Spain has opted for a national final format this year called Benidorm Fest. The show will happen in this coming week and Semi-final 1 will already be broadcast this Wednesday. It is about time that the ESCUnited team took a look at all of the competing songs and gave their verdict.
On today’s review panel we find:
- Boris Meersman, our passionate Belgian who is never afraid to speak his mind.
- James Maude, the Californian review-powerhouse who is always in to share his thoughts.
- Roy Postema, our Dutch correspondent and parttime YouTuber.
- Tyler Griffiths, the northernmost member of our squad, residing from Alaska.
- William Carter, the Texan who will never miss an opportunity for a comparison or reference.
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in the reviews are those of the person making the statement, and not of ESCUnited as a whole, nor of Matt or Sean. If you take umbrage at what will be written below, take it up with the person who said it.
We will go by each song in order of the official running order, now let’s get it started!
Varry Brava – Raffaella
Boris – 7 – “Blatant Raffaella Carrà tribute <3 I think the real “Raffaella” would have been satisfied with this effective 70s Disco biopic but as a whole it’s difficult for me to rate “Raffaella” without the camp visuals it desperately needs. It’s like when you’re asked to visualize the full picture when it’s only half-complete, ya know? Thus, the score is preliminary, and likely to rise post-Benidorm Fest ^_^”
James – 7.5 – “A thoughtful tribute to Italian singer and actress Raffaella Carra, who passed away last year and who had also carved out a career for herself in Spain and the United Kingdom beyond her home country. It’s got an old-fashioned vibe to it, harkening back to the ‘70s without being a specific knock off of a song from that era. Some national selection acts have terrible nods to Italy this year, but this one cross boundaries like the titular Raffaella once did. I don’t see it winning Benidorm as it may be a little too twee for its own good, but it’s a fun, positive curio.”
Roy – 6.5 – “I am not a massive fan of names being used in songs. I also find it a bit distracting in this one. However this song is very fun and it is impossible to not move your body to it’s contagious beat! My biggest concern is how these guys will sound live, but it has a lot of staging potential. A great start to the show, very fun!”
Tyler – 8 – “Really liking the beats in “Raffaella” a lot! The chorus kicks in and the energy is up for the rest of the song, and it’s fun to tap your foot to (you won’t ever see me dancing). My big thing is that after the first chorus, I can’t really hear the rest of the lyrics outside of the chorus reprisals, and then the song dies abruptly to hit the three-minute limit. Still though, “Raffaella” is a fun song and I’m excited to see what the performance is like.”
William – 4 – “I really need to see how this is staged and performed before I totally make up my mind. Upbeat, jazz-y pop is usually right up my alley, but I find this song in particular a little annoying. It’s not a very … dynamic piece of songwriting. Lyrically and melodically, it becomes pretty repetitive. Varry Brava has, I think, a knowing wit and charm as a group, but it remains to be seen how far that can really carry them.”
Total score: 33 (avg. 6.6)
Highest: Tyler (8)
Lowest: William (4)
Azúcar Moreno – Postureo
Boris – 10 – “OLD AGE BIAS KICKING IN <3 Yes, I will be honest: “Postureo” is not my favourite song. It’s great though, as great as you can get with ‘Eurovision legends screaming flamenco over a basic pop track in various stages of vibrato’. Doesn’t matter though. Massive, MASSIVE kudos to Azúcar Moreno for not only RETURNING to the Eurovision fandom, but also for using their status as Cult Faves to help Spain out by creating the buzz Benidorm Fest needed. For once, the bubble is HYPED for Spain’s NF and Azúcar Moreno play a massive part in that. We Eurofans honestly do NOT deserve them but they’re here for us anyway, so here’s a 10 out of sheer RESPECT.”
James – 7 – “Con todo respecto, I can’t give the “Bandido” lasses anything lower than 7, mostly due to the memory of their stunning comeback from a near-disastrous technical snafu at Eurovision 1990. And it sounds like they’re still up to their high camp blend of flamenco and modern dance. My only quibble is that it falls a bit flat at the two-minute mark when they should have stepped up a gear to a more energetic finish. I doubt this will win Benidorm, but it is still great to see classics from 32 years ago give the contest another tilt or participate to remind the current generation that they still got it and can crank out a fun track.”
