Eurovision 2016 – Azerbaijan: ‘Miracle’ (Samra)

In-keeping with many other Azerbaijan entries, the modestly titled ‘Miracle’ is a surprising number that warrants repeat listens.

The songwriters have managed to work in some mildly arresting chord progressions early on in the verse which help sustain interest into a well-balanced and ultimately gratifying chorus.

Post-middle eight, the lyrics are found to be wanting. Playful as ‘mirra-mirra-mirra-Miracle’ at first seems, it’s repetition quickly becomes grating.

It’s at that point the multi-layered over-produced studio number starts posing one very important question: what will this sound like live? Will 21 year-old Samra carry it off?

This is the kind of song which could be ruined by ill-thought out stage productions. Azerbaijan’s preview video appears good enough – classy in its simplicity, for example. But sometimes, when producers realise that the live vocals aren’t up to much, distracting visuals are deployed.

Eurovision is littered with such examples.

For evidence look at the UK’s nauseating ‘That Sounds Good To Me (which didn’t sound good to anyone) from 2010, Hungary’s ‘Dance with Me‘ from 2009 (proving beyond all reasonable doubt that not all dancers make good singers) and Moldova’s interestingly themed ‘I Want Your Love‘ from last year (it’s difficult to know where to start with this one).

These salutary lessons aside Azerbaijan has, during their brief Eurovision lifespan, done OK.

Seven of their 9 entries have clawed their way to a top ten place, some more deservedly than others. Their bold 2008 rock-opera debut saw them in 8th place. 2009‘s entry may have been screamed into the microphone, but it still managed to secure 3rd place. Their entry from 2013, the year the country hosted the contest, ended up in 4th despite the feathers, dry ice or the ill-governed backing singers.

Their finest contribution is arguably one of only a handful of transformative moments for the Contest’s reputation in recent years. Borrowing heavily from Keane, ‘Running Scared‘ secured a win for Azerbaijan in 2011. In so doing, Azerbaijan’s win spared us all from having to include Sweden’s childishly irritating ‘Popular’ in a winner’s playlist.

Not only that, ‘Running Scared‘ sustains multiple listens and, because the country’s win, audiences were introduced to the greatest source of Eurovision ephemera Lynda Woodruff, whose tongue-in-cheek report from Azerbaijan’s under construction arena deftly pokes fun at Contest fandom without alienating it.

Azerbaijan, we have a lot to thank you for in terms of Eurovision. I’m not sure we’ll be heading to Baku again next year, but I like the song. Nice work.

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