UPDATED 17 MARCH 2015: After we posted our review, Armenia changed the name of its song. We’ve updated this post accordingly.
Deep breath, everyone. Here’s Armenia’s song for Europe, “Face the Shadow”:
Geneology is a vocal group that has been assembled for the 2015 contest. The six members symbolize five continents, plus, you know, Armenia. They are Essaï Altounian (Europe), Tamar Kaprelian (America), Vahe Tilbian (Africa), Stephanie Topalian (Asia), Mary-Jean O’Doherty Vasmatzian (Australia), and Inga Arshakyan (Armenia 2009). In case you didn’t know, Armenia would like to take this moment to tell you that they have a large global diaspora.
“Face the Shadow” was originally called “Don’t Deny.” 2015 is the 100th anniversary of the start of what is known as the Armenian Genocide, where according to many historians the Ottoman Empire systematically removed approximately 1.5 million Armenians from its lands. The New York Times has a nice overview of the history. Much of Armenia’s large global diaspora has been attributed to the dispersion of Armenians that happened as a result of these events. The modern government of Turkey disputes that deaths during this time were part of a genocide, and both Turkey and Azerbaijan have accused Armenia of politicizing the Eurovision Song Contest with its entry. Political entries are not permitted under the rules of the contest.
It would of course be ridiculous to suggest that submitting a song called “Don’t Deny” during the year Armenia is marking the centenary, sung by six singers from around the world with genealogical ties to Armenia, was politically motivated. Said the Armenian national broadcaster in response:
“The song is about universal values and the message is one – ‘Happiness is born when people are united and live in harmony with themselves, their families, love relationships and so on. Generations are shifting with time but the genealogy remains, thus the values of love and peace are stable.’…We announce that there is no political content in the song ‘Don’t Deny’ and there is no need to look for one. We encourage Media platforms to stay away from provocative announcements and articles and stop distorting the facts and put the ESC rules under doubt. Genealogy was created because of our inspiration from this year’s fantastic slogan. We have built a bridge between the past and the present, Armenian genetics and world music, Armenia and Eurovision.”
Regardless of the broadcaster’s response, during the Heads of Delegation meeting in Vienna, Armenia asked the Eurovision Song Contest Reference Group to change the name of their song from “Don’t Deny” to “Face the Shadow.” Presumably, they made this change by request of the EBU.
Setting aside whether or not the song is political, the fact is the song is a mess.
Vocally, there are a ton of issues. Assemble any group of soloists for a one-off collaboration at your peril. Moreover, Geneology draws singers from a wide range of vocal styles: opera, boy band pop, adult contemporary, and Armenian folk, and one singer claims an interest in reggae and Latin music. Even when singers are from the same musical genre, it takes time and practice to get true vocal cohesion. I see no indication from the video that this patched-together group is going to get anywhere close. Further, the last minute is overwrought. With six soloists each doing vocal theatrics in their own native styles, the song goes completely off the rails. It adds up to cacophony.
Whenever a Eurovision song takes on a hard-hitting subject matter, it’s always a challenge to set the right tone. This is an understandably emotional topic for Armenians, and we’ll have to see if the Armenian organizers have the presence of mind to take a step back and look at the song from an outsider’s perspective. This has the potential to be a huge misfire.
Please note: seeing as this is a blog about Eurovision songs and not about sensitive political issues, we would appreciate keeping the comments focused on whether or not the song is any good. Political comments will not be approved. Thanks.