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 having performed in Semi-Final 1 on Tuesday, January 31, 2023, and the other 9 coming up 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, we recommended Agoney, Fusa Nocta, Megara and Sharonne to advance to the Final. And our recommendations lined up with three of the four that actually advanced! (Alice Wonder got through over our preferred Sharonne.)

For Semi-Final 2, 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.

Alfred García – “Desde que tú estás”

Boris – 2 – “I’m really sick of this sort of ballad, to be honest. We hear this exact sort of sickly smarm in almost every selection and it never produces a winner because who can be bothered to give another person’s self-serving schmaltz a second thought? The People were stanning Amaia anyway.”

James – 7 – “A pleasant, warm romantic ballad for fans of kissing in the rain and Nicholas Sparks novels prior to a character’s visit to the doctor’s office. It’s just a pity Eurovision is being hosted this year in a city viewed as being about as romantic as Pyongyang, Johannesburg and Bakersfield. Alfred has been a busy lad selling albums and grabbing awards since his 2018 Eurovision outing with “Tu cancion,” and if he went to Liverpool with this new song and on the back of a much improved domestic profile, odds are decent he should top that twenty-third place. He’s a leaner, meaner, and much-improved performer. Whether his ballad is strong enough to win Benidorm to earn that honor, though, remains to be seen.”

Tyler – 3.5 – Most of my ire from this song comes from the pre-chorus, where I’m not sure if it’s a featured artist, or Alfred showing their vocal range, but I don’t care for it! It doesn’t fit the song at all, and feels more like a straining exercise than anything else. The rest of the song is just okay, not really memorable to me at all, so this lower score feels appropriate. I hope to have the question on if Alfred has two distinct singing voices answered soon.”

Total: 12.5 points (Average = 4.17)

Blanca Paloma – “Eaea”

Boris – 6.5 – “Blanca Paloma evolving from a Jezinky-style pretentious ‘I Is Art’ “piece” into Chakras-style nonsense <3 ‘Eaea’ is minutes of vocal jell-O, all the wobble and calories, none the sustenance. It’s technically a glow-up, but Blanca’s viability for ESC is the same as last year. (none.)”

James – 8 – “Both folksy and New Age enough to tantalize fans of HBO’s White Lotus, but only the season where Christopher Moltisanti romps around Sicily with Salieri and Stiffler’s Mom, and not the season where Murray Bartlett takes a crap in a trust fund kid’s suitcase. We’d have to go to Moldova for a song for that fan. 2023 could be the weird year where New Age makes a comeback at Eurovision (Serbia came in fifth last year with a New Age-y one that was less accessible to foreigners than this), and if Spain opt for that route, they could be rewarded with this tight, mesmerizing number.”

Tyler – 7 – ““Eaea” is an interesting entry, quite unlike her previous attempt last year. I preferred last year’s entry to this one, but “Eaea” is at least more interesting, even if I’m not sure what it’s going for. It feels like an experimental track on Blanca’s album (perhaps an interlude?). It’s definitely unique and would be cool to see at the main event, but would it actually translate to an Eurovision entry? That I’m not sure about.”

Total: 21.5 points (Average = 7.17)

E’Femme – “Uff!”

Boris – 6.5 – “Remember when Luara Hayrapetyan finished second in JESC with a song whose chorus went BARCELONA! GOAL, BARCELONA, GOAL! Fourteen years later, Barei is now borrowing (um sorry, stealing, Rybak wouldn’t want to imply she’s a bad composer) those very same chords for three minutes of pseudo-feminist drivel, and it’s all very amusing and also definitely Not Good. Still a positive mark from me for sustaining me though ^_^”

James – 7 – “This has the potential to be a dark horse entrant on the assumption they pull off some varied dance moves to go with the variety of singing styles on offer in this girl pop act. The song title is cringe, though. If you’re going the onomatopoiea route, at least pick a noise that is for something very specific and doesn’t sound like the air being released from an EZ boy recliner as a Midwestern car salesman settles down to watch Blue Bloods for the night. Anyway, I enter Benidorm with reservations as the studio track sounds fine enough, but I am really hoping for a spectacular live show and to be able to revise my score on the basis of such at a later time.”

