RtD14: Looking Back at Azerbaijan
Welcome dear readers! I have returned! Sorry for my absence, I will be posting on the daily in order to complete this series before news for ESC2014 hits us in earnest.
As a reminder, I will be talking about each country that has competed since I began following the Contest in 2007. The next stop on the Road to Denmark 2014: Azerbaijan! The “Land of Fire” could also just as well be called the “Land of Pop Music” – or should I say, “Land from which Money Flows to bring in Europe’s Top Music Makers.” Azerbaijan, except for its very first entry (and, arguably, its 2012 entry) has always presented very Western, very mainstream pop music with little ties to actual Azerbaijani culture or heritage. In forsaking its history, the Caucasian country has been rewarded with Top Ten placings each and every year that it has competed, including first, second, and third placings. Let’s do a quick recap of their entries.
2008 – Day After Day – Azerbaijan debuted with a song that tied tradition mugham singing with pop music. Despite the use of a countertenor for part of the song, some freaky light effects, and strange staging – the song finished 8th. To date, Azerbaijan’s worse placing. Not too shabby! Personally, it took about a year and a half before I actually enjoyed listening to this song. It’s still a little too out there for me.
2009 – Always – Probably Azerbaijan’s most popular entry thus far. Not sure why, though. To me, it’s generic and not all that appealing. It takes more than some ethnic drums and a wind machine to impress me!
2010 – Drip Drop – Azerbaijan’s first song that was heavily favored to win. And, had it been performed some time in the second half of the show, it might have. Safura was waaaaaaay off-key throughout her performances; I’ll just chalk that up to stage fright. Otherwise, I like this song a lot!
2011 – Running Scared – I still contend that this song would not have won had Turkey been competing in the Final. It’s bland, boring, and a bit creepy when you consider the age difference between Ell and Nikki. Still, it deserves respect for pulling off a victory despite being what many consider the country’s weakest entry to date.
2012 – When the Music Dies – Azerbaijan’s attempt to bring some of its own culture back into the Contest. This is my favorite entry by far. It’s emotionally gripping, musically interesting, and beautifully performed. A valiant effort to defend the crown – Everyone involved in this entry should be very proud of themselves; except for the decision to do the song in English as opposed to Azerbaijani.
2013 – Hold Me – From a musical standpoint, this song is fairly generic and sounds like any other pop ballad you might come across in the 90s. However, the staging for this song was phenomenal! Phen – nom – men – nal!! The use of that guy in the box to shadow Farid Mammadov, then reflect him to set up the connection, then use him to show his inner turmoil once Mammadov stepped to the front of the stage – awesome! That’s the kind of artistry and choreography that should earn your song a higher placing than it deserves!
Let’s Take a Closer Look At: Azerbaijan 2012 (you didn’t think I was going to choose Running Scared, did you?). The only entry that was originally in Azerbaijani (this year’s entry, Hold Me, did have an alternate version, but it was in Turkish, came after the original English, and sucked), When the Music Dies truly displays what happens when you blend traditional sounds with modern pop balladry. However, as I said above, Gəl (the original Azerbaijani version) was just as powerful, if not more so, than the English version and should have been performed in Baku. You would think that, after finishing fifth, this proved that Azerbaijan could be successful with an entry that’s true to its culture. For better or worse, the small nation reverted back to generic, Western pop in 2013. What will 2014 bring? Probably more of the same. Here’s to AZR 2012 – a true gem!
Check back tomorrow when I will be looking back at Belarus! Wanna see the past stops on the Road to Denmark? Click here.