ESC 2017 Review: Georgia – Keep the Ballad

Serving bond girl realness, Georgia could be in for another surprise this year if they can just keep it together all the way to the stage.

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: Georgia
Artist: Tamara Gachechiladze
Song Title: Keep the Faith
My Ranking: 11th (out of 43)
Semi Final: 1st Semi Final
Final placement prediction: NQ

Georgia is a country that seems pretty musically diverse. Some countries send ballads years after year or the same type of pop music a few years in a row but I’ve been pleasantly surprised by Georgia every time and I think they really earned the right to sent this female power ballad this year. Last year they sent a strange band and the year before that the human embodiment of 2004 Hot Topic, both of them qualifying – both times at the surprise of the artists who assumed they were too far outside the normal to do so. I’m wondering if the very standard power ballad they’re sending this year might qualify on the fact that it’s a perfect sent up of its genre or if there’s a moral to be found in Georgia’s intensely eccentric past entries.

Tamara “Tako” Gachechiladze, now 34, almost hit the Eurovision stage back in 2009. 8 years ago young Tamara was part of a group called Stephane & 3G and their song “We Don’t Want a Put In” was the controversy du jour. It got to such a fever pitch that they were told to change their lyrics or withdraw, and Georgia gracefully withdrew. Now Tamara is back, solo this time, and causing a bit of a stir again during her national final performance where behind her newspaper headlines flew by including one mentioning Russia’s invasion of Georgia back in ’08.

Despite that, her new song for this year is free of lyrical controversy. Written by Tamara herself and composed by none other than Georgia’s Golden Voice, Anri Jokhadze, better known to some as the 2012 Georgian entrant at Eurovision (with “I’m A Joker”), the song is a powerhouse of a ballad. The song is an impeccably built ballad and it has a really lovely message that you should always keep going even when things are hard. It’s very much about being believed in and in turn getting strength from that in order to face difficulties. It helps that Tamara’s voice is deep, powerful, and actually somewhat soothing because it lends a real credence and urgency to the song that in another singers hands might have seen much tackier.

In isolation I like this song a lot. The problems start when you zoom out a little. First off, this song sounds an awful lot like “Rise Like a Phoenix”. Not because the two songs are actually similar but just because if you had to make a checklist of what the songs contained then you would basically come up with the same list. Power house vocals, female singer, long flowing gown, deeper than average voice, James Bond/007 style orchestra, bouncing between low verse and high chorus, echo-y choir vocal, “keep on believing” message. This is not a slight against the song. Both of them are great in their own ways but one of the reasons Conchita won was likely a combination of personality and chatter combined with the song and it’s unfortunate for Tamara that swirl doesn’t seem to be around her.

I also don’t think that after a year with a dark ballad winning that we’re all ready for another heavy ballad. No matter how good that ballad is, it’s not often that two ballads win one after another. I wonder if there could have been a more poppy arrangement that could have saved this song from its fate – which is to languish as a better than average song and then very likely get an NQ. I think about Malta qualifying last year with what was essentially a ballad made in to bubble gum pop and I think that’s a formula more countries should have considered for this year after it started to become a ballad heavy mix.

The staging on this is probably going to be the nail in the coffin. For ballads, it’s almost predictably essential that the woman be standing alone in a flowing dress with nothing else happening. Unfortunately the song can’t carry that far enough over the finish line. But hey, keep the faith. It could happen.

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