All opinions expressed in this article are those of the person quoted and do not necessarily represent the opinions of the other team members or ESC United as a whole.

It’s the third year of Spain’s Benidorm Fest, and with a wildly popular debut (resulting in 3rd at Eurovision 2022) and a slightly chastening sophomore result (17th at Eurovision 2023), you can say that the results have been mixed even if the process of selection was popular.

On Tuesday, four acts qualified from Semi-Final 1 into the Benidorm Fest 2024 Final. Three of ESC United’s Top 4 made it to the Final, with Miss Caffeina preferred by actual voters to Mantra. Not bad, especially since we never claim to have our fingers on the pulse of Spanish pop culture.

Tonight, the remaining eight of the sixteen hopefuls will compete, with four from tonight’s Semi-Final 2 moving on to the Grand Final on Saturday, February 3, 2024.

So before tonight’s Semi-Final 2, ESC United asked several of its writers to review each entry, grade it, write down what passes for their thoughts on each, and in totaling up each writer’s score, a consensus on who ESC United would like to see qualify for the Grand Final and represent Spain at Eurovision 2024 in Malmo, Sweden, could be reached.

The ESC United panel of mad badgers who can’t agree on anything include:

Boris Meersman – Belgium by way of Bulgaria
Daniel Theophanous – London by way of Cyprus
David Popescu – Denmark by way of Romania
James Maude – Los Angeles by way of the United Kingdom and South Africa
Tyler Griffith – Alaska by way of some other state that was featured in a show like Yellowstone or Longmire.

And with the introductions out of the way, in order of the Semi-Final 2 draw, here are our reviews of tonight’s acts with the results listed below.

María Peláe – “Remitente”

Boris – 8 – Always down for a dramatic flamenco cougar, even if this one isn’t as interesting as Karmento or Azucar Moreno. But in this selection the pickings are slim (an 8 this year isn’t the same as an 8 in last year’s benidormfest) and one should take what one can get. I don’t think Maria can win (which is foolish because a GOOD performance of “Remitente” could get Spain a better result than 24th), but I’m hoping to get at least one good live out of her and anything more is a pleasant bonus.”

Daniel – 7.5 – A flamenco fusion, Remitente by Maria Peláe nods to last year’s Spanish entry Blanca Paloma. And like Blanca’s song last year this will be heavily reliant in its live execution. However, Retimente feels more immediate with Spanish native sounds and a singing style more internationally recognised in comparison. From the line-up in this semi-final this stands out for its authenticity and high-level contemporary production values added on to traditional flamenco sounds. Coupled with an experienced singer blessed with natural vocal abilities that can embody effortlessly the pathos we are accustomed from the genre. With such quality offered here, it almost doesn’t matter whether this qualifies or not. But I hope Maria does!”

David – 2 – This is how you define SPANISH! I absolutely love the idea, of showcasing this, but at the same time. I’m honestly so out of touch with it, that I value it for it’s uniqueness. Would I hate hearing this over and over again, absolutely. Do I respect it as it is, in it’s own place, indeed I do. Which is why I respect it, but just NOT in this competitive context.”

James – 9 – “This could do well at Eurovision among the folk fans who crave a contestant country’s traditional sound. And if Maria can sell this live, could we get a genuine flamenco act in over some of the more modern, yet much more tepid, acts competing at Benidormfest? “Remitente” has all the drama and passion missing from the other acts, and brings us a sound that us foreigners recognize as traditionally Spanish but with enough modern flourishes to not have us think it’s dated. The video is also the best of the bunch, and I hope some of the ideas in there – particularly the usage of light and dark and how Maria is presented – make it to the live presentation.”

Tyler – 8 – “There’s a lot going on in this song, but it all feels like it belongs together and I’m engaged the entire time in listening to “Remitente”. María Peláe could be the next Spanish diva that sweeps the Eurovision stage, and it would be earned! The live performance could be really spectacular, and I hope it is! This song is great. More of this, please!”

Total: 34.5

Average: 6.9

Dellacruz – “Beso en la mañana”

Boris – 4 – “The specific combination of the “kiss in the morning” title and party chorus give “whoa I landed a chick at the fiesta and she’s still in my bed this morning F yeaaaaah check it out bro ::clarion of celebratory claxons::. Like yeah good on you, eggman. If waking up your girl in the morning with a kiss is your subject matter, then why go douchebro edm over lovestruck fool pop? It’s a question I’d have more interest delving into if I weren’t so BORED by a backing track that unironically reminds me of the royalty-free electrodance that accompanies marble race simulations or autobattler vids, which Dellacruz sings over in a voice so autotuned he sounds like SuperRob.”

