The penultimate national final to look at today, and one at the very furthest extent of Eurovision Europe – last year’s host Azerbaijan. It’s easy to have a pop at them, with much coverage about last year’s contest focusing on their human rights policies, as well as their continuing territorial dispute with Armenia. But in Eurovision, they remain a force to be reckoned with since their debut in 2008.
As the most recent addition to the Eurovision family (along with San Marino), their five entries have all finished in the top 10, with the last four breaching the top 5. I had previously said never to bet against Azerbaijan, but it still came as something of a surprise when they took home the trophy in Dusseldorf when “Running Scared” won the 2011 contest.
The Baku contest last year went well, and – despite some behind-the-scenes difficulties – showed that Azerbaijan could keep up with the increasingly flashy contests from Russia, Norway and Germany. Now they’ve built Crystal Hall, I wonder how keen they are to fill it with Eurovision so soon. So we come to their selection process, Milli Seçim Turu.
It’s been a long journey – eight weeks of heats to select the best Azeri talent started in December, culminating (eventually) in a national final where the selected singers showcased original songs. A 50/50 jury & televote would decide the winner. The results were a little opaque, so I don’t know any of the results other than the winner.
Leyla Gafari – Pride
What a tacky dress! The opening VT seems to imply she’s very proud of her tits, so well done there. What’s she got against the stage props?
This is a bit of low-grade dance trash. I’m mentally comparing these to the amazing girl they sent last year, and this just doesn’t measure up at all. If she’s a good singer, this song doesn’t really display it, it’s a bit shouty and off-key. Breakdancers playing with balloons? NEXT!
Vugar Muradov – Baby Baby
Love this cheapo production, beeps and bloops while he gets seduced by sexy hairdressers. Oh dear, this really isn’t up Azeri standard is it? I’m including 2008’s hideous shoutfest spectacle in this.
This is like some awful rendition of a polished Western pop song, he just doesn’t suit the song. The chorus is fairly catchy, I’d give it that, but really this is a bit of a struggle.
Valeriya Huseynzadeh – If This Is Love
Oh she looks like she means business, those are some power tits. More electro-dance, I guess it’s obvious the direction they are moving in this year. Her voice has power behind it, she just seems a bit off key and shouty.
I don’t know what those odd structures are, is that supposed to be ice? That didn’t work in “Batman and Robin”, and it doesn’t work now – you can even see around the back!
This is a good song at its heart, but the execution really doesn’t do it any favours at all. It would need a lot of polish, and possibly another singer. So pretty much everything, right?
Leyla Aliyeva – Welcome to the Sun
Who’d want to visit the Sun? I’ve heard the heat is STIFLING. At least there’s a bit of dignity here, with a nice ballad and a floaty dress with a wind machine. With the staging out of the way, she just needs to nail the vocals.
It’s a nice if unextraordinary ballad, and her voice cope with the majority of it. Did she forget the words?!? Uh oh … if she didn’t, she isn’t putting her full vocal strength behind this, she’s very quiet at times. She doesn’t seem too bothered. That high note was the hottest thing I’ve seen so far, but the performance just felt a bit limp.
Farah Hadiyeva – We Are One
Another sultry young lady, and another “We are one” song, worth a shot I suppose if that’s the contest slogan. Is she singing in English? What an odd song! I really thought Azerbaijan would have a pretty solid national final, but this is all a bit ropey.
Once it hits the chorus, things pick up a bit, I quite like that, even if she looks a little terrified at moments. Enjoy yourself! It’s got a slightly more interesting structure than other songs I’ve seen, but this is just a bit … hmm. She doesn’t look too convinced when the song finishes either!
Nigar Huseynova – I Still Believe
Come on, dignified and impressive ballad, here we come! Hopefully! Good start at least, very early Mariah-sounding song. Her voice isn’t quite Mariah but she got a lovely higher register.
A bit of a Disney ballad, but those can sound really nice. What does this song remind me of? It’s driving me crazy. That dress is massive, she looks like a half-melted candle.
Well this is the best one so far, and the only song so far that’s actually sounded like a viable Eurovision entry. That final chorus has a nice impact to it. Very good!
Vlada Akhundova – Big Time
Another minx by the look of her. A non-electro uptempo too, I almost forget they existed! This one goes down the now well-trodden retro route, with a Paloma Faith style swinging number. This isn’t too bad really, even though it’s a genre that’s never really excited me.
The song is half-decent, and she handles the vocals competently, even if they are a bit rough around the edges. Another good performer at least, just not a winner.
Ravana Aliyeva – Lovely King
Interesting title, this could be a hot mess. The production is… well, it sounds like a slowed-down 2013 remix of “Wannabe” at the start. Make of that what you will. The dancers really haven’t covered themselves in glory tonight.
Again I’m not 100% convinced she’s actually singing English. This is pretty rubbish really, there doesn’t seem to be a lot to it, she spends a lot of the time posing and making “Ooohh rrarrrrhh” noises. What the hell is this song??
She tries to sell it, but the song doesn’t give her much chance to get outside a low register, and that’s not her strong suit. NEXT!
Aysel Babayeva – Sleazy Mo
I’m astonished that this is the title, is that a lost-in-translation thing? I hope not! Surely there will be more than a few sleazy mo’s at Eurovision. Love this cheapo production too, so 80s! OMG I love this already, she’s great!
Apparenty “mo” is short for mother (presumably motherfucker). But she’s a super-freaky lover, and has no time for this nonsense. The vocals are good but it’s set FAR too low for her voice, but she hungrily seizes on any chance to XTina up her vocals.
With a bit of polish this could be a supertrash anthem, but it’s still a lot of fun.
Farid Mammadov – Hold Me
I have no idea how the previous 9 did, but this is the winner who will be representing Azerbaijan in Malmö. Just realised there were only two guys, at least they picked the cute one.
A ballad, that’s a good start, all the uptempos have been pretty hopeless. It’s got a beat too, this sounds contemporary at least. There’s even a big chorus!
She’s a good singer, and the production sounds pretty hot. Do you reckon they stacked the deck so that this was the only viable option? If so, well played. With a final coat of Malmö polish, this could look pretty hot.
Thank God, this is a decent entry, and should at the very least secure a 6th straight qualification from the semis. A key change too, we are spoilt!! Well done Azerbaijan, I don’t think he’ll win, but he’ll do just fine. Hold me, Farid!