Yes, you read correctly. It is that time again. The special, kitschy, glitter and all-white-outfit-packed time of year that is Eurovision.
It feels like just yesterday that we were watching Kate Miller-Heidke’s gravity-defying performance onstage in Tel Aviv.
And yet, here we are, another Eurovision Song Contest ahead of us. But before we get there, we need to decide who we are sending. Enter Eurovision — Australia Decides 2020.
Ahead of the Australia Decides live final from 7:30pm AEST tonight, we met up with the contestants vying it out for the chance to represent our nation in Rotterdam this May.
The organisers have narrowed down the 600 songs they started with to a final 10, which Australia Decides producer Paul Clarke said on Friday “show Australia’s songwriting and performance at their highest”.
Here’s everything you need to know about the singers and the songs they’ll be singing, from what the tracks are about, to why some (OK, one of the contestants) prefers not to wear shoes while performing.
Didirri — Raw Stuff
Didirri is a different kind of (potential) Eurovision artist.
His entry is about as far from up-tempo as you can get, and he is not likely to march out onto a stage wearing a sequined getup.
The artist, who grew up in the coastal town of Warrnambool in Victoria, is here to lay bare raw human emotion with his song Raw Stuff.
“It didn’t come very easily to me; it took me about two years to write,” he said of the track.
“It’s about making sure the timing’s right, not just the connection between two people.”
So, how did Didirri wind up on the Australia Decides stage?
Didirri: Raw Stuff
Going with the flow is the answer: “I ended up getting pizza [with the curator of Australia Decides] after one of my shows in Sydney, and here I am now!”
The Victorian singer said he hoped his performance would be a nice exhale at the end of the night.
“I’m last and, also, I think Australia has such good songwriting, and having written my own song, it’s such an honour to represent a bit of the songwriting talent of Australia.
“It can just be me and a piano, and it can just be honest.”
For those who did not watch or who do not remember, Duncan Laurence, the winner of Eurovision 2019, opted for a similar staging experience at last year’s song contest.
Jaguar Jonze — Rabbit Hole
Jaguar Jonze’s entry to Australia Decides has a powerful message.
The Brisbane artist leads us down the Rabbit Hole with her track as she delves into life with her complex PTSD, exploring vulnerabilities and the way they manifest into coping mechanisms.
If you or anyone you know needs help:
Jaguar, whose real name is Deena Lynch, told the ABC she turned to writing about her experiences when she realised how cathartic doing so could be.
“It got to the point where music and art became an integral part of my life in terms of it being a cathartic process so that it’s not contained within me,” she said.
“For me, I struggled for a really long time because there was so much shame and denial in my culture and in society in general that it made it really hard for me to start processing trauma or healing and letting myself deserve a life that I should be leading, because of the stigma attached to mental health.
“[But through music], I can have conversations with myself, and I can understand myself better and then take the steps necessary to improve on myself.
Jaguar Jonze: Rabbit Hole
“I really hope people [learn] that we all deal with mental health as we do physical health, and we shouldn’t feel so much shame about talking about it.”
These views have informed her attitude going into the live final: “Life is so short and you should be grabbing experiences by the balls and going for it.”
Jaguar said her goal is to be “100 per cent Jaguar Jonze, myself as an artist” onstage.
Diana Rouvas — Can we Make Heaven
Diana Rouvas, the 2019 winner of The Voice, is trying her hand at another song competition.
If she makes it through Australia Decides to the Eurovision Song Contest, she will be performing for hundreds of millions across the globe.
She is well prepared for it, though.
Rouvas started writing music at five years of age; by the time she was eight, she had started vocal training.
The Greek-Australian is going into Australia Decides with a cool head: “For me it’s about being authentic and doing my best. If I connect, that’s my job.
“But there are amazing singers [in the competition], it’s art — everyone has their place and there’s room for us all.
“It’s not necessarily all about being big either, although my song is big enough for me! It’s about quality, and about communication.”
Diana Rouvas: Can We Make Heaven
Vanessa Amorosi — Lessons of Love
Absolutely everybody has been bringing up Vanessa Amorosi’s 2000 hit called, you guessed it, Absolutely Everybody.
So, now that we have acknowledged the Absolutely Everybody thing, we can move on to the woman herself.
Amorosi has been a household name in Australia pretty much since she burst onto the scene oh, just about two decades ago, no big deal.
Since then, she has received 16 ARIA and APRA nominations, she has released five studio albums — and she has even performed at the Olympics.
Amorosi decided she wanted to give Eurovision a try when she was writing for her new album.
She was penning the chorus for Lessons of Love with her team when one of them pointed out the track had a few Eurovision elements to it — namely, drama and empowerment.
Vanessa Amorosi: Lessons of Love
Amorosi herself nearly brought up Absolutely Everybody with the ABC when she shared her hopes for the song: “I’m hoping it speaks to everybody, of all ages.
“For me, it’s really about learning from your mistakes, especially when you’re really passionate about something. It’s about growing and learning from that and making healthier choices, and taking on life bravely.”
On stage, Amorosi said the performance will be “very dramatic”.
“[Eurovision] is like the Olympics for songwriters … I’ve always followed it, but I never thought I had the vehicle for it. I feel like this song is the right vehicle. It’s the right message, it feels good to sing, it’s got those massive moments, and those small moments so that’s what it’s about,” she said.
Mitch Tambo — Together
Former Australia’s Got Talent Contestant Mitch Tambo has come to Australia Decides with a meaning-packed song, Together.
