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.

In the national selection calendar for Eurovision, none delights the hipster as much as Portugal’s Festival Da Canção 2022. An almost Sanremo length show, subgenres you never hear in other selections, and enough fado to shake your fist at.

Tonight is Semi-Final 1, and four ESC United writers have banded together to review the ten songs on offer.

The band of writers reviewing Festival Da Canção 2022 area as follows:

  • Tyler Griffith: from Alaska, a place you can say for certain is the exact opposite of Portugal.
  • James Maude: from California, and whose knowledge of Portugal comes from having visited a churrascaria once.
  • Boris Meersman: from Belgium, ESC United’s chief Vasil evangelist.
  • Roy Postema: from The Netherlands, ESC United’s chief novelty song evangelist.

This “expert” panel will give each entry a score out of ten, provide a brief description that you hopefully won’t find too maddening, and after Part Two, we will let you know who we collectively endorse to represent Portugal at Eurovision 2022 in Italy.

Os Quatro e Meia – “Amanhã”

Boris – 6 – “There are three ways ballads can land for me. 1) morose and meandering which I find torturous. 2) Inoffensive and competent which is Fine to me but doesn’t entice me. 3) Powerful and introspective, which I find endearing. “Amanhã” lands in the second group for me. I like the musical variation on the music, and I like that it doesn’t linger too long in the same state. It’s not afraid to show dynamism and tell a story with its instrumentation. That said, the music itself doesn’t quite captivate me, so the mark is a middling one.”

James – 8 – “A charming and beautiful soft rock ballad with some wonderful guitar work and great vocals. As a vibe, this song is a Mercedes-Benz convertible with the top down driving up the Pacific Coast Highway. The song itself is a fleeting moment, one where the protagonist asks if he should continue on with the fling he had the evening before. The song itself does feel like a fleeting moment, which could hinder its chances when it comes to voting, especially since it is performed first. So like the lyrics say, enjoy the moment and ask later if you want to follow on.”

Roy – 6 – “The voices in this song are really beautiful and very soothing. The chorus isn’t bad at all, but sending this to Eurovision with such a strong selection full of good options, I don’t think I would go for this. In many other selections, this grade would be higher since I really enjoy the song and the instrumentals quite a bit, but it’s just not as strong as others are in this selection.”

Tyler – 5 – “I was nervous about “Amanhã” at first, since the image for Os Quarto e Meia felt like it was about to be an university a cappella performance, but after listening to it, I just was bored of the song itself of being infuriated by it. So that’s…nice? No repeat Belgium 2011 situation! The group sings well enough, but perhaps tomorrow will I find an appreciation for the song. But I don’t, and I found this just middling so.”

Total: 25 points (Average = 6.25)

TheMisterDriver – “Calisun”

Boris – 7 – “The Portuguese wildcard vote letting this glorious trash anthem in <333333 Me being confused by the entrants will be a common thread in my Portuguese reviews, but here I’m mostly baffled that *it got in* in the first place. Anglophone hip hop trance about the “Cali Sun” that the average value seeker will loathe on sight <3 Can’t wait for the meltdowns.”

James – 8 – “A hip hop homage to the Ramones’s “California Sun.” Okay? I like it, though, even if it would be a strange pick for Portugal at Eurovision. Strange in the sense that it’s something I as a non-Portuguese can identify with and like. If I see something called “Calisun” for Portugal my expectation is that this is a fado about some guy whose girlfriend has upped sticks for California, and all he has of her is a vinyl record of the Beach Boys she bought him he listens to on repeat. Although, I could see some synergistic potential if Sweet Taboo win American Song Contest for California and TheMisterDriver represents Portugal.”

Roy – 7.5 – “This song has been a massive earworm for me. Sure the lyrics might not be the best, but this chorus is just so contagious. It just really makes me look forward to summer again to go to the lake with my friends and listen to some music. It just makes me really happy. I’m a bit afraid of how this might sound live, but I will just enjoy this a lot until then!”

Tyler – 7 – ““Calisun” is meant for the radio, even if the American radio here at least is full of “California Love”, “California Girls”, “California Dreamin'”, etc. to capture the love of the West Coast. It’s interesting to see that coming from a Portuguese national selection. The lyrics are okay, and the performance seems like it’ll be fun from The Mr. Driver. I’m just curious more than anything what we have in store for this entrant. But for now, it’s pretty good and I liked it! P.S. I like the Alaskan sun more myself–better able to savor it when it’s out instead of the Californian variety.”