Tyler – 7.5 – “In the best possible way, this is the closest we’ve gotten to a song that fits KPop since Serbia 2020. And I really like this! I wasn’t feeling the first minute or so of the song despite the chorus being fun, then the rapping comes in and I’m in it. There is a good variety of singing styles in this song that makes me almost ignore the title of this song (almost!), and I think this would kill live. Excited to see the performance!”

Total: 21 points (Average = 7.00)

Famous – “La Lola”

Boris – 7.5 – “What ‘Brutalero’ would have sounded like if it had been a World Cup anthem.”

James – 7.5 – “Great voice, and from a couple years back I seem to recall he seemed like a genuinely nice fellow. And yes, I do count niceness as part and parcel of an entry (and so do most viewers, as I doubt “Spaceman” or “Think About Things” would have done as well if Sam Ryder and Dadi, respectively, were bell ends). Add it to a fun hip hop track that straddles both Spain and Nigeria, and has sing along vibes like a soccer stadium anthem (or a FIFA 23 load screen track if you’re feeling less charitable), and you have a potentially compelling entry. I say potential as there are elements in the track such as the horns and percussion that could do with bringing forward into the mix a bit, as well as really highlighting how good a singer Famous can be (like maybe the isolate the vocalization at the bridge a bit more?).”

Tyler – 6 – A super fun song when listening to it, but I’m not sure how much this song stands out otherwise. “La Lola” is upbeat, it’s got some interesting instrumentation, but I’m not sure if it has enough oomph to really make a bigger impression on the televoters. I’m expecting a lively performance though, and could be a blast to watch. Good luck all the same!”

Total: 21 points (Average = 7.00)

José Otero – “Inviernos en Marte”

Boris – 6 – “A pretty standard pop ballad with some effective dramatic instrumentation and belting. Not the most interesting stuff in this overall very interesting selection (though it IS better than Atle’s ‘Masterpiece’ in Norway, its closest known relative), but as a standalone song? Serviceable enough.”

James – 6 – “A heartfelt, powerful romantic ballad of the sort Spain specializes in. Problem is, we’ve heard this before from equally competent crooners. It’s fine, though not quite distinctive.”

Tyler – 5 – This song has a lot of flash in the instrumentation with a sweeping orchestra and a lot of moments for key changes. It makes the song interesting to listen to, only I’m not interested whoops! From the album cover art to the vocals, this sounds like a Blas Cantó cover and, look he’s fine but I don’t know if this will give Spain points. We all remember 2021 after all. Maybe the staging could change my mind, good luck at Benidorm!”

Total: 17 points (Average = 5.67)

Karmento – “Quiero y duelo”

Boris – 8.5 – “A highly charming, authentic, unpretentious folk pearl. No need to mince words, the music speaks for itself. Well done, Karmento.”

James – 8 – “It won’t get your body moving. It won’t get any fans’ horns up in the air. But this touching folk song will tug on the heartstrings of a few. It’s anyone’s guess if this meditation on grief will catch on with anyone in the audience in Benidorm, let alone Liverpool, but give it a chance. It’s certainly a grower and I find myself coming back to this melancholic number despite the fact I usually avoid these sorts of things at Eurovision.”

Tyler – 7.5 – This was a cute song! But it was too short for me, I wanted it to keep going. I got Portugal 1992 vibes from this song, and it just felt like a delight to listen to. It’s light, and I could see Karmento just strumming a guitar or something. The presentation for this song could be simple, but if it resonates enough with the audience, I think this could be a sleeper hit. I’m reserving a lower score though because the performance affects its chances.”

Total: 24 points (Average = 8.00)

Rakky Ripper – “Tracción”

Boris – 5 – “I’m NOT Okay on this Rakky Road. So after Luna Ki entered AND quit because she wasn’t allowed to use her Chervoice vocal loops, we have ANOTHER act in the very next Benifest who is also using the same distortion tech with reckless abandon. I cannot connect with this song in studio because I KNOW the live will be completely different (due to the lack of autotune cf. the official rules), so is there any point in getting excited? Let’s give it a five, move on and pray ‘Tracción’ doesn’t completely derail itself during the live-on-stage performance.”

James – 2 – “Rakky Ripper sounds like the name of a hot dog you might get at a Nu Metal festival. Chances are that hot dog won’t give me a headache like this song, even though Nu Metal fans love slathering on heaping mounds of nacho cheese that looks like it came from a barrel on a Dusseldorf industrial estate. The processed vocals, the main riff and the bowel loosening bass combine to unsavory effect here.”