Roy – 7 – “This is very Spanish! Knowing how well these ladies delivered Bandido in 1990, I am pretty sure they have not forgotten how to perform an up-tempo song like this. This makes me very excited and I cannot wait to see these legends perform on the stage again. Another very danceable song and perhaps an underdog to keep your eye out for.”
Tyler – 8 – “So glad these queens are back. One of my favorite acts from the 1990 contest, and it’s a pleasant surprise to see them here! That being said, “Postureo” is a bit too much of a throwback for me. Azúcar Moreno sounds the same as back when they did “Bandido” is which is a good and bad thing to me, as it makes me focus more on the instrumentation and beats and it’s…just fine? Modernized, sure, but not enough character for me. Super happy to see them back, but to me, “Postureo” is a small downgrade. I still like the song though, but not nearly as much as I wish I did.”
William – 9.5 – “NOW. WE’RE. TALKING. My 1990 winners are back with a vengeance! I love Azúcar Moreno’s sound. It’s so propulsive, so textured, so flavorful, so … Spanish. ‘Postureo’ is a BLAST. I love that, of everyone competing at Benidorm, these two fabulous ladies of a certain age have shown up with the biggest, most danceable ethnobop of them all. Win or lose, I’m going to be blasting this song in my car for a long, long time.”
Total score: 41.5 (avg. 8.3)
Highest: Boris (10)
Lowest: James & Roy (7)
Blanca Paloma – Secreto de Agua
Boris – 6.5 – “Oh hey, 3 minutes of pleasant ASMR, I will happily take that.”
James – 9 – “Much will depend on this song’s live performance, as there are a lot of intricacies going on here. Lots of little touches here and there like cymbals, acoustic guitars and snare weaving in, out and around the bass. Lot of little touches that combine for a mesmeric and enchanting whole. I normally fear that songs like this could get drowned out on a contest stage like ESC and that acts like this are better suited to a 60-to-90-minute full concert, but with some epic staging it could work. RTVE says they’re serious about mounting a comeback at the contest, and if they want a uniquely Spanish entry that can connect with foreigners, “Secreto de agua” could do the trick.”
Roy – 9 – “YES!! This is absolutely stunning! The backing track is quite minimalistic and it feels like a filmography piece. I am envisioning a very dark and delicate staging for this one. I so so hope that Blanca can deliver this song well! In my eyes this is the biggest underdog to take the overall win. I think it could stand out in Eurovision as well with it’s minimalism. Absolutely wonderful!”
Tyler – 7.5 – “In a similar vein to Luna Ki’s song, I quite like the atmosphere for “Secreto de agua”, most notably the instrumentation. I also quite like Blanca’s vocals, and the vibe I get from this song is ethereal and surreal. It’s quite moving and touching for me, and I feel swept away. That being said, the song is quite good at capturing my imagination and attention as it’s being performed, but not enough to stick around, like the tides of the ocean. Hmm, maybe that’s the secret? It’s weird, I do enjoy this song, but can recognize that it isn’t as memorable as I would like it to be.”
William – 6 – “This really stands out from the rest. It’s hypnotic. It’s lyrical. It’s dramatic. It’s well-sung. But I can’t help but feel like the song never TOTALLY coheres. I keep waiting for it to shift gears, but it never really does. As a result, the ending feels abrupt and unsatisfying. Well-done, moody staging will do wonders for this, though. I could easily be won over”
Total score: 38 (avg. 7.6)
Unique – Mejores
Boris – 5 – “I’ve heard people be worried that Unique may win Benidorm Fest (which would not be… horrible but it’s a very unimaginative pop composition which would make for a disappointing winner in this field), but I am not. Listen twitter babbys, it’s not because some random crazy Spaniard bet 100 euros on Unique that they’re automatically winning Benidorm Fest. We are not in Denmark where the lowest common denominator always wins. Chill out. “Terra” or “Ay Mama” got this. Anyway, Unique are fine in a vacuum I suppose, but in this selection my eyes and ears are turned elsewhere.”
