Spain has opted for a national final format this year called Benidorm Fest. The show will happen this week and Semi-final 2 will be broadcast tonight. 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!

 

Xeinn – Eco

Boris – 9.5 – “I was wondering where the first “Blinding Lights” clone would appear, and turns out it was Spain of all places. Regardless, even IF “Eco” is a hilariously accurate G:ssonified adaptation of the best song in the past five years, I still fucking love it lol? Pure 80s New Wave hooked up AHA-style right into my bloodstream via ear plugs YES PLEASE. A lesser “Blinding Lights” is f’cking gold dust in Eurovision, let alone a Spanish NF. This is a take I will ride and die with, and die it will since Xeinn’s only discernible attempts at music before Benidorm Fest appear to have been XXXTentacion Youtube covers <3”

James – 5 – “How many songs in national selections this year are trying to sound like Poland’s “The Ride” from last year? Lyrics wise, Xeinn is having a crisis of self, not finding an echo when he calls out in an empty room, not seeing a reflection. Without you, he can’t find himself, or something. The real crisis is one of originality, or lack thereof. Either way, just knock it off with the modern pop adding cheesy ‘80s flourishes already.”

Roy – 6 – “I am insanely curious to hear how this will sound live. This is a really nice and enjoyable disco-throwback tune executed quite well. Well executed, but not necessarily something special, decent!”

Tyler – 8.5 – “I’m trying to be more critical of “Eco” and look past the instrumentation and beats (which I love for its 80s inspiration, gosh, we really are going to get more 80s-inspired songs in these NFs, huh?), but this is quite good. I like pretty much all of the lyrics and Xeinn sings the song well, but I also didn’t like the inclusion of English. I got the meaning and feel for the song already in Spanish, so the English lyrics took me out of the immersion. Great song, wouldn’t be mad if this won over “Terra”.”

William – 6.5 – “In terms of straight forward, radio-friendly pop music, this is probably the best Benidorm has to offer this year. It’s slick. It’s got a nice hook. It’s modern, more-or-less. But I don’t know. It would be a shame for Spain to select this when there are so many other unique and idiosyncratic choices. Xeinn’s vocal sounds distinct and strong, so I’m sure he’ll deliver this well on stage. But it wouldn’t be my first, second, or third choice”

Total score: 35.5 (avg. 7.1)

Highest: Boris (9.5)

Lowest: James (5)

 

Marta Sango – Sigues en mi mente

Boris – 7.5 – “Pleasant Disco Filler <3 Sometimes the simplest things are the easiest to appreciate.”

James – 8 – “If Javiera is channeling the ‘90s, Marta Sango is going full on ‘80s with synth-pop a la Erasure or Yazoo. It’s got a catchy synth riff running through, and the build to the rock section at the bridge and the key change keeps the track interesting. The lyrics are fun, if a bit of an odd topic (the BS platitudes you say to an ex you run into in public). My only concern for “Sigues en mi mente” is that it has an “Øve os på hinanden” (Denmark 2021) problem, in that it may be a little too ‘80s kitsch for its own good and will only have fans in demographics that don’t typically vote en masse at Eurovision. And I was a huge fan of that entry, and assuming the live show goes well for Marta, I’d be a fan of hers, too.”

Roy – 4 – “It is a bit too much of a throwback for me. It just sounds old and I wouldn’t say that they necessarily brought the production into the new era. It is a tad messy and it also lacks a pinch of catchiness. Every time I look at the playlist I need an extra few moments to remember what this song was. It could work on the stage, but I am hazardous with this one!”

Tyler – 5.5 – “It was going to be a tall order for “Quién lo diría” to not bore me, and whoops! I don’t doubt Gonzalo’s vocal capabilities, in that while he sounds good on the track, the sweeping music is just more lulling me to sleep than keeping me engaged. If Spain wants to pick another ballad sung by a man, then it needs to be more captivating, and I think that this song is less so than last year’s entry. Gonzalo sounds good, the rest of the track does not to me, and I’ve already forgotten the sound of the song as I’m finishing this write-up, oops.”

William – 6 – “I’m a little unsure if I enjoy this song on its own merits or because it reminds me so heavily of other songs I already like. It’s probably a mixture of both. It’s a peppy song, with a dreamy soundscape, but it also sounds like someone mixed The Cranberries’ ‘Dreams’ and When in Rome’s ‘The Promise’ together in a blender. Ultimately, I feel warmly toward the song for its use of nostalgic beats more than I really respect it on its own terms.”

