Portugal begin their Eurovision 2021 selection process later this evening, with ten acts fighting for five slots in the Festival da Canção final on March 6th. But, what did our team think of the songs taking part in tonight’s semi-final?

It’s time to find out, as Daniel, James and Sean look at tonight’s ten entries…

The Black Mamba – Love is on My Side

Daniel – 5.5 – “This is a very prototypical love song that seems plucked out of a 2000’s rom-com. I see what they were going for here, but it seems a little outdated and seems like a song you would expect from Leona Lewis’ debut album. I am a bit ambivalent of the song, it also does not have enough contrast to really keep me super engaged, except for the guitar solo. I also feel the children choir seems a little bit too much.”

James – 7 – “This is not the song I expected to hear from an act called The Black Mamba. I expected something like “WAP” or “Anaconda,” not a soft, reflective ‘70s rock track dominated by piano and strings with a sweet little electric guitar solo at the end. Despite some dark lyrics (leaving home at 16, selling bodies on a cold floor, etc.), it does have optimism in that no matter what horrors you may have faced, you still have it in you to find love. Eurovision punishes acts like this (see The Makemakes), but Festival da Canção is one of the greater national selections because they bring forward mature, adult numbers like “Love is on my Side.””

Sean – 6 – “His voice reminds me a little of Macy Gray. Is that an odd thing to say? It’s a fantastic vocal anyway. This is a quality, serene piece of music that really soothes my ears, but it’s just a little too… inoffensive maybe? There will be many people that appreciate this but it would be eaten alive at Eurovision I feel. It’s a pleasant listen but doesn’t really grab me in for many repeat listens.”

Total = 18.5 (avg. 6.17)

Valéria – Na mais profunda saudade

Daniel – 7.5 – “This is a traditional Portuguese song if I ever heard one. Again, a similar critique to many of the songs of these types is trying to figure out what makes it special and standout. I think this one really brings out the energy and love of fado more than most other songs. It also has one of the most memorable builds in terms of instrumental builds and keeps me more mesmerized than some other ballad-style songs. Also that voice, it probably is the main force behind this song and it is quite impressive.”

James – 9 – “It’s songs like this, written by fado master Helder Moutinho, that keep you coming back to this national selection. The acoustic guitar and the build up of the strings are masterfully done, matching the emotion represented in the lyrics. For example, Valéria sings of the emotions she feels when she feels her lover’s kiss, but the drums in the background are a warning of trouble ahead. If you’re looking for a female equivalent of Diodato’s “Fai Rumore,” consider this song as Valéria pours her all into this song which similarly tells a story that even a non-native speaker can feel.”

Sean – 5 – “If Portugal are wanting to go down the authentic route, then this is the one! Valéria brings us a soaring, sweeping fado ballad which plods along nicely for three minutes, but with a distinct absence of a high point or ‘moment’. Which may be perfectly fine for the Portuguese public casually watching, and – let’s be honest – that tends to have a lot of sway in FdC. But this isn’t going to be the one to get Portugal noticed this year, unless the live performance is mindblowing.”

Total = 21.5 (avg. 7.17)

mema. – Clara Como Água

Daniel – 8.5 – “Oh, this gives me throwback vibes to “Mea Culpa (FDC 2014) but in a good way. It is modern with great strings and instrumentation. It builds up in a way that keeps your attention captured. It is a strong entry from beginning to end. I love that it is dynamic; there are points that are chill and parts that are like a sound wall. It is a more traditional pop song but it does it in a way that you can automatically recognize the quality imbedded in the song. It is a-okay in my book.”

James – 7 – “This is an intriguing blend of electronica and traditional Portuguese folk. It is languid and lush, though I am not sure it is for Eurovision. The production is great and the track ably straddles the modern and the traditional, but lacks the whizz-bang moments that the ESC stans latch onto. However, I am interested to see how she copes with a work that is EP or LP length, as I suspect her work is more compelling over a 30+ minute stretch than an artist who deliberately targets a three-minute blow-out.”

Sean – 6.5 – “This is what Valéria’s entry is like, but with a bit more pep and urgency, which for me is exactly what I’m looking for! It somewhat loses its way towards the end, but does a good job of grabbing my attention at the start and has potential to be performed really nicely. It could do with a bit more of a beefed-up revamp for me though, as it’s caught between two minds in terms of its intensity.”

Total = 22 (avg. 7.33)

Nadine – Cheguei Aqui

Daniel – 8.5 – “This is such a beautiful melody with such a wonderfully enchanting composition. When that guitar begins, I get goosebumps. This is such a mesmerizing song, it is squarely Portuguese but in a way that has impact similar to Salvador Sobral. I am impressed with its fluidity and the rapid builds. It is like a beautiful Disney song without being show tuney, it is a wonderful song.”

