ESC 2010 Reviews: Armenia
Competing in ESC since: 2006
Best Result: 4th Place, 2008 (“Qele Qele“, by Sirusho)
General Trends: Since Armenia’s debut, the country has consistently ranked in the Top 10 in each of the contests that they have entered. Since the introduction of the semifinal in 2004, only Armenia, Greece, and Azerbaijan can claim this accomplishment! Granted, Armenia and Azerbaijan have only competed since 2006 and 2008, respectively, but this is still pretty impressive.
Last year’s song, “Nor Par (Jan Jan) (New Dance [My Dear])“, performed by sisters Inga and Anush Arshakyan, melded pop, jazz, and traditional Armenian music into a fun, danceable earworm complete with velour, lasers, and approximately twelve feet of braids per performer. Their tenth-place finish might have been their nation’s lowest placement to date, but it was an incredibly memorable performance. I honestly hated it when it first crossed my path…it sort of reminded me of the Sweeney Sisters on Saturday Night Live (Jan Hooks and Nora Dunn). The Arshakyan Sisters’ manic scatting was grating at first, but the final arrangement and presentation turned it into something fantastic.
This year, Armenia chose its representative via a traditional National Final, where nine songs competed on Valentine’s Day for the right to represent their nation in Oslo to try to bring the competition to Yerevan in 2011. Throughout much of the lead-up to the National Final, it was rumored that duo Mihran and Emmy had been internally selected for the ESC with their song “Hey (Let Me Hear You Say)”, with stars such as Ricky Martin, of all people, lending support. However, when it came to the National Final, Mihran and Emmy were pipped at the post by 22-year-old Eva Rivas with her song “Apricot Stone”.
Despite the fact that this is the first Armenian entry since their debut to be sung entirely in English, that doesn’t mean it’s completely devoid of local culture. Apricots are seen as a symbol of Armenia, supposedly originating in what is now their territory. Even the scientific name of the apricot, Prunus armeniaca, alludes to its origin. In the song, the lyrics speak of the harshness of the world, how the apricots given to Eva by her mother would comfort her in times of fear and loneliness, and how they remind her to “get back to her roots”. Eva grew up in Russia to Armenian parents, so even though she herself may not have written the lyrics to “Apricot Stone”, the back story behind this sometimes happy, sometimes melancholy ethno-pop tune rings generally authentic.
Of course, it wouldn’t be Eurovision without a little extra controversy, would it? As details of the Armenian entry emerged, many fans from Turkey expressed their dismay at a song that carries such a surreptitious political message. Especially in recent times, where international scrutiny of the 1915 Armenian Genocide is seemingly at an all-time high, many Turkish fans saw the acceptance of “Apricot Stone” as a bit of a slap in the face. One of the many rules of the Eurovision Song Contest is that no entry should be overtly political. However, in recent years many entries have either flexed or broken this rule. Last year, Georgia’s entry “We Don’t Wanna Put In” was disqualified for its dig at Vladimir Putin (and considering that the 2009 Contest was held in Moscow, this was a pretty big deal). However, in 2005, a modified political chant from Ukrainian band Greenjolly was allowed to compete, as long as the ongoing Orange Revolution wasn’t directly mentioned in the song.
So, what do you think? Is Armenia making an outright dig at Turkey, or is Turkey being too sensitive about a song about a mother making sure her daughter is getting enough fiber in her diet? Or should we all just have listened to Ricky Martin and have had Mihran and Emmy go to Oslo, instead? Listen to the song, and let me know what you think!
Despite the fact that the Turkish Diaspora in Europe is often seen as a major voting bloc in Eurovision, I predict that “Apricot Stone” will qualify for the final, and might eke out a position in the Top Ten. However, considering that their semi-final includes both Turkey and rivals Azerbaijan, this might be a tough squeeze. We’ll see what happens on May 27th!