Australia is, once again, going to Eurovision!
To make sure we make quite a splash and make the most of our time in the Eurovision musical sun – we are in the contest until 2023 at this stage – Australia Decides has been created to select the artist who will represent the country.
SBS is styling it as a great big party and if you’re at the event itself this Saturday 8 February on the Gold Coast or at a viewing party like the one I’m attending, it’s bound to be a lot of fun!
There are 10 great songs from 10 amazingly-talented artists so making a choice is going to be hard.
Let the listening begin!
“Proud” by Casey Donovan
Lordy but Casey Donovan can sing! A multi-disciplinarian who excels as a singer-songwriter, actor and writer, she is making a name for herself as a musical theatre star and as a performer who stops shows with effortless grace and vocal prowess. There’s no doubting her talent, all of which comes to bear on “Proud”; the problem in this instance is that the song feels like something you’ve heard a thousand times before. It’s a beautiful track that resounds with musical and lyrical inspiration and you would have to be dead not to be moved by it in some way. But arresting as it is in a derivative way, it lacks that standout factor that could tip Australia Decides in her favour. The one wild card in this assessment will be a knock-it-out-of-the-park live performance which Donovan is eminently capable of and which she will likely deliver on the night.
“Can We Make Heaven” by Diana Rouvas
A past winner of The Voice, Sydney-born Diana Rouvas can sing. I mean, really sing. Her voice powers through “Can We Make Heaven” like a hot knife through butter, a powerful summoner of the unarguably inspiring lyrics that seem purpose built for Eurovision. That is, alas the problem, here. Though the song is incredibly catchy and it’s easy to get caught up in its socially progressive upbeat bonhomie, it doesn’t have much presence beyond the obvious feel good vibe. Of course, being ready made for Eurovision, lyrically and melodically, means it could romp up the voting charts since there’s a reason songs like this do well at the contest; however, Eurovision has also shown a propensity to celebrate and champion winning songs that have a real personality and quirks of their own. This latter dynamic has been in the ascendancy for some years now on Eurovision and so while the song ticks the required boxes, it doesn’t what it takes to win.
“Together” by Mitch Tambo
What an outstanding song. In “Together”, Indigenous singer-songwriter Mitch Tambo combines a keen ear for pop perfection with a strong stand for cultural diversity, with the lyrics a mix of English and Gamilaraay, reflecting his Aboriginal culture and identity. While the song is relatively cookie cutter in its approach, Tambo’s delivery, both vocally and lyrically is a masterstroke, offering up a Eurovision contender that straddles both ancient and modern Australia in ways that leave your heart beating faster and goosebumps tingling on the skin. This is a stand up and shout it song that is purpose built for a contest like Eurovision without once feeling like it’s been created to tick the obvious boxes. It’s enchantingly good and deserves to do well indeed.
“LIFE” by iOTA
Sporting a decidedly Beatle-esque aural aesthetic that never for one moment sounds remotely derivative thanks to stunning vocals and a melody that pounds its way welcomingly into your consciousness, “LIFE” by Australian-New Zealand singer-songwriter and actor iOTA (known to his parents as Sean Hape is a captivating piece of pop. It bounds forth from the speakers with a quirky, zestful energy that captures your ear, inspires the heart and dazzles with colourful visuals that match the tone and lyrical intent of the song perfectly. If Australia wants an entry that is both classic pop and yet off-kilter enough to be noticeable, and thus attract those all-important votes, then this is song for you Australia.
“Pushing Stars” by Jordan-Ravi
Striking a more mainstream pose, vocally and melodically, Australian singer-songwriter Jordan-Ravi, who hails from Darwin where he has made quite a name for himself, knocks it out of the park with “Pushing Stars”. As pop hits go, its appealing without being demanding; that however could be its undoing. While it’s undeniably appealing and will no doubt do brilliantly well as a charttopper, it lacks any real sense of identity. Catchy yes, inspiring in a short burst yes but does it has that certain something to catapult it to Eurovision greatness? Much will ride on the live performance but there’s not enough of this song, lovely though it is, that is lastingly memorable and that’s an Achilles Heel in this contest.
“I Am King I Am Queen” by Jack Vidgen
Coming to prominence via Australia’s Got Talent and tasting initial chart success with “Yes I Am”, jack Vidgen is offering a heavily gospel-influenced showstopper in I Am King I Am Queen” that comes complete with a goosebump-rich message of self acceptance and empowerment. It’s a fantastically catchy song that manages to transcend its production line roots, thanks to some inventive production work and Vidgen’s emotive voice which wraps itself around the song’s message as someone who has lived each and every last word. While it feels a little too derivative to really make its mark, it’s the kind of song that will rise on the strength of a live performance, and which will undoubtedly steal the show if the artist brings his A game.
