Song Title: “Loin d’ici”
First Semi-Final: Position #12
Last year’s entry: “I Am Yours” – The Makemakes (26th Place)
After unexpectedly winning the 2014 contest with “Rise Like a Phoenix,” Austria did what any good host does and left all of the points for its guests in 2015 — all of its guests except for Germany, that is. The two neighboring (and auto-qualifying) nations ended up at the bottom of the pile with the dreaded nul points, a result that may have in part led to this year’s voting rule change. Now that jury and televoting results will award points separately, can ZOË help Austria rise from the ashes once more?
Austria is one of several countries who have made basically no changes to their entry since the original selection, but even in that context, I find the parity in ZOË’s voice between the official video embedded above and the live national final performance to be truly amazing. Otherwise good entries are frequently sunk by pitchiness or other vocal issues where the singer simply can’t replicate live the same kind of performance they recorded in the studio.1 ZOË’s live performance has only a couple of slight vocal missteps; given she’s wearing a long flowing dress and trying to walk on a treadmill that keeps starting and stopping, that’s about as close to perfect as we have any right to expect.
Overall, this is a solid entry that stands out for its sugar-coated optimism, something frequently lacking at Eurovision. There’s a reason for that, though; songs where “everything is awesome! all the time!” tend to feel shallow upon repeated listening. To make matters worse, the chorus of “Loin d’ici” makes up more than two-thirds of the song. Listening to it once or twice, these issues aren’t that big a deal. But the Eurovision audience is hearing many of these songs over and over in advance of the contest, and juries stacked with music-industry professionals tend to be savvy about rewarding well-constructed (if not popular) songs.
In a semi-final featuring big favorite Russia and strong contender Estonia, there won’t be many 12 or 10-point awards left to go around, and of the pop songs in this group, Azerbaijan’s is better. In the end, I expect this will be a song on the edge of qualifying; if French viewers reward it highly for being the only song completely in French, with an additional strong showing of support from Spain and Sweden, ZOË might have a chance to slip into the Grand Final.
Eurovision Song Contest First Semi-Final
May 10, 2016
Armenia • Austria • Azerbaijan • Bosnia & Herzegovina • Croatia • Cyprus • Czech Republic • Estonia • Finland • Greece • Hungary • Iceland • Malta • Moldova • Montenegro • Netherlands • Russia •