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.

As the saying goes, they saved the best for last. That is certainly true for Eurovision national selections, as Portugal’s beloved Festival da Canção is the very last of the 2023 season.

Various members of the ESC United team have reviewed hundreds of national selection entries this season, and though snarky words have been uttered at some, it is a discussion we have enjoyed having and we hope you have too.

For the last time this 2023 season, we have assembled three barely qualified yokels to cast aspersions on the hopes and dreams on one nation’s singers, songwriters and performers.

For Festival da Canção, Tyler Griffith from Alaska, James Maude from California, and Boris Meersman from Belgium have reviewed the 13 entries, and collectively, we will anoint an artist we feel is worthy to represent Portugal at Eurovision 2023. Since we rarely get the winner right, we at least hope it is scant consolation for our nominee. But I hope the nominee knows that all three of our panelists enjoy this particular national selection, and despite never accurately nailing exactly what “fado” is, we appreciate it when we hear it.

In order of appearance at the Festival da Canção final, here is our final national selection review of the season.

Cláudia Pascoal – “Nasci Maria”

Boris – 9.5 – “Cláudia returning to the scene with a Manizha-style feminist anthem, all while delivering Fruitella-tinged realness and hilarious washerwomen choreographies. I’m am OBSESSED, like hello?!!? The only gripe I had about the song itself – its repetitiveness – is completely cancelled out by the visuals. I can only come to one conclusion: Nasci Maria is Mother!”

James – 9 – “A catchy mish-mash of the traditional and the modern, with feminist chants and modern beats overlaid on piano forte and old fashioned percussion and dog barking (?). A lot of entries are reaching back to the ’80s and the ’90s, but Claudia is reaching way farther back. It’s as if she is trying to channel a female uprising from the biblical era; this is an almost primal “I am woman” roar to cross the ages, from Nazareth in the year 30 to Lisbon in 2023. It’s a celebration of herstory, and Claudia’s curation thereof would be a worthwhile entry for Portugal in Liverpool.”

Tyler – 8 – “If I’m basing this solely on the studio version of “Nasci Maria”, I don’t think this would be a good winner for Portugal. It’s an interesting contrast with the rawer “O jardim” entry, but I don’t hate this with the amount of production put into it. The live is a gaudy and neon mess and it’s great at the same time. I’m not pulling the trigger and saying we’re going to Ponta Delgada in 2024 based on the fan reactions for this. It’s a little TOO out there that I’m not sure the general populace will respond to.”

Total: 26.5 points (Average = 8.83 points)

Churky – “Encruzilhada”

Boris – 6.5 – “Not super high on this one, but a charming tropical pop song nonetheless.”

James – 7.5 – “FdC throws up a lot of bands like Churky who would pair greatly with American post-grunge acts like Duncan Sheik or Shawn Mullins. I propose a summer festival be made of acts from Portugal and the United States, perhaps sponsored by one of the larger Napa Valley vineyards or cheese makers. Sure, it sounds like I am deriding this but there is a clear open lane for mature, thoughtful and reflective rock such as Churky at Eurovision. Especially this song which is a statement on lost opportunities in love in youth and that lessons learned while immature may only sink in when it is too late.”

Tyler – 5.5 – “”Encruzilhada” is a cute song, but when it’s up against gorgeous songs, it just gets easily devoured 😦 There are points during the song that I feel that Churky’s voice gets too nasally and high, and that’s slightly off-putting to me. But the instrumentation and the song itself is cute, so I don’t hate it with a burning passion. It’s fine, wish it was better and went somewhere bigger than what we got.”

Total: 19.5 points (Average = 6.50)

Esse Povo – “Sapatos de cimento”

Boris – 8.5 – “One could argue that Esse Povo robbed someone better due to their AQ but I’m convinced they would have qualified anyway? (and thus SAVED Sal or Neon Soho from utter death). “Sapatos de cemento” is a lot of novelty silliness to take in at first glance, but the live was infectiously cheerful and completely free of pretentiousness – a massive boon in FdC.”

James – 7.5 – “Portugal’s national selection is pretty much the only one that tastefully incorporates African music without corny pastiches or outright cultural appropriation. And Portugal is the only selection that would blend said African musical influence with post-punk to give us something like “Sapatos de cimento,” which sounds like a project Neneh Cherry would have been involved in during the 1980s, right down to the slightly oversized Pepto Bismol colored suits. This entry is a grower, and recently Portugal has had a habit of launching unsuspecting acts that come out of nowhere to do well.”

