notch, into a vibey dance beat which is perfect for the Eurovision stage without being too cheesy. The Finnish performer is certainly memorable on stage too, decked out in a torso-less neon green outfit alongside his fuchsia-clad dancers.
It shouldn’t work - but it absolutely does. Although entirely in Finnish, there’s no doubt that Käärijä will have you chanting ‘cha cha cha’ at your screen.
The dark horse?
Norway: Alessandra - Queen of Kings
Alessandra’s Queen of Kings is perfect for the Eurovision stage. A classic dance pop hit that will have you cutting the rug in your living room.
This has been a bit of an earworm for me. I went from not really paying much attention to the entry to not being able to stop singing it all week.
And for Eurovision, that’s exactly what you need to stand out from 25 other songs on the night. In any other year, this could win the entire thing, but with such a strong selection from other countries it might just be pipped.
Queen of Kings is unlikely to snatch the crystal trophy on the night barring a major upset, but it will do very well.
Best ‘Big 5’ country
Spain: Blanca Paloma - Eaea
This was one of the most difficult to choose from the pack. From France's disco tune Évidemment blasting onto the stage, to the UK’s Mae Muller closing the show with her highly-anticipated performance, Eurovision’s ‘Big 5’ have definitely upped their game compared to previous years.
‘Big 5’ refers to the countries which contribute the most financially to the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) each year, and in turn are awarded with an automatic place in the grand final, avoiding the dreaded semi-final heats each year. The UK, France, Germany, Italy and Spain make up the group. And this year, for me at least, it’s Spain that takes the ‘Big 5’ crown.
Blanca Paloma’s Eaea has bite and is unlike anything else in the contest. A subtle electronic beat and almost tribal chanting has shades of Rosalia while still being its own thing entirely. The staging also looks great for this song, so it’s sure to stand out in the 26-song show.
Best 'wow' moment
Israel: Noa Kirel - Unicorn
Last year’s contest saw Spain’s Chanel light up the stage with her infectious song ‘SloMo’ and it seems it’s left an impression on our pop girls this year. I’ve lost track of how many of this year’s entries attempt to play off of the success of her now-iconic dance break.
However, the act which takes this year’s crown for the best pop moment has to be Israel’s Noa Kirel with her song Unicorn. The 22-year-old takes to the stage looking every bit the polished pop performer, but the magic really kicks in when Noa asks Europe ‘do you wanna see me dance?’
An incredible dance break takes place at the end of the song helping to lift the track and its sprawling chorus. It’ll be Noa that the girls will be trying to emulate in 2024.
You wanna see her dance? Of course you do!
Most WTF Eurovision moment
Croatia: Let 3 - Mama ŠČ!
It's been said again and again that Eurovision is no longer the cheesy show you watched back in the 2000s. But fret not - for the classic Eurovision lovers, there's one moment in this year's show that will fill the void of proper Eurovision madness.
It comes from Croatia's Let 3 with their song Mama ŠČ!, an anti-war song complete with a bizarre and mind-bending performance that is everything we've come to love about the contest. From the band strutting about in their underwear to prop bombs, Let 3 have brought the proper old-school Eurovision feels to the party.
Eurovision 2023 is a very strong year, with wide-ranging genres and something for everyone’s tastes. As mentioned already, there’s incredible pop moments, amazing rock breakdowns and even ballads in the mix.
There really is something for everyone this year, which means that beyond the top few places in the leaderboard, it could be a tight fight for the best place. This is why I think (and hope!) there’ll be no nil points on the night - the acts at the bottom of the leaderboard will feel hard done by on an incredibly competitive night.