Editorials & OpinionTurin 2022

MoA 4: MARO’s glorious journey to the top 10

In our new series, we pay tribute to the positive stories and storylines from Eurovision 2022

As the dust settles on the 2022 contest and Eurovision fans stare down the barrel of a long off-season, here at ESCXTRA, we wanted to spend the summer highlighting our moments of appreciation for Eurovision 2022. Up next, we discuss how Portugal’s MARO took her grief and turned it into an entry that touched me and millions of people across Europe.

Now, I’ve said it before, but results at Eurovision don’t always matter. However, it does mean something when a song you weren’t even sure would win its selection makes it all the way to the top 10. It also means something when a country who had previously been penalised for marching to the beat of their own drum, like Portugal, gets rewarded within the format of the contest.

Festival Da Canção

Since 2018, Festival da Canção has been appointment viewing for me. After Salvador Sobral helped to unlock the world of Portugal’s flourishing indie music scene for RTP, the selection has become one of the most high-quality and well-produced national selections.

Whether it be “O jardim” from 2018, “Telemóveis” from 2019, “Cegueira” from 2020 or “Na mais profunda saudade” in 2021, there is always that one song from the playlist that grips me on first listen. Although a few of those ended up winning, I had never experienced the vindication of it getting a strong Eurovision result.

When I first heard “saudade, saudade”, I was smitten. However, I had been burned too many times to entertain the thought of it winning the festival, let alone performing well at Eurovision. The song is a lo-fi, immersive and tender song about the loss of MARO’s grandfather, punctuated my seamless transitions between English and Portuguese.

An emerging talent

Within a few days of the official album of the selection dropping, I noticed something: despite MARO being far from the most well-known artists in the festival, “saudade, saudade” had stormed ahead the rest of the songs in terms of streams.

Although streams and views have long been a red herring in terms of predicting national final outcomes, it gave me some hope that MARO could hold her own against the likes of Syro and Aurea, both of whom have considerable followings in Portugal.

Further, MARO made good on the traction she gained from Festival da Canção by releasing a stream of new promotional singles, which she has since sewn together into the like we’re weird EP.

Winning Festival da Canção

‘It doesn’t matter if my fave doesn’t win, at least I’ve discovered her music, right?!’, well, plot twist: my fave did win. With this victory coming in the final weekend of the national final season, after many disappointments, on the same night that Cornelia Jakobs won Melodifestivalen, was A LOT for me to handle.

Part of the reason why the win was a shock to me was because, in my opinion at least, the staging for “saudade, saudade” didn’t really come together at Festival da Canção. The first performance felt a little empty and under-staged, and while the final performance was an improvement, even the addition of the choir of backing singers on stage didn’t quite manage to reach the heights of the acoustic choral version she recorded at Església de Santa Eugènia de Relat.

The dark horse rises

Without any pre-party performances to refer to (classic Portugal), I simply had to hope that the staging would come together for the contest. Although RTP had instilled some trust with the excellent job The Black Mamba did in elevating their staging for Rotterdam last year, I was still concerned that the intimacy of the song would not translate on stage.

Thankfully, my fears were erased the moment I saw MARO’s second rehearsal in the Turin press centre. In a year with many complaints being directed at the production and camerawork, I think Rai absolutely NAILED this. “saudade, saudade” is very much within the wheelhouse of Sanremo, so it was hardly surprising to see how stunning the performance ended up being. Be it the establishing shot, the colours, the use of smoke or the framing of the satellite stage, this was something special.

To my delight, MARO brought Portugal their best result since 2017, and their 6th highest finish since their 1964 debut. She finished 4th in the first semi-final, and despite performing 3rd in the Grand Final, she ended up finishing in 9th with 207 points.

Now in the beginning of what I hope to be a qualification streak, could my little Portugal be on the road to becoming a Eurovision powerhouse? I would love to see it.

Stay tuned for the next instalment of our Moments of Appreciation series next week! Be sure to stay updated by following @ESCXTRA on Twitter@escxtra on Instagram@escxtra on TikTok and liking our Facebook page for the latest updates! Also, be sure to follow us on Spotify for the latest music from your favourite ESC and JESC acts.

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