27 February 2022
The winner of Eurovision – Australia Decides 2022 was always pegged at either Sheldon Riley, Jaguar Jonze and Voyager, and that was how it proved. The trio finished clear at the top of the table, with Sheldon Riley’s emotional ballad, Not The Same, just beating Voyager’s Dreamer by 3 points, with Jaguar Jonze a further 6 points behind with Little Fires. Sheldon curiously got exactly 50 points from each of the jury and the public vote to finish second with both of them. Jaguar Jonze won the jury by just 1 point while Voyager won the public vote by 10 points.
Australia Decides 2022 was a show of contrasts, not just within itself, also compared to other countries. Mired by lame production, too much padding and dull early entries, it was amateur hour until Sheldon in position six really got the show going. Even then, it was only the quality of the entries that hid the flaws, not any major production improvement. That remained pervasive for the rest of the show with the hosts talking too much, artists interviews devolving too deep into personal life stories over history and creation of the song, and advertising breaks every two performances. Even with Jude York, the final artist to perform, more interest seemed to be in finding who’s the most queer than finding Australia’s best representative to go to the Eurovision Song Contest in Turin in May. For those that care (I don’t), Australia is sending someone queer to Eurovision for the second straight year.
You look to UMK 2022 held in Finland shortly afterwards and the contrast was surreal. Far more breezy, cohesive and production values light years ahead. Whereas UMK took only 10 minutes to get into the first song (as do most national finals and even Eurovision itself), Australia Decides took almost 25 minutes. Whereas UMK had artists talking about each other’s songs later in the show to fill time, AD had the presenters talking about Eurovision voting rules and other extraneous stuff before anything started to waste time. Whereas UMK had minimal breaks and minimal self-congratulating, AD had incessant breaks for advertising and pre and post-performance interviews, and constant fawning over everyone and everything. Whereas UMK had a high quality production, AD looked tacky and cheap. Both are public broadcasters so there’s no reason for the contrast to be this stark, especially given Finland is a much smaller country. Even Estonia does it better, like with most things.
Adding to the production woes was the voting farce. SBS advertised in the days prior and warned on the night via a screen graphic, and warned on twitter, that voting closes at 21:45 AEDT, and this was only with 6 of the 11 songs presented. You’d think some self-awareness would be on offer much earlier than tweeting at 21:45 AEDT that voting had closed. That tweet was later deleted. Clearly SBS got confused with Queensland time, which is an hour behind on standard eastern time (AEST), not on daylight savings time (AEDT) like the other eastern states. For those simply watching broadcast (which is most people), it gave no clear deadline when voting would end, only a few seconds warning and then announcing it’s over. No timer, countdown or anything.
Getting votes through was another problem. I only got 3 of 10 attempts through, my sister got none through, while fans online were getting “received” replies hours after the show finished. Two of my votes were before the 21:45 AEDT advertised cutoff and, yes, right on 21:45, all attempts to vote failed. One finally got through at 22:15 and no more after that despite the actual cutoff really at 22:45 AEDT. This chaos manifested in the results too. Everyone after Sheldon Riley in 6 (the 21:45 AEDT time when voting was advertised to close) performed poorly. Jaguar Jonze in fourth, even behind G-Nation? Come on! Paulini, Isaiah & Evie and Jude York all had dreadful public votes. Of those before Sheldon Riley, only Sean Miley Moore in 2 flopped with the public, for obvious reasons. Voyager in 10 was the only late act that could break the trend. That can explained by them from Perth and 3 hours behind AEDT that their supporters voted early, and they performed late enough that viewers realised they still could vote and successfully did vote.
A final word on the voting: what the hell is the system? Instead of talking about voting at Eurovision, talk about your own voting system. While supposedly it was 50/50 between jury and public, there was no explanation why the public vote was in 5-point increments (60 for first, then 50, 45, 40, 35, down to 5) while the jury was precise values (51, 50, 37, 35, 33, 32, 32, 20, 18, 16 and 11). In fact, as a fan posted on twitter, if the jury vote was similarly split into 5-point increments, Voyager would have won. Voyager would get 45 points for third, Sheldon 50 points for second, Jaguar 60 points for first. Add that to their public vote of 60, 50 and 40 respectively, it’s Voyager 105, Sheldon 100 and Jaguar 100. Jaguar only finished fourth with the public, with G-Nation in third. Had she been the public’s third pick, Voyager would still win by being their first pick. I actually sensed with G-Nation’s large public vote, which was read first after they were last with the jury, that that would bite one of the favourites, most likely Jaguar Jonze, and sadly that was the case.
