09 May 2016

Eurovision 2016: Spotlight on Czech Republic; Azerbaijan; Malta

Gabriela Gunčíková / Czech Republic / 2016 Eurovision Song Contest

Czech Republic: Gabriela Gunčíková with I Stand

It seems the Czech Republic have finally figured out this Eurovision malarky. Last year, they sent a very creditable entry as their comeback song, only to see it founder in the semi-finals.

I Stand, their 2016 effort, is by far the country's most commercially creditable offering - at least, to Western ears - and has every chance of pushing the Czechs through to the Final for the first time. Why? Because it's the kind of towering, pot-boiler of a ballad that the core Eurovision audience loves - and will appeal appreciably to a number of the national juries.

Gabriela also serves up her own brand of visual attraction, ably supplementing the glamour stakes alongside her semi-final competitors Ira Losco, Iveta Mukuchyan and Samra - who also provide similarly dramatic compositions.

Will there be enough support to see them all into the Final, though?  Up until now, the Czech Republic has proved to be the weakest link. Hopefully, this year, I Stand will convince voters otherwise.

Appearance: Semi-Final 1, performing 10th.

Azerbaijan: Samra with Miracle

Samra Rahimli / Azerbaijan / 2016 Eurovision Song Contest

Despite not performing as well as expected in 2015, when Elnur Hüseynov's Hour of the Wolf ended up languishing in twelfth place, Azerbaijan return to Eurovision with a fierce mid-tempo ballad sung by local beauty, Samra Rahimli.

Miracle is a mighty pop number penned by (surprise, surprise) a trio of Swedes who seem to have a habit of composing entries with contemporary production values and dynamically captivating melodies. Azerbaijan appear to have struck gold with this one because it ticks many of the boxes required to be successful in Stockholm.

The only factor holding this one back could be Samra's inconsistent live vocals, but if she overcomes this obstacle then she should fly through the semi-final and score very well on Final's night. 

Appearance: Semi-Final 1, performing 14th.

Malta: Ira Losco with Walk on Water

 Ira Losco / Malta / 2016 Eurovision Song Contest

Not content with the first review, Malta pull off 'a Belarus' and replace (the publicly-voted-for) national final winner, Chameleon, with the more satisfying - and ultimately, competitive - composition, Walk on Water.

While not a universally-supported decision at the time - what was the point of a national final and what about all those phone charges raked in during the public vote? - the Maltese appear to have deflected much of the criticism in coming up with a much more contemporary and exhilarating contribution.

Walk on Water is a bold, in-your-face pop anthem which possesses a naggingly incessant back beat, while its (somewhat) repetitive gospel-style hook manages to reel in the listener by the end of its three minutes. And those 'uh-oh-ohs' are a bit of a tease, too: where have we heard those before?

Of course, Ira is something of a Eurovision veteran herself, so expect a very professional and confident performance when she takes to the stage at the climax to the first semi-final. She should be equally confident of a place in the Final.

Look for Walk on Water to stroll into the Top 10.

Appearance: First Semi-Final, performing 18th.

What do you think of these songs?

All images by Albin Olsson (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

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