Tyler – 6.5 – “I quite enjoyed the beat of “Sapatos de cimento”! I felt upbeat and happy listening to this, but when it comes to the chorus and verses, it doesn’t really build up to something bigger to me. The song isn’t gorgeous, but it is cute! And in some countries, that would be enough. But not for Portugal. They are serving Homens da Luta realness, so it’s a toot.”

Total: 22.5 points (Average = 7.50)

Bárbara Tinoco – “Goodnight”

Boris – 7 – “Bárbara Tinoco makes the most of her mellow mid song – A tableau vivant into a live Polaroid is actually a cool idea, and it suits her song quite well. It needs further fine-tuning however because Bárbara is swallowed whole by her act near the end. Song-wise, “Goodnight” is a decent indie melody, like a lightweight Victoria Georgieva track. Not the most exciting stuff, but I’ll accept its victory, were it to come.”

James – 9 – “Tinoco excels at the cute girl who is not-so-secretly a brutal heartbreaker. There are many details in the staging that show what a thoughtful entry it is, from the choice of book one of the guys is reading (Al Berto’s “O Medo”) to showcase the pretentious, melancholic “nice guy” she is now trying to avoid. This lacks the whimsy of her 2020 entry, but showcases her ability to pivot after defeat and not simply provide a retread.”

Tyler – 8 – “While I like this entry less than Bárbara’s attempt in 2020, I don’t dislike this song either. This song has a Taylor Swift vibe to it, and if Croatia last year is any indication, won’t be the best choice for Eurovision. I like the lyrics for this, as it feels poetic and the instrumentation is good too. Just like her 2020 entry, Bárbara is a staging visionary. It’s fantastic and elevates the song a lot! One of the national final highlights this year in terms of staging.”

Total: 24 points (Average = 8.00)

You Can’t Win, Charlie Brown – “Contraste mudo”

Boris – 6 – “YCWCB’s song has a serendipitous title: my appreciation for it is fairly muted (it sounds like a decent Leonard Cohen track with some fado influences weaved in) because I’m distracted by all the Eurofan bait surrounding it, and yet the contrast it presents to the rest of the competition (especially with the death of the boring ballads from semi 2) is precisely why it stands out to me. It’s an oasis of peace alongside the folly and pedantry that FdC is known for. Watch it win for that reason.”

James – 5 – “It’s a little Coldplay-esque in that it’s adult contemporary of the sort you’d play in your Volvo XC-90 on a drive to San Luis Obispo. Chill stuff like this gives me anxiety, so rather than saying I find it boring I will just say that this is not my shot of Jagermeister.”

Tyler – 7.5 – “I think this song is quite beautiful and nice! With a group name of “You Can’t Win, Charlie Brown”, I was not expecting “Contraste mudo” to sound like this. The song is indie with some good instrumentation that feels more like a showcase for the band than an Eurovision entry, but I really don’t mind that one bit. Not sure at all how it would do at the contest, but the song shows off the band’s talent and it’s pretty good! I’m not sure based on the live if people will gravitate towards it like “Amar pelos dois”, but still could be a sleeper.”

Total: 18.5 points (Average = 6.17)

Voodoo Marmalade – “Tormento”

Boris – 6 – “The ukelele will forever be the instrument of cheery annoyance, but I do like how it is used here to flavour up a Dia Des Muerto-tined tropical pimba. They sing well together, they’re fun, they’re not a threat to win FdC. All is fine.”

James – 7.5 – “I swear that every folk band out the back arse of Newfoundland and Labrador sounded like this in the ’90s. Which is fine in a bar where this music is holding me captive alongside bad rum and even worse romantic prospects. At Eurovision, however, I have no idea how this will fare. Will this soar, or like the Canadian mountie I met that one night strip down in zero degree weather and run off naked into the Northern night?”

Tyler – 6.5 – “”Tormento” is a pretty good song, as I quite like the instrumentation, and when I read the lyrics, they are also pretty good too. The song feels like it’s kinda shallow, but reads deeper than it’s portrayed. The song is upbeat too and is a foot tapper. It’s pretty cool and interesting to hear and the staging is cute enough, but it might not have that extra quality to it to make it a winner.”

Total: 20 points (Average = 6.67)

Inês Apenas – “Fim do mundo”

Boris – 8.5 – “So underrated. Idk, Inês’s song has a slow burning start, but as I’m about to phase out she switches it up with key changes and frantic piano solos that breathe SO MUCH LIFE into the cumbersome bits. I’m hooked, and I usually dislike experimental jazz. Also, I greatly respect any act willing to continue the FdC trend of pairing jazz songs with hideously overpowering styling choices. <3”

James – 8.5 – “There’s a lot to recommend in this jazzy piano-based vampires riding off into the sunrise song. Admittedly, the craftsy outfit from her FdC semi-final is not one of the recommendations. The effect is Cyberpunk 2077, particularly the early release where the character renderings were glitchy. The overall adjective I’d assign is “disheveled.” And I mean it in a good way. We’ve had too many neat, antiseptic entries (looking at you Sweden), so I would not mind if Ines shows up in Liverpool, a city that swears by disheveled.”

