ESC 2023 Song Review: “Stay” by Monika Linkytė (Lithuania)

1) The Result

Defying the betting odds and the opinions of many who had written her off, Monika Liu not only managed to qualify for the final, but finished in a respectable 14th place.

2) The Process

Lithuania’s Pabandom iš naujo selection process has its detractors, with its winding road of heats and semis, but ultimately it unearths some strong tracks: half of the 10 finalists this year would have been worthy Eurovision entries. In any case, Monika Linkytė won the jury vote but finished second in the televote by 147 votes to Rūta Mur’s “So Low”. This resulted in a tie, which in some countries is broken by the televote, but in Lithuania’s case was decided by the juries, giving Linkytė the win overall.

3) The Artist

In what has become quite a year for returning artists, Monika Linkytė’s previous outing at Eurovision was in 2015 when she duetted with Vaidas Baumila, placing 18th in the grand final. Since then, she has released an album, an EP and a few singles here and there.

4) The Song

Piano-ballad with gospel leanings and lots of big vocal moments.

5) The Verdict

If you’re surprised to see this as my favourite entry this year, join the club. I’m not convinced it will still be at the top by the end of the contest, but each time I doubt myself and it comes up in the playlist, I’m caught off-guard by how much it appeals to me. I confess to having been a big fan of “So Low”, but once I saw the glow-up “Stay” received in between its early performances and the national final, I knew it would be a worthy winner. There is an earnest but heartfelt simplicity in its presentation, and those vocals are some of the best at this year’s contest: impressive without being flashy.

My ranking: 1st