My heart breaks for Malta, really it does. Since its debut in 1971, it has sent 25 entries to Eurovision, including every year since 1991. Malta also had the dubious honour of being the most successful Eurovision nation never to win, ahead of Portugal who have been doomed since the year dot.
The tiny Mediterranean island nation has come 2nd twice and 3rd twice. Two of these high watermarks were achieved by three-time participant Chiara, no doubt biding her time before trying to make up for her disasterous 2009. But the last decade hasn’t treated Malta well, and the semi-final system has really put a spanner in the works.
I watched a press conference last year where 2012 entrant Kurt Calleja was just so pleased to even qualify. He came 21st in Baku, but even this was a 7-year best for Malta. So while they would dearly love to win, in context just qualifying feels like a big achievement. That context is current 3 qualifications out of 7 semi-finals, and Gianluca Bezzina is hoping to improve that picture. Who knows, maybe he’ll even reach the top 20!
Malta decided their Malmö delegate back in February with a typically large number of Maltese artists vying to represent their country in Sweden. The quality varied quite a bit (see my review of the national final), but mild-mannered Gianluca was their pick. Gianluca plays in a band on the side, but he’s a qualified medical doctor (but he’s only 23?!). The Maltese music industry isn’t very big, but it’s always a bit of a surprise to see the other lives of Maltese entrants.
The odds are good, Malta is performing in the relatively easy second semi-final, and is being followed by an utterly terrible song from Bulgaria. It’s a chilled out Jason Mraz-style acoustic folky with a generous serving of ukelele. It’s totally cheesy, and some of the lyrics are a bit naff (“His name is Jeremy, he’s working in I.T.”).
But it’s a adorably light-hearted love song and doesn’t sound like anything else in this year’s contest. That can always be a benefit in Eurovision (provided it doesn’t stick out for the wrong reasons, like being terrible). It’s not an arena-filling anthem, but history has shown that that’s not a requirement of a winner.
I really hope it does well, qualification should be pretty much assured. But winning? I can’t personally see it, but I don’t think there are any other countries (perhaps Netherlands) that I’d love more to see winning the contest.
For more reviews of ESC2013 entries and other news, please visit my Malmö hub!