08 March 2017
For months Isaiah Firebrace was heavily speculated to be Australia’s entrant for the Eurovision Song Contest of 2017 and yesterday that proved so when he was formerly announced to be Australia’s entrant for the Eurovision Song Contest of 2017. To think SBS went to so much trouble of organising a live event to make the announcement and for months asked fans online about their preferences, they proceeded to announce Firebrace on their website a full 30 minutes in advance of the live event and totally snubbed all that feedback. As underwhelming as the announcement was, it was only magnified when the candidate himself was already considered an underwhelming choice.
Who is Isaiah Firebrace? He’s the most recent winner of X Factor Australia and part of the Sony Music stable, and has already had minor chart success in a couple of Scandinavian countries. With Sony sponsoring Australia’s first two entries, it’s easy to be cynical and suggest the fix was in all along. It’s not only a commercial endeavour to pick Firebrace, it’s a cheap ploy to obtain a few votes. While I’m fine with that, at least be transparent about it. Don’t persist with this charade that SBS and Sony were finding the best candidate for Australia.
Of Sony’s other artists, The Veronicas were clearly the most popular name doing the social media rounds. I wonder if they were one of the artists too scared to follow Dami Im’s lofty footsteps last year? That’s the claim that delegation head Paul Clarke made at the announcement about supposedly many interested artists. So instead of sending a big name artist, they go low key and dreary. That’s very difficult to believe. It’s also concerning they regard a 17 year old kid as expendable enough that a Eurovision failure won’t matter. What sort of an attitude is that? Now we see the result. Whereas Dami Im was such an exciting pick last year for the precise reason she was so heavily supported by her fans and neutrals online for two years, Firebrace had little support and therefore has been barely embraced.
Curiously missing in the news releases on both the official Eurovision and SBS Eurovision website is Firebrace’s aboriginal heritage. Quite rightly too. We are all of the human race, so such things don’t matter. Except, Australia is rife with identity politics and social engineering these days, with SBS – the government funded multicultural channel – the absolute leader in it. Without question Firebrace’s aboriginality would ordinarily be splattered throughout a media release as a fine example of our indigenous culture, much like Jessica Mauboy was in 2014 for her interval act in Copenhagen. She even displayed the aboriginal flag on stage. Possibly the aboriginal factor has been suppressed to avoid further cynicism over the selection. Although, Firebrace mentioned in the media he will bring the aboriginal flag to Kyiv so his heritage will be on display. It depends on how he uses it, whether merely showing pride as Mauboy did, or to push a political cause.
Reaction worldwide to Don’t Come Easy as been mediocre at best, poor at worst. Boring is the most common description, and it’s difficult not to agree. While it’s pleasant enough to listen to and a probable finalist, it’s just oh so dreary, especially in the context of so many other ballads this year. Again, it really defies belief that you have an internal selection so late, that you don’t use it to select something the polar opposite to the predominate theme of the contest so far. That’s where The Veronicas would have excelled. Two feisty sisters specialising in powerful electro pop/rock and equally powerful vocals, they would have blown up the stage.
This year will be an interesting test of Australia’s Eurovision maturity. All countries face negativity at times – it’s part of the ESC culture – so it becomes a matter of handling it. If our attitude is a fear of losing, let’s not bother at all. We need to accept there will be down years. Otherwise we’ll be sending amateurs every year, and forget about hopes of a national final process. If our stars aren’t prepared to fail on the Eurovision stage, then what hope on a national one.
One immediate lesson to learn is with the selection process itself. The standard practice with other countries doing internal selections is to announce the artist way in advance. It’s a soft announcement, usually only a press release. Then comes the song. That way the audience has time to settle with the artist, examine their existing work, and begin to appreciate them. Their existing fans can also rally to the cause. Then at the song presentation, you have a committed and interested audience and a likely positive outcome. It also avoids all the speculation about the artist and the inevitable – and unfair – criticism. The artist doesn’t organise the selection process. Remember, Guy Sebastian’s announcement was similarly underwhelming, and there were even a few loons against Dami Im. So get the name out early so all attention becomes focused on the song.