3 February 2019
After four internal selections for all four of their Eurovision Song Contest appearances, Australia decides at Australia Decides, to be held on the Gold Coast on Saturday 9 February 2019. Ten artists will vie for the chance to represent the country in Tel Aviv, and after the initial response of Who Are These People, upon listening to the songs as they dribbled out over the past few weeks, they’re all now familiar names, with some of the songs beginning to embed themselves into our conscience. Just like with Eurovision itself! While the initial criticism about the lack of big names was justified, it’s always best to remember the more important point is introducing new music and artists not in your world already.
As per Eurovision, you won’t always like everyone or, more specifically, every song, and it’s the same at Australia Decides. While there’s a diverse group of songs, there’s nothing that adventurous, while many overstay their welcome by forgetting the 3 minutes for a Eurovision song is actually a limit, not a target. Of the more recognised names that entered, notably Sheppard and Kate Miller-Heidke, they also have the responsibility to meet expectations. While fans can be demanding, non-fans can be too quick to condemn. It’s best to keep an open mind and judge the song on merits. Guy Sebastian’s selection in 2015 was a classic example. While there was a chorus of people, including myself, condemning the selection as underwhelming, ultimately he brought a great song.
My Top 10
10 Ayden – Dust (2)
Dust in name, dust in nature, this does nothing for me and goes nowhere. After a break of a week or so of not listening to it, I gave it another chance, and impressions were much better. Then it became a drain again. This will need a quality live performance to make any impact.
09 Electric Fields – 2000 And Whatever (3)
Whatever indeed. I’m not even sure this would work in 2000, unless you’re coming off a mega-bender at the millennium New Year’s bash at Twister nightclub. It’s repetitive, trashy and a bit boring. On the plus side, minor use of aboriginal words appeals, and it ticks at least a dozen diversity boxes.
08 Alfie Arcuri – To Myself (5)
This sort of starts off promisingly, and then really does nothing. It’s just all a bit mundane and formulaic, especially when parts of it seem strongly reminiscent of other songs.
07 Courtney Act – Fight For Love (5)
The drag act from Australian Idol 2003 (which Guy Sebastian won), has brought an accomplished song, and will no doubt bring a extravagant performance. The song seems to have so much potential during the verses before falling away through the choruses. Despite the pleasant vocals on the recording, there are questions about Courtney’s live credentials too.
06 Sheppard – On My Way (6)
This seems to be Sheppard by the numbers, at least if look to Geronimo, the only song I knew of theirs. There’s that bouncy feel-good appeal, a slight anthemic sound, American Indian drum sound, and the chorus repeating itself over and over again. Perhaps that’s their hallmark, as I have had it stuck in my head at least once. Not sure it’s still good enough for a top Eurovision result, and what about the cultural appropriation? It’s Sheppard not Shepherd because it’s a family name, siblings founded the band, just like the Corrs are not the Cores.
05 Mark Vincent – This Is Not The End (7)
My mother’s an opera aficionado, and the moment I played this song to her she switched off. I let it play while she distracted herself and then, as Mark piped up, her attention was restored and she loved it. Whether that’s enough to win Australia Decides, it depends on the number of opera aficionados watching. Personally, it’s a great addition to the selection, packaged wisely at 2 minutes and 40 seconds so it doesn’t drag on unnecessarily, and has some major vocal moments to persuade a few neutrals to pop some votes his way. Not enough to win, and especially not to succeed at Eurovision, as there needs to be something a bit different in these sort of songs to transcend their genre.
04 Tania Doko – Piece Of Me (7)
The Bachelor Girl is now the Married Girl, with a son, and living in Stockholm for over 10 years, and writing for many artists, including 2015 Eurovision winner, Mans Zelmerlow. Curiously, two of Slovenia’s finest, ManuElla (ESC 2016) and Maja Keuc (ESC 2011) moved to Stockholm after being entranced by their music scene too. Piece Of Me is a nicely crafted and well polished song with evocative choruses and quickly got stuck in my head. It’s a bit understated so will need some vocal moments from Tania to elevate it. Another problem is it was the last song released, meaning it hasn’t had the time to ingratiate itself with fans like the other songs have. SBS’s bizarre decision not to release all the songs simultaneously as is standard in other countries is likely the main contributor to its lack of buzz.
