The mystery was over even before the artist and song reveal was confirmed on last night’s Unser Lied für Rotterdamprogramme. Some hours before the TV announcement by Barbara Schöneberger, German Eurovision spokesperson at the past five contests, the national broadcaster NDR confirmed that Ben Dolic would perform ‘Violent Thing’ on the Ahoy Arena stage in May.
After last year’s disappointing result for S!sters with ‘Sister’, the decision was made to opt for an internal selection process rather than a public vote for Rotterdam 2020. Following months of song submissions, artist auditions, input from two carefully handpicked juries (one consisting of 100 fans from across Germany, the other made up of 20 music industry professionals) and significant speculation, 22-year-old Ben was selected in December from the 607 candidate artists and matched with a song written by the Symphonix team headed by Boris Milanov, no stranger to Eurovision success or fan-favourite entries.
Slovenian-born Ben has a previous connection with Eurovision himself. Before leaving his homeland for Switzerland and going on to achieve second place in the 2018 season of The Voice of Germany, he participated in Slovenia’s Evrovizijska Melodija (EMA) Eurovision selection show with the group D Base in 2016 (although that journey ended at the semi-final stage).
Since his talent show success, Ben has toured Austria and Germany with The Voice live show and released two songs (‘Complete’ and ‘No Competition’), available via the YouTube channel Usually Quiet.
‘Violent Thing’ is the work of Austrian-Bulgarian Boris Milanov, founder of the Symphonix music label and confirmed Eurovision songwriting royalty after his recent consecutive years’ success, including credits on two Bulgarian hits –Poli Genova’s 2016 fourth place with ‘If Love Was a Crime’ and second-placed ‘Beautiful Mess’ performed by Kristian Kostov in 2017 – as well as César Sampson’s jury-winning ‘Nobody But You’ for Austria two years ago in Lisbon.
Germany’s 2020 entry is a slickly produced, upbeat bop showcasing Ben’s distinctive voice and vocal range, which prompted comparisons from Milanov with Michael Jackson or Justin Timberlake. Speaking of Mr Timberlake, coincidentally (or perhaps not!), responsibility for the staging of ‘Violent Thing’ has been placed in the hands of Marty Kudelka, the much-lauded choreographer behind three of JT’s world tours and his 2018 Super Bowl halftime performance.
With such established credentials across the three key elements to Eurovision success (singer, song and staging), can Germany achieve another top 5 spot in this year’s Grand Final as Michael Schulte did with ‘You Let Me Walk Alone’ in 2018? Or perhaps even soar as high as Lena’s 2010 winner ‘Satellite’? Lass mal sehen!