St. Wenceslas Day – looking at the Czech Republic’s comeback at Eurovision
Celebrated annually on September 28, St. Wenceslas Day or Czech Statehood Day embodies the spirit and legend of the patron saint of the Czech people - St. Václav (English: Wenceslas). A day filled with music, art and festivities there couldn’t be a better reason to take a look at their recent renaissance at Eurovision!
The nation debuted in 2007 with just eight appearances under their belt – a relatively young nation to Eurovision. Of those appearances they’ve managed three Grand Final qualifications – ‘I Stand’ (2016), ‘Lie to Me’ (2018) and ‘Friend of a Friend’ (2019). It’s no secret they’ve struggled historically to find their straps in the contest with their earlier entries originating from the historical National Final “Eurosong” or internal selection with predominately undesirable results.
The 2018 National Final season brought something unique and fresh – 'Eurovision Song CZ', the new Czech selection process. Incorporating more social media interaction than ever before the format consisted of votes from a public vote and an international jury panel containing past Eurovision contestants (including our own Dami Im and Isaiah). This might not sound revolutionary, but the public vote was cast using a phone app with no live performances available – only the studio tracks.
Seemingly counterintuitive since many artists struggle to sing their songs live – retrospectively, looking at the success of this system I dare say the broadcasters thought of this and were confident in their live vocal abilities before selection. Nevertheless, it was a nerve-wracking wait for fans of Mikolas Josef – the inaugural Eurovision Song CZ winner as it took some weeks before they could breathe a sigh of relief watching a live performance, seeing it translated well off screen. The broadcasters took on feedback and in subsequent years promoted acoustic versions of the songs on Facebook.
Using media and studio recordings was bound to reel in a younger audience and inject some contemporary fun into the National Final. We live in an era with fast shareability of content – being able to send Spotify links at the click of a button to a National Final song we like.
For first time in 2019, both international and Czech users were able to vote with international votes have the same weight as one juror. For fans who follow Eurovision through the National Final season this was quite exciting having a say in another country’s entry. Undeniably it would have helped their social media traffic and increased eyes on their entries too. Reinforcing the Czech Republic are open to trying new and innovative ways to strike a chord with the televote at Eurovision.
As a ‘young-ish’ person myself I’ll admit it was a nice change of pace to have a playlist of songs ready to listen to and vote for in my own time. Sometimes a televised national final broadcast just won’t fit in with life. In an even more millennial turn of events the results and winners were announced live via facebook. A lowkey event but got the job done.
For last three years the Czech Republic has utilised the new format and proof is in the pudding with their best two results occurring back to back in 2018 and 2019 with ‘Lie to Me’ snagging 6th and ‘Friend of a Friend’ narrowly missing the top 10 in 11th. For a nation that struggled to make Grand Finals this was a huge victory. COVID-19 meant that we never got to see Benny Cristo with ‘Kemama’ hit the Eurovision stage – but it’s safe to say it certainly fitted the brand of young, fun, radio-friendly bops they have been producing recently.
The new mix of a diverse jury consisting of Eurovision Contestants, local and international public voting and a window to vote using the Eurovision App has created a contemporary, fun-loving machine of entries for the Czech Republic since it’s inception in 2018 with stellar results. We look forward to seeing what they can do in 2021 with Benny Cristo already confirmed as their artist.