Presenting my top pick for each pre-qualifier competition that took place in the run-up to Eurovision 2022! Those songs that were picked by internal juries are in a separate list at the end, for the sake of completion.
This blog post is not to be viewed as a put-down on any of the artists that I wouldn’t have voted for. Instead, I’d like this to be seen as a celebration for artists that didn’t make the cut this year (as well as a second round of applause for those I loved who did make it to the semi-finals). And who knows? Maybe this will inspire some readers to go and check out some of these amazing artists!
And of course – I’ve put this all in a Spotify playlist that you can find here.
Artist and song selected: Ronela Hajati – Sekret
My pick: Alban Ramosaj – Theje
First on the list is Albania! This song feels like a journey – Aban is accompanied by an orchestra and the song just gets bigger and bigger as it goes. Aban has such a strong voice, able to carry so much strength and emotion. It also has a wonderful scratchy quality that only adds to the drama of this song.
Artist and song selected: Sheldon Riley – Not The Same
My pick: Voyager – Dreamer
“Dreamer” was my stand-out favourite song from Australia this year. It’s unlike most of the tracks this year, combining electro with rock. But even if it wasn’t been evaluated alongside other entries, this song would still be considered a knockout in my books!
The blend of charged guitars with the somewhat repetitive lyrics gives the song a real sense of urgency. I don’t see the repetition of the lyrics as a negative at all here but instead as a positive artistic choice. One imagines the singer is going over and over their problems, unable to get past the noise in their own head. Fantastic.
Artist and song selected: Mia Dimšić – Guilty Pleasure
My pick: Marko Bošnjak – Moli za nas
Such a great song! Marko has a crystal clear voice; every syllable is enunciated so perfectly so that even if you don’t understand what he’s saying, you feel that it’s important. I also love how the music is so fluid, seeming to shift and warp around Marko’s voice as the song builds. This along with the added storm effects makes for a song with a moody and wonderfully plaintive feel to it.
Artist and song selected: We Are Domi – Lights Off
My pick: We Are Domi – Lights Off
This song has been a favourite of mine since the very beginning. Throughout the Eurovision season, it’s jumped around my top songs, finally settling in fifth overall place. I find myself singing it in the shower all the time and I just know I’d go mental if this came on in a bar or club.
Truthfully, one of the reasons I enjoy “Lights Off” so much is because the beat reminds of the late noughties French tecktonik music that I grew up with, making me want to bust out embarrassing early 2000s dance moves.
Artist and song selected: REDDI – The Show
My pick: CONF3SSIONS – Hallelujah
“Hallelujah” is a real feel-good song that still manages to have moments of pathos – especially with that somewhat sci-fi sounding synth in the chorus that not only gives the song an 80s feel but to me always sounds like it’s crying. It’s all very fitting for a song about showing thanks to those who have stuck with you throughout difficult times.
Artist and song selected: Stefan – Hope
My pick: Black Velvet – Sandra
Now this song! This song is possibly my favourite to come out of the entire competition this year. It may not be the most complicated or the most adventurous song on the list, but it speaks to the music I grew up with. Genre-wise, I’d say it’s got a pop beat but is overall sort of post-punk revival. The keys are especially new wave-sounding. The overall effect is a song that calls back the noughties but is elevated for current tastes. If there are any fans of bands like White Lies, The Killers or Editors that are reading this, then I really recommend you check this one out!
Artist and song selected: The Rasmus – Jezebel
My pick: BESS – Ram pam pam
Listen, I love The Rasmus just as much as the next mid-20-year-old who grew up on their albums Dead Letters (2003) and Hide from the Sun (2005), and “Jezebel” was my 10th pick for winner in the final…
But “Ram pam pam” is the definition of a bop! It’s punchy, fusing pop with electro, and super fun. And I just love Bess’ husky voice.
