A throwback sound may not be enough to get Austria back to the Grand Final.
Song Title: “Running on Air”
Artist: Nathan Trent
Second Semi-Final: Position #2
Last year’s entry: “Loin d’ici” — ZOË (13th Place)
After a string of failures to participate or qualify, Austria has been on fire the last few years at Eurovision in both good and bad ways. In 2014, Conchita Wurst surprised everyone by rising like a phoenix during semi-final week and taking home the Grand Final win. The very next year, the Makemakes set a piano on fire and ended up tied for last place with the dreaded nul points. Last year in Stockholm, ZOË surprised many by making the Grand Final stage, instead of expected qualifiers like Iceland and Greece. Can Nathan Trent buck his country’s trend and perform on the contest’s final evening?
I don’t want to like this entry, but Trent’s voice is ridiculously smooth, and as Ben pointed out, it checks a bunch of boxes from the early/mid-2000s Jason Mraz playbook. Based on a couple of live videos, I have no concerns about his ability to nail the song itself. His performance, though, both in the music video and in live situations, treads right on the line between charming and smarmy. I thought the same thing about two entries last year; Donny Martell ended up charming Lithuania into the top ten, while Jüri Pootsmann’s smarm landed Estonia in dead last place.
Checking out the competition, the biggest direct concern for Austria is going to be Norway, who is also sending a solo male vocalist with a smooth and pretty voice. Norway’s two big advantages are performing later in the semi-final, and sounding much more modern. There are several other strong male vocalists performing on Thursday, though, including Hungary and Bulgaria. All three of those countries have a better package than Austria does, and although we keep talking about how the second semi-final is weaker than the first, there’s still not much room for a song that isn’t compelling. I’d be surprised to see this song qualify.