Total: 29.5 points (Average = 7.375)

Diana Castro – “Ginger Ale”

Boris – 8.5 – “What a lovely, fun little song. I love how Diana pronounces “ginger ale” and then continues to casually regale tales of her pouring herself a ginger ale on her free day, when the kids are away, all to upbeat music that makes me crave more of its fizz-fuelled frivolity. Cannot *wait* for Portugal to slay this for ‘Not Being Deep Enough’. (lol this song is significantly more complex than Aurea’s but you do you, booboos.)”

James – 7.5 – “I want some of this “jinjerrell.” I shouldn’t make fun of her pronunciation, especially as this is a surprisingly charming song about the stresses and disappointments of adulthood. It is so bubbly and sunny that I hope Diana gets a marketing deal with Canada Dry. I say bubbly and sunny in the superficial sense, because as is typical with FdC that feels hides some deep melancholy.”

Roy – 4.5 – “One day I hate this song and the other day I just cannot stop smiling and dancing to it. It is definitely fun however I don’t think the instrumentals are as imaginative and unique as they could be. The song stays a bit too much on the same level of excitement for me.”

Tyler – 8 – “A fun song about a beverage, “Ginger Ale” is pretty interesting, as it seems like a showcase of Diana’s vocals, but also the song itself feels not that deep? Which is a very welcome change! “Ginger Ale” feels light and bubbly (like a glass of ginger ale), and it’s delightful to watch. Will this be a trainwreck on stage? Who knows? Anything is possible! But I quite enjoyed this entry and think it’s fun enough to warrant stanning.”

Total: 28.5 points (Average = 7.125)

FF – “Como é bom esperar alguém”

Boris – 2.5 – “An indeterminably long bossa nova ballad. Joy.”

James – 9 – “This is what I come to Portugal for. FF’s voice, and particularly his control and how he can hold a note, is phenomenal. Lyrically, it’s got a sense of beauty and melancholy as this deals with the appreciation of love being tied to its duration (i.e. longer you wait for it and the longer you have it, the more you appreciate it). The strings, particularly the violin riffs in the final third, are a triumphant and bombastic outro for what started as a simple, intricate acoustic guitar ballad.”

Roy – 7 – “This stays very small, but is very pretty. It builds nicely and I think it lends itself for a good staging. At first glance, it perhaps might not seem as competitive as a lot of other songs in this selection. But a good, dark staging with some slick camera angles could really work a treat for this song. FF’s voice becomes really beautiful and hits me in my feelings quite a bit. This is definitely one of those songs with a whole bunch of potential, can’t wait to see this live!”

Tyler – 5.5 – ““Como é bom esperar alguém” seems a bit too Disney prince to me with its fado style, and maybe that works for some people, but it doesn’t work for me. I think FF sings this well enough, but the song itself is something I would skip. It seems like it’s trying to capture the raw beauty that made “Amar pelos dois” into a winner, but it isn’t working hard enough for it. I do like the strings towards the end of the song though to help differentiate it though!”

Total: 24 points (Average = 6.0) 

Norton – “Hope”

Boris – 9.5 – “What is a darling indie synthwave song doing in Portugal’s national selection? Don’t these beautiful precious angels know they’ll get downvoted immediately for being great? I’m not sure if Norton are Eurovision-friendly (they are definitely NOT FdC friendly, case in point: I adore them), but I love it when my soulful jam shows up in these selections. Bless them.“

James – 5.5 – “This indie synthpop song is as aimless and meandering as the protagonist. Los Angeles is full of aimless dipsticks like the song’s protagonist, which probably irks me more than most. Futzing around for love, a purpose in life, whatever, rarely makes for a compelling song when your protagonist is demanding he be given a purpose by the person he’s trying to seduce. “I am lost and need purpose, let’s f%&%!” rarely works as a pick-up line. Unless I’ve been going to the wrong bars.”

Roy – 2.5 – “This just doesn’t really work in this lineup. I keep forgetting about it and in the end it just leaves me wanting for more..”

Tyler – 6 – “The English lyrics are whatever to me in “Hope”, it’s more of the music I’m interested in, and I think it’s mostly okay! There’s a sort of light alternative vibe to it that I like to it, even if the music itself just feels light and doesn’t really get more interesting from there. The lyrics don’t do much for me, but I could definitely play this in the background when I’m not paying attention to the lyrics and just vibing to it. But for FdC and Eurovision, I think this will end up being only slightly above-average.”

Total: 23.5 points (Average = 5.875)

Aurea – “Why?”