Artist and song selected: Alvan and Ahez – Fulenn
My pick: Pauline Chagne – Nuit Pauline
This song is gorgeous. Everything about it is perfect – I’ve included the live version here so you can properly appreciate her harp (who doesn’t love a harp?!). It’s so 80s and the marriage between the somewhat older style of singing and the modern track behind it makes for a song that’s really interesting and that keeps you coming back for multiple re-listens.
Being a French-speaker, I also really appreciate how wonderfully crafted the lyrics are: it’s a cinematic song that both pays homage to legends of French cinema and chanson, as well as encourages the listener to carve their own path.
Artist and song selected: Malik Harris – Rockstars
My pick: Felicia Lu – Anxiety
I was really surprised “Anxiety” wasn’t chosen to represent Germany; to me, it seemed like an instant winner. One of the best songs to come out of all the pre-qualifiers, in my opinion!
It’s a track that starts slow and winds up, perfectly mimicking the song’s lyrics about anxiety. Like the track itself, Felicia’s vocals range from soft and quiet to fast and intense. It’s a song that is able to really immerse you, all while remaining a very danceable pop track.
Artist and song selected: Systur – Með hækkandi sól
My pick: Systur – Með hækkandi sól
There were LOTS of wonderful potential entries from Iceland this year, but this deceptively simple folk entry by Systur just gets more and more beautiful each time I listen to it. It is so heartfelt and the vocalists’ voices blend together beautifully.
I didn’t find out until after the semi-finals that this song was written by one of the members for their son, who is transgender, and is her way of telling him that he is loved and accepted, and that all will be fine. Even before I knew the song’s context, it has always felt to warm to me. You really feel the love in those beautiful harmonies. Very impactful.
Artist and song selected: Brooke – That’s Rich
My pick: Brooke – That’s Rich
Another song I was surprised didn’t make it to the final! This song is catchy, sassy and super contemporary, with a little nod to past pop songs with its spoken word segment towards the end, which I think works surprisingly well. Not only is the song good, but I found Brooke’s stage presence really likeable too.
Fun fact: for months I thought she was singing “I’m getting sicky now” instead of “sick of you now”, but I still choose to sing “sicky”.
Artist and song selected: Michael Ben David – I.M
My pick: Eli Huli – Blinded Dreamers
I’m still surprised that this entry did not get to represent Israel! To me, it was the standout winner.
There’s an odd contrast between the drum- and bass-heavy verses and the chorus, which is much more melodic. At first, I didn’t think it really worked. But now I really like how different they. In addition to this, there are these soaring notes that occur towards the end of each chorus that always remind me of birds flying, which not only works well in conjunction with the song’s message of carving your own path, but also makes me think of a bird migrating from one reality to another, which is an image that makes the contrast between the verses and chorus work really well for me; like the daily grind versus Eli’s much more grandiose dreams.
Artist and song selected: Mahmood and Blanco – Brividi
My pick: La Rappresentante di Lista – Ciao Ciao
There’s a fun contrast between the song’s subject matter (the end of the world) and how uplifting it sounds. Perhaps the song is perfectly summed up in these two lyrics: “Nel silenzio della crisi generale / Ti saluto con amore”, which translates to: “In the silence of the general crisis / I greet you with love”. It’s a song about being unable to look away from all the world’s problems whilst feeling utterly powerless and unable to help. As a result, the singer feels an overwhelming desire to ignore the noise and instead live life to the fullest (but cannot). A sentiment that I think a lot of people can sympathise with.
In spite the song’s heavy subject matter, it’s still an incredibly catchy and radio friendly pop song. Those blaring trumpets that are heard at certain points work really well both as warning klaxons and as party announcers.
Artist and song selected: Citi Zēni – Eat Your Salad
My pick: Beatrise Heislere – On the Way Home
“On the Way Home” is a synth-pop track that calls back to the 80s (right up my street!). In spite of its older references, it still manages to sound fresh. The chirpy keyboard is to die for and this song has been on repeat for weeks for me. Maybe it’s not the most original song on the list, but it’s enjoyable as hell!
