It’s been a week of great musical merit on the Mediterranean coast, as the Spanish seaside resort of Benidorm has played host to the nation’s revamped national selection process for finding its entry to the Eurovision Song Contest.
📺 TUNE IN: Benidorm Fest will begin at 22:00 CET on Saturday 29 January. Wherever you are in the world, you’ll be able to watch courtesy of RTVE, via a live stream on their own digital platform or on the RTVE Música YouTube channel.
The suitably titled Benidorm Fest is loosely based on Festival Español de la Canción de Benidorm, a Spanish song contest that was held intermittently between 1958 and 2006. Spanish broadcaster RTVE has put noticeable effort into its launch, in an evident attempt at building the festival into a long-term cultural proposition for Spain, as well as selecting the right song to represent the nation on the Eurovision stage.
This selection has so far entailed two semi-finals, which took place on Wednesday and Thursday of this week, and during which 14 competitors were reduced to 8. These eight will now make up the grand final of Benidorm Fest, which you’ll be able to watch this Saturday night.
After all acts have performed, that’s when the all-important votes will be cast. And these votes will be derived from a combination of an expert jury (50%), a demoscopic sample of the Spanish population (25%) and a good old-fashioned televote (25%). Once everyone has had their say, Spain will have its entry to the Eurovision Song Contest in Turin.
Who’s in the running to take that trophy?
Ahead of the Benidorm Fest final, let’s familiarise ourselves with the songs competing, how they got here, and what we can expect from them on what’s set to be an unmissable evening of entertainment.
Gonzalo Hermida – Quién Lo Diría
Everyone loves a ballad. No, seriously – in the demoscopic vote conducted for semi-final two, based on a statistically-selected sample of the Spanish population, Quién Lo Diría came out on top, scoring the highest points of all seven semi-finalists. It also received respectable marks from both the jury and the televote – this despite the unfortunate fact that Gonzalo himself had tested positive for COVID-19 on Tuesday and was therefore unable to perform on Thursday night, his performance slot replaced by the broadcast of the song’s music video.
The result certainly lifted the spirits of Gonzalo, and speaking at the post-semi press conference (which he was able to join via video call from his hotel room), he called it ‘perhaps the greatest personal success of my career’. The Cádiz crooner also expressed hope that further testing before Saturday returns a negative result; if it does, he’ll be allowed to perform alongside his competitors on the big night.
Chanel – SloMo
Serving the competition a double-threat of some top-notch choreography and hairography, few could argue that rising star Chanel didn’t do her utmost to bring her song to life on the Benidorm stage at Wednesday night’s first semi-final.
Between pelvic thrusts, neck flips and a surprise dance-break that would make any popstar from 2002 quake in their combat trousers, what Chanel delivered ensured that SloMo won its semi with a score that included top marks from the jury. As a result, the song goes into Saturday night’s final as one of the favourites to win, a feat all the more impressive when you consider that it’s Chanel’s debut single. But whatever happens on the night, it’s highly likely that her turn at Benidorm Fest will see to it that this newcomer will be sticking around for a while more to come.
XEINN – Eco
‘Me siento como un muñeco’ trills Xeinn in the chorus of his Fest finalist, which translates as ‘I feel like a doll’. Well, not since the days of Aqua has life in plastic felt this fantastic. For Eco, the Madrid native has taken what’s been the dominating sound of pop radio across the globe over the past couple of years – ‘80s-inspired synthpop – and given it a fast-paced, fresh-faced makeover for its outing to Benidorm.
It went down well, picking up points from all three sources, giving it a comfortable bronze-place finish at Thursday night’s second semi-final. XEINN shot to fame less than three years ago, when he uploaded his own interpretation of an XXXTENTACION track to his burgeoning YouTube channel, a video which has to date garnered just under 14 million views.
Varry Brava – Raffaella
They came into Benidorm Fest as one of the bigger names in the line-up, and they’ll leave it an even wider known act from here on in. With their song Raffaella, the Varry Brava trio bring to the competition an affectionate tribute to the late Raffaella Carrà, an iconic entertainer who sadly passed away in the summer of last year.
The electropop enthusiasts from Orihuela have elected to celebrate her contribution to pop culture, however, rather than lament the loss of a legend; and so the Spanish final gets an uplifting disco pastiche to raise a glass to on Saturday night. With this entry, sights are set on the past, image is filtered to retro, and performance is geared to entertain.
Rayden – Calle de la Llorería
Despite being just 36 years of age, Madrid musician Rayden is one of the more seasoned artists in Saturday night’s final, having enjoyed a career that has now spanned two decades of commercial success and critical acclaim. The versatile performer has been a member of two different rap crews, and he hasn’t neglected those vocal stylings heading into a solo career. Indeed, his unflinching live delivery of Calle de la Llorería’s quick-paced lyrics at Thursday evening’s second semi-final, saw to it that he picked up high scores from all three available sources, sailing with ease into that all-important final.
His performance had all the charm and confidence of an entertainer who frets not about the 183 million people potentially watching him at a Eurovision Song Contest in May, and he’s undoubtedly one to watch during this one final step in getting there.
Rigoberta Bandini – Ay Mamá
A colloquial play on words to convey a multi-layered message about feminism, the ‘mamá’ in Ay Mamá is a celebration of the life-giving miracle of motherhood, as well as an assertion that the female body – all of it, and in all of its forms – is not something that should ever be hidden away; the latter point hammered home to viewers via the addition of an exposed breast taking the form of a giant globe being wheeled onto the set by the large number of stage-hands needed to handle such gravitas.
The all-inclusive anthem was a Spotify chart hit in Spain even before Rigoberta had performed it in the second semi-final on Thursday of this week, and it predictably triumphed in that semi on the night. But with only one point making up the difference between semi one’s winning vote tally with that of Rigoberta’s semi victor, Saturday night’s result is very much still open.
Tanxugueiras – Terra
If ‘Galician-language folk banger about female empowerment’ wasn’t on your national-final bingo card, then you clearly haven’t been playing Eurovision correctly. Mercifully, however, Tanxugueiras (that’s Sabela, Olaia and Aida, if your Galician band-name pronunciation isn’t holding up like it used to) have been playing the game just right. And for Benidorm Fest, they’ve delivered a rousing fan favourite that has been going down well pre-contest, and sailed through to the final via Wednesday night’s first semi, thanks in no small part to a televote win.
Blanca Paloma – Secreto de Agua
With a background in theatre and costume design, it’s therefore little surprise that Blanca Paloma brings to the competition such a striking performance, both in terms of her interaction with the audience, and the effect-driven construction that is her outfit for the evening. With her elegant ballad, Paloma offers up the kind of mystique that one would expect from a song titled Secreto de Agua. This is the kind of staging that has contributed to Spain’s national final for Eurovision being the talk of pop fans across Europe this week.
How to watch?
The Benidorm Fest final will begin at 22:00 CET on Saturday 29 January. Wherever you are in the world, you’ll be able to tune in courtesy of RTVE, via a live stream on their own digital platform or on the RTVE Música YouTube channel.