Total score: 31 (avg. 6.2)

Highest: 8 (James)

Lowest: 4 (Roy)

 

Javiera Mena – Culpa

Boris – 9.5 – “THE QUEEN OF THE NIIIIIGHT IS COOOOOMING. Seriously though, Javiera Mena travelling ALL of the way from South America to delight us with her rocking horror show song <3 Where do I even START with this? “Culpa” is an earworm, starting as a lovely synth anthem with an addictive hook (“lejos del bien!!! Lejos del mal!!! – btw love how she pronounces “bien” as “vien”. So Chilean <3) and then at the second minute mark: THE THUNDER. THE OMINOUS HARPSICHORD. ~THE RAVEN~. We dive into the best key change I’ve heard in this NF season so far; The final minute is a musical ORGASM that has me ~TheRaving~ and also ~TheCraving~ for infinitely more relistens. Javiera is definitely one of THE revelations of the season for me, and I will be sobbing black tears when she gets robbed due to the unforgivable crime of not being born in Spain.”

James – 9 – “Is it a rule that to be from Chile you have to be mad as badgers? “Culpa” starts off as a ‘90s sophistipop throwback a la Everything but the Girl but builds into a retro gay club EDM banger. And then Javiera throws in whipping, black lingerie, and alludes to choke play. For a song called “Guilt,” it displays absolutely none of it. As someone who went clubbing in the ‘90s, I appreciate this gothic synthpop BDSM number, but I suspect Spanish voters won’t. Javiera’s power top moves and lack of subtlety may just frighten the average punter a little too much.”

Roy – 8.5 – “I hate the term guilty pleasure, so I will just call it what it is, a pleasure! Javiera’s vocals are a source of waves that the listener surfs on and this entire piece is just such an interesting experience. The beat is simple and dope. The organ-rave is amazing and Javiera is an absolute icon. I cannot wait to see this live, the video promises a lot. Absolutely adore this!”

Tyler – 8.5 – “‘Culpa’ is camp, it is the moment, and I really enjoyed this song! The instrumentation feels kind of outdated at times, but that’s also part of the charm and appeal to me. The music feels video game soundtrack too (bonus points!), and while I don’t think Javiera goes over the top with the lyrics like I want her too, she’s still pretty good and decent! I also would not be mad if this song beat out “Terra” for the top spot, as this would be so fun to introduce to a wider Eurovision audience.”

William – 7 – “If I’m being honest, this song is a bit of a hodgepodge: early ‘00s auto distortion meets ‘90s dance beats meets … Dracula? But that a least makes it unique amongst the crop of synth-pop tracks competing at this year’s Benidorm. I don’t have much faith in this winning the whole thing, but I hope this staging is as deranged as I’m imagining it could be. Whatever happens, Javiera is going to be memorable.”

Total score: 42.5 (avg. 8.5)

Highest: Boris (9.5)

Lowest: William (7)

 

Gonzalo Hermida – Quién lo diría

Boris – 4 – “Surprising to no one who knows my taste the only song that I think Spain should avoid at all costs is, of course, the insipid generic nothing ballad. It’s less about Gonzalo being bad (he’s not, just average), but more about (1) this is the best Spanish selection in living memory and Spain can do so much better than a “Quién lo deria” (2) Spain JUST went through Blas Cantó twice, we really don’t need a third attempt at this by a guy with dodgier facial hair.”

James – 7 – “Is it me or does Gonzalo look like Anthony Vincent, the Ten Second Song Guy from YouTube? Anyway, Gonzalo sounds more like Mark Vincent, which is not in and of itself a bad thing. This is one of those “run out in the rain, stare at each other longingly” type of ballads, which seems more of a recipe for a cold than for love. Though it’s a more generic ballad by a singer you feel has yet to reach his peak, extra credit is deserved for his frantic outro. A couple more years, Gonzalo could become the Zeljko or Johnny Logan level crooner that Eurovision hasn’t had for a while.”

Roy – 5 – “This is an okay ballad, but choosing this would mean that Spain isn’t moving forward. This song feels quite similar to what Blas Canto gave us last year. I am pretty sure Gonzalo will deliver though and it has a lot of potential to be elevated in the live performance. But like I said, choosing this would mean that Spain stay stagnant and they want to be moving forwards!”

Tyler – 5.5 – “It was going to be a tall order for “Quién lo diría” to not bore me, and whoops! I don’t doubt Gonzalo’s vocal capabilities, in that while he sounds good on the track, the sweeping music is just more lulling me to sleep than keeping me engaged. If Spain wants to pick another ballad sung by a man, then it needs to be more captivating, and I think that this song is less so than last year’s entry. Gonzalo sounds good, the rest of the track does not to me, and I’ve already forgotten the sound of the song as I’m finishing this write-up, oops.”

William – 3.5 – “This is actually a very pretty song, and Gonzalo’s vocal is top notch. I just think selecting this would be a HUGE mistake on Spain’s part. There’s nothing new here, no interesting wrinkle to make this stand out. I’m sure Gonzalo will sound lovely live, but there’s a pretty low ceiling on how successful this can be on an international stage.”