James – 9 – “Anne Victorino d’Almeida’s composition is superb and Nadine’s delivery of this “I am here, I am me” anthem is powerful. If the hook doesn’t perforate your aorta, there’s something wrong with you. My only criticism is that may work better as a longer, fleshed out song, but in its compact three minutes state it does still deliver a punch despite you wanting more. Unlike some other songs in this selection, this is one I believe would attract enough followers to qualify it for the Grand Final though.”

Sean – 5 – “Ehh… it’s nothing unpleasant but… it’s just rather unspectacular to me. I need something at least a little more intriguing in a slower song, or some excitement, some drama… but that’s all missing here. Nadine’s entry is well sung, and pretty, but needs a bit more to stand out for me.”

Total = 22.5 (avg. 7.5)

Miguel Marôco – Girassol

Daniel – 10 – “I am not going to lie, when I saw this song I was like we really are on a sunflower train between Post Malone and Harry Styles. This song did not disappoint. It is an upbeat cornocupia of sounds. I love the chorus, one of my favorites from this year’s competition. It has the retro feel combined with a great composition. The lyrics are impressive even by RTP standards. I just appreciate how different it is from the others and while I am not sure if it will do particularly well, I personal have it as one of my favorites for its uniqueness and musical quality.”

James – 8 – “Light and sunny, almost-psychedelic pop rock. They’d be a great band to listen to in the park on a bright Sunday afternoon. Whether they’d be suitable for Eurovision is another question as its low-key effervescence may relegate it to a mood rather than a stand-out song people may come out in force to vote for. “Girassol” is a thoughtfully written and arranged track, with moments such as the pre-chorus with the drums ramping up being particularly effective.”

Sean – 7 – “It almost feels like if the Wii Shop Channel music was jazzed up a little and then performed by a Lisbon street performer! This is quite twee and has a somewhat nostalgic quality for me, which is surprising. But hey, I’m really digging this! Feels very genuine and Portuguese but also has a broader appeal than some of the other entries in this year’s competition.”

Total = 25 (avg. 8.33)

Fábia Maia – Dia lindo

Daniel – 7 – “Wow RTP really killing with the meaningful lyrics and ballads this year. My fear is that this song is pretty similar to a lot of the other songs in the competition and I am slightly struggling to find an extremely distinguishing factor. It does sound a bit more Disney-like than the other songs but I feel like that is not the main factor we want to be focusing on. I think the song has very pretty vocals and a perfectly charming melody.”

James – 6 – “Unlike some of the other ballads in this selection, this one doesn’t really go anywhere and doesn’t ask too much from its singer. Lyrically, the beautiful day in the title is tinged in sadness as it’s largely about Fabia’s response to a break-up. As a ballad this is melancholic but doesn’t quite stand out against some other composers who were more ambitious and other vocalists who took us on a rollercoaster of emotions in their three minutes. “Dia lindo” is slight, though you do feel Fabia’s minor triumph.”

Sean – 5 – ““Dia lindo” would be perfectly serviceable in the closing moments of a European rom-com where the fair maiden finally gets her Prince Charming, and there’s tons of emotion to be gleaned from the song and Fábia’s vocals. Which is all well and good I’m sure, but it’s just not my scene. Another song from this year’s contest that I can certainly respect but just doesn’t push any buttons for me.”

Total = 18 (avg. 6)

IRMA – Livros

Daniel – 7.5 – “I am about this lo-fi beat that guides this love song. At least this one has lyrics that are not so literal and rather really benefit from strong metaphors to deliver the song. I think that this song has a particularly contemporary point of view that still is true to its roots. Like some other songs, it is missing that wow factor to really throw it into the winner camp, but it is rather dynamic, especially in the last minute. I enjoyed the song.”

James – 7 – “A dainty ballad about the love Irma’s experienced and the love she will have in the future, represented as a metaphor in books she has or has not yet read. A big difference with “Livros” is in its production, as it deftly brings in the modern into what is largely a traditional ballad. “Livros” is intricately crafted, and Irma delivers a vulnerable performance quizzing whether or not her relationships are ones worthy of literature or her great love has yet to be written.”

Sean – 5.5 – “The key change is musically interesting, and this is certainly different in terms of the slower songs in Festival da Cancao this year. It’s another song that kinda passes me by without really grabbing too much interest from me though.”

