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Eurovision: Truly ‘United by Music’

Photo of Loreen CC licensed by ShareAlike 3.0 Unported (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Staff Writer Joseph Gallyot reviews the highlights of the 2023 Eurovision final taking a look at the musical performances as well as this year’s lead up to the largest televisied musical competition in the world.

The 67th edition of the Eurovision song contest was held in Liverpool on behalf of Ukraine, the winners of the 2022 contest. The competition consisted of a week of celebrations, with two semi-final shows before the grand finale. With the jury vote and the public vote counted, the victor was declared as Sweden’s Loreen with her single ‘Tattoo’. 

When the UK was announced as the host nation, following the 2022 contest which saw Kalush Orchestra crowned as victors, the immediate bidding process started to find the best host city for the 67th edition of Eurovision. The bidding process was intense, and the final cities came down to Glasgow and Liverpool, both meeting the necessary criteria to host. This began to be known as a ‘Ukrainian party at [the UK’s] house’ as it quickly became clear that Ukraine would be unable to host considering the continuing conflict. Despite the solemn mood that surrounded proceedings both before and after the contest, the mood in Liverpool was one of unity and peace which saw a fervent competition displaying the best of Liverpool and Ukraine. 

The first semi-final showcased an immense array of talent, musical styles, and creative approaches. The show gave viewers the first look at the bookie’s favourites, Loreen of Sweden, and Käärijä of Finland. Loreen’s track Tattoo offered a classic Eurovision-tuned dance track that builds into an explosive last chorus, all the while being performed in a super-sized hydraulic press. Loreen’s outstanding performance took her safely into the final and solidified her place as the front-runner ahead of the final. Loreen would not be beaten so easily following the immense performance of Finland and their entrant, Käärijä. His track ‘Cha Cha Cha’ did not offer Eurovision tropes like Loreen, but it became the clear fan-favourite of both the semi-final and the final. Audiences quickly took to the genre-bending rave track with its instantly catchy chorus, providing a threat to Loreen’s crown. 

Both semi-finals were resolute, however, in their commitment to co-hosting with Ukraine, all the pre-performance postcards created a seamless blend of Ukrainian and British Landmarks. The responsibility of co-hosting was done effortlessly by the BBC and Suspilne Ukraine and the theme of United by Music was kept at the forefront of proceeding throughout. This culminated in the grand final when previous winner Duncan Laurence of the Netherlands gave a deeply moving interval performance of ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’, a Gerry and the Pacemakers anthem that has become part of Liverpool lore. Laurence was joined on stage by hosts and performers, before smoothly cutting to the Kyiv Youth Choir in Ukraine. This moment unified Liverpool and Ukraine in a moment of true human kinship – a clear standout from the entire week and a perfect closing piece before the results. 

Despite such emotion surrounding the event, the final was a high-energy triumph delivering one of the best finals in Eurovision history. All 26 nations delivered equally memorable performances, elaborate staging, and characteristic Eurovision touches. The evening started strong with Austrian entrants Teya and Salena’s track ‘Who the hell is Edgar?’, an implicitly rebellious track using the conceit of being possessed by Edgar Allan Poe, to raise awareness of poor royalty payments in streaming. The night continued its sparkling charge with strong performances throughout from Australia, Belgium, Norway, Israel, and many others. Israeli entrant Noa Kirel also offered a notable claim to the 2023 title with her track ‘Unicorn’ a seemingly BLACKPINK-inspired pop number with a fearsome dance solo to close the number. Closing the show at number twenty-six in the running order was the UK entrant Mae Muller and her song titled ‘I wrote a song’, a lyrically insipid yet characteristically British, track about not trashing an ex publicly but turning to writing music instead. With its incongruous staging, it did not offer the jury much to award according to previous Eurovision taste, but it undoubtedly awoke the arena. Videos released following the event showed Hannah Waddingham, Alesha Dixon, and Julia Sanina all enjoying the performance as much as the home crowd. 

Following the 26 performances and the moving interval acts, the final portion of the show was dedicated to the Eurovision tradition of the European juries and the recently added public vote. This year marked the first time that international voters outside of Europe and Australia could vote for their favourites. Preceding this, however, was a flurry of douze points for Sweden’s Loreen; she fast outpaced the other nations and opened a wide lead ahead of the public vote. The jury votes placed Loreen at the top of the leader board with the top five closed out by Israel, Italy, Finland, and Estonia. The televotes then shifted the power to Finland’s Käärijä coming first in the televotes with a very respectable 376 points. The result came down to a classic reality TV trope of a split screen showing both Loreen and Käärijä eagerly awaiting to hear if Loreen could surpass the 186 points needed to be victorious. The familiar call of Graham Norton then signalled Loreen’s 243 points from the televoters and consequently named her as the 67th Eurovision Champion on behalf of Sweden. Loreen’s victory paves the way for ABBA’s diamond anniversary in their home nation for Eurovision 2024. Although Loreen was the undisputed winner, Käärijä has firmly cemented himself into Eurovision history and created an entirely new approach to Eurovision musicality. 

Eurovision 2023 delivered moments of deep heartfelt unity blended with Ukrainian spirit and Liverpudlian hospitality. This 67th iteration displayed how music and sound sees no languages and borders to create a continent (with Australia) united by music. 

Joseph Gallyot

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