Aftermath 2019 (2): Australia’s return to the Top 10 of Eurovision

Kate Miller-Heidke rehearsal Australia Eurovision 2019
Australia first rehearsal 2019 — Photo: Thomas Hanses

After Australia’s first result out of the Top 10 in 2018, the nation has returned to form with Kate Miller-Heidke and her divisive entry, Zero Gravity. The entry confidently topped the semi-final voting, however finished in 9th place in the final.

Australia continues their successful run at Eurovision with an entry unlike its predecessors. The entry was long overlooked by fans and press alike, and it wasn’t until the immediate lead up to the contest that the song gained momentum. Prior to the Grand Final, Australia was sitting 2nd in the betting odds, combined with a late running order, Australia shaped up to be a strong competitor.

Australia Decides: A successful National Final debut

This year marked the first time that Australia was using a national final format to select their Eurovision entry, and overall proved to be a success. With a diverse range of artists and a strong selection of songs, the Australian public were given a say on who they thought would best represent the nation at Eurovision. With growing popularity of Eurovision in Australia, the switch to a national final aimed to break the stale internal selection format, but also gave the public a chance to truly engage with the contest on levels that had not been an option previously.
The reaction from abroad was also positive, specifically based around the strength of the entries and quality or artists. With a strong debut year, it will be interesting to see whether the standard set by Australian broadcaster SBS will be held high for future national finals, or whether it was more of a one hit wonder.

From ‘Zero’ to Hero

Although a well-established and popular artist in Australia, Kate Miller-Heidke was likely to be a fresh face for fans abroad. The blend of pop and opera is her signature style, however for those unfamiliar with her style, it was easy to make comparisons to previous Eurovision competitors, with the most recent being Elina Nechayeva (Estonia 2018). This was intensified with the staging comparisons of the national final performance, and this overall feeling about the Australian entry stuck around until the revealing of her Eurovision stage performance. It was then visible to see a shift in the perception about the song specifically over social media, and at this point it was clear that Australia was emerging as a strong competitor to not only win the semi-final, but to also be in reach of a Eurovision win.

Staging proved to be the deciding factor at Eurovision

Despite using renowned Eurovision creative director Sacha Jean-Baptiste last year, the Australian team looked elsewhere for the staging of this year’s entry. Extra pressure was on the team to modify the national final performance in order to rid some of those preconceptions and comparisons to previous Eurovision entries.
The group Strange Fruit collaborated with Kate, with Philip Gleeson the creative director of Strange Fruit choreographing the performance, while also teaching Kate on how to use the pole. With Kate now performing on the pole, backed with two dancers also on poles, the visuals were streamlined. The galaxy effect played well into the theme of the song, and it came across as effortless from the perspective of a television viewer.

The Jury preference for Australia

A strong stage concept mixed with strong vocals led to a strong jury vote with the nation receiving no less than five sets of ‘douze points’ from the jury in the semi-final, assisting Australia in achieving a 1st place finish in the first semi-final. In the Grand Final, Australia achieved 2 sets of ‘douze points’ in the jury vote, which at first glance seems fairly underwhelming, but the nation received points from a good proportion of the national juries, and points higher on the scale of 1 to 12.
Televoting still proved to be an issue for Australia, more so in the Grand Final rather than the semi-final. Where the jury was awarding high points in the Grand Final, if not the ‘douze points,’ the televoters were awarding Australia low points, but still fairly consistent which meant that the Top 10 finish was very much in their reach. Even still, a significant improvement on last year’s televoting results which saw Australia receive a mere 9 points from the public vote.

The Aftermath 2019 series is made in collaboration with our Australian partner website Eurovision Union.