Tyler – 4.5 – If “Arcadia” is too niche for its video game-sounding tracks, then “Tracción” fits the bill too, probably even more so. It’s like a commissioned song for the “Arcane” show, and the song overall feels too synthetic and virtual for me to think it could translate live. I feel like fans of this song will just become disappointed there isn’t an Hatsune Miku avatar being used. Not a huge fan of this, as it’s too cacophonous for me and a firm reminder of why some genres like dubstep remain in the past.”

Total: 11.5 points (Average = 3.83)

Siderland – “Que esclati tot”

Boris – 6 – “The cynic in me assumed at first that Siderland were winning BeniFest because of ~ThE CaTaLaN CoNnExUn~ , but upon relisten I would be really surprised if they came close to winning lol <3 ‘Que esclati tot’ is an obnoxious and frantic rush of uptempo noise that encroaches upon ‘2010 World Cup Vuvuzelas’ territory. I do like it ‘cause you know, uptempo and Catalan, but this one is not made for the multiple relistens and the subsequent emotional attachments I desire from my Eurovision entries.”

James – 5.5 – “It’s fine. I had this whole bit written out, but decided to delete it because, like this entry, who cares? Loads of whoa oh oh and canned beats and fire / explosion metaphors. Been there, done that.”

Tyler – 7 –  “I quite liked “Que esclati tot”, and I liked it the moment I heard the opening. It felt grand immediately, and while I didn’t think the vocals lived up to the instrumentation in it, I liked the message in the lyrics. This song could get the crowd jumping as a football anthem even! I’m curious to see what the live performance will be like, and maybe it’ll be as colorful or pop like the cover used for the single.”

Total: 18.5 points (Average = 6.17)

Vicco – “Nochentera”

Boris – 8.5 – “NOCHE OCHENTERAAAA, TO’A LA NOCHE ENTERAAA. In this worthwhile selection, this eighties synthpop anthem stands out as one of the more resilient choices for Spain. “Nochentera” is a fizzy and fruity song, bubbling along in short fragrant bursts of joy and millennial nostalgia. It’s all-round delightful! I know most of us are distracted by silliness such as “Flamenco” and “Mi familia”, but Vicco might be the dark horse to ride into the sunset.”

James – 6 – “Less an ’80s throwback and more a modern dance song about going to a club with an ’80s night. Probably would have worked better had they leaned in more to the sounds of Spain in the ’80s, and Spain certainly had some great dance acts. Lyrically, it’s just a party version of listening to your uncle talking about having to respool cassette tapes with a pencil.”

Tyler – 6.5 –A fun and breezy party song, “Nochentera” is pleasant to the ears, but that’s pretty much it lol. No real drop in the song, doesn’t really show off Vicco’s vocals to me, it’s just easy, breezy, beautiful, CoverGirl. And that’s fine! But fine isn’t good enough to become an Eurovision entry! I’m curious to see if there’s bigger energy in the live performance to make this a worthwhile entry for Spain though.”

Total: 21 points (Average = 7.00)

So who does ESC United collectively endorse to go through to the Final?

Karmento is our runaway leader, followed closely by Blanca Paloma. We had to use a tie-breaker to separate 3rd, 4th and 5th, and it’s E’Femme and Famous who edge out Vicco.

1.) Karmento – “Quiero y duelo” – 24 points (Average = 8.00)

2.) Blanca Paloma – “Eaea” – 21.5 points (Average = 7.17)

3.) E’Femme – “Uff!” – 21 points (Average = 7.00)*

4.) Famous – “La Lola” – 21 points (Average = 7.00)*

5.) Vicco – “Nochentera” – 21 points (Average = 7.00)*

6.) Siderland – “Que esclati tot” – 18.5 points (Average = 6.17)

7.) José Otero – “Inviernos en Marte” – 17 points (Average = 5.67)

8) Alfred García – “Desde que tú estás” – 12.5 points (Average = 4.17)

9.) Rakky Ripper – “Tracción” – 11.5 points (Average = 3.83)

* If total and average scores are equal, then the score with the lowest spread between high and low prevails. Lower spread indicates consistency in scores, whereas as higher means a more divisive entry.

Who do #YOU think should progress from Semi-Final 2 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.

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