Azerbaijan are (with San Marino) the most recent addition to the Eurovision family, debuting in 2008. But while San Marino have yet to reach a final, Azerbaijan wasted no time in asserting their position as one of the dominant forces in the contest.
2013 marks their 6th entry to the contest and follows five top 10 finishes, the last four of which made the top 5. Of course they were last year’s hosts after Elgar & Nikki claimed a comfortable victory in Dusseldorf. “Running Scared” won the 2011 contest with a modest margin over Italy and Sweden.
They presented a spellbinding dramatic ballad as the host entry last year, making it clear that Azerbaijan weren’t about to take it easy. Sabina was rewarded with a 4th place finish. Farid Mammadov was selected after one of the most extensive and prolonged selection processes of the season, running from December to March, covering eight heats and a national final (read my review of the Milli Seçim Turu national final).
Azerbaijan’s popular entries are usually characterised by a strong Western sound, countered with a more regional Eastern European edge, whether it be Azeri instruments or occasionally traditional Azeri music artists (like flying carpet guy last year). I’m not really hearing that this year, and “Hold me” feels more like your standard power ballad with a spin of overblown dramatics I associate with continental European songs.
That’s not a negative thing, it does its job well. “Hold me” has a simple memorable chorus, understandable sentiment and a strong enough voice to carry the tune. It doesn’t hurt that Farid is totally ripped, there are numerous topless photos around (*ahem*), and even some remarkably agile keep-fit videos (link).
I’m interested to see how they stage the song, it’s not an uptempo, but it seems like a terrible waste of resources if they don’t make some use of his… assets, let’s say. Obviously it’s not the sort of song that’s crying out for a backflip (as much as I love those) or Farid tearing off his shirt. I can’t imagine it would hurt his chances, even if that might be a little desperate! It didn’t hurt Dima Bilan in 2008… The choreographer Fokas Evangelinos has produced sexlicious performances from Ani Lorak and shirt-tearing Sakis Rouvas, so I have faith that he’ll know what to do.
I feel like I’m going off track… I don’t think “Hold me” is an instantly Azeri track compared to earlier entries, but they’ve got a very likeable and attractive singer, and a straightforward but strong song. I’m not 100% convinced we will be returning to Baku Crystal Hall next year, but I think people are underestimating how well he might do. Top 5 will not surprise me at all. As much as everyone says Denmark will win, I think the victory is a lot more open than recent years, so there could be a big surprise! I’ll definitely enjoy his performance anyway, good luck Farid!
For more ESC2013 reviews and news, visit my Malmö 2013 hub, or click “Malmö 2013” at the top of the screen.