James – 4 – “A dated self-belief pop track complete with “ee-ee-ee-ohs” and tribal drums. Far from unique, we have heard this in English many times before at the Contest. I would not be surprised if this ends up in a toothpaste commercial at some point.”
Roy – 5.5 – “This one is quite anthemic, but also feels a tad less professional than many other options in this selection. I am also a tad worried for how this will sound live. You can’t deny however that this is fun and decently enjoyable. The little shouts that introduce the chorus are the highlights of the song for me. A decent effort, but this is not the song that Spain should choose!”
Tyler – 6 – “I really wasn’t feeling “Mejores” for the first half of the song, as the instrumentation felt quite unoriginal to me as the song tried to feel grander than it should have been. Then after the second chorus, it became unique (😏) enough for me to not completely dislike this entry, so good job! I think “Mejores” could have been better if the lyrics were louder and not overwhelmed by the music’s volume, but wasn’t really that bad in hindsight. This score feels appropriate for them for the roller coaster of emotions this song gave me, but mostly ‘meh'”
William – 3 – “This isn’t terrible. It just sounds dated and a little flat. I DO like the dance breakdown section, but, when the best part of a song contains zero singing, that’s not really a great sign. I’m having a hard time imagining how this could be staged in a dynamic way. I suspect we’ll be getting Boy Band 101, but I could be wrong. The band’s harmonies sound nice. There’s an upbeat mood to the whole thing that I appreciate. But, ultimately, this just isn’t enough.”
Total score: 23.5 (avg. 4.7)
Highest: Tyler (6)
Lowest: William (3)
Tanxugueiras – Terra
Boris – 8.5 – “¡AIRALALALÀ! Out comes the random ethnobanger that everybody wanted from Spain, but nobody dared to expect. POWERFUL ETHNO ANTHEM IN GALICIAN <3333 it was obviously love at first sight on my end. While not a perfect composition (I had to adjust my earlier opinion of “Iberian Shum” to “Galician Kom”, a slight downgrade as I’m sure you’ll agree), “Terra” has just enough pomp and bombast to grab the attention and hold it – it’s a composition that lends itself to showmanship and might just be what Spain need to place on the left hand side of the scoreboard again.”
James – 9 – “Somebody paid attention to Ukraine last year, with Spain selecting a particularly strong electrofolk outfit here. “Terra” is one of those modern takes on regional folk that has found favor with foreigners, and it’s not hard to hear why. Though nowhere near as dynamic or interesting as Go-A’s “Shum,” it has its own strengths that could make Spain a contender in 2022. It’s got great percussion, has sections where fans can easily sing along, and depending on your sound system, has bass to put your hairs on end. I’d like to see Spain take a chance with this, even if some might think this is cold and distant, like the soundtrack to a dystopian sci-fi show like Raised by Wolves.”
Roy – 6.5 – “Such a strong concept, yet such a missed opportunity… I understand that the repetitiveness is a singing style used in Galicia, but the masses of Europe won’t know about that and I don’t know if every commentator will mention that. The chorus is just a bit too repetitive for me, but the backing track is really great! Right now it is kind of just an upgrade from Tulia, but I fear that the results in Eurovision might be a bit disappointing if this ends up going to Eurovision. I could be wrong though and I would love to be proven wrong.”
Tyler – 9 – “I try not to use this word too often, but “Terra” is epic. Love the instrumentation, the lyrics are impactful, and the entire vibe of the song would be so cool to see live. The use of Galician is also quite good, and I’m always an advocate for different languages in the contest, so yay! I do think perhaps the lyrics repeat themselves a little too often, but that isn’t enough of a deterrent for me to dislike this song. I love almost everything about it, and if this has a killer live performance, I think this would do quite well in both Benidorm and the Contest in May.”
