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.
Last year, Spain created a three night national final that was full of controversy, full of drama, and full of talking points for the Eurovision commentariat.
But most importantly, Benidorm Fest brought Spain’s best performing Eurovision entry since 1995, with Chanel’s “SloMo” coming in third at Eurovision 2022.
And this week, fans and revelers descend on Benidorm for another go. 18 hopefuls are trying out for Spain, with 9 performing in Semi-Final 1 on Tuesday, January 31, 2023, and the other 9 in Semi-Final 2 on Thursday, February 2, 2023. The Top 4 from each Semi-Final will qualify for the Grand Final, to be held on Saturday, February 4, 2023.
So how does this bunch of entries stack up? Heading into Benidorm 2023, ESC United sat down their three crankiest writers and asked them to cast their opinions and score out of ten.
For Semi-Final 1, Alaska’s Tyler Griffith, California’s James Maude, and Belgium’s Boris Meersman will be running the rule over the nine entries and we’ll let you know below whom ESC United collectively endorses to progress to the Final.
Agoney – “Quiero arder”
Boris – 8 – “GAY! GAY GAY GAY GAYYYYY ♥♥♥♥. This song is more restorative towards my Gay Powers than a fresh haircut. Go live out that dream of being MARUV on a podium, sweet babycakes.”
James – 7 – “A fairly straight forward club banger of the “play in the fire” sort. Meant to be transgressive, but really safe. A slight whiff of kink, but only enough to rip off and restore normalcy once the lights come back on. The vocals are more top shelf than what you’d expect on a background track that usually plays to begin winding down the evening from faster, raunchier numbers. Perhaps Agoney can return with something that really pushes the boundaries, so we in the audience can convincingly feel that burn he sings about, too.”
Tyler – 9 – “THE camp entry of the selection. The vocals? Camp. The instrumentation? Camp. Everything is camp in this song, and I’m not ranking it higher than a 9/10, because the live will NOT live up to my expectations. Or maybe it will, I dunno! Maybe not the most fun song in this selection, but it’s definitely intriguing and for sure going to be talked about by the fanbase if it gets selected. “Quiero arder” feels like a risk, but it could very well pay off!”
Total: 24 points (Average = 8.00)
Alice Wonder – “Yo Quisiera”
Boris – 4 – “These three minutes sure have been eventful. This one is for those who believe ‘Die Together’ counts as a real song (ie: not me.)”
James – 5 – “A somber, slow-paced reckoning of where Alice has gone wrong, what Alice has overcome, and Alice wishing for better times or gold roads ahead. It’s a little too minimalist, a little too meandering in parts. I can see venues where this song could be quite impactful, such as contemplative moments on a park bench. But Eurovision? This will get drowned out.”
Tyler – 5 – “While I ended up mildly liking the song towards the end with the key change and the music swelling, I didn’t think it was a good choice to have the intro be half of the song and then I finally get some interest. “Yo quisiera” is interesting musically, and I think the live performance would be quite nice! But the payoff isn’t big enough for me to ignore the first half where I ended up becoming bored of it.”
Total: 14 points (Average = 4.67)
Aritz Arén – “Flamenco”
Boris – 5.5 – “Pathetic stock footage reggaeton mild ironic like <3. How was and is this ever a fave to win Benifest? Did you hear the song? It’s an “Eh Eh Flemenko” away from being a Jessika Muscat vehicle. Just because Chanel elevated a middling J-Lo reject into greatness doesn’t meant it’ll happen again with this silly Shawn Mendes wannabop.”
James – 5.5 – “For a song referencing kissing strangers and hearts beating flamenco, this entry is very underseasoned. There are elements for a strong entry if Aritz gets Chanel-grade choreography, amps the bpm by a few dozen, adds in more percussion and advertises the more flamboyant side of Spain’s flamenco folk tradition. In trying to bridge the modern vocal style of R&B with the flamenco style, a lot gets lost in the space between. Spain has done well recently at both ESC and JESC with uniquely Spanish takes twisted for a modern audience, and Aritz could do well to take notes from that recently successful template.”
Tyler – 3.5 – “Putting aside confusing “losing” for “loosing” in the lyric video, “Flamenco” just sounds off? The tempo does not work for me at all, as it feels like Aritz is forcing the lyrics to rhyme unnaturally, and doesn’t make me want to dance the flamenco at all. The song doesn’t pick up enough for me to really get behind, and feels like a first draft of a song. Needs work, maybe the performance can blow us all away at Benidorm Fest?”
