This year’s Eurovision Song Contest features two rock songs that are both on track for strong placings. Typically, two competing rock songs would face the problem of canceling each other out, but this year’s contest may be different, writes Joshua Mayne.
Rock and Eurovision are not typically associated together by outsiders, however the contest has a small but significant alternative audience. Rock has slowly built its profile at the world’s biggest song contest. Eurovision has now evolved into a showcase of diverse, modern music, with a rock a key component.
This year represents that shift, with two rock entries that each have a genuine chance to win a large number of votes, and potentially win the entire contest. Måneskin is representing Italy with their song Zitti E Buoni, and Blind Channel is singing for Finland with their entry Dark Side. Despite sharing a genre, there are a number of factors that will set these acts apart this year.
These two entries appeal to slightly different demographics, which can be crucial when it comes to voting. With Finland’s middle finger motif and playful stage show, it arguably appeals to a teenage demographic. Dark Side is a high-octane track and full of energy. The fact that they begin the song with the chorus sets the tone for the remainder of the performance. Although the dark staging does not suggest it, there is an element of fun and liveliness throughout the act.
Zitti E Buoni, on the other hand, shows more restraint in parts, with a captivating verse prior to a punchy first chorus. It still delivers the same energy as Finland, but rather, in bursts. It may appeal to a slightly older demographic, both young professionals as well as people who were alive when Kiss was successful. Italy’s outfits are bold and trendy, with a real edginess. The difference in demographic appeal between Italy and Finland may be small but should be enough to ensure they both get votes.
English vs Italian
Another major differentiator between these two songs is the languages they are sung in. Måneskin has opted for their native Italian, whereas Blind Channel is performing their song in English. Will language matter when it comes to voting? Unlikely. But regardless, it is still a notable point of interest.
Both acts appear extremely comfortable singing in their chosen language and suit their respective songs. Finland’s use of English ensures the message of their song is clear to a large number of English-speaking viewers. For Måneskin, their Italian lyrics bring a sense of authenticity to the song, with it obvious that the track is intended to be sung in Italian, and only Italian. Language may not play a major factor in the final voting. However, it certainly adds an extra element of difference between these two entries.
Rock is not just rock
Although both these songs fall into the broader genre of rock, they are in notably different sub-genres. Italy’s entry falls under the glam and alternative rock genre, whilst Finland’s entry can be described as hardcore rock. Both tracks undoubtedly have some shared traits, but their composition, staging, and vocals set them apart. These entries are proof that there is just as much genre diversity within rock as there is within pop.
This does beg the question of why other genres are not always treated like rock at Eurovision. Pop songs and ballads typically make up the majority of Eurovision songs in any given year yet we rarely scrutinise them for being too similar. There is often a blanket viewpoint of rock songs that they are all alike, which is typically far from the truth. 2021, however, may be the contest that changes some preconceptions of rock at Eurovision.
Two top-ten finishes?
As a member of the ‘Big 5’, Italy has already booked a spot in the final, and according to the odds they are in with a chance to win the contest. A top ten finish should be fairly achievable, but rock songs are notoriously hard to predict when it comes to voting. Finland is in a completely different situation. It must first qualify for the grand final, which they are also likely to do.
Interestingly, in the last three contests, no rock entry has been able to crack the top five. The closest so far has been Ukraine 2017 (24th), Albania 2018 (11th), Netherlands 2018 (18th), and Iceland 2019 (10th), although Hatari were arguably a techno band. Recent history may not be on Italy or Finland’s side this year. However when you look a little bit further back in the contest, plenty of top results are available. You could even argue a rock hit is three years overdue at Eurovision.
Assuming both entries are in the grand final, there is every chance they could receive strong support from televoters. However, the jury votes are where both of these entries could easily come unstuck. As an example, AWS’ hard rock song for Hungary in 2018 received 65 points from televotes, but only 28 points from the juries. A similar story may unfold for Finland and Italy this year, but their entries are arguably more accessible than Viszlát Nyár. Zitti E Buoni, in particular, has been noted this year for its impressive composition and instrumentation.
There is certainly not a saturation of rock entries this year. Both Italy and Finland differentiate themselves enough that both could potentially finish in the top ten. More importantly, they will both be memorable performances, and not just because they are rock songs.