Azerbaijan’s Eurovision 2014 Entry

Azerbaijan is pinning its continued success at Eurovision on Dilara Kazimova and “Start a Fire”:

“Start a Fire” is a piano ballad which in its raw form seems more suited to cabaret rooms than big stadiums. Think Alicia Keys’ “Empire State of Mind” without the button. Make no mistake, it’s a beautiful cabaret song, and when I book my gig at the Cafe Carlyle, this will be on my set list.

The entry was co-written by Stefan Örn, a Swedish songwriter who has become Azerbaijan’s go-to guy for Eurovision hits. He wrote 2011’s winning Eurovision Song Contest entry “Running Scared,” and also composed “Drip Drop” for Safura and “When the Music Dies” for Sabina Babayeva.

Of these, “Start a Fire” is closest in spirit to “When the Music Dies.” As was the case with that song they’re making a noble attempt to scale it up. The orchestration features strings and the traditional Azerbaijani flute (that Kazimova is kneeling before in more of the stranger moments of the official video). But its jazzy torch song soul is more mature and more intimate than its Eurovision sister.

Salma Hayek lookalike Dilara Kazimova has a bit of a rasp in her voice that gives the song some character. She is a veteran of Azerbaijan’s music scene and has had the Eurovision dream for some time now. Kazimova was the singer of the band Unformal, which finished second to Elnur and Samir in Azerbaijan’s 2008 national final. Her duo Milk & Kisses was one of the runners-up to Safura in Azerbaijan’s 2010 national final. Her third try to represent her country was the charm, and she won the Böyük Səhnə series that determined this year’s performer.

It’s all lovely, if a bit bland. But this being Azerbaijan, you figure it’s going to be boosted greatly by the staging. As usual, Azerbaijan is a lock to make the Final. I can’t see this toppling any of this year’s favorites, but I can see it doing very well on the night.