ESC 2017 Review: Austria – Running Running

Austria knows how to grab attention this year. I was skeptical they weren’t holding a national final but they shut me up at least.

These are my own PERSONAL rankings of what I think of 2017’s Eurovision songs but I’m also going to make some bold predictions about the eventual fate of the song. These will probably be very wrong for a variety of reasons including I have no idea what almost half the artists sound like live or what type of staging and song changes could be made. There’s plenty of songs that have been let down by their staging (2016 Spain for example) so in the end they’re just guesses in the dark.

Country: Austria
Artist: Nathan Trent
Song Title: Running on Air
My Ranking: 16th (out of 43)
Semi Final: 2nd Semi Final
Final placement prediction: 18 of 26

Austria has a very storied history in Eurovision. Their most recent win came on the back of two failure to qualifies. They’ve sent wonderful highs like “Nur Ein Lied” (1989) and “Rise Like a Phoenix” (2014) but then also they’ve sent “Woki mit dem Popo” in 2012 which was literally by a band called Trackshittaz and whose stage direction featured strippers on poles. Not that there’s anything wrong with strippers or pole dancers but it’s just that Eurovision isn’t quite the place for that. Austria also had an unlikely win in 2014 with a drag queen singer and then managed to send the most boring act in 2015 where somehow they lit a piano on fire during the song and I was still bored to tears. Last year the song they sent was in French (the national language of Austria is still German in case you’re wondering). So it’s all up and downs for me and Austria. This year they ditched the national final which really surprised me because I really enjoyed the Austrian national final last year (and the host who accidentally read out snarky tweets in English because he didn’t read them before hand) so I worried we were going for a dud of a year but I find myself pleasantly surprised.

Nathan Trent, 25, born in Austria to Italian and German parents is surprisingly both a fresh face to the music business and also not from the singing contest circuit. Surprisingly enough he had been on the shortlist for Unser Song (Germany’s national final) when he was internally selected for Austria instead. Before his selection, he had only released one single out of nowhere that I can’t find much charting for. He spent a few years in America, specifically in LA, working on launching a music career though. He’s surprisingly both the singer and song writer for “Running on Air” and I also personally think he looks like the creator of Gravity Falls, Alex Hirch which endears him to me instantly.

How’s the song? Well, it’s okay. It’s a nice little upbeat number with almost a touch of light jazz. It’s got a bit of a JT sound to me also. The song is probably one of the more uplifting songs in the contest this year and it’s kind of a welcome breath of fresh air. It really stands out from so many sad songs, depressing songs, and heavy songs. Nathan’s vocals are exuberant and wild and the song goes from gentle lullaby to ray of sunshine at the perfect time. This is one of the more successful songs in a way because I could see this on the radio but it also balances it with the vocal prowess that the judges are looking for at Eurovision. I also feel like the words are a little on the cutesy side but that makes them very easy to remember after just a single listen. It’s really impressive to me that he also wrote the song because it’s one of the better arrangements. While the song is a touch repetitive each chorus has a small distinct part making sure the overall performance doesn’t bore you to tears.

I think the song actually has one of the better videos as well. It’s shot entirely in Nathan’s home state [Bundesland] of Tyrol. If you’re unfamiliar, Tyrol contains a part of the Alps so it’s very scenic and a little “Sound of Music”-y. In the video he is getting help from people all around the country and everyone is of course super lovely and then he breaks in to an ecstatic run towards the end of the video as he nears his goal. That works really well for the song which feels like it wants Nathan to roam in a large space but I’m not sure how they’re going to bring that feeling to the stage. Where he can’t run. Last year Austria had a difficult time incorporating a single treadmill in to their staging and while Sweden is primed to pull off 5 of them, I don’t think that would be the right move for “Running on Air”.

I think Nathan Trent will bring home an easy qualification and a fair score with his pitch perfect vocals and boyish charm but I think the final decider of where this falls on the board is going to be determined by staging. Let’s hope they figure out how to get him running on air.

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