Artist and song selected: Monika Liu – Sentimentai
My pick: Monika Liu – Sentimentai
Monika Liu’s “Sentimentai” was my favourite song to win the whole of Eurovision this year! I absolutely love how sultry her performance is as well as her vocals. There’s a real Parisian feel to this song and, as I spent most of my formative years in France, I love that nod to the French chanson style, and adore the Lithuanian style mixed in. For me, it was a match made in Heaven! I can’t express how much I cannot get enough of this song.
Artist and song selected: Emma Muscat – I Am What I Am
My pick: Jessica Grech – Aphrodisiac
Okay, hear me out… This song sounds quite dated and its lyrics are pretty sub-par. After every chorus, there’s this really jarring shift in the music, segued by a wood instrument which I can’t place that gives the song a sandy, desert feel and, well – does it work? Not really. Do I care? No. For some reason, I’m obsessed with this song.
Something interesting – I haven’t found anything online about this but it seems to be a bit of a love letter to Everything but the Girl’s timeless song “Missing”. Jessica Grech’s “Aphrodisiac” opens with the line “I miss you badly like the desert rain” and, while Tracey Thorn sang about “step[ping] off the train”, Jessica sings about “learn[ing] to fly a plane”. The parallels don’t stop there – both songs are about pursuing a lover they miss.
I don’t know for sure that this was on purpose but – whatever Jessica’s doing, I want more of it.
Artist and song selected: Andrea – Circles
My pick: Andrea – Circles
This is a song that I think benefits from a few listens – I didn’t start to properly appreciate it until after the semi-finals! Even so, I do wish it went somewhere a bit more punchy; when we get three-quarters of the way through, I do tend to stop paying as much attention. But the music does have a great swirly quality that I think perfectly reflects the lyrics.
Artist and song selected: Subwoolfer – Give That Wolf a Banana
My pick: Elsie Bay – The Death of Us
A haunting alt-pop ballad! I love how the strings soar in this song. Elsie’s voice is soulful and resonant, and the tinkling piano behind her helps carry this song’s emotional depth. This grandiosity works a wonder with her gorgeously poetic lyrics: “When sleep no longer comes / You, spitting anger from your lungs / I know you, house of seas, of setting suns”.
Artist and song selected: Ochman – River
My pick: Ochman – River
A real Marmite entry for a lot of people! But as you might have guessed, I’m on the love side. Ochman’s voice is clear as a bell and at times delves into operatic. The style of singing is perfect for such a melodramatic ballad about feeling like you’re drowning.
Artist and song selected: Maro – Saudade, saudade
My pick: Maro – Saudade, saudade
This song really is something special. It oozes pathos and has a real meditative quality to it. One imagines long nights deep in thought, wrestling with decisions and coming to terms with events that have already come to pass. It’s a pure gem. Maro’s voice is so soft and delicate; really beautiful.
I’ve included one of the live versions here because I love how they staged it, with Maro facing her fellow singers instead of the audience. It all helps underline the song’s intimate lyrics about loss and grief.
Artist and song selected: WRS – Llámame
My pick: Letitia Moisescu – Mirunica
I love entries like these that incorporate their own country’s style of pop instead of veering completely to the West’s style.
The song follows the story of a wealthy boy who falls for the poorest girl in the village, leading to the two of them deciding to marry in secret. It’s a jubilant song about young love, of going against what’s expected of you, and the excitement of going against the grain. These feelings resonate in the music, which is extremely positive, fun and easy to dance to. Also includes a violin solo!
Artist and song selected: Achille Lauro – Stripper
My pick: Matteo Faustini – L’Ultima Parola
This rich song marries delicate acoustic guitar and fluid strings, with a really forceful beat that is as overpowering as a stress-induced headache (and I mean this in the best way!). This creates a really interesting duality between softness and force, which works wonderfully for a song about a relationship on the rocks, as the singer tries to reckon the good times with the bad.