Tyler – 7.5 – “Girl what in the Serbia is this outfit? The biggest thing about “Fim do mundo” I like the most is the instrumentation. That piano is great, and gets me hyped every single time. I do wish the song was a little more fleshed out, as the last thirty seconds don’t feel necessary to me. Quite enjoyed this song as it keeps my interest, but just wish it had just a bit more oomph to it to take it over the top.”

Total: 24.5 points (Average = 8.17)

Mimicat – “Ai coração”

Boris – 9 – “OTT BURLESQUE FLAMECO FADO BUUUUUUUURNING LOVE, um HELLO? Mimicat’s musical concoction sounds like it emerged from the pits of Tina Karol’s upbeat frivolity and has since taken FdC  in a blaze of can-can glore as the token OTT fanfave. An uproarious status condition, as I’m sure you’ll agree. I refuse to gaslight myself into believing she could win, but mostly because I can’t cope with disappointment. If you don’t like this lady, re-assess whether Eurovision might be a thing for you, bae.”

James – 10 – “Like Mimicat, I do not trust my own heart with this. This is a wonderful bridge between old style up tempo Portuguese classical music and hip hop. Like with weddings, at Eurovision you want an entry with something old (the Portuguese acoustic music), something new (the hip hop), something borrowed (the lyrics of a relationship gone haywire), and something blue (the curse words I level at people who do not like this song). And Mimicat, in a weird way, reminds me of a perfectly imperfect charismatic performer like Poli Genova. Should this make it to Liverpool, Portugal have another dark horse on their hands.”

Tyler – 8.5 – “Loved this entry! “Ai coração” is uptempo, musically interesting, and the vocals in this are stellar. This song is a foot tapper, and one to watch out for in the national selection. Would not be mad at all if this won for Portugal, the staging is a bit over the top, but I don’t care, this all slaps.”

Total: 27.5 points (Average = 9.17)

Dapunksportif – “World Needs Therapy”

Boris – 3 – “Look at the name of the band, then at the name of their song. Sometimes the lameness writes itself.”

James – 1 – “FdC generally excels with tasteful curation in both variety and quality of acts chosen, but one area where the organizers screw up is in bringing bands who have a “message.” (See also 2020’s dreadful Blasted Mechanism.) This song tells us that “everybody’s mad.” No s%&$. The world is a clown show, but I fail to see how a band whose biggest problem is the wine bar they’re playing at having a cheese board being out of brie that night is going to help my mood. In fact, they won’t. Just f$%& off.”

Tyler – 4.5 – “After going through the hassle of having this song blocked on YouTube but not on Spotify, I…do not think this digging was worth it! The lyrics feel pretty basic to me, and the instrumentation itself feels generic. If “World Needs Therapy” is supposed to be a sweeping song that’s anti-war, then please be more interesting to keep my attention. The performance was also just a big whatever so shame on the Portuguese for putting this through!”

Total points: 8.5 points (Average = 2.83)

Neon Soho – “Endless World”

Boris – 9 – “God the way the wankdom convinced itself that ‘Endless World’ was THE GUARANTEED QUALIFIER OF OUR TIMES and then it barely reached the final <3 I dunno, Neon Soho sound like a slay indie synth band that would be a jury Q/televote NQ in mid-2010s Eesti Laul and that’s also precisely why I love them. Esoteric dream pop fronted by a Queen of Hearts who painted the roses white, yeah I can very much get into that <3”

James – 5.5 – “What is it with FdC fashion? Do they hire the very first contestant eliminated from Project Runway and say yes to every goofy idea, including the lace slapped haphazardly and asymmetrically on the singer’s face? “Endless World” reminds me of an adult contemporary track found on a mid-grade erotic thriller soundtrack from the 1990s, the sort starring Don Johnson and Madeleine Stowe. Did you know that Stowe was married to Brian Benben, the comic relief actor who starred alongside Dolph Lundgren in the excellent sci-fi action vehicle “I Come in Peace”? Sorry, I got distracted. Which is easy to do in this song that comes without any major hooks.”