Boris – 0 – Utterly loathsome. Songs that have “Why” in their title always lean towards being morose and endless, but Aurea managed to elevate this song into straight-up torture. Actually, I may prefer torture. Absolutely NOTHING happens for three minutes, except for her whinging in a f’kcing bananies and avucadus voice to a single piano key. Lyrically, I don’t f’cking care what she sings because GUESS WHAT B’TCH, MELODY OVER MESSAGE and there’s no music for me to get into. And yet, this *WORTHLESS, NOTHING COMPOSITION* is the favourite to win for no reason other than her being famous in Portugal and that she follows the accursed Music Isn’t Fireworks line of thinking that will DESTROY music from the inside out if left unchecked. It’s the f’cking culmination of the Salvadorian dream. I HATE IT.

James – 3 – “The opening two minutes feels like an eternity, with some piano keys being plonked on occasion while Aurea wails “Why” over and over again. The last minute is an improvement, but overall it is still a grating song about going back in time to before some undefined event happened. Aurea is asking why, but without specifying the what we as listeners are lost. And with the constant wailing of “why,” the listener’s capacity to care is rapidly evaporated.”

Roy – 5.5 – “Look, the final minute of this song is really amazing and is easily the highlight of the song. The first two minutes though… There really needed to happen more to keep my interest. That can be deadly at Eurovision. You really want to leave an impression right from the start and usually people already make up their mind about a song after half of it has passed by. There’s just way more left in the tank with this song. Would rather see Aurea return with a better song than have her win this year..”

Tyler – 4 – “For what Aurea sings in “Why?” I think she’s quite good! It feels more like speak-singing to me mostly, but Aurea can really sing “why?” quite well! But I do not like this song. There’s certainly emotion behind this entry, but it’s not there for me to really capture it, and it leaves me asking other questions. “Why should I care?” “Why should this speak to me?” “Why is this a favorite to win FdC?” There isn’t enough there for me to really hold onto, as I find everything outside of the first verse to be quite repetitive. Maybe there’s an interview or something that would better help me understand and get into this song, I do not right now, so this score it will receive.”

Total: 12.5 points (Average = 3.125)

Kumpania Algazarra – “A minha praia”

Boris – 8 – “Uptempo turbofolk in FdC??? What is this opposite world we live in? I love “A minha praia”, obviously, as the clear objective here is to make anyone listening to it feel better (which it will because we will all be in a dystopian world of HURT after Aurea) through the power of chaos and dance. Portugal will never go for this, but maybe they can pull a shock qualification.”

James – 7.5 – “Ska at FdC? My tolerance for ska went in the early ’00s where every high school band geek formed a ska band that mixed with either punk or rock because they had the instruments for it. But these guys know what they’re doing. For one, the sax solo is great. The vocalist, while he’s not going to compete with FF for best, is well suited and conveys an easy-going charisma. As with FdC in general, the beach is a metaphor and the lyrics are not as superficial as they may initially seem. Best lyric is “Caço com gato quando não tenho cão,” which sums up the general feel of the song: I hunt with a cat when I have no dog.”

Roy – 3.5 – “This sounds like ‘Lazy Town – We are Number One’. The song is quite okay, but I don’t think it would excite a lot of casuals who listen to the song for the first time. The idea is cool, execution could have been better.”

Tyler – 7.5 – “A mild ska vibe that I enjoy, “A minha praia” doesn’t light my world on fire, but it is good company to have in this selection! The lyrics read as quite fun, and this is shaping up to be a fun performance! I don’t know if this has the legs to represent Portugal though, and this might be an NQ (but honestly, who knows what’s in store when we still have half of the songs to go still at the time I’m writing this). But it’ll be fun to watch while it lasts.”

Total: 26.5 points (Average = 6.625)

Maro – “Saudade, saudade”

Boris – 6.5 – “I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t fully connect with “Saudade, saudade”. It’s strongly detached from the indie I usually go for (example: Norton). However, it has a lot of components that I find interesting: A cool fusion of jazz, fado and trance that creates immersion on speed dial, sudden but effective bilingual lyrics, a brittle throaty vocal. I could see myself supporting Maro in the long run, but my appreciation at this point is mostly academic.”

James – 7 – “Hearing fado over and over again can be emotionally taxing, and the organizers of FdC know this, so songs like this which modernize fado by adding modern flourishes like trance are a treat. This may be a little too chill and trippy for its own good, though, as attentions may drift before they get to the chorus, which has a really cool transition. In a busy environment like Eurovision, that transition may not be appreciated like it is at home with earphones.”

Roy – 8.5 – “I am not going to lie, I needed a while to get into this one, but I am now fully backing this! It is super soothing, beautiful and flows wonderfully! The way the Saudade’s come rolling in like waves to a beach to her beautiful voice enhancing the entire piece. This might not be for everyone, but I think this could do quite well. Wouldn’t mind this winning either.”