Artist and song selected: Konstrakta – In corpore sano
My pick: Gramophonedzie – Počinjem da Ludim
One of my faves of this list, Gramophonedzie’s entry really stands out. Starting out soft and slow, the song tricks you into thinking it’ll be a piano ballad, but instead ramps up into electro-pop. There’s a real frantic quality to the song that I love; and I wouldn’t be surprised to hear this in a Nike ad.
Artist and song selected: LPS – Disko
My pick: Nika S. – Počakaj Me
This song may not be doing anything revolutionary, but sometimes that doesn’t matter! Nika has a very pretty voice that gives this pop song a real feel-good quality. The song’s title means “Wait for Me”, and that hopefulness resounds throughout, especially with that high-pitched keyboard used throughout.
Artist and song selected: Chanel – SloMo
My pick: Rigoberta Bandini – Ay Mamá
I was really gutted this one wasn’t chosen to represent Spain in the final, because I think it’s really special. Not only is it fun to sing along to, it’s a feminist alt/electropop love letter to her mother and, by extension, to all mothers.
The lyrical references to her mother are bound in both concrete images (“A ti que tienes siempre caldo en la nevera”/”You who always has broth in the fridge”) as well as broader images of female empowerment (“Sacando un pecho fuera al puro estilo Delacroix”/”Taking out a breast in the Delacroix style” (a reference to his famous painting of the French revolution entitled Liberty Leading the People). This blend of the concrete and the mythical makes for a song that encompasses multiple views and forms of motherhood in a really encapsulating and emotional way. Honestly, this song is so wonderful song.
Artist and song selected: Cornelia Jakobs – Hold Me Closer
My pick: Theoz – Som du Vill
A pop banger if there ever was one! This song has a real summer vibe, and feels like a bit of a throwback to 90/00s pop (and I’m not just saying that because of Theoz’ middle parting!). There’s a deep bass that comes in after the first chorus that stands out to me on every listen; it really adds a new dimension to the song that stops it from getting too repetitive.
Artist and song selected: Kalush Orchestra – Stefania
My pick: Kalush Orchestra – Stefania
I have to give a shoutout to Wellboy’s “Nozzy Bossy” which came very close but, in the end, I still have to give it to Kalush Orchestra’s spellbinding song.
“Stefania” was my second pick for the overall winner this year, and I find it just as mesmerising on the first listen as I do now. Fusing hip hop with Ukrainian folk music, this song offers something new, trendy and different. If you haven’t heard it already – do! This win is completely deserved.
That’s the end of the songs I would have chosen. Below is a reminder of the jury-selected songs that competed in Eurovision this year, along with my reviews.
Artists chosen via internal selection
Artist and song selected: Rosa Linn – Snap
This song was a slow-grower as to me it sounds a little dated. Nonetheless, it did end up making it onto the list of songs I wanted to see go through to the final and was glad when it succeeded.
Due to the lyrics (“Turns out people lie / They say “Just snap your fingers” / As if it was really that easy for me to get over you”) and its folk quality, I think this song was at risk of going overboard with hand clapping and finger snapping in the way of percussion (which is a bit of a pet peeve of mine). But they’ve actually kept it quite subtle, only occurring in the chorus, so it works pretty well!
Artist and song selected: Lumix ft. Pia Maria – Halo
I was pretty gutted when this club banger didn’t make it through to the final – it was such a standout to me. Maybe it didn’t perform as well on stage as I hoped, but the studio version is a must-listen. It’s catchy and uplifting, and has really fun lyrics. I especially like “Philosophers like Socrates said ‘Find yourself, think on your feet, go sharpen your teeth'”.
Artist and song selected: Nadir Rustamli – Fade to Black
Although I enjoy the verses in this song, and Nadir has a really lovely voice with a lot of depth to it, I’m not a huge fan of the chorus. As a result, for me, the song just doesn’t reach the emotional heights it promises. Some people loved this song though and feel very deeply for it, so don’t just take my word for it!