03 Ella Hooper – Data Dust (7)
As the lead singer of the band Killing Heidi 20 years ago, much was expected from Ella Hooper, especially to deliver a rock and roll aspect with big vocals. Perhaps, looking back on reflection to Mascara, their big hit, I might have been expecting too much. They were more indie rock, and Ella has continued that feel, and possibly dialled it back further. Data Dust drags you with its steady, pulsating energy, and I especially love the bridge section. It really connects the entire song, umm, as bridges are meant to do! If Ella can smash it on the stage she could achieve a surprise result as currently she’s not on most fans’ radar.
02 Kate Miller-Heidke – Zero Gravity (8)
Kate has often been a name connected to Eurovision, especially from fans on social media suggesting her as an option. It’s likely due to her quirky nature and music that she would stand out from the pack on the Eurovision stage. If Zero Gravity is any indication, then that part is achieved, as it’s the only the song that defines itself as really unique. Whether it has enough immediate appeal, that’s another story. It took a while to warm to it, and that’s usually not a good sign in this sort of environment. You need to smack people in the face somehow, and the salvation here is Kate saves the best to the latter stages with some big notes and a rousing finale. Vocals are stunning, and if she’s this good live, Zero Gravity will go close to winning.
01 Leea Nanos – Set Me Free (9)
This is the great appeal of Eurovision: discovering new music and talent. With almost no national profile, and unsigned to a record company (hence her “wildcard” status), Leea Nanos was thrust into the spotlight to compete against more recognised names because her entry was simply that compelling. At just 16 years old, not only does she clearly have huge talent, she has the best song at Australia Decides. It’s the only song that grabbed my attention on first listen, and it’s maintained that level of interest since. It’s so well crafted with soft verses, big choruses, and a lovely transition in between. Elements of the song remind me Denmark’s Eurovision winner in 2013, Only Teardrops. The only quibble, and something unlikely to be noticed on the night, is the final minute seems to meander a bit. Otherwise, it’s a superb package and Leea Nanos would be a superb choice to represent Australia in Tel Aviv. More about Leea
These national finals can often depend on a motivated fanbase to push their entry through, or a narrative of a particular artist developing through the process. Since this is a one night affair and the event of a limited national profile, someone like Leea Nanos won’t have that luxury. The second issue is the viewers themselves: Who will they be? SBS is barely watched by most Australians, and even Eurovision itself is losing viewers in the past few years (ironically with Australia involved), gaining only just over 200,000 viewers for its marquee Sunday evening Grand Final broadcast in 2018. A similar number watched it live at 5am. These are small numbers in percentage terms of viewers, unlike in Sweden where their Melodifestivalen has wide interest and typically over 60% of viewers watching. The final issue is the jury. It’s 50% of the vote, which could easily negate even the strongest of fanbases swamping the televote for their favourite.
Sheppard and Kate Miller-Heidke will likely have their fanbases propping them up, with Sheppard the most active promoting themselves, shepherding their fans to vote, and even selling On My Way t-shirts before releasing their song. Eurovision fans will likely swing for Electric Fields, and there seems to be momentum building for Leea Nanos. Then it’s up to the rest; which entry appeals most on the night? Leea Nanos has the best song, and at 16 years old, could blow the viewers and the jury away as much as her song blew away the selection judges. I’m thinking she’ll do well, at least second or third, while Electric Fields and Sheppard will be up there too. For the win, it’s hard to go past Kate Miller-Heidke. Her song is far superior to Electric Fields, and has the potential to really lift off on stage, that she should be the jury’s number one, and then should win enough from the televote thanks to her fanbase and swaying enough neutrals.
Australia Decides is on at 2030 AET (1930 local time), 9 February 2019, on SBS.