Daniel – 3 – Does a radio friendly song always fair well at Eurovision? Almost never I would say, although Maneskin and last year’s winner Loreen’s Tattoo have been gifted a fair bit of airplay, in Europe at least, judging by my travels over the past few years. But… Beso en la mañana with its incredibly radio friendly sounds makes you realise the banality that is being transmitting from the airwaves day in -day out, infecting our ears, infecting our souls. Whether it’s in the US, UK or Spain its all the same  insipid and colourlessness music. There is absolutely no flavour here; the production makes a half- arsed attempt at a beat, with a rap that sounds so overdone and generic  that even – judging from his demeanour in the music video – the singer himself doesn’t seem to be that into it.”

David – 5 – It sounds like something is VERY off, as in vocally, it falls completely off from the music. A bit like the song being one genre, but the performance falling towards a different genre, and overall, it just puts it all off. There is something that ain’t working together here, but there is an attempt to pull it off, and is does slightly work and makes it a bit catchy, but I’m just uncertain in the end.”

James – 3 – “This is boring Spanish pop with all the usual tropes thrown in. His heavily processed vocals and his weak rapping added to dopey lyrics make this a large irredeemable effort. Never mind a kiss in the morning, his date should be asking if she has any regret about the night before.”

Tyler – 5.5 – “”Beso en la mañana” is fine. The song doesn’t stand out for me compared to other Spanish-language music or rather has only subtle changes (the burst of a guitar lick towards the end was very nice to hear) that could be missed. If the live performance elevates the song, then yeah, I can see this qualifying, but not a huge loss if it doesn’t make it. I hope the performance changes my mind and is memorable for good reasons!”

Total: 20.5

Average: 4.1

Marlena – “Amor de verano”

Boris – 5 – “Maybe it’s the stock harbour soundbytes the studio version opens with, but “Amor de verano” sounds like a standard latin-tinged pop tune you’ll occasionally see get 6th place in a Nordic heat. It doesn’t stand out enough for an opinion either way, and given that most of this selection is just :bunch of uptempo nothing noise: that’s a bad sign. Also, she’s defo not hitting those high notes, huh?”

Daniel – 4 – It starts off with an intriguing acapella female vocal which had me all in, but just for a few seconds  until a rather basic electronic production kicks in and once again I become engulfed by the dirge that is emanating from some the tracks at this year’s Benidorm. I’m struggling with each review now to rephrase the word mediocre. Marlena has an interesting voice, but this song does her no justice. The chorus unimaginatively reliant on the oooooos and the aaaahhhhs and some English word thrown in for audience accessibility. It’s just far too contrived, far too unimaginative for me.”

David – 3 – The song itself has far more energy than the vocal that is delivered, and it honestly bothers me. It drags the song down for me, this lack of vocal energy. The beat and even rhythm is actually on to something, but vocally it just pulls me way too much down. Eventually, I’m just not bothered with the song anymore either.”

James – 7 – “A chill, low key summer boardwalk song. Sure, it’s not a classic like LFO’s “Summertime Girls,” but it does get the job done even with the occasional ropey vocal. Though it’s the song’s only use of English, I did find myself singing “But I don’t know you, and you don’t know me” on occasion since first hearing this.”

Tyler – 7 – “I don’t think “Amor de verano” will set the world on fire, but the song is just very enjoyable and cute to me and I quite like it! This is a good road trip song that can get added to my playlist. I hope the live performance of the song conveys how fun and upbeat the notes make me and that people respond to it. It isn’t the typical Eurovision song so I’m not sure this would do well at all, but it’s a fine showcase for Marlena, so I approve!”

Total: 26.0

Average: 5.2

St. Pedro – “Dos extraños (Cuarteto de cuerda)”

Boris – 4 – “There’s definitely an attempt at an “Amar Pelos Dois” going on, but the end result is just lounge filler. Gods, WHY is everything in this contest so uncanny valley and mediocre? Like St. Pedro would do decently well in the 50s but he would never win an actual 50s contest, and how many of the chansons  in that ballpark would you, dear reader, nowadays dismiss on sight or pretend to like (but not really) due of their agedness? As a 2024 attempt, “Dos extraños” needs a bit of extra flavour to really count as A Moment, but never goes beyond A Vibe, and instead peters out in the same feeling of “well those were three minutes” as its more uptempo competitors.”

Daniel – 9 – Absolute quality, Dos extraños courts familiar traditional sound and proceeds to interpret them with such prodigious musicality which maximises to great effect St. Pedro’s beautiful, soulful and incredibly sexy vocal. There is something very rich and lush, think bossa nova interlinked with old Hollywood musicals but without a smidgeon of cheesiness. Funnily enough I preferred the first video released; bold in its simplicity with just him sitting on his tiny balcony somewhere in the Canary Islands drinking his cortado, just allowing the music to speak for itself. There is great artistry and talent here! Very much a cut above the rest in this semi-final.”

David – 1 – Put the song on repeat in an elevator, and maybe someone might enjoy it…maybe? At least, it will have someone eventually using the stairs instead.”