The Gamilaraay singer’s track is notable not just for its call for togetherness, but also for the fact that Tambo sings part of it in language.
“What I represent and what has come before me is so much bigger than me,” Tambo said.
“If I had the opportunity to go to Eurovision, singing my language and to get my message out there, we’re talking about celebrating our ancestors who were denied even the right to speak language.
“For a youngish brother to make it to Eurovision and sing in Gamilaraay, that’s a real freeing thing and a real honouring thing.
“I feel so blessed to have such a wide support network that would get behind me and believe in my message so much.”
Mitch Tambo: Together
iOTA — Life
You might be looking at singer-songwriter iOTA and thinking he looks familiar.
It could be because you recognise him from the silver screen — the New Zealand-Australian artist has acted in Hollywood films Mad Max: Fury Road and the Great Gatsby over the past few years.
Off-screen, he has performed onstage in Australia as Frank-N-Furter in The Rocky Horror Show, among other productions.
So, what can we expect from this live performance?
“Me,” iOTA said simply, a coy look on his face, “and I’ll be doing some of this, some of that, there’ll be lots of energy, some sweat, some singing …”
“We’re going to take the song from the recorded version to a whole different level.”
Despite his song having all the ingredients needed for a Eurovision win — namely sequins, a strong message and a spectrum of emotions — iOTA said he does not have high hopes of winning.
“I don’t think about it … to be honest, I don’t think I’m going to win it, but if I do, I’ll disintegrate.
“Just from surprise. I’ll just evaporate, I’ll just turn to smoke or power from it out of disbelief. And then they’ll have to do the competition again,” he said.
Casey Donovan — Proud
Casey Donovan made a name for herself by winning the second season of Australian Idol way back in 2004. Since then, she has been a mainstay on the Australian music scene.
This is Australia’s sixth year competing in Eurovision — so what made Donovan decide to give the whole thing a go this time around?
It may have all come down to finding the right song.
She told the SBS: “I stumbled across Proud and just completely fell in love with this song.
“And Justine, the writer, is just such a beautiful writer, and it really spoke to my heart. And I thought, ‘You know what? I’d love to put this onstage in Eurovision Australia Decides and see what happens …'”
The track is about “rising up and rising above it all, overcoming obstacles, but still finding a reason to get up and to keep striving for better,” she added.
Jordan-Ravi — Pushing Stars
Sri Lankan-Australian singer Jordan-Ravi is bringing boyband goodness to the Australia Decides stage — except he is actually a one-man show.
The 20-year-old artist, from Darwin, told Eurovision bloggers wiwibloggs while he may not have the advantage of years of experience, what he does have is a “really special song”.
“I’m hoping to get the crowd involved for that intimacy, and I think I’ve still got a strong chance,” he said.
Pushing Stars is all about loss, and for people who feel they are missing a connection.
The singer said: “I think Pushing Stars is really a call to comfort to those people and to give them reassurance in the unknown and what can seem like darkness at the time.
“But it has an up-tempo beat!”
Jordan-Ravi: Pushing Stars
Jack Vidgen — I am King I am Queen
Jack Vidgen is all grown up. And the 23-year-old artist, who won Australia’s Got Talent as a teenager in 2011, is reflecting on the internal battles he faced during and after becoming a household name early in life.
He wrote I am King I am Queen after finishing as a semi-finalist on The Voice last year.
“I just kind of went through a time of reflection, I basically wrote in my journal and my thoughts at the time and everything about growing up, and I guess my internal struggles and battles,” he explained.
The track resolves as Vidgen declares himself to be both king and queen.
“It’s that choice of waking up in the morning and stepping into that, making that decision for your life,” he said.
“After I wrote it I was so nervous, because it was so personal. It’s a very vulnerable thing for me.
“It’s been really beautiful that people have connected with it, especially on a queer level. Because that is mostly the internal battle and struggle that I’m talking about throughout the song, as well as that feeling of just feeling different and in one element knowing why, and in another, not.”
Jack Vidgen: I am King I am Queen
Montaigne — Don’t Break Me
Art-pop darling Montaigne is making her first foray into Eurovision territory after “becoming a little less pretentious about my interests and my tastes”, by her own admission.
“It’s pretty impossible to avoid some aspect of Eurovision culture in your life,” she told the ABC.
“I watched it as a teenager with my family and then when I left home I ignored it for a while because I was too cool for school.
“But recently I’ve developed a lot as a person, and now I’m about it again — but I’ve always been across it.”
The 24-year-old ARIA-winner — who has collaborated with the likes of the Hilltop Hoods — said a win would be a big deal for her.
“15-year-old me watching Eurovision would never have even imagined it could be possible for me to be in it. Like, that would be literally impossible for 15-year-old me to imagine. If I were to do it, that would be literally accomplishing the impossible for that version of me, and that’s sick.
“Eurovision is like a pop music World Cup and I always wanted to play in a World Cup as a soccer player and this is my opportunity to represent Australia in something. And I think I’m good at this,” she said.
But now, to the important stuff: the song itself. Don’t Break Me is about a co-dependent relationship that has started to fall apart.
“One of the people in it has realised they are not comfortable or satisfied putting all the effort and energy into the relationship anymore and wish for some reciprocity,” Montaigne explained.
Montaigne: Don’t Break Me
On Saturday night, she will be bringing angsty music coloured by dynamic movement, and an all-female crew to the Eurovision stage — but she may not be bringing footwear.
“No shoes [on stage] is just more fun, just more playful, I like wearing no shoes; it feels better.”