9 February 2020
What do you get when you cross a French philosopher, the pokemon character Mr Mime, a football lover of Argentine heritage, a neck tutu and an infectious song? You get Montaigne, real name Jessica Cerro, the winner of Australia Decides 2020. Montaigne will head to Rotterdam for the 65th Eurovision Song Contest after winning the jury vote and placing third on the televote at Australia’s Eurovision selection event on the Gold Coast last night. Her combined score of 107 saw her finish ahead of Australian Idol winner of 2004 Casey Donovan on 100 points, with fan favourite Vanessa Amorosi finishing third on 82 points.
In a blue clown outfit, Montaigne brought a slick choreography with a troupe of dancers to elaborately dramatise her song. The outfit, especially the rosy cheeks, was in tribute to Mr Mime of pokemon fame, while the neck tutu related to the neck collar of famous French philosopher Michel de Montaigne, from where she also got her stage name. It was easily the most artistic performance of the night, and took 54 of the possible 60 points on offer from the jury. Amorosi was second favourite with the jury on 42 points then Donovan on 40. That 12 point buffer Montaigne held over Donovan was enough to retain the lead after finishing 7 points behind Donovan on the televote, 60 to 53.
Montaigne performed in position 9, the same as last year’s winner Kate Miller-Heidke, and provided a much needed boost to a competition that was decidedly flat. After Jaguar Jonze lit up the stage with the third song of the night, not much can be said about the rest other they were all very underwhelming. Some had songs that offered them no chance, while others lacked inspiration or thought process to their presentations. Only Montaigne, Amorosi and Jonze made a real attempt, while Donovan’s vocals were her saviour.
Miller-Heidke was on the jury and no doubt the artistic nature of Montaigne’s effort would have appealed to her. Eurovision 2015 winner Mans Zelmerlow, Paul Clarke (creative director of the event and head of Blink TV), and SBS’s Australian’s delegation head, Josh Martin, were also among the five. No doubt all would have seen, just like with Miller-Heidke last year, the potential Montaigne has in her song, to revise her presentation, and achieve a good result in Rotterdam. Apparently she’s to amp it up for Eurovision, which could be troubling.
Australia Decides 2020 – Review
01 iOTA – Life (4)
A song called Life ending up being a deflating experience. Failed to energise despite his charismatic nature. Weak vocals too. Finished second last.
02 Jordan-Ravi – Pushing Stars (5)
Thrashed away on his acoustic guitar like he was in a heavy metal band. Had no idea. He needed a band on stage for the required animation rather than try it alone. Finishing last wasn’t a surprise.
03 Jaguar Jonze – Rabbit Hole (8)
Blew up the stage with an imaginative and energetic performance. The first two acts were kitty litter in comparison. If only she could have clawed out a big vocal section towards the end, Rabbit Hole might have scampered away with a better result than sixth. The jury ranked her second last, which is likely indicative of the jury thinking Europe would not appreciate the Australian pub/indie scene.
04 Jack Vidgen – I Am King I Am Queen (2)
This was self-indulgent tripe. A reasonable song that was wrecked by Vidgen engaging in pointless vocal gymnastics, especially a recurring, annoying falsetto. It seemed it would never end. Third last was a generous result.
05 Vanessa Amorosi – Lessons of Love (8)
In position 5, she was placed to be the mid-show highlight, and immediately presented as a class above the rest, especially the vocals. The song was never the best one, and it didn’t need to be. Dami Im showed how a decent song can be lifted into a stunner with a superlative vocal performance, and Amorosi did likewise. You do wonder that if she was the final performer of the night, or even switched positions with Montaigne in 9th, the result might have been different. SBS are a multi-cultural broadcaster and sending a white girl for a second year running (also straight, married and a mother) might not have been ideal. Whereas Montaigne is a mix of Argentine, Spanish, Filipino and French, and identifies as “queer”. Amorosi’s fans were disappointed at her third place, with boos resonating throughout the arena and on the broadcast. Good to see Australia maturing as a Eurovision nation!
06 Diana Rouvas – Can We Make Heaven (6)
Lovely vocals, meh song, and seventh might have been two spots too low considering some of the others.
07 Mitch Tambo – Together (5)
For one of the most hyped entries, this was disappointing all round: cheap song, cheap presentation, cheap vocals – and what was that black outfit with florescent strips and tassels all about? Not sure what his dancers were doing either. A mess. Finishing 5th was no doubt due to his fan base. He then made a bizarre comment during his interview with Myf Warhurst about aboriginal languages that “not so long ago we weren’t even allowed to speak”. While it’s true there was a policy during the mid-20th century that only English be spoken in mission schools, the mood quickly changed and by the 1970s the Australian government actively encouraged aboriginal languages to be taught in aboriginal schools. There was never an outright nationwide – and recent – ban as this clown implied.
