Located in the centre of Europe is a dapper, but critically overlooked country that has made a lot of progress over the years since their return. After back-to-back successes it is time to assess the chances of the Czech Republic.
Before we start, a disclaimer: This post is an editorial and therefore heavily prone towards subjectivity. Also, swearing, strong opinions and speculation. Anything stated beyond this point is the author’s personal opinion and does not necessarily represent the views of ESC United as a whole or other editors.
Survival of the Hippest
The Czech could win Eurovision 2020.
There. I said it. Any goodwill I built up in my previous editorial gone up in smoke. All credibility down the drain. Forever marked a raving lunatic, a hyperbolic loser, a pointless analyst. RIP my writing career before it ever fully began.
And yet, is it really that much of a stretch?
Like many things in life, Eurovision is in a constant state of flux. Over the past decade, the contest has completely reinvented itself. Ever since the reimplementation of the national juries, musical quality has increased, turning Eurovision into a somewhat prestigious musical extravaganza. Eurovision fever is striking down in many countries and infecting many hearts. Gone are the days where entries could reach the top ten purely based on flag and name. Regardless of whether the entry is camp or competent, all participants have to keep pace with contemporary trends in order to stay relevant.
This is where the Czech come in. A country which possesses an excellent follower’s game. They have adapted themselves perfectly to an age were darwinistic Natural Selection determines who thrives and who does not.
Before I continue, I’ll get my personal opinions out of the way first: I usually dislike Czech Republic in Eurovision. Lake Malawi’s infectuous earworm marked the first time I genuinely enjoyed a Czech entrant. The first three Czech entries since their return were, in my opinion, dreadful. “My Turn” had no business outlasting “Blackbird” and “City Lights” in the jury vote. “Lie to Me” is a bottom ten Eurovision entry for me, one I dislike on every level.
However, what I think of the past Czech entries isn’t too important. The progress the Czech have experienced over the years is quite extraordinary, and worthy of our attention.
The days where the Czech could barely scrape together a single point per entry are far behind us. Ever since their return in 2015, the Czech have pupa’d themselves into one of Eurovision’s trendiest, hippest countries. The Bohemian Rhapsody is in. Their entries emulate the current hit parades. “Hope Never Dies” and “I Stand” were theoretical attempts at Competent Eurosongs, if only that, but their more recent successes were undisputed hits.
“Lie to Me” was – despite its many, many flaws – a smashing success and one of the best staged songs in 2018. It had credibility and a certain edge. It appealed to the masses. The follow-up entry, Lake Malawi’s radio-friendly earworm “Friend of a Friend”, likewise received critical acclaim. So did Barbora del Rey’s “True Colours”, another popular song from their 2019 catalogue. Each of these could’ve easily passed for an international hit if not for their ‘Eurovision Dilettante’ label.
Even more encouraging than their evolution however, is the effect these successes have had on Great Old Bohemia. In a puny five years the Czech have gone from not caring about Eurovision at all to having a vested interest in their results. These results speak for themselves: Three qualifications, including two finishes on the left-hand-side of the scoreboard in the past five years – a better track record than Greece. Not bad for a country which scored a painful nine points between their first three participations.
Interest in the contest has increased to the point that the Czech are going to host their first live national final next January. We already know a few details about what we may expect: The Czech’s Chief Hipster, Jan Bors, revealed that all eight participants have already been chosen. Their songs have been penned, recorded and finetuned for the show – Songs which are described in Czech media as ‘atypical’ Eurovision entries, close to the character and style of the selected artists. The national final itself had been announced in early 2019 – mere weeks after Lake Malawi were picked, and preparations have since been ongoing.
Frankly, this news is nothing but encouraging. The Czechs’ excitement and drive has made me – a Czeptic – excited for what their future may hold. In order to win however, the Czech need to assume a leader’s role. They need to set the trends, not follow them.
By holding a live selection with entries that are bound to stand out they are revealing an intent towards frontrunnerhood, striking seemingly out of nowhere. A daring approach, but one of high risk, high reward. Loïc Nottet, Netta Barzilai and Francesco Gabbani all did very well. However, it doesn’t always work. Saara Aalto’s “Monsters” became a victim of its own ambition, while Conan Osíris’s “Telemóveis” collapsed under the pressure bestowed upon it by the fan community. Nevertheless, Czech Republic have already achieved praiseworthy results in either the televote or jury vote. How long will it take before they find that special entry which excels in both?
Their first victory may come sooner than you think.
Next Week: We’ll be taking a closer look at one of the countries which are currently one of the driving forces behind contemporary Eurovision trends, but haven’t turned it into a victory yet.
Past Country Spotlights:
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