01 G-Nat!on – Bite Me
Great voices that mixed well. The song just wasn’t that strong, the choreography nothing special and overall it didn’t hit the spot. A tough position going first as it does set the standard, and the standard was low, and much of it wasn’t their fault. Finished fifth based on the strength of a strong public vote. 6/10
02 Erica Padilla – To The Bottom
Powerhouse vocals for the TikTok wildcard entry. The song was solid, if limited, much like G-Nation beforehand. Cutting 20 or 30 seconds might have served in well. Given Erica’s background, she can be proud of finishing 9th, and not “to the bottom”. 6/10
03 Seann Miley Moore – My Body
A trainwreck and deserved last place, including last from the public. Only did slightly better with the jury. Dreadful singing in parts, the song was horrible, and much of the performance (and entry as a whole) seemed more an exercise in self-indulgence than a serious Australia Decides competitor. 1/10
04 Charley – I Suck At Being Lonely
Didn’t quite hit the vocal highs as I hoped. Needed a big vocal moment to really leave an impact. Still great with her delicious, subtle vocals really serving the song well. Fourth place is an excellent position given the shocking first half of the show and that Charley would have been largely forgotten. Put her last to perform instead of Jude York and she might have finished closer. 7/10
05 Andrew Lambrou – Electrify
Better than expected for one of the weakest songs going in. Good vibe and some decent dance moves, Andrew just couldn’t inject the required energy to lift a very repetitive and often banal song that simply overstayed its welcome. Probably no one could. It was like trying to get electricity from solar panels at night. Seventh place is a solid result in that sense. 5/10
06 Sheldon Riley – Not The Same
“I’m speechless, this is everything I have worked for and dreamed of since I can remember. I am so incredibly honoured to represent Australia on the biggest stage in the world. “I have said this a few times throughout this Aus Decides experience that people will choose different when given the chance to see it. Thank you for giving me my chance to prove that.”
That was Sheldon to SBS after the show. He probably over-did the theatrics. Super, sentimental and appealing song, with a theme that was easy to embrace. It was a song he wrote himself and that made it such a personal performance. Vocals still need a minor touch of work, which he will no doubt do between now and Turin. 8/10
07 Isaiah Firebrace & Evie Irie – When I’m With You
A surprise in two ways. First, the two, despite the clash of styles, clicked really well on stage, the voices were excellent and the performance resonated. It had a sense of Yodel It from Romania in 2017. Second, they finished second last of the 11. Conceivably they were hurt most by the voting debacle as they were first to perform after the advertised 21:45 AEDT closing time. Or that votes simply went elsewhere, as they were sandwiched between some superior entries. 7/10
08 Paulini – We Are One
I got swept away in the vocals at the start and sort of forgot about the song. Paulini has a natural, pure and genuine voice, and I bumped the song up to my second favourite of the night. On review, I was snapped back into reality as its repetitive nature was again realised. Sixth is a good effort. 7/10
09 Jaguar Jonze – Little Fires
Lost continuity with the transition out of the fire dress. There was an unnaturally long pause in the song as the audience cheered about something viewers couldn’t see. It was all a little clumsy. Who knows if was the difference at the end. Not sure why Jaguar couldn’t visibly smash her way out of it on camera. Otherwise, Little Fires was the best song not only on the night, in the competition as a whole. Epic vocals for quite a difficult song, and overall the presentation was lit. Should have won, could have won, would have won. She didn’t win. We accept it and move on. 9/10
10 Voyager – Dreamer
This was always an entry that would succeed or fail based on the live performance. For me, it wasn’t quite up to scratch. For a repetitive song, the vocals needed to escalate to add variety and drama. Instead, it was mostly the same key all the way through with only some silly antics on stage trying to add appeal. Even they were a bit disjointed. For a rock song, you really expect soaring vocals, and this just didn’t have it. Good, not great, and running so close to winning is more for the distinctiveness and novelty of the entry than its quality. 7/10
11 Jude York – I Won’t Need To Dream
Actually, Jude, you might need to dream a bit harder. A good song let down by a clueless performance. No need to be running around the stage simply to add some animation. Should have stayed on the piano to keep the audience focused. Dancing alone, especially on a big stage, always looks silly. 5/10
My Top 3
01 Jaguar Jonze – Little Fires
02 Sheldon Riley – Not The Same
03 Charley – I Suck At Being Lonely
04 Isaiah Firebrace & Evie Irie – When I’m With You
05 Paulini – We Are Won
06 Voyager – Dreamer
The three between fourth and sixth were difficult to split. It’s mostly based on the reaction on the night, which is how it should be! The major shuffle from the preview is Voyager dropping from second to sixth. Sheldon and Charley are each up by one. Isaiah & Evie jump from sixth and Paulini jumps from eighth. G-Nation drop from fifth to probably seventh. They were fairly equal with Erica Padilla.
Average score of 6.2 means it was a good Australia Decides, and better than the 2020 and 2019 editions that both scored 5.6. It was prevented from excelling due to poor production values and some weak entries at the start. The question now is what happens with Sheldon Riley and Not The Same in Turin. For many Australian fans, the obsession is so focused on winning, or at least reaching the final, which no doubt will be expected after Montaigne’s flop last year. For me, I’ve exhausted everything I can from this entry and Australia in general in 2022, so will be looking elsewhere. Eurovision first and foremost is a music festival, not an exercise in nationalistic chest pumping. With Jaguar Jonze gone, my heart’s not in it, so it’s only fair to Sheldon he gets clear air to shine, as no doubt he will.
Note: There are no official videos online from Australia Decides 2022 at the time of writing. To add to the lackadaisical approach by SBS, overseas fans complained the stream of the show was geo-blocked so there’s no point linking to that. There’s not even any official press photos. It’s a joke. Any videos that do emerge over time, typically from the artists themselves, will be added later. I will not be previewing or reviewing Australia Decides next year if this shoddy situation continues. In fact, I only did a preview this year because so many entries were good.