Last night’s Eurovision Song Contest first semi-final saw some shocks - Montenegro’s exit among them - but one of the surprises was the success of Australia’s teenage entry, Isaiah, despite a near-disaster around the 2.20 mark, with a note that went widely astray.
Despite this blip, Isaiah Firebrace is on course for his country’s third appearance in the Eurovision final on Saturday night, following Guy Sebastian and Dami Im in representing Down Under.
Eurovision is big business in Australia, with broadcaster SBS now showing the contest live (5am in the morning for the die-hards) as well as again on Sunday evening for those who’ve managed to avoid spoilers all day.
Despite coming second last year to the Ukraine - and narrowly avoiding intense discussions about exactly where to host the following year’s contest should they win - Australia have taken heart from their near-victory, it seems, according to Cameron Adams, national music writer for News.Com.au:
“We’re still as surprised as anyone we’re eligible. Eurovision was always popular here (even on a cult level) but now we have a local to back. And after coming so close last year with Dami Im there’s a real sense we can be actual competition.”
For Isaiah, it’s all gravy for the indigenous teenager from regional Victoria, who was in school only a few months ago, and only travelled overseas for the first time this year.
Although his winner’s single ‘Gotta Be You’ has had over a million streams and he toured with Jessica Mauboy following his victory, the Ukraine arena will be, by far, his biggest show, which possibly explains the mistake on Tuesday evening.
“Eurovision will put him on the map, and he handles himself very well for a 17 year old,” says Cameron.
Meanwhile, for Australian fans, the Eurovision future looks bright.
“There’s definitely (geographically-incorrect) patriotism in Australia now,” says Cameron. “Everyone who has been chosen so far has had a reality TV profile already and therefore already have a fanbase and that means it’s easier for them to get attention in the media. In Australia TV networks very rarely promote rival stations, but most commercial networks have been interviewing Isaiah or previewing Eurovision this week.”
Australia has nothing like the UK’s history of trying all sorts of different strategies to ensure success, however, for Cameron, there remains an as yet untried safe bet for victory.
“Tina Arena. Perfect Eurovision bait - she’s Australian with an Italian heritage and is a superstar in France, plus well known across Europe. And of course she’s our finest female singer.
“Otherwise if Darren Hayes could be lured back out of retirement - he did write a song on the new Steps album so he’s a stones throw from Eurovision.
“And obviously either Minogue sister or preferably both for a stereo Eurovision attack.”
The Eurovision Song Contest 2017 final will be streamed live from Kiev on Saturday (13 May) from 8pm on BBC One.