First Listen: Austria Imagines Paradise with ZOË

After a disappointing 2015, Austria returns to glamorous, campy form with "Loin d'ici."

ZOË will represent Austria in the 2016 Eurovision Song Contest. (Screen: YouTube) ZOË will represent Austria in the 2016 Eurovision Song Contest. (Screen: YouTube)

Two years ago, Conchita Wurst’s “Rise Like a Phoenix” set the Eurovision Song Contest stage aflame in the most fabulous way; last year’s attempt by The Makemakes’ would be better likened to a garbage fire.This weekend, Austria selected ZOË’s “Loin d’ici” to represent them in Stockholm. Without the pressure of hosting, can they put on a good show?

There are so many pieces that I really should not, and normally would not, like in a Eurovision Song Contest entry. ZOË’s voice is incredibly delicate, and seems like it would get lost in an arena. The instrumentation feels sparse even though it’s layered and varied, with guitar, bass, harp, uke, strings, and percussion (tympani?) all playing important roles. The tempo’s too fast; it’s not danceable, and the audience at the Austrian finals doesn’t seem to know how to react. Performance-wise, the song doesn’t feel like it goes much of anywhere, despite some neat visuals and a treadmill to provide motion.

And yet, I think I like this entry, possibly quite a lot? It’s hard to argue with a real-life laser portrait, especially when it comes with a bonus wind tunnel. I also appreciate the Oz poppy-field reference, although I’d like it even more if we could get some Wiz poppy dancers. And the lyrics are in French! Which is great! But also really strange! Austria has never sung in French before, mostly German and more recently English! I don’t know why I’m so excited about that!

For now, I’m going to file this one under “saccharine but awesome.” We’ll have to see if the next three months are kind to this entry.

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