ESC 2010 Reviews: Georgia
Georgia’s another recent addition to Eurovision, only having joined in 2007. Despite this relatively short tenure in the ESC so far, they’ve definitely made their mark, even beyond the scoreboard.
Their first entry, “Visionary Dream (My Story)” by Sopho Khalvashi, was an almost-hypnotic mix of traditional Georgian folk, pop and electronica. Highly underrated, it only came in 12th place (although it did make it through a difficult semifinal round in Helsinki, beating favorites from Cyprus, Switzerland, Andorra, and the Netherlands). Not only that, but its official video could have easily doubled as an advertisement for the Georgian Tourism Board! After watching it a few times, I was ready to book my ticket to Tblisi, find a supra somewhere, and gorge myself on wine, hospitality, and Khatchapuri (mmm…cheese bread…).
The next year, Georgia enlisted blind singer Diana Gurtskaya to sing “Peace Will Come”. As a native of Abkhazia, an autonomous republic in Northern Georgia, Gurtskaya was a witness during her childhood to rioting and war in her region. She fled her hometown of Sukhumi for Tblisi, where she honed her musical ability. Because of her personal experiences of growing up in the midst of conflict, “Peace Will Come” struck a bit of an emotional chord with viewers, and placed 11th in the 2008 ESC. (And, on a different note, her mid-song costume change is even more impressive once you remember that Gurtskaya is completely blind!)
After sending a song with a universally acceptable political message in 2008, Georgia decided to play their cards more aggressively for the 2009 Contest, held in Moscow. In 2008, Russian troops invaded South Ossetia, which, while autonomous, is generally considered Georgian territory. Needless to say, this didn’t make Tblisi very happy. They had originally planned on withdrawing from the competition altogether, but after Georgia won the 2008 Junior Eurovision Song Contest (basically, just like the ESC only even more hyperactive…can you imagine?), they decided to give it a go anyway. However, as a sort of innocuous flipping of the proverbial bird to Russia, they sent a “Disco Inferno”-inspired ditty called “We Don’t Wanna Put In”. (Evidently, “We Don’t Wanna Med Vedev” or “We Don’t Wanna Rush Ya” didn’t roll off the tongue as easily…) Although the Georgian broadcaster denied any rule-breaking (as overtly political songs are banned from the ESC), outcry from the Russian hosts prompted the EBU to issue an ultimatum to Georgia: either change the lyrics or bow out. They took the second option, and withdrew from the 2009 ESC, making headlines all through Europe and beyond.
So what’s Georgia bringing to the table for their triumphant return to Eurovision?
Sopho Nizharadze’s representing Tblisi with “Shine”, one of many big, female-driven ballads that 2010 is offering up. Almost half of the songs in the second semifinal are ballads (or similar), so this might be a tough sell for Sopho. However, she’s in the lucky situation that she’s singing second-to-last, so she’ll be fresh in voters’ minds when they pick up their phones. Out of the traditional ballads this year, this is probably one of my favorites, but it’s not quite as high up there on my personal list as Croatia or Israel. This one could go either way, depending on how Sopho does on the night of performance.
I first heard this song at the end of February, right as the Winter Olympics were coming to a close. As I was listening to “Shine” for the first time, NBC was showing one of its usual compilations of the events of the games, with the glowing scenes of victory mixed in with the heartbreaking moments that came along with this year’s Games. While listening to this song, a clip of the Georgian team walking into the stadium during the Opening Ceremonies played, their members all in black armbands in honor of Nodar Kumaritashvili, the luger who had died the day before in a tragic accident. There was something about listening to Sopho’s song, all about moving forward through pain towards a hopeful future, while looking at the faces of Nodar’s compatriots while the rest of the athletes and spectators stood and cheered in solidarity…I hate to admit this, but it brought me to tears.
Needless to say, it’s good to have Georgia back in the competition.
Now, if I were a terrible person, I’d put a link here to Georgia’s winning song for the 2008 Junior ESC, “Bzz” by Bzkebi (The Wasps). But I really don’t want to feel responsible for all of the pain and anguish that would cause you all, dear readers. So, why don’t you all just watch the video for “Visionary Dream” again, and leave it at that?