Every year, the Portuguese pre-selection is full of well-known artists and composers who are invited by the organizers. In addition, there are always a few spots for ‘free submissions’. None of them had ever won.
Until this year. Mimicat (38) came first with both the audience and the professional juries. Makes sense, as she turns the stage into a comedy club where she is the only shareholder. Even though she had her song ready for years – but didn’t like it herself.
Not addicted yet
That is to say: she didn’t think it was a song suited for herself. She wrote it in 2014, leading up to an English-language album. She was bored, waiting for an appointment, and ‘we didn’t have social media yet, so I was less addicted to my phone.’ She looked at the ceiling and started singing: ‘Ai coração… ai coração…’ and thought: there’s something there.
‘Ai coração’ means ‘oh, heart’, because the whole song Mimicat sings is a speech to her own troublesome heart:
Oh, my heart that won’t leave me in peace.
I seem insane,
I seem completely senile!
Hours pass without sleep,
I hear the owls, I hear the neighbors…
The doctor says there’s nothing to be done,
I see what he writes: ‘Hopeless case.’
And of course, all of this is because of love. The line with which the chorus ends is the most pressing:
Tell me, heart, do you actually belong to me?
Mimicat, whose real name is Marisa Mena: ‘The lyrics were done in five minutes. But until then I had always written in English. I found what I made in Portuguese horrible. This was the first thing that seemed somewhat decent to me.’
Why did she leave it lying around for all those years?
‘It was so different from my other songs. I wanted to send it to different singers all the time, but my husband kept saying: don’t give this song away! I tried to record it myself, but it didn’t work right away. And last year I was working on a new album and thought: let me try Eurovision, that’s good promotion. I sent the demo, forgot I had done that, and months later I had all these missed calls from an unknown number. The Portuguese broadcaster.’
There were more reasons why the song was left for so long: another job. Marisa was a real estate agent for many years. She sold houses in the center of Lisbon. ‘I didn’t want to sing cover songs in bars. By doing other work that I found interesting, I gave myself the freedom to make the music I wanted.’
Furthermore, there were English-language songs, with a debut album in 2014, and a bluesy single used in a soap opera, Tell me why. Of which Mimicat later also recorded a duet version with someone we know from Eurovision 2021, Tatanka, the singer of the Portuguese band The Black Mamba.
In addition, Mimicat became the lead singer and songwriter for the band The Casino Royal in 2014. ‘That was nice because I learned to be a performer. And not so nice because every band has problems. I wasn’t a great band member myself either. I became very good friends with one of them, but the others are no longer important in my life.’
Children and parents
And then there was everyday life. More specifically: children. One of (currently) four years old and one of (currently) one year old. When Marisa was pregnant with the oldest, she wondered why she should continue singing in English – her son would never be able to understand her. Not long after, her parents (‘my pillars’) celebrated their fiftieth wedding anniversary, and she wrote the tender, serious Até ao fim (‘Until the end’, see sidebar) for them in Portuguese. Since then, there has been the switch to her own language, the build-up to a new album later this year via here, now, Eurovision.
Eurovision – general
But Eurovision has always been close. Not only was the first song Marisa sang in public (at school, aged nine) a cover of the Portuguese entry from 1994 – Chamar a música,
not only does she now frequently sing the Portuguese entry from 1979 – Sobe, sobe, balão sobe to her children at bedtime,
but she also tried her luck earlier in the Portuguese pre-selection. Under the name Izamena, she sang Mundo colorido in 2001. A youthful indiscretion. Mimicat: ‘I was fifteen and just a teenager singing a song somewhere. Not important. Sometimes I forget that I did it.’
Eurovision – 2023
Understandably. From 2001 to 2023 is quite a leap. Life squeezed itself in between, and Eurovision viewers will see in Mimicat’s performance all the experiences, decisions, and sources of inspiration of those twenty-two years, mainly in the confidence with which she stands on stage. With a powerful voice and an amazing high note at the end, the viewer sits back comfortably in their chair: this woman knows what she’s doing.
The same goes for the act. Mimicat brings the atmosphere of the movie Chicago to Liverpool and immerses the viewer in red cheerfulness. ‘Mimicat is the character I use, Marisa stays behind in the dressing room and the theater begins.’
And after that?
Mimicat dedicated her victory in the Portuguese pre-selection to ‘all the other underdogs who keep trying without getting any chances for a long time.’
And that fits well with what she sees happening for herself after the Song Contest: ‘I don’t have high expectations. The only thing I want to achieve is that I don’t have to explain myself anymore. That through this song, a strong bond with the audience is formed and that I can give wings to that bond.
Photo: Sarah Louise Bennett/EBU