Total score: 25 (avg. 5)

Highest: James (7)

Lowest: William (3.5)

 

Rigoberta Bandini – Ay Mama

Boris – 8.5 – MAMAMAMAMAMAMAMAMAMMMARIES. It’s f’cking hysterical that in this selection FULL of flytrap songs, *this* art school graduation project on the subject of BREAST-FEEDING is the one the Hispaniacs have flocked to en masse. Honestly, I stan? Not only is “Ay Mama” a fun feminist anthem, Rigoberta is hilariously literal in its interpretation. Like, when she sings “PAINT ME IN THE DELACROIX STYLE” (bare-chested) she feels it MUST be accompanied by either (A) a backing singer flashing her diddeys to the audience or (B) a GIANT TEAT backstage prop to get her vision across! And Spain are CONVINCED this is the ticket out of the bottom five although the EBU are just as likely to DQ Rigoberta on the spot if she even remotely tries to show some pepperoni (real or fake) during her live performance. Getting yourself deleted from the scoreboard is the safest way to avoid the bottom five though. 3000 IQ meta-breaking queen <3″

James – 1 – “This wins the award for most preposterous song of the national selection season. This electropop celebration of motherhood goes awry with the Monty Pythonesque backing vocals, especially when the deep voiced men join in, and random samples of child noises. The repetitive “mamamamamama” is the stuff of parody. Whatever the intention, no matter how noble, something went horribly wrong in execution.”

Roy – 7.5 – “There is no way that you aren’t at least very intrigued after hearing and probably also seeing this performance. A very different type of song that not a lot of people will be used to and to be honest, it also took me a few listens to get into it. It all really commences in the final third of the song where everything gets amped up and I can just see a very epic stageshow with that. I have no clue how Europe would react to this and how they would vote though!”

Tyler – 5.5 – “For a song that seems to be a favorite to win the NF, I just have to ask Spain if they’re sure THIS is the song to go with. “Ay mamá” has interesting beats and develops quite well, and gives me enough for variety to like it if it was an instrumental. In terms of the lyrics, I don’t think Rigoberta mumbling “mamá” is good to listen to, and I don’t think her vocals are a strong focal point here, and doesn’t show off her talent. The instrumentation is good enough for me to like the song overall, but if this won the selection, I have a strong feeling this will flop at Eurovision. I hope I’m wrong if it does make it there, and maybe I’ll change my mind! But at this moment, this is an above-average song at best.”

William – 8.5 – “God bless this weirdo. I have ZERO idea how this is gonna look on stage or how it would be received by an international voting public. I just know it’s rad. The ever-popular ’80 synth sound is here, but it’s combined with choral vocal layering and a mesmerizing, monosyllabic, repeated drone. How will this sound live? Only God, in her infinite wisdom, knows for sure, but I can’t wait to find out. This might end up being a mess. It might end up being a masterpiece. But there’s no world where it ends up being boring”

Total score: 31 (avg. 6.2)

Highest: Boris & William (8.5)

Lowest: James (1)

 

Rayden – Calle de la llorería

Boris – 5.5 – “Many people seem to care about Rayden – and I don’t, OOPS! Look, I like the concept of urban flamenco well enough, I just like most Benifest songs… more? “Calle de la lloreria” has a servicable slap-on-the-table chorus but its verses are incoherent and messy. It lacks a clear hook, or even a memorable melody. BUT I SUPPOSE RAYDEN SHOWED OFF HIS PACKAGE IN THAT UNDERWEAR PIC OF HIS SO I MUST STAN JAJAJAJAJA *SLURP* — Messy gays. No, f’ck this, I ain’t no Easily Impressed Sim. Be good, or stay home.”

James – 6 – “As a rapper, Rayden has great flow and sells a uniquely Spanish version of rap rather than the tiresome tradition of Europeans trying to sound like they’re from Atlanta or Houston and failing miserably. Rayden’s song, though, feels like a three minute segment from a larger work. Rayden raps a story for three minutes over some Spanish guitars, but there’s no real structure and there’s no hook and certainly not much variation. This has little appeal at Eurovision beyond Spain, and Rayden would do well to look at someone like Italy’s Mahmood to hear how you localize hip hop effectively and sell it to Europe at large.”

Roy – 9.5 – “Now THIS is exactly what Spain needs in Eurovision! It feels unmistakably Spanish (as a non-Spaniard that is of course). The claps are amazing and will add to the massive memorability for this song. Rayden seems to be a very charismatic guy with a demanding presence as well. Something that can be very important at Eurovision as well! Heaps of staging potential present as well, what is there not to love really?!”