08 Casey Donovan – Proud (7)
The surprise of the night, notably her vocals, which were the second best after Amorosi. Got the biggest cheer in the hall, and the late position helped her. That all translated to winning the popular vote, so she can be proud of that. She was the second artist in a row with aboriginal heritage to perform, and had she won, would have joined Isaiah Firebrace and Jessisca Mauboy as artists of similar background to perform at Eurovision for Australia. In truth, her song bordered on banal and the jury might have saved Australia from an embarrassing result in Rotterdam.
09 Montaigne – Don’t Break Me (8)
Being critical, Montaigne didn’t need the weird outfit and histrionics. The last thing you want to do is lose the audience at the start and then spend the rest of the song trying to re-engage them. Especially so when the song is so good on its own. So tone it down, and build the drama slowly into the song. Make it so a hand microphone can be used, as the vocals seemed initially scratchy. That was just as likely due to nerves, which will only be stronger in Rotterdam. She always had the best song, has a lovely voice, delivered a complete performance and was a deserved winner. Good luck in Rotterdam.
10 Didirri – Raw Stuff (3)
Empty-the-room music. Not sure why this dud was placed last. Perhaps it was to allow more time to vote for songs. With the lines open from the night before, perhaps the entire aim was to get people to vote for their favourite artists before watching them become car wrecks on Saturday night.
11 Dami Im & Mans Zelmerlow – Walk With Me (9)
Wait! These were the interval act and trumped everything we saw before them. Dami then announced she would submit a song for Australia Decides 2021
Mr Eurovision Jury
Myself, my sister and someone called Z had Vanessa Amorosi as our runaway winner. Jaguar Jonze and Montaigne tied for second. We scored out of 10 for a maximum total of 30 points.
01 iOTA – Life (11)
02 Jordan-Ravi – Pushing Stars (15)
03 Jaguar Jonze – Rabbit Hole (20)
04 Jack Vidgen – I Am King I Am Queen (9)
05 Vanessa Amorosi – Lessons of Love (26)
06 Diana Rouvas – Can We Make Heaven (17)
07 Mitch Tambo – Together (18)
08 Casey Donovan – Proud (18)
09 Montaigne – Don’t Break Me (20)
10 Didirri – Raw Stuff (10)
My personal favourite was Montaigne, just ahead of Vanessa Amorosi, then Jaguar Jonze. All three were excellent so it was mostly about song choice in the end. Next is Casey Donovan then Dianne Rouvas. Donovan made the biggest jump from my preview, where I ranked her eighth. In hindsight that was harsh and she should have been sixth. The biggest drop was Jordan-Ravi – from third to sixth.
255,000 during the song performances, with a peak of 334,000 when the winner was announced. The peak figure last year was 298,000 for the winner, while the songs got 282,000. So it’s a drop for the main portion of the show while more people tuned in to see the winner announced. Comparing to shows on other networks, 261k is less than half a domestic T20 cricket final on a commercial channel got, and two 6pm news broadcasts combined for a total of 1.469 million viewers. Compared to Eurovision, the Sunday evening grand final replay has sat in the low 200k range for the past two years. The live broadcast at 5am gets about the same. Overall, the figures are still well down on the peak of 640k that watched the Eurovision second semi final on a Saturday night in 2015 and the 599k the following year that featured Dami Im.
While the production was improved, and the publicity increased, the quality of songs and calibre of artists took a backwards step. In general, it was an uninteresting and somewhat disappointing event. Dami Im set to appear next year will certainly add a wow factor, not that she’s at the elite level of Australian artists when you measure prolonged national success or even international success. Names like Delta Goodrem and The Veronicas, touted before as possible internal selections in the years before Australia Decides, are as unlikely as ever to compete. The biggest name this year was Vanessa Amorosi, and she is now a veteran of 20 years in the industry. Even longer on the scene is iOTA, whose rather nondescript music career has also seen him dive into acting and cabaret. Montaigne is known more as an indie artist, as is Jaguar Jonze. Many of the rest were from reality TV trying to keep the flame burning. For all the excitement of Dami Im in 2021, she might just scare away other higher profile artists considering a go.
Montaigne on Don’t Break Me:
“Don’t Break Me is a depiction of the enough is enough phase of a relationship breakdown, where one person feels like they are putting much more time, energy and resources into the relationship than the other person and becomes frustrated and resentful. I wrote it while reading Codependent No More by Melody Beattie, which really informed the qualities of the character and the relationship dynamic.”
No legal youtube uploads of Australia Decides performances yet except for Jaguar Jonze. A recap of jury show performances can be viewed below and the full performances viewed on the SBS Eurovision website.