Next up on our Eurovision preview journey is the land of fire, oil and the largest KFC on Earth (no joke). It’s Azerbaijan!!!
Azerbaijan first participated in the Eurovision Song Contest in 2008, the last country in the Caucasus to do so. This year marks their tenth participation. They have qualified for the final every year and up until 2014, always placed in the top 10. Ell & Nikki claimed the first victory for Azerbaijan in 2011 with “Running Scared”. That song holds the record for the lowest average score for a winning song under the old scoring system used from 1975 to 2015, with just 5.26 points per country. Last year, Samra only managed to finish 17th in the final with the song “Miracle”, Azerbaijan’s second worst result to date.
The Azeri broadcaster, İctimai Television (İTV), internally selected Diana Hajiyeva to represent the country. They then put out an open call for songs, from which the Azeri entry was also chosen internally.
Diana Hajiyeva was born on June 13th 1989 in Mariupol in south eastern Ukraine but moved to Baku at a young age. She graduated from the Baku Music Academy in 2010 and later went on to study in the Institute of Contemporary Music Performance in London. She attempted to represent Azerbaijan in 2011, losing in her heat to Eldar Gasimov, who went on to win the Eurovision later that year. In 2014, she formed her own band, Dihaj, an electronic music collective. Their first major breakthrough was with the song “I Break Again”. Their experimental style has been lauded by critics and in 2015, Dihaj won the “Debut of the Year” award at the Caucasian Music Awards. Diana also served as a vocal coach for Samra, last year’s Azeri participant, prior to her appearance in the contest. The song that Diana will sing in Kyiv, “Skeletons”, was composed by Isa Melikov and was written by Sandra Bjurman, who has written the lyrics for several past Azeri entries.
I’m so glad that Azerbaijan realised that their old method of using solely Swedish songwriters was beginning to run dry. This song stays true to Diana’s style but also combines it with slick Swedish production. Dark beats, a mysterious atmosphere and sounds of impending doom (but in a good way), Azerbaijan looks set to continue their run of perfect final qualification. I can see it possibly getting into the top 10 but I don’t see it challenging for the win.
What Could Have Been
While there was no national selection in Azerbaijan, I had hoped for something in Azeri from Dihaj. Their song “Gecələr Keçir” (Do It at Night) is a perfect example of Diana’s experimental style but with Azeri lyrics and purely Azeri composers. This is a language that has not been heard at the Eurovision before. It’s good to see Azerbaijan not relying solely on Swedish songwriters anymore but I really think they should have taken it a step further and showcased their native language to the rest of Europe.
Do Dihaj’s skeletons make you feel excited or scared? Leave your comments below. Stay tuned tomorrow for another preview!
(Sources: eurovision.tv, İTV, YouTube)