Back in 2009, Georgia sent Stephane & 3G to the contest (hosted in Moscow) with “We Don’t Wanna Put In” … or attempted to, anyway. The anti-Russian sentiment was exactly as subtle as the title suggests, Georgian organizers refused to change the lyrics, and the entry was disqualified.
This year, through a combination of international jury and public voting, the former Soviet republic has selected Tako Gachechiladze — a member of the ‘3G’ from that ill-fated 2009 entry — and her song, “Keep the Faith.” While there’s nothing in the lyrics that explicitly calls out Russia, take a look at the national final performance and pay attention to the screen during the second verse.
(I can’t decide whether the camera cutting quickly away from the “Russia Invades Georgia” headline was an “oh-crap” production moment, or a coincidence.)
Not a coincidence: I reacted to this song with glee, much like with last year’s winner, and may have even yelled “GET ‘EM” at my laptop. That was as much for the political content as it was for Gachechiladze’s voice, which is strong and clear, and her backing vocalists, who contribute enough punch for the melody to rise above the heavy symphonic accompaniment. There are a couple of weaker moments — just before the first (!!) key change, Gachechiladze doesn’t quite hit her note, and there are some slight pitch issues between her and the backing vocalists right after the second (!!) key change. She finishes strong, though, and that can erase many vocal sins.
As much as enjoy this song, I’m not sure how strongly I feel about it as a Eurovision entry. The hook is not very catchy, and it’s challenging to follow the melody. There’s some weird minor-key stuff happening that makes sense musically, but that took me a couple of listens to really grab onto. Visually, though, they’ve already got a very clear plan, which I appreciate. (Free idea: remove the Russia-related headlines / imagery and substitute whatever terrible thing is happening in the US.) The LED tracks on her dress are a little low-budget and cheesy in comparison to the video board, but that’s easy enough to upgrade.
I look forward to seeing if/how Russia reacts, how the visual presentation morphs, and whether the two key changes remain.1 If this power ballad is an indication of the entry quality moving forward, we’re in for a very competitive contest, indeed.