Tyler – 6.5 – “Calle de la llorería” is interesting to me, because I thought the music video helped enhance me liking the song, when I’m mostly focusing on the acoustics involved. The song does feel mysterious and intriguing, but I’m not sure how well this will translate on stage compared to, like, everything that was featured in the video. I’m not sure how the essence of the song can be captured on stage, nor how well this will translate. This seems like a pretty low score, but if this does have a fantastic staging, this could be one of my favorites in the selection.”

William – 9 – “This is DOPE. More countries that have been struggling at Eurovision, as Spain has, should be taking swings like this. Rayden’s vocal is interestingly rhythmic. It blends into the music track’s Spanish soundscape, almost as if the tonality of his voice was created by a trumpet or some castanets. This might not be my favorite of the songs competing to represent Spain this year, but it’s the one I would most be excited to see win. It’s just so fresh, so dapper, so … cool.”

Total score: 36.5 (avg. 7.3)

Highest: Roy (9.5)

Lowest: Boris (5.5)

 

Sara Deop – Make you say

Boris – 6 – “Whenever I think of Sara Deop I just cackle – “Make You say” sounds like it was bred in a lab to be the ultimate Hispaniac flytrap – its 24rd 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 Sara’s inevitable top ten finish <3 However, Sara is, unlike Chanel, 100% NQ’ing in her semi unless she’s somehow excellent, so sadly the above scenario will never come to pass in reality ☹.”

James – 5 – “A perfectly serviceable latin hip hop track. Simple concept: singer enticing her beau, but beau has to say he loves her before he can act on his impulses. Staging should be fairly simple in concept if you get a pair of dancers who can effectively do a mating ritual on stage. However, I can see this getting lost in a similar manner to Benny Cristo last year, though he sold the seduction better. Despite promises of heat and lust, “Make You Say” could do with those elements turned up even more. It’s running a little cool at present.”

Roy – 4.5 – “I have this feeling that this could be the package that might surprise a lot of people. That being said, it just isn’t working very well currently for me. This song is decent, but it doesn’t really enthuse me, nor does it make me want to dance to it. Regardless, I think this is a good song for Sara to showcase her talent and that is also something very valuable.”

Tyler – 6 – “Make You Say” seems to be another victim of the “song abruptly ends because of the time limit”, but it feels even worse to me because the song doesn’t really go anywhere. I like how the song starts and I’m interested to keep listening, but then the song ends and the song doesn’t become more than what it was. It stays the same tempo to me throughout and doesn’t have a moment that stands out, so it’s default “the entire song is the moment for me”. Which should be a good thing, but reads as static to me. I want to like “Make You Say” more as it is a nice song, but not enough for a higher score and to overcome what I think is not pushing harder enough or taking risks.”

William – 6.5 – “This is just cute. It’s got a killer beat, a really fun production, an expressive vocal. I like this studio track, but this is a hard song to judge until I see it executed live. If Sara can handle the choreography, while still keeping her vocals in check, we might really have something. Lyrically, it’s pretty thin, but it gets the job done. Not bad at all.”

Total score: 28 (avg. 5.6)

Highest: William (6.5)

Lowest: Roy (4.5)

 

That concludes our reviews of the second semi final! Let’s summarize the scores for a nice overview:

  1. Javiera Mena – Culpa (8.5)
  2. Rayden – Calle de la lloreria (7.3)
  3. Xeinn – Eco (7.1)
  4. Rigoberta Bandini – Ay Mama (6.2)
  5. Marta Sango – Sigues en mi mente (6.2)
  6. Sara Deop – Make You Say (5.6)
  7. Gonzalo Hermida – Quién lo diría (5)

The songs in Bold would qualify according to our scores, but that doesn’t say everything of course! Tonight we will find out who will be the real qualifiers and who will unfortunately by axed.. (Marta Sango loses the tie-break against Rigoberta Bandini)

Finally, let’s take a look at our overall scoreboard, who are our favourites from all of the songs?

  1. Javiera Mena – Culpa (8.5)
  2. Tanxugueiras – Terra (8.4)
  3. Azúcar Moreno – Postureo (8.3)
  4. Blanca Paloma – Secreto de Agua (7.6)
  5. Rayden – Calle de la lloreria (7.3)
  6. Xeinn – Eco (7.1)
  7. Varry Brava – Raffaella (6.6)
  8. Rigoberta Bandini – Ay mama (6.2)
  9. Marta Sango – Sigues en mi mente (6.2)
  10. Sara Deop – Make you say (5.6)
  11. Chanel – SloMo (5.5)
  12. Gonzalo Hermida – Quién lo diría (5)
  13. Unique – Mejores (4.7)

That means that Javiera Mena is our favourite song of this selection with her song Culpa!!

Do #YOU agree with our opinions on the songs from semi-final 2? Who do #YOU see as the favourites to qualify from this semi-final? Also tell us your favourite of the entire selection! Let us know in the comments below, on our forum, or on social media @ESCUnited.

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