Total: 14.5 points (Average = 4.83)
Fusa Nocta – “Mi Familia”
Boris – 8.5 – “Fusa followed the Maria Isabél principle of ‘I would rather be dead than boring’ (a principle every self-respecting artist should live by) and delivers and instantly iconic and uncompromising flamenco funk banger. ‘Mi familia’ reaches FdC levels of peak originality (I mean replace the flamenco with fado and you essentially have a Conan Osíris song), which is a very, very high bar to hit. Hopefully the live delivers because this could be a hit for Spain!”
James – 7 – “I am not sure what subgenre you would call this. Urban flamenco, maybe? I am also not sure how this will translate into a compelling live staging. Not sure the EBU will go for a live horse and Fusa Nocta being naked and riding it like in the video, which is also strange imagery considering that the lyrics talk of familial pride and advice that her grandmother would give her. This could be an odd duck that does well a la Black Mamba or it could be a modernized adult contemporary that sinks a la Carnival. But I guess we’ll need the staging to truly tell us.”
Tyler – 8 – “It took the first minute of the song for me to get my bearings, but once I did, “Mi familia” was a wild ride. I thought the electronica and the tempo was great and keeping me on my toes, and I was never bored the entire time. The music video also had a lot of artistry that I’m sure we’ll also see on the stage. I’m not sure how well the vocals will be though, but I found this song highly entertaining and definitely a contender!”
Total: 23.5 points (Average = 7.83)
Megara – “Arcadia”
Boris – 9.5 – “¡QUE CALOR! ‘ARCADIA’ REALLY LIVES UP TO ITS NAME, AS IT DELIVERS SOMETHING WE DON’T HEAR VERY OFTEN IN A EUROVISION SELECTION: VIDEO GAME SOUNDTRACK, SPECIFCALLY THE EPIC END BOSS THEME. HOLY SHIT DOES IT SLAP IN A WAY THAT LOWERCASE LETTERS CANNOT DESCRIBE. WHAT PUTS THE CHERRY ON TOP THOUGH, IS THAT MEGARA ARE *VERY* SELF-AWARE ABOUT THEIR NICHE (“WELCOME TO ARCADIA: PLEASE INSERT COIN //D A N C E B R E A K\\” IS A TOP 5 NF LINE SO FAR), MAKING ME BELIEVE THEY HAVE AN IRONCLAD STAGING CONCEPT TO DAZZLE US WITH. OF COURSE, SINCE IT *IS* MY FAVOURITE, I AM FULLY EXPECTING A LIVE TRAINWRECK, BUT SHOULD MEGARA DELIVER A GOOD LIVE AND -HEAVEN FORBID- WIN BENIFEST, THEY WILL SOAR TO THE TOP OF THE ODDS, WHERE THEY BELONG!”
James – 9 – “I did not expect retro industrial metal to be on display at Benidorm, but here we are with Megara giving us Second Stage at Ozzfest ’99 vibes. I don’t mean that as an insult, as I have wanted something more authentic in this genre at a Eurovision national selection since those posh ambassadors’ kids from Iceland called Hatari carpetbagged with their art school perversion of it in Tel Aviv in 2019. While this does sound dated – and the samples from 8 and 16 bit video games don’t help in that regard – and does remind me of late ‘90s era Kovenant, I will happily take this as a rock representative in Liverpool in 2023.”
Tyler – 7 – “Arcadia” is pretty good for my tastes! However, it seems a bit too niche to really become a winning entry and rather becomes a footnote in ESC history more than anything. It could be the mix of nightcore and video game sounds that might not appeal to a wider audience. I enjoyed listening to this song though despite that, so maybe it’ll have a dedicated fanbase to at least squeak into the Benidorm final? We’ll have to see!”
Total: 25.5 points (Average = 8.50)
Meler – “No nos moverán“
Boris – 4 – “A Unique experience.”
James – 7.5 – “There’s a simplicity and a wholesomeness to this Spanish boy band pop song that I like. The simple notion of being so entranced by the company you met at the bar that night that you cannot be separated at closing time. It may be too wholesome for Liverpool, whose idea of romance has typically been associated with Clive Barker’s classic “Hellraiser,” filmed there in 1987.”
Tyler – 4.5 – “A boy band entry that doesn’t live up to 2007 unfortunately! Sure they might be pretty, but the song itself is just too repetitive and doesn’t really do anything for me. It’s there, it’s fine, it goes down easy but doesn’t leave an impression enough to fully stan. It’s average, but with enough paint and gloss, perhaps this entry could pop on the stage and get votes? We’ll see! But I overall just think this song is fine and doesn’t make me want to fangirl, so 4.5/10 it is.”
