The second last song reveal of the Eurovision 2020 season has arrived, and it is Azerbaijan’s Efendi and her straddling of modern sensibilities with traditional instrumentation on “Cleopatra.”
Samira Efendi (now performing formally as Efendi) was revealed as the entrant a couple weeks ago, and the rumor mill had been swirling lately that her song was to be called “Cleopatra.” Now the song reveal and a video – filmed at Gobustan State Historical and Cultural Reserve – confirm the title and the blending of modern pop with traditional flourishes.
Composed by Luke Van Beers, Alan Roy Scott and Sarah Lake, “Cleopatra” incorporates three traditional instruments: an oud (a short-neck, fat body lute-type instrument), a balaban (a woodwind instrument similar to a flute), and a tar (a long-neck, small body, four string instrument).
And being Eurovision, those three are played in conjunction with a mid-tempo dance tune designed to bring the party to Rotterdam, and with modern themes and lyrics in contrast to the old world sounds.
Of “Cleopatra,” Efendi told Eurovision.tv that it “is a song about trusting your gut instinct, standing up for yourself and being a “queen” – even when things get tough and especially if someone betrays or hurts you. It is truly a song about freedom, a celebration of all cultures and all sexualities and it’s a song that is meant to inspire people to be who they are and to be proud of themselves – just as Cleopatra was. She was a queen who went through love, heartbreak, and betrayal, but she stood up for herself and is now remembered as an icon of strength and femininity.”
“Cleopatra” continues the change in tactics for Azerbaijan, who had found themselves floundering somewhat in the mid-2010s after initial success since their debut in 2008.
Aisel’s “X my Heart,” though critically well-received, did not qualify for the final in 2018 after a string of mid-table placings. Chingiz’s “Truth” was a change in direction, and an unusual one for a nation that has been criticized for its record on LGBT rights.
After “Truth,” an entry that was often referred to by the fans as “gay catnip,” it is also unusual that Efendi is explicit in her admission that “Cleopatra” was aimed at the LGBT fanbase. We shall see if fans take to it.
Efendi will perform “Cleopatra” in the second half of Semi-Final 1 on May 12, 2020.
To date, Azerbaijan’s best performance at Eurovision remains Ell & Nikki’s “Running Scared,” winning Eurovision 2011. Between 2009 and 2013, Azerbaijan never placed outside the Top 5. After some low to mid table finishes, Chingiz returned Azerbaijan to the Top 10 in 2019 with “Truth.”
What do #YOU think of “Cleopatra?” Is Efendi’s entry a queen or a pretender to the throne? Let us know in the comments below, on social media, or in our forum.