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Eurovision 2023: Here are the first 10 finalists

Silke Wünsch
May 10, 2023

The first round of semifinals in this year's Eurovision Song Contest is an indicator of current trends, towards up-tempo, electronic pop. Scandinavian countries are looking strong, too.

The trophy for the 2023 Eurovision Song Contest, onstage with yellow, blue and pink lighting around it.
The Eurovision Song Contest stageImage: Corinne Cumming/EBU

The Scandinavian acts demonstrated their clear strength at the first semifinal at this year's Eurovision Song Contest (ESC) in Liverpool, held on Tuesday evening.

Loreen, representing Sweden for the second time after her win in 2012 and this year's favorite, qualified for the Eurovision final on Saturday, May 13. Her gloomy electro-pop act was a highlight.

The other favorite of the competition, Käärijä from Finland, also made the cut for Saturday's final. Wearing a neon green jacket, the young Finn galvanized the audience with his performance combining metal, hip hop and electro-pop.

Kaarija of Finland performs during the first semi final at the Eurovision Song Contest in Liverpool, England, Tuesday, May 9: he is wearing a green jacket and is behind three dancers dressed in print pink
Finland's Käärijä is among the acts that qualified for final of the 2023 Eurovision Song ContestImage: Martin Meissner/AP/dpa

Alessandra from Norway also qualified with a powerful up-tempo number featuring amazing vocals.

Noa Kirel, Israel's entry, also earned a place in the final with her act that starts like a typical ESC ballad; by the second verse, it then turns into a firework of danceable rhythms and equally impressive dance routines.

Serbia's experimental entry

Since its successful 2022 contribution, Serbia has kept on happily experimenting — and surprised at the first semifinal with the young singer Luke Black, who performed a dark and very idiosyncratic electro song, accompanied by an impressive stage show between fantasy and science fiction. He is also among the finalists.

Croatia's Let 3 also won over the audience with a crazy mixture of Rocky Horror Picture Show, Village People, drag revue and military march — an anti-war number that secured their spot back on the ESC stage for the final on Saturday.

Croatia's Let 3 on stage at the ESC semi-finals in Liverpool: three men wearing tank tops, underpants and military hats; two of them have mustaches.
It's just not Eurovision without at least one boundary-pushing act: Let 3 from Croatia Image: Chloe Hashemi/EBU

Moldova also made the final cut with a powerful folk number sung by Pasha Parfeni. Parfeni, who already represented the country in 2012, was accompanied by a traditional flute, dancers and drums.

Girl power from the Czech Republic

The women's band Vesna performed for the Czech Republic. Traditional singing, electric rhythms and rap in Czech — all of this was well received by the ESC fans, which means Vesna will once again be on stage on Saturday.

The Czech act Vesna on stage at the ESC semi-finals in Liverpool: six women in light pink outfits dance, three of them are singing.
Ladies, get in formation: Vesna from the Czech RepublicImage: Sarah Louise Bennett/EBU

Portugal's entry, Mimicat, offered an atmospheric polka that also convinced the audience to include her among the finalists.

Switzerland sent the young singer Remo Forrer into the race with a piano ballad; with his deep, soft voice, he also sang his way into the final.

No solo performer this year

The lineup in this first semifinal clearly demonstrated that singers who dramatically belted out ballads with their hair blowing in the wind, long a common sight at ESC, are out of style in this year's contest.

More and more countries — and their music fans — are opting for electronic, danceable pop music with special effects, performed by groups, or individual acts supported by dancers.

Noa Kirel from Israel performs during the first semi-final of the 2023 Eurovision Song Contest in Liverpool; she is seen projected on the screen, flanked by two glass unicorns, and on stage below, flanked by dancers.
Israel's Noa Kirel is among those taking full advantage of the Liverpool venue's massive screen backdropImage: Phil Noble/REUTERS

The "less is more" approach only works with a really strong song and a convincing solo performance, as Portugal's Salvador Sobral (2017) and the Netherlands' Duncan Laurence (2019) demonstrated in recent years.

Emotional performance with a Ukrainian singer

In an interlude set between the semifinalists' performances, three of the acts that will first perform at the final on Saturday introduced themselves: La Zarra from France, Marco Mengoni from Italy and the German band Lord of the Lost.

They are automatically included in the finals without having to qualify, being entries from the "Big Five" countries — France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the United Kingdom — the contest's biggest financial contributors. Ukraine, as last year's winner, does not have to qualify either.

In addition to the British-Albanian singer Rita Ora, the former Ukrainian ESC participant Aljosha (2010) also performed during the interlude. She covered the Duran Duran hit "Ordinary World" together with Liverpool singer Rebecca Ferguson, offering an impressive version that referred to Russia's war of aggression in Ukraine through emotional visuals.

Singer Aljoscha from Ukraine performs on stage during the ESC semi-finals in Liverpool: she stands with arms stretched to the sides, with wings in the colors of the Ukranian flag projected on the screen behind her.
Rise like a phoenix: Aljoscha from Ukraine is a guest performer, singing Duran Duran's 'Ordinary World'Image: Martin Meissner/AP/dpa

The British hosts have put great efforts into promoting Ukraine. Liverpool is stepping in as the organizer of this year's Eurovision Song Contest instead of Ukraine, which won last year with Kalush Orchestra but could not host a music competition of this magnitude during the war.

New rules

This year, for the first time, there is no longer a jury involved in the voting: only the fans' televotes will be tallied.

Another new rule is that viewers worldwide can vote, including those from countries who are not represented in the contest.

The European Broadcasting Union, which organizes the ESC, had come up with a new stage setup for the announcement of the finalists, which they tested on Monday during the first dress rehearsal.

All 15 participating acts were set to be on stage together during the announcement of the results — so that the cameras could follow all performers' faces and the audience at the same time.

The 10 selected acts were visible in expressing their joy, while the reactions of those who wouldn't make it into the finals would also have been captured by the camera.

But the first rehearsal made it immediately clear: the concept was an absolute killer for the show. As a result, it was withdrawn for the televised semifinal on Tuesday, allowing the performers who didn't make it into the final to express their disappointment in peace.

On Thursday, May 11, the second semifinal will have 16 other countries competing for a spot in the final event — and the remaining acts from Ukraine, Spain and the United Kingdom will then also briefly introduce themselves.

This article was originally written in German.