Australia has long been regarded as the great outsider of the Eurovision community. For 30 years, the Australian network SBS has broadcasted the Contest, and intrepid Australians have woken up in the wee hours of the morning to get their fix. In celebration of Eurovision Song Contest’s 60th anniversary and the theme of “Building Bridges,” the EBU made a very unusual announcement. For 2015 only, Australia will be included in the the Eurovision Song Contest. They will compete in the final, similar to the “Big 6” (the host country plus Italy, France, Germany, Spain and the United Kingdom). But unlike the Big 6, Australia will cast a vote in both Semifinals. Australia’s participation is one of the big storylines of this year’s contest.
The Eurovision fanbase’s reaction to the announcement was divided. Some felt that Australia had no place in a contest for Europe (and Israel and also Morocco that one time) and the exception set a problematic precident, particularly when it comes time to tally the votes. Other folks, like us, said “the more the merrier.” Australia clearly loves Eurovision, and through their song for Europe, they have demonstrated that they understand the Contest and will make a worthwhile contribution.
Guy Sebastian is SBS’s internal pick to represent Australia. His big break came as the first winner of Australian Idol in 2003. Since then, he has gone on to become one of Australia’s most successful male recording artists. He’s had 12 Top 10 singles, and six number ones. Up until now though, he’s had limited international success, New Zealand notwithstanding. His most successful single, “Battle Scars” (with Lupe Fiasco) went to number two in Norway, but that’s pretty much it.
SBS allowed Sebastian a great deal of leeway in what song he could pick for Eurovision. At Australia’s press conference, Guy Sebastian indicated that he would probably pick a ballad off of his current album Madness. It wouldn’t necessarily have been a bad choice. The album was critically well-received, and there were some candidates that would have worked. However, Sebastian also considered the Eurovision contest landscape as it was coming together. Seemingly, he noted the high number of ballads that would be performed in Vienna, and at the last minute he decided to go back into studio and come up with something more upbeat. The song was written, recorded, and mastered in two days, just before the song deadline.
Here’s “Tonight Again”:
“Tonight Again” is very much a Guy Sebastian song. It’s got an urban pop feel, and there’s some funk influence in there, consistent with his musical influences. The horn section reminds us of Beyoncé’s and Jay Z’s “Crazy in Love.” His vocal tone is similar to Bruno Mars à la “Uptown Funk.” It’s a big, feel-good song that should play well in an arena. And the lyrics are self-aware, cheekily referencing that this is Australia’s seemingly one shot at the contest: “This is one tough act to follow/Oh baby tonight’s so good/Forget tomorrow/We can do tonight again.”
Our quibble, if anything, is that the song is lightweight. Although, since when has that been a problem at Eurovision? Also, the production in the recorded track feels unfinished. We have no doubt that if they had left themselves more time that would have been addressed. Such is the tradeoff they made.
All in all, Australia has done good here. They’ve given us a fun, modern pop song from a savvy artist who is sure to do them proud.
STRAY OBSERVATIONS: We are not looking forward to the Austria/Australia jokes that are sure to follow.
Australia and UK participated in the international jury in the Austrian national final. Australia’s votes mirrored our preferences exactly, including giving its 12 votes to the Makemakes, who eventually won. Meanwhile, UK gave its 12 points to the act that would finish last. If that’s not a microcosm for the two countries’ dispositions toward the Contest, I don’t know what is. If we had our druthers, Australia would have a permanent place at the contest. Give them the UK’s spot.