Total = 20 (avg. 6.67)

Karetus & Romeu Bairos – Saudade

Daniel – 8 – “Here we have one of festival’s up-tempo acts of the year, so I always have a soft spot for them. Actually I really like how modern it is and really intertwines those modern beats with a very traditional sound and create what people in the Eurovision community like to call that ethno-pop. I think this is a strong entry and has a distinctive point of view. The song carries itself very well and really builds in those peaks and valleys. My main critique is its repetitiveness but other than that I think overall a phenomenal song.”

James – 8 – “Fado goes electronic here as Karetus and Romeu Bairos seamlessly blend the acoustic guitar driven fado with modern electronica. Lyrically and in feel, though, this is primarily fado, a minor key ballad complete with melancholic lyrics. The modern touches are added to help accentuate the singer’s pain from his recent break up, but they do not resort to gimmicks or allow the modern to take a front seat. For those wondering how you do a modern take on fado but don’t keep it recognizably fado, this is how you do it without ruffling traditionalists’ feathers.”

Sean – 7.5 – “Oh YES! Finally a track that lives up to the new era of Festival da Cancao! The mix of traditional sounding vocals with sparse electronics and a thumping beat is seamless and vaguely reminds of the rising French artist S+C+A+R+R’s stylings. This has a great appeal between the old and new, and with a strong performance could be quite a choice for Portugal this year.”

Total = 23.5 (avg. 7.83)

Sara Afonso – Contramão

Daniel – 7.5 – “Wow, que shock. A love song. Sorry there is just a plethora this time around. But focusing specifically on the song, I do actually appreciate that it has a darker ambiance juxtaposed to very airy vocals and instruments. This song has a lot of contrast and is remarkable for the beautiful rhythm it possesses. I think it has a very interesting perspective and has this element of 60’s pop mixed with Disney sounds and angelic vocals.”

James – 7 – “Okay, another melancholic ballad, but this one brings in different instrumentation (is that a slide guitar?). It still hews strictly to the traditional. Lyrically, this is like a fado version of Tracy Chapman’s “Fast Car,” where Sara implores her lover to toss any roadmap or plan out of the window and drive away into the distance. One critique could be the track feels like too melancholic for a song encouraging reckless abandon.”

Sean – 7 – “Planned or not, “Contramão” feels like an attempt to catch the moment of “Amar pelos dois”. It certainly doesn’t live up to that, but many of the feelings are reminiscent, and this is a wonderfully classy ballad in comparison to the competition. The musical interlude is like something out of a fairytale and the whole package lends itself to creating a great atmospheric performance.”

Total = 21.5 (avg. 7.17)

IAN – Mundo

Daniel – 8 – “This song gave me exploration vibes, full of drama and strings. I see the merits of this song and really enjoy its inclusion in FDC. I do feel that the beginning chorus seemed rushed, but I can see why based on that extensive Skrillex-like drop that moves back to a Disney-style inspirational ballad. It is a busy song, but I actually think that is one of its best qualities. You cannot forget this song. I feel at the beginning of the song I had my reservations. I still slightly do, but I think there is much more positive than negative going on here.”

James – 5 – “On the plus side for all you ballad haters, “Mundo” is not a ballad. Half of it is not in Portuguese either, which is coincidentally the song’s weakness. Her Portuguese vocals in the second half after the weird bass drop in the middle shows up her unconvincing stab at English in the first. This song stands out for being different from all the fado, but barely stands out on its own merits.”

Sean – 6.5 – “Ah, I was getting quite excited by the build up of this one, but then it turned all musical theatre on me in the chorus. The electronic breakdowns and the sense of urgency in the verses are good aspects, but it doesn’t feel cohesive. IAN is almost there with this one, but there’s a lot of building to a pay-off that doesn’t really hit strongly, and the song fades away before the three minutes are up.”

Total = 19.5 (avg. 6.5)

Let’s see how the rankings stack up from our reviews. Who would we have as qualifiers?

  1. Miguel Marôco – Girassol – 25
  2. Karetus & Romeu Bairos – Saudade – 23.5
  3. Nadine – Cheguei Aqui – 22.5
  4. mema. – Clara Como Água – 22
  5. Valéria – Na mais profunda saudade – 21.5
  6. Sara Afonso – Contramão – 21.5
  7. IRMA – Livros – 20
  8. IAN – Mundo – 19.5
  9. The Black Mamba – Love is on My Side – 18.5
  10. Fábia Maia – Dia lindo – 18

It’s Miguel who comes out on top, closely followed by Karetus & Romeu Bairos and Nadine. Will they be among the qualifiers tonight? Not long left to find out!

Do #YOU agree with our thoughts on tonight’s semi-final, or have we underrated any entries? Share your thoughts with us on our forum HERE or join the discussion below and on social media!

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