First Listen Review attempts to capture my first impressions of the year’s Eurovision entries as and when they’re released. My opinion is liable to change as certain songs grow on me or get revamped, but based on the principle that most listeners will only hear each entry once (or twice) before voting, hopefully it’ll provide some insight.

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Azerbaