This country never scored televoting in a Eurovision final (but is now top favourite)

Ever since its first participation in 2007, Czech Republic is one of the “ugly ducklings” of the Eurovision family. The country even withdrew from the competition in 2010 due to bad results and lack of public interest. This year, however, the middle European nation suddenly seems one of the top favorites in Eurovision 2018.

It must be a strange sensation both for bookmakers and for die-hard Eurovision fans. Even though the Czech results have slightly improved since its return in 2015, they only reached the Grand Final once (and scored 0 points in televoting there). This year, however, Czech Republic is on top of everyone’s list. Of course, Israel currently tops the list with Netta Barzilai and her song “Toy”, but behind her, Czech Republic is battling “Opera Estonia” for second place.

Causing all this hysteria is Mikolas Josef, a 22-year old hiphop singer with a background in the modelling industry. Coming from a family full of musicians, Mikolas Josef played the guitar since he was five years old. After scoring big hits in Czech Republic with his songs “Free” and “Believe”, he moved to Vienna to further work on his career. This is also where he composed and wrote his Eurovision song “Lie to me”.

Mikolas Josef – Lie to me (Czech Republic’s Eurovision 2018 hit song):

“Lie to me” is a cheerful hiphop pop song, with rap in the verses and a saxophone in the chorus. It could easily become a hit radio song and during the Ukranian national final, Mikolas Josef has demonstrated he can carry the song live. However, the question remains how the song will look live on stage. There is a reason the small country Czech Republic and its broadcaster CT have never had big Eurovision successes before.

Czech Republic in Eurovision: not a success story

The first three Czech Eurovision songs (“Malá Dáma”, “Have Some Fun” and “Aven Romale”) all got stuck in the semi finals, scoring no more than 10 points combined (!). After this, broadcaster CT took a well-understood break. Money does not grow on trees and taking part in the contest, especially if you want to reach for a top result, can be an expensive endeavour.

In the build-up to the 2015 contest in Vienna, all focus was on Australia’s inclusion in the participation field. Just when criticism arose that EBU should have put more energy in bringing former participants back, CT announced that Czech Republic would return to the Eurovision Song Contest! Marta Jandová and Václav Noid Bárta sang the song “Hope Never Dies” in ViennaThe duet did not reach the final, however, with a 13th place in the semi final and 33 points, it felt like a moral victory for CT.

Gabriela Guncikova Czech Republic Eurovision 2016Gabriela Gunčíková brings Czech Republic to its first ever Eurovision final

The real breakthrough came in 2016. Broadcaster CT had learned from the 2015 experience. With Gabriela Gunčíková and her classical ballad “I stand”, they chose an entry that they could stage with limited financial funds. All they need was a beautiful dress, a classy backdrop and Gabriela’s voice would take care of the rest.

Head of Delegation Jan Bors told ESCDaily: “We are breaking the way of thinking. Eurovision is not popular in Czech Republic because we are not successful. But if we can reach the final this year, everything can change.” As we now know, Bors was right. Even though Gabriela Gunčíková received 0 points from televoters in the Grand Final, public interest in her home nation peeked like never before.

Can the Czech’s afford a Eurovision winning performance?

The story of “I stand” shows extremely smart and creative thinking of a broadcaster with limited funds. Head of Delegation Jan Bors got what he wanted: the image of Eurovision improved in the Czech Republic. This led to one of their biggest youngsters, Mikolas Josef, wanting to take part in a national final.

However, now that the Czechs are top favorite, one big question mark remains. Can the Czechs afford to stage “Lie to me” well enough for Eurovision victory?

Staging a classical ballad in order to reach the Grand Final – that’s one thing. But this year, a much bigger and more expensive act might be needed. All eyes will therefore be on Mikolas Josef when he rehearses for the first time on the Eurovision 2018 stage in Lisbon.