James – 7.5 – “This is a lovely retro ’50s ballad with judicious use of piano and strings to propel it. Even though this is about a break-up, its lyrics are contemplative and not bitter. It’s mature in theme and sound, and his vocal performance is one of the better on offer at this selection. My only issue is that this feels more like a mood piece, like I wandered into the middle of a Spanish drama film from another era. Sure, it’s dreamy, but the song pretty much evaporates into the ether when it is over.”

Tyler – 7 – “Okay, this score may be inflated for selfish reasons. Mostly, I see this song as a nice, jazzy song that would be in a café and I haven’t had my second cup of coffee yet and I’m craving it. I’m not sure if this song will escape the semi-final (probably not), but this will be added to my playlist whenever I need chill music to work to. St. Pedro sounds good, and I hope this entry does well!”

Total: 28.5

Average: 5.7

Jorge González – “Caliente”

Boris – 6 – “This himbot mild <3. No, “Caliente” is definitely not good. It aims at SloMo and then lands at like… “2019-era Fuego clone in middling nf”. It really just is Brutaleto / Independiente / Hasta la Vista / Sound of my Stiletto’s, into that ballpark, but not quite down to Alvaro Estrella level. I suppose that’s a backhanded positive? It’s not good via an objective metric, but it’s still… fun? Entertaining? Something? The full extent of my “Caliente” enjoyment mostly hinges on how hapless homeboy Jorge is during the live and I have no way to gauge that based on a silly studio cut. An optimistic six, it is then.”

Daniel – 6.5 – Again, treading on very familiar territory a man singing in Spanish, in a sexually suggestive manner towards the object of his desire in a pop song about heat, fuego, sex etc etc. You’ve certainly heard it all before, all the Spanish instrumentation that you’ve ever heard in mainstream pop culture, its all featured and regurgitated in Caliente. Yet for all its predictability I cannot completely dismiss Jorge or his song. Caliente does manage to win you over with its continuous build-up, with Jorge’s passionate and capable vocals, along with its numerous hooks. If Jorge sells it live, this is one to watch out for.”

David – 7 – This is a track that speaks for itself! Literally spot on title! Song wise, that’s where the heavy lifting is at, there’s no doubt there. The singing is the minor part of the entire song, and much ain’t needed, in order to keep it being effective. As Spanish as it probably can get, so to say, sure also a bit boring and WAY overdone, but it still works, even today.”

James – 6.5 – “Could this be a sleeper Latin pop song that comes alive only when we see some killer choreography, like “SloMo”? Right now this is nothing special – from it’s reference to Miami, fire, moving your body in the lyrics and Latin pop instrumentation with the horns and percussion, it’s a bog standard dance song. It’s fine, but with someone of Kyle Hanagami’s calibre doing the choreography, it can be turned into something more special and a party fit for Malmo.”

Tyler – 6 – “I hate how the discourse for any Latin-inspired upbeat bop means it’s a “Fuego” clone, but come on lol. I like the trumpets in this and despite how heterosexual this song is, it’s still okay. There’s a reason Cyprus kept trying to repeat “Fuego”‘s success, and I guess it’s Spain’s turn. Anyway, the song itself is fine, and I’m sure the dance break will be fun to see in the live performance, but we’ve heard this song before.”

Total: 32.0

Average: 6.4

Yoly Saa – “No se me olvida”

Boris – 6.5 – “Takes too long to get going. I think the idea of starting as a moody guitar ballad and then pivoting HARD into dark electropop is good, but Yoly first takes few pitstops at middling percussion heavy filler pop before going BACK to guitar ballad and ONLY THEN goes hard. By that time, we’ve reached the middle-eight and I’m still hungry for the goodness. Such songs can come together in with a strong performance however, so long as Yoly finds a way to retain her audience’s attention until the Big Moment.”

Daniel – 7 –  With No se me olvida singer Yoly Sea is offering something innovative, fresh and surprisngly emotive. It is lacking that instant pop sensibility, that’s not a bad thing by any means, but I do wonder with its immediacy with first time listens.”

David – 2 – There’s a heavy use of drums, which causes an unneeded amount of rumbling in the overall song. Especially combined with a light and soft voice like this one. The song is also on the slower side and tries to build unnecessary tempo which just doesn’t quite do the overall song any favor. Vocally nice, but not much else to say about the rest.”

James – 7 – “It takes a while to get going, but the journey is worth the slow build up until the final drums come in and it ends. It is lyrically and visually dark, and with its slower build and brooding atmosphere this dark pop entry could be a hard sell, especially with its lack of a great vocal hook for fans to latch onto. But Spain has recent success with a song people were middling about at first and turned into a hit with great staging.”