Artist and song selected: Jérémie Makiese – Miss You
Jérémie has an incredible voice, and the strain he puts on the second, elongated “now” in each chorus really scratches an itch. The build in the bridge and the added choir that join near the end are wonderful additions that elevate this Bond-esque track and take it to a whole new dimension. A shame it didn’t do better in the competition!
Artist and song selected: Intelligent Music Project – Intention
Now – a moment of sobriety. Although I mention Bulgaria’s entry here in this list for the sake of completion, the song will not appear in my Spotify playlist and I won’t promote them properly here. This is because of the recent allegations launched against the lead singer, which you can read about here if interested.
Artist and song selected: Andromache – Ela
Going into the semi-finals, this was one of my favourite songs. And whilst I do agree that on stage it did not perform overly well, I still adore the studio version. Andromache’s voice is so beautiful and siren-like, and I think the mix of English and Greek work really well together. I love songs like this that blend their more traditional influences with modern sounds; they’re really unique.
Artist and song selected: Circus Mircus – Lock Me In
This song is a quirky, experimental prog rock fantasy.
Its lyrics are wonderfully mystifying (e.g. “Take me to the space craft, take me to dance club”) but I think it’s probably about the madness felt in all of us as a result of the necessity of Covid lockdowns. And due to this subject matter, it makes sense for this song to be as wonderfully weird as it is! It evokes those lockdown feelings in a really intelligent way all while standing out from the crowd.
As an added note, there’s a percussion instrument used throughout the song that I can only imagine as being a pair of claves, though I’m not sure if this is true – but I like to imagine it is. Give the song a listen and tell me what you think they are!
Artist and song selected: Amanda Georgiadi Tenfjord – Die Together
I just adore this ballad. Stunning vocals, emotional and a great on-stage performance. Everything about this song is right.
The song starts off very delicate but builds in strength as it goes. All throughout however it retains a fragile quality that goes incredibly well with its deceptively simple lyrics. She’s singing about pretty hard-hitting stuff, and the straightforwardness in her song-writing is what really hammers it all home: “Are you having a good time? / Doesn’t seem like you’re all fine / We don’t laugh anymore and when we cry we do it on our own”.
Artist and song selected: Zdob și Zdub – Trenulețul
I appreciate this sort of song being in Eurovision because it’s fun and the kind that will get people excited. It can break up a string of slower songs and inject some light. But to be honest, it’s not a song I would ever put on myself.
Artist and song selected: Vladana – Breathe
Unfortunately I really don’t like this one; it’s too melodramatic and the style of singing doesn’t gel with me. It has a bit of a Disney feel for me (in a bad way). One of my good friends loves this track though and thinks it’s beautiful! So don’t write it off just yet.
Artist and song selected: S10 – De diepte
One of my favourites of the whole competition! The hook (“oooh~ aaah~”) adds so much depth to an already wonderfully moody song. During the live shows, she stands alone on stage without back-up dancers and without moving very much at all; and in spite of the nakedness on stage, she is able to capture your attention for the entire duration of the song – a true testament to S10 as a performer.
Artist and song selected: Marius Bear – Boys Do Cry
Another Marmite entry! Unfortunately, although I really appreciate Marius’ message (that boys and men should not be afraid to express themselves emotionally, and should not have to hide their insecurities and softer side), this song has just never grown on me.
Artist and song selected: Sam Ryder – Space Man
When I first heard the UK’s entry, I wasn’t a big fan. I’ve always enjoyed the chorus but am less keen on the verses. I do prefer the shorter Eurovision edit of the song however, as it massively cuts down on the opening verse, going straight into the chorus after only the first 20 seconds.
Since the competition, it’s surprised me by growing on me more and more. And Sam’s stage presence and strength of voice is really something to be impressed by! A worthy runner-up for this British blogger.
So there’s my list! If you want to listen to all the songs in alphabetical order (by country), click here and you’ll be taken to my Spotify playlist!
What were the acts that you wished had gotten through to the main show?
Header of Monika Liu: https://eurovoix.com/2022/04/29/lithuania-monika-liu-dress-eurovision/