Germany’s route to the Eurovision Song Contest hit a surprising bump last week. The finalists for Unser Star für Österreich (Our Star for Austria) were “Heart of Stone” by Andreas Kümmert and “Black Smoke” by Ann Sophie. The winner, determined by televote, was Kümmert by an almost 4-1 decision. However, Kümmert declined the invitation to Vienna, giving Sophie the win by default. Um, yay? Here’s the track:
I don’t question Kümmert’s decision, but it may put Germany in an awkward position for the Contest. As a Big 5 participant, Germany doesn’t have to go through the semi-final vetting process. After winning the Contest in 2010, Deutschland scored two more top ten finishes but has since slid toward the bottom of the scoreboard. This is not due to low-quality songs—I thought last year’s entry should have done better—but without the fear of not qualifying for the Final, a country could become complacent.1 The selection process is the only audience vetting available, and “Black Smoke” did not pass that test.
But, this is the song we have, so let’s discuss it. To be clear, a song like “Black Smoke” is in my wheelhouse. Ann Sophie’s delivery reminds me of Paloma Faith with an ever so subtle hint of Stevie Nicks. Lyrically the song is okay, though I don’t think the central metaphor is explored as much as it could be. The tune is also okay, though there isn’t much of a hook in its current configuration.
Overall, this entry is okay…which is not even close to good enough. Looking at video of the performance and listening to the track a few more times, “Black Smoke” feels like it would be the second song performed at Ann Sophie’s concert—the comedown track following the song kicking off the festivities. There’s a reason why the 2-spot in any lineup is considered the spot of doom, and Germany could find itself assigned that spot in May unless the song goes through a major revamp.
- I will have TONS to say about this when I write about the United Kingdom’s entry later this week. ↵