Tyler – 5.5 – “I wasn’t interesting in listening to this song until the last 30 seconds when the beat changed and new ideas were being used for “No se me olvida”. I’m curious if the staging for this entry will be good and eye-catching, but that’s just speculation really. I think the song is fine, but couldn’t tell you what the first 5/6ths of the song sounded like, and that’s a problem!”

Total: 28

Average: 5.6

Roger Padrós – “El temps”

Boris – 3.5 – “I AM SO TIRED OF LISTENING TO MEN – my continued thought process with these. Why does this selection have two Blas Cantó-themed ballads? At least this one is in Catalan? The chorus has a spike, so that’s something but the verses simmer too long in piano ballad hell to sustain interest.”

Daniel – 7 – “Another interesting ballad, which uses large soundscapes and clever piano riffs and intricate production. Roger’s vocals are impressive. A well put-together song, which in sound and in its visual in the video is heavily reminiscent of Vanessa Carlton’s A Thousand Miles from 20 years ago. There is a quality here, but I remain unsure how it will fair in this semi.”

David – 2 – I’m struggling to find something in the song that I enjoy. Clearly, the chorus does have the most power and interest, but vocally there’s a huge lack of interest as well. Combined, it’s just overall to focus on the song, and it even being in Catalan can throw someone off, who wouldn’t expect it. Overall, not my style of song.”

James – 5 – “A promising, if ultimately drab piano ballad sung in Catalan. I am also not sure that a song about the pointlessness of hanging on to a relationship you know has gone sour is a winning formula or going to produce a compelling stage performance. 12 points rarely goes to an emotionally overwrought ham fake-tinkling over piano keys while howling about a love lost. I had initially said promising, because the production could do with a bit of beefing up. The beats sound a bit flat, the fake strings could be amped up to create a more epic feeling when he hits the chorus. Needs more sturm und drang, as the Germans would say.”

Tyler – 5.5 – “I’m scared that the live performance for “El temps” will have Roger behind a piano playing (which has become such a cliché at this point that I want to shoot any entry on sight when I see it). BUT! I think “El temps” has some potential to it. Roger seems to be able to sing it well and I was gripped quickly with the song and invested in it. It lost some of my interest halfway through, but if the live performance is riveting, then I can see this making it to the final.”

Total: 23

Average: 4.6

Almácor – “Brillos platino”


Boris – 3 – “Three minutes of uptempo nothing ft. some very aggressive autotune. There no way this works live- what am I saying? It doesn’t even work in STUDIO. And it’s a FAVE?! Christ what are we getting ourselves into. NEXT!!!”

Daniel – 6 – “There is a catchiness in the more electronic dance elements of Brillos Pantinos that perhaps make this stand out a little. Again a sound you’ve heard before, but the production values elevate it somewhat, but not to anything original or ground breaking, but certainly to something pleasant to listen to. Not sure it would get much traction at Eurovision, but you never know.”

David – 2 – This sounds exactly, like modern music that is constantly played on radio all the time these days. Not exactly because the music is good, but because it’s the same trash from artists that just get most airplay. This is just a Spanish version of that kind of music… and I still can’t stand it! Pure filler, completely uninspired beat, weak vocal… modern music just sucks!”

James – 5 – “Even with the grating overly-processed vocals, this is just mid. It’s a mid-tempo party track that sounds like it’s from a few years ago, but it impresses about as much as Vyvyan in that episode of The Young Ones where he dry humps the floor to try impress some girls at their house party. And for a song with glitter in the title, it doesn’t really sparkle or shine.”

Tyler – 5 – “”Brillos platino” has a similar problem to “Astronauta” in that the song feels stuck in the 2010s with EDM and contrasts with husky vocals. The song feels generic as well, but I can see this opening up the semi-final to bring a “party” atmosphere to hype up the crowd. Only, I am not very hyped about this entry! It’s fine, nothing special, and I’d be content if this died in the semi-final, sorry!”

Total: 21

Average: 4.2

  • María Peláe – “Remitente” – 34.5 – (Average = 6.9)
  • Jorge González – “Caliente” – 32.0 – (Average = 6.4)
  • St. Pedro – “Dos extraños (Cuarteto de cuerda)” – 28.5 – (Average = 5.7)
  • Yoly Saa – “No se me olvida” – 28.0 – (Average = 5.6)
  • Marlena – “Amor de verano” – 26.0 – (Average = 5.2)
  • Roger Padrós – “El temps” – 23.0 – (Average = 4.6)
  • Almácor – “Brillos platino” – 21.0 – (Average = 4.2)
  • Dellacruz – “Beso en la mañana” – 20.5 – (Average = 4.1)

And the four acts we want to see progress to the Final of Benidorm 2024 are Maria Pelae, Jorge Gonzalez, St. Pedro, and Yoly Saa..

Who do #YOU want to see progress from Semi-Final 2 to the Final? Let us know in the comments below, on social media, or in our forum.

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