Tyler – 6 – “First of all, this song feels like false advertising as there’s only Portuguese one time in “Saudade, saudade” and that’s just the title! I don’t mind the English lyrics though, as it conveys the message well. The song has a chill vibe even if it’s longing for the lover again, and this might be cool to see on stage. I think it’s just fine though, nothing too crazy for me to report so.”

Total: 28 points (Average = 7.0)

Valas and Os Astronautas – “Odisseia”

Boris – 5 – “Another funky song about the lead singer’s drip. This can go two ways: either it can turn into an inspired kick-ass moment of the lead winning over our attention with a dazzling charismatic performance, or it’ll turn out to be a ‘Rebelgium’-style fanwank (fanwank for *heterosexuals* might I add). I’m leaning towards the latter though. While the start is promising, “Odisseia” sadly lives up to its name and meanders along until it fizzles out in a disappointingly muted final minute.”

James – 7 – “Slick old school funk. I do love the guitar tone. The vocals, I can take or leave.”

Roy – 2 – “This song is just a bit too much of a mess. The DJ-scratches feel a bit cheap and the overall feeling of the song is quite dated. The voice doesn’t help to make it stand out either. Just a bit too much of a mess.”

Tyler – 8 – “Odisseia” is quite fun! I like the funk vibe with this entry, and I think the performance could be a lot of fun, even if I’m not expecting anything crazy from the act given the artist. It’s a chill song that I can listen to on the road, and I like how the lyrics fit with each other, it’s quite nice! It might not have that oomph to truly be a favorite in FdC, but it’s good enough for me!”

Total: 22 points (Average = 5.5)

Fado Bicha – “Povo pequenino”

Boris – 8 – “An excellent example of how to do stripped-down openings. The opening vocals IMMEDIATELY grab your attention with their clarity and power. Once the music kicks in, you’re transported to a camp dreamscape of toe-tapping mirth that will provide entertainment visually AND sonically the second it hits the stage.”

James – 9 – “This is some dark s$%# even by fado standards. Basically, this is a denunciation of Portugal from the Salazar dictatorship and further back, into the colonial era. The title, “Little Nation,” being an ironic dismissal of the paranoia and authoritarianism of a colonial power. You’d never guess that from the instrumentation, but the band’s name, Fado Bicha, should be an indication of confrontation, as Bicha is a slur for homosexuals. Assuming Portugal votes for this, I predict this could be a surprise contender for a Top Ten spot at Eurovision.”

Roy – 9.5 – “THIS, now THIS… Will be absolutely epic!! It has an insane amount of staging potential. It feels very fado and Portuguese. Yet it is also modern and feels like it fits in 2022 wonderfully well. Portugal could potentially sail to a top 10 in Eurovision of this wins and they stage it well. This will be an absolutely epic moment and I can’t wait to see and hear it!!”

Tyler – 8.5 – “I think “Povo pequenino” can be a bit off-putting with how it starts and then what the song becomes. But I enjoyed this a lot! There’s a good blend of different musical styles hidden in the music of the song, that keeps me interested and doesn’t feel like a shoved together mess. I’m expecting artistry on stage from Fado Bicha (whether that art is pretentious remains to be seen!), and this is one of the surprises for me in this selection and I hope it lives up to it.”

Total: 35 points (Average = 8.75)

And heading into Semi-Final 1, Fado Bicha leads the pack by a substantial margin. The other four acts we’d like to see in next week’s final are TheMisterDriver, Diana Castro, Maro and Kumpania Algazarra. But we’re notoriously terrible at predictions and our tastes sometimes infamously fail to align with the fandom at large, so we shall see in a few hours if our predictions and wishes come to be.

1.) Fado Bicha – “Povo pequenino” – 35 points (Average = 8.75)

2.) TheMisterDriver – “Calisun” – 29.5 points (Average = 7.375)

3.) Diana Castro – “Ginger Ale” – 28.5 points (Average = 7.125)

4.) Maro – “Saudade, saudade” – 28 points (Average = 7.0)

5.) Kumpania Algazarra – “A minha praia” – 26.5 points (Average = 6.625)

6.) Os Quatro e Meia – “Amanhã” – 25 points (Average  = 6.25)

7.) FF – “Como é bom esperar alguém”

8.) Norton – “Hope” – 23.5 points (Average = 5.875)

9.) Valas and Os Astronautas – “Odisseia” – 22 points (Average = 5.5)

10.) Aurea – “Why?” – 12.5 points (Average = 3.125)

Who do #YOU want to see make it out of Semi-Final 1? Who do #YOU want to represent at Eurovision 2022 in Turin, Italy? Let us know in the comments below, on social media, or in our forum and Discord server.

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