William – 9 – “Now THIS is cool. The song is extremely Spanish, but it also works as a moody, pseudo-rock piece. Tanxugueiras’ vocals will be an acquired taste for some, but I was born ready to embrace these witch-y women. The natural comparison to Tulia is there, but I think there’s a more concerted effort to play with elements of modern music production in ‘Terra’ than there was in ‘Pali się’. I had to grow to love ‘Pali sie’; ‘Terra’ hooked me immediately.”
Total score: 42 (avg. 8.4)
Highest: James, Tyler & William (9)
Lowest: Roy (6.5)
Chanel – SloMo
Boris – 6 – “Whenever I think of Chanel I just cackle – “SloMo” sounds like it was bred in a lab to be the ultimate Hispaniac flytrap – its 23rd place finish in the Grand Final is obvious to everyone not from Spain, while everyone in Spain would bet their firstborns on Unibet or whatever on Chanel’s inevitable top five finish <3 Sadly for our schadenfreude, Rigoberta and Tanxugueiras have snagged the pelucas off the scalps, so what we’re left with is a VERY basic latinpop anthem stripped of the one niche it had within the non-Spanish fandom”
James – 5 – “For the pedigree of all the writers involved in this song, “Slo Mo” sure doesn’t amount to much. Too many cooks spoil the broth, as the old adage goes. I would really like some good quality genuine Latin pop or reggaeton to come out of Spain to challenge the cheap knock offs of the genre that have come out at Eurovision lately from some non-Latin countries, but “Slo Mo” is not it. Not in its current state. The hooks don’t really stand out, and this just comes off as a three-minute vibe rather than a track that a Spanish viewer would enthusiastically get online and vote for. Also, lyrics wise, would Chanel really be okay with a guy filming her on the dance floor and watching her back in slow motion? Bit creepy, no? Extra point also deducted for a lazy reference to a Bugatti.”
Roy – 4 – “This chorus is just not really something that I enjoy. It is too repetitive and simple for my liking. I do think the song has potential for a good staging, but I am afraid that it won’t be enough to win the competition. It could sneak through to the final though.”
Tyler – 7.5 – “Takes a bit a while for me to start getting into it and vibing (some might say, slow to do so?), but the song is a lot of fun and I can definitely hear this on the radio. Do I think this would do well at ESC though? I don’t think this has a good shot at left side of the scoreboard, but could become a fan favorite. There isn’t really a breakout moment for me in this song to make me want to stan and root for it too much though, but I hope to see more of Chanel in the future.”
William – 5 – “There’s nothing that new here, but, as a radio-friendly pop-dance track, it works. To be honest, I don’t have a lot of confidence in how this will perform live. As a studio track, it’s chaotic. As a live stage show, I can only really only imagine it going one of two ways: it will either be a shambolic mess or fairly lifeless. Either way, I suspect the production on this track is doing A LOT of heavy lifting. Maybe I’m wrong! We’ll see.”
Total score: 27.5 (avg. 5.5)
Highest: Tyler (7.5)
Lowest: Roy (4)
Luna ki – Voy a Moirir
The final song that we would have been reviewing today is by Luna Ki. Unfortunately, they withdrew from the competition after finding out that autotune wasn’t allowed like they wanted to in the show. We as a team have therefore decided to not include them in our reviews/ranking. However, I do feel obliged to encourage everyone to listen to their song!
That concludes our reviews of the first semi final! Let’s summarize the scores for a nice overview:
- Tanxugueiras – Terra (8.4)
- Azúcar Moreno – Postureo (8.3)
- Blanca Paloma – Secreto de Agua (7.6)
- Varry Brava – Raffaella (6.6)
- Chanel – SloMo (5.5)
- Unique – Mejores (4.7)
The songs in Bold would qualify according to our scores, but that doesn’t say everything of course! Tomorrow we will find out who will be the real qualifiers and who will unfortunately by axed..
Do #YOU agree with our opinions on the songs from semi-final 1? Who do #YOU see as the favourites to qualify from this semi-final? Let us know in the comments below, on our forum, or on social media @ESCUnited.