Total: 16 points (Average = 5.33)
Sharonne – “Aire”
Boris – 7 – “Lol, how many Drag Queens do we need across these selections? ‘Aire’ makes for a fun and camp three minutes (it’s definitely more of a song than Skrellex’s and Greta Tude’s daftness in Norway and Malta respectively) and yet I’m not fully convinced. ShaRonne won Drag Race Spain and that creates expectations the music doesn’t meet in itself. You’d better deliver A BIG SHOW, girl!”
James – 8 – “Imagine a Spanish Jimmy Somerville on a gay club banger with strategically placed bass drops and percussion. We’ve had some weak drag acts trying out for Eurovision lately (Courtney Act, Skrellex), but unlike “Aire” they lacked something specific to their country of origin. “Aire” could only be from Spain, whereas the others mentioned could barely pull together RuPaul B-sides. Now this is not the most memorable studio track, Sharonne’s vocals aside. But it’ll keep you moving energetically and enthusiastically for its three minute duration.”
Tyler – 8.5 – “Knowing only that she was on the second season of Drag Race España, Sharonne definitely has a great diva song for this selection, perhaps even the best one? “Aire” sounds a little outdated to me, and the lyrics don’t mean anything to me other than Sharonne showing off her pipes. That being said, this anthem is soooo addictive and fun and honestly is exactly what we need at Eurovision.”
Total: 23.5 points (Average = 7.83)
Sofia Martin – “Tuki”
Boris – 7 – “If one asked a bot to come up with The Most Spanish song ever, this is what it would generate. It’s enjoyable though, even if it’s not fully my thing”
James – 6 – “It’s low key and chill. That’s a good thing as a song to have on in the background at a BBQ, but less so as an entry at an international song contest.”
Tyler – 6 – “I like “Tuki”! I think it’s a fun dance or party song to play, but my main concern is how this is going to be on the stage. The song feels too manufactured in a way that I’m not sure if it cansurvive the transition to the live performance and be one of those entries where the studio version is vastly superior. A good length of song before I get annoyed by it, I think this song could be fun at Benidorm Fest, but I have some hang-ups on how this will be live, that’s all. Good job!”
Total: 19 points (Average = 6.33)
Twin Melody – “Sayonara”
Boris – 4 – “The expectation of a pair of twinbeasts with a song called ‘Sayonara’ does NOT meet the reality. Instead of an uptempo J-pop/J-rock entry, we’ve offered a disappointingly tepid reggaeton that checks out of the brain the second the last note ends. ‘Sayonara’ is boring, which it really has no excuse to be.”
James – 2 – “A nightmarish JESC level entry that the songwriters for The Netherlands would toss out after the first draft. The “Japanese” riff that runs throughout is as daft as it is incongruous with the Latin pop track it’s thoughtlessly tacked on to. If the sexy twins motif doesn’t turn you off, then the corny co-opting of “Sayonara” surely will.”
Tyler – 5.5 – ““Sayonara” has a fun beat (gives me Caribbean vibes!) and has a good hook to make me like the song initially, but the song doesn’t really go anywhere for me after the first chorus. This song feels too repetitive for me, and it’s just barely over two and a half minutes in runtime! A little derivative, but still mildly enjoyable. I’m not sure if this song has a chance to make it to the final for the NF, but best of luck!”
Total points: 11.5 points (Average = 3.83)
So who does ESC United collectively endorse to go through to the Final?
Our Top Four form a clear group at the top, with Megara leading Agoney, Fusa Nocta, and Sharonne. Whether that is the actual order on the night remains to be seen, but this is who ESC United fancies anyway.
1.) Megara – “Arcadia” – 25.5 points (Average = 8.50)
2.) Agoney – “Quiero Arder” – 24 points (Average = 8.00)
3.) Fusa Nocta – “Mi Familia” – 23.5 points (Average = 7.83)
3.) Sharonne – “Aire” – 23.5 points (Average = 7.83)
5.) Sofia Martin – “Tuki” – 19 points (Average = 6.33)
6.) Meler – “No nos moverán” – 16 points (Average = 5.33)
7.) Aritz Arén – “Flamenco” – 14.5 points (Average = 4.83)
8.) Alice Wonder – “Yo Quisiera” – 14 points (Average = 4.67)
9.) Twin Melody – “Sayonara” – 11.5 points (Average = 3.83)
Who do #YOU think should progress from Semi-Final 1 to the Final at Benidorm Fest 2023? And who do #YOU ultimately should represent Spain in Liverpool? Let us know in the comments below, on social media, or in our forum.