Australians are blessed with a strong line-up of entries from our short existence at Eurovision.
With a consistent track record in the contest and more variety a commonly discussed topic is “What's Australia’s best entry?” and in true Eurofan style... “What's their worst?".
There are a wider range of answers for the former but unfortunately more consistently our 2017 entry ‘Don’t Come Easy’ for the latter. Since the dust has well and truly settled on 2017, I’m here to discuss why Isaiah Firebrace deserved his Top 10 position and ‘Don’t Come Easy’ was a smart choice from our broadcaster SBS.
Before we take any more steps I'd like to draw everyone's attention to his Grand Final jury performance - in my opinion it wasn't as good as his Semi Final jury performance but certainly had all the makings of a standout jury pleaser. Keeping in mind that this - and this performance alone was where his infamous 4th place jury finish came from.
At the time juries were under fire for 'pandering' to our entries - after all, 171 points from the juries verses just 2 points from the public is a significant difference. As the system currently goes there are two performances - one for the juries and the live telecast of the public vote. The televote is somewhat understandable - the live performance wasn't his best. What makes even more sense to me was the jury score.
Think retrospectively about some of the most successful jury scores in recent years:
'Don't Come Easy' - Isaiah (Australia 2017), 4th with the juries
'Nobody But You' - Cesár Sampson (Austria 2018), 1st with the juries
'Too Late for Love' - John Lundvik (Sweden 2019), 2nd with the juries
All smooth male vocalists with reasonably straightforward, contemporary, easy listening songs with enough razzle dazzle in the vocal departments to spark the imagination of juries. On top of that I would say the weaker aspect of all three performances was their staging. Over the years we have witnessed time and time again the juries having a soft spot for these dulcet vocals and from that standpoint Isaiah does have a wonderful voice. As a trio they just work.
This is my theory - hear me out. We knew the minute we heard 'Don't Come Easy' it was a pitch to the juries. It was already going to have a weaker televote. The jury performance goes off without a hitch - he gets a strong score. The televised performance happens - rightfully the televote was low, but you've got to admit coming off the back of a near victory with some mooning in the mix didn't help. Ergo - we get 2 points.
Looking at the televote generally from 2017 you either scored big or really bombed out. Isaiah wasn't alone in single digits club with Denmark (8), Israel (5), Spain (5), Germany (3) and Austria (0) with the UK (12) and The Netherlands (15) not doing much better. The scoreboard was extremely top-heavy televote wise.
From the Grand Final 1.2% of Isaiah's score was gained through televote - this isn't worlds different to The Netherlands (10%) and The UK (10.8%). The difference is both these performers nailed their live performances. I wholeheartedly believe if Isaiah's live performance were as strong has his jury performances he would have had similar figures.
As someone who followed the rehearsals *very* closely back in 2017 watching as much of the livestreams as my university placement would permit (and certainly EVERY one of Isaiah's performances) I personally noticed quite a shift in the quality of Isaiah's vocals with what I chalk up to nerves and overwork from the start to end of Eurovision 2017. Keep in mind that Isaiah had just done a full pre-Eurovision tour at most of the fan events and being just 17-years-old. His Semi Final Jury performance was honestly hair-raising for all the RIGHT reasons.
The vocals were smooth, the transitions were effortless and the build was executed brilliantly. As someone just following along at home I observed a more relaxed man on stage - the stakes were lower, this wasn't televised to hundreds of millions and his rehearsal performances had built strong momentum in the press. Truly an impressive performance that I wish all fans got to witness.
Should the juries be voting on the same performance public see? Probably. There are many logistical reasons why this isn't the case - for now all we can do is speculate how events would have played out in a parallel universe or what was going through the jurors minds. Give us your opinion at @aussievisionnet on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram.