Ell & Nikki – "Running Scared" for Azerbaijan
Azerbaijan has been competing in Eurovision since 2008, when the over-the-top “Day After Day” came in a respectable 8th place. The next year, the fiery, uptempo “Always” snagged the bronze in Moscow, with Safura’s diva-licious “Drip Drop” coming in 5th place the year after that. Ever since entering the contest, Azerbaijan has made a considerable effort to make a splash, using everything in the traditional ESC arsenal: pretty girls, costume changes, explosions, gowns with LED lights, ear-splitting high notes, million-dollar promotional campaigns, Beyoncé’s choreographer, even going so far as to have the police question people voting for rival Armenia (I’m not kidding!). After such a series of entries, I was bracing myself for an equally epic spectacle from Eldar Gasimov and Nigar Jamal, who had won Ictimai TV’s preselection a few months ago. And boy, was I wrong…
Never in a million years would I have expected to write “Azerbaijan” and “subtle” in the same sentence, but Baku has completely proven me wrong. Eldar and Nigar (who will be going by “Ell and Nikki” for the purposes of this competition) really pull off this sweet R&B-kissed duet. It’s got a nice hook, and they don’t seem to have the same issues with English pronunciation that some of their predecessors struggled with at times (I still can’t understand half of the lyrics in “Day After Day, even three years after the fact…). This is also the only romantic duet in the competition, and it offers a nice bit of eye candy for everybody. All in all, this should be a pretty solid lock for the finals, especially considering that constant allies Turkey are in their semi.
(UPDATE: Due to EBU restrictions, Eldar and Nigar will be using their real names for this year’s ESC. It’s possible that the same restriction will apply for Russia’s Alexey Vorobyov/Alex Sparrow, but as “Sparrow” is the actual translation for “Vorobyov”, the final decision is still unclear.)