“Lessons of Love” by Vanessa Amorosi
Vanessa Amorosi is an Australian singer-songwriter and recording artist who possesses that rare talent of being able to seamlessly move across musical genres including jazz, pop, blues and gospel. She is probably best known for the unofficial anthem of the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games, “Absolutely Everybody” but one listen to her Australian Decides contender, “Lessons of Love”, will convince just how versatile an artist she is and how much she brings to the table. Kicking off sparsely with a piano-driven intro, her vocals are crisp and clear, adding immeasurable beauty and palpable emotion to a song redolent with melancholic resignation about the harsh lessons we all learn from love. Too glum for Eurovision? Perhaps but lord, that chorus alone is worth the price of admission; if you’re not paying attention and fully invested in every last note she sings during the chorus then I’d question how alive you are. It’s a powerfully beautiful song that ends on an affirming, hopeful note which should strike a chord with the Eurovision hopeful.
“Don’t Break Me” by Montaigne
A brilliantly talented singer, songwriter and musician, Montaigne aka Jessica Alyssa Cerro is an artist known for delivering up uniquely-styled pop songs that appealingly marry up incisive, emotionally intense lyrics with melodies pulse and pound with crackling energy. She is, in other words, a welcome outlier in the pop world, capable of crafting Top 40 that don’t for a second sound even remotely generic and remind you that popular music is all cookie cutter assembling of predictable tunes and rhyming melodies. But if you’re expecting a “Gravity” style song from Montaigne, you might be a little disappointed. While “Don’t Break Me” is an emotionally evocative that slices through your heart with surgically-arresting precision, and tackles the kind of brutally honest material for which she’s known, the song is a little more mainstream than her usual fare. Not by a large degree by it’s obvious enough that anyone familiar with her work will notice it immediately. Having said that, the song is vibrantly alive and will make for one of those standout live performances that will not be a defining moment I suspect in Australia Decides but in Eurovision 2020 should it make it through as Australia’s entry.
“Raw Stuff” by Didirri
Growing up in the countryside of coastal Australia, Didirri has been singing and performing his whole life. It shows in the searingly emotive way he delivers “Raw Stuff”, a song which approaches its subject matter with the kind of honesty for which the artist is known and which admits that life “has some raw stuff” a plaintive resignation that will make your heart break. It is a chillingly, emotionally transparent song where the artist lays his heart and soul on the time, not so much singing, though he does that superlatively, but living every last exquisitely affecting moment of it. Alas, stunningly lovely though it is, it is not necessarily a Eurovision song; having said that, I get the feeling it will place very nicely since only a monster could listen to this gut-spillingly honest and remain unmoved.
“Rabbit Hole” by Jaguar Jonze
What an energisingly upbeat piece of fast-moving pop! “Rabbit Hole” adds some much-needed rock panache to proceedings, driving forward, ever forward with a giddy momentum that is all but impossible to resist. And those vocals?! Oh my! The power and the emotion – you can understand why triple unearthed described the Japan-born performer as an artist who “delivers defiant ferocity through smoky vocals that shift between fragile and forceful and a mature musicality that provides sweetness through dissonance.” Magnificent stuff that would provide a brilliant change of pace were the song to get up as Australia’s entrant.
So what are my top 3 picks?
- “Don’t Break Me” by Montaigne
- “Lessons of Love” by Vanessa Amorosi
- “Together” by Mitch Tambo
Two runner-ups with the chance to be picked for sheer energy and quirk alone, which are surely Eurovision mainstays.
- “Life” by iOTA
- “Rabbit Hole” by Jaguar Jonze
National competitions to select each entrant country’s singer and song are in full swing across Europe, with an impressive number of countries
gearing up for a festival of song over the next few weeks. The heaviest days of competition by far are the 8th February (Australia, Italy, Latvia and Malta all hosting finals) and the 15th February (Norway, Lituania and Armenia) with a slew of semi-finals also taking place on those days. (For the full list of national contests, go to eurovision.tv)
A number of countries have selected their entrants including Greece (“SUPERG!RL” by Stefania), Albania (“Shaj” by Arilene Ara), Czech Republic (“Kemama” by Benny Cristo) and Israel (song TBD via The Next Song For Eurovision – Eden Alene)
In other very cool news, the Dutch plan to mark the 65th anniversary of the Eurovision Song Contest by inviting all past Dutch participants to come along to the grand final on 16th May. That’ll make for quite the party, something about which the board chairman NPO, a public braodcaster which is one of the three groups hosting Eurovision 2020, Shula Rijzman is pretty enthusiastic:
“The 65th Eurovision Song Contest in Rotterdam this year is an absolute highlight for public broadcaster. For this special edition, we invite all Dutch former participants who are still among us to be there: from Lenny Kuhr to the Toppers. And from Anouk to Teach-In. Our national music history under one roof at the grand final of “our” Eurovision.”
For the full story, go to ESCXTRA