Tyler – 6 – “I’m honestly not sure what to think of this entry. “Endless World” is a weird composition. It has breathy vocals that I quite like, and the song is also very experimental for Eurovision. I’m not sure if people will respond to it very well, honestly. This song also skirts the line for me as being too artsy, but I think it’s fine overall, though. I think I liked it, but I also see myself very much not liking it too.”

Total: 20.5 points (Average = 6.83)

Ivandro – “Povo”

Boris – 4 – “I am asleep. A+ jacket though.”

James – 7 – “The staging is a bit naff. Ivandro looks like he was on a way to a disco in that suit but ended up standing in the Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland. A pity, as this song has potential. Ivandro as an artist definitely does, with a haunting, melancholic voice.”

Tyler – 6 – “Wasn’t expecting much when I first started listening to “Povo”, so when we get evidence of Ivandro’s singing and emotions towards the end, this song has a journey I quite like! There’s a lot of emotion to this song that I enjoyed and keeps my interest. I like the staging and think Ivandro sells it well. Good entry!”

Total: 17 points (Average = 5.67)

Edmundo Inácio – “A festa”

Boris – 8 – “The Open Call winners kinda own this year! Edmundo provides us with a queertastic smörgåsbord of power vocals, killer couture and generally interesting music, and it’s all very good. I am only giving an eight though because Eurovision is a live performance contest first, and a song contest second. Staging matters, and I’m underwhelmed by the lack of a visually stunning act to accompany the good music.”

James – 7.5 – “Another seamless blending of the Portuguese traditional and the modern. Unfortunately the staging and fashion (again) lets the artist down, as this gives the appearance of the Monty Python Spanish Inquisition sketch. Edmundo is a charismatic and talented young artist, and this track has potential.”

Tyler – 7.5 – “Before the live, I thought “A festa” was fine! I mildly liked it, but the song was just pleasant to me and didn’t really go anywhere to become an all-time fave, especially in a field as strong normally as Festival da Canção. I remember thinking Felipe was going to be boring based on the studio in 2020, and I’m glad Edmundo has a similar trajectory. The song really comes alive on stage, and it’s pretty fun!”

Total: 23 points (Average = 7.67)

SAL – “Viver”

Boris – 7.5 – “A living testimony for why Portugal’s NF is always worth checking out –a psychedelic shoegaze rock song could only exist, let alone thrive in an eclectic anti-pop collective like Festival da Canção. And I do enjoy Sal for the unique vibe they bring, but also for shamelessly abusing the pre-recorded backing vocals rule to their advantage and getting rewarded for it with a spot in the finale <3 STRATEGIC SHOEGAZE KINGS <3”

James – 7.5 – “A pleasant rock song with a unique, psychedelic vibe. That is all. Embrace it should it go to Liverpool.”

Tyler – 6 – “Another cute song in a gorgeous selection, “Viver” is perfectly pleasant, but doesn’t rock my socks off with this entry. The vocals are fine and the instrumentation is also fine. The opening of the performance was quite impressive and artistic, but didn’t grow from there to me. Building the stereo tower was cool though! It’s an okay song, but in a national selection as strong as Festival da Canção’s, it’s enough to be on the bottom of my ranking.”

Total: 21 points (Average = 7.00)

As FdC is a quality selection, it’s no surprise our winner needed an average of more than 9 out of 10, and it’s Mimicat! We almost endorsed a return for Claudia Pascoal with an average of 8.83, a score that would have won any other national selection.

1.) Mimicat – “Ai coração” – 27.5 points (Average = 9.17)

2.) Cláudia Pascoal – “Nasci Maria” – 26.5 points (Average = 8.83)

3.) Inês Apenas – “Fim do mundo” – 24.5 points (Average = 8.17)

4.) Bárbara Tinoco – “Goodnight” – 24 points (Average = 8.00)

5.) Edmundo Inácio – “A festa” – 23 points (Average = 7.67)

6.) Esse Povo – “Sapatos de cimento” – 22.5 points (Average = 7.50)

7.) SAL – “Viver” – 21 points (Average = 7.00)

8.) Neon Soho – “Endless World” – 20.5 points (Average = 6.83)

9.) Voodoo Marmalade – “Tormento” – 20 points (Average = 6.67)

10.) Churky – “Encruzilhada” – 19.5 points (Average = 6.50)

11.) You Can’t Win, Charlie Brown – “Contraste mudo” – 18.5 points (Average = 6.17)

12.) Ivandro – “Povo” – 17 points (Average = 5.67)

13.) Dapunksportif – “World Needs Therapy” – 8.5 points (Average = 2.83)

Who do #YOU think should win Festival da Cancao? Let us know in the comments below, or in our forum and social media.

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