Just before the deadline date, Azerbaijan released a glossy video premiering their Eurovision 2011 entry. Ell and Nikki sing ‘Running Scared’ whilst dressed in white and draped in each other. Watch it here.
The country has participated in three Eurovisions to date, coming no lower than eighth. Ell and Nikki are also, at the time of writing, eighth favourites on Betfair, available to back at 17 or lay at 18.5.
So what are we to make of Azerbaijan’s fourth Eurovision effort?
In my view, ‘Running Scared’ is the big question mark of the pre-rehearsal period. It potentially has plenty going for it in Eurovision terms, but we have absolutely no idea yet how well it will be delivered live.
Let’s start with why I think punters should be at least a little bit afraid of ‘Running Scared’ at this stage.
In their three efforts so far, Azerbaijan have finished eighth with the mad operatics of ‘Day After Day’ in 2008, third with the catchy but paper-thin ‘Always’ in 2009 and fifth with the clumsily-staged and poorly-drawn ‘Drip Drop’ in 2010.
That indicates plenty of voting friends around Europe, and a strong base to build from.
‘Running Scared’ is not dissimilar to ‘Drip Drop’, though the latter arguably had more hooks. What we have here is a radio-friendly, contemporary ballad, with two telegenic vocalists.
The introduction brings us one of the song’s strongest features, the background ‘oh-ohs’. What follows is well-produced, strong melodically and simple lyrically.
Provided it gets a decent draw in the final, and the live delivery is good, then this could score well with televoters, whilst we know that national juries have so far favoured ballads of this ilk.
All in all, in a year where most of the big hitters have delivered underwhelming songs, I think this is perhaps the only entry that has the potential to deliver a strong diaspora vote allied to universally high televote and jury scores.
But all we have to go on so far is a glossy video, and Eurovision is all about the live performance. As I’ve written in one of my top tip articles, a glossy video tells us nothing about what the live performance will be like.
We can get some clues by looking at how the duo performed live in the national auditions. Ell appeared vocally talented, Nikki less so. At times her pronunciation and pitch were alarmingly wide of the mark.
Perhaps thats why she has less to sing in ‘Running Scared’, and what there is isn’t challenging.
Still, backing singers can cover her at these points, and practice can add polish. It’s also worth bearing in mind that Aysel and Arash overcame some dreadful live practice sessions and the latter’s poor vocals with the aforementioned third-placed ‘Always’.
But the live performance is such a big unknown here that I’m adopting a wait-and-see policy until the rehearsals. They will tell us much more.
I don’t think it’s only punters who are looking to back or lay Azerbaijan who should be cautious until we see how ‘Running Scared’ shapes up in rehearsals. In this wide open year, its potential to evolve into a major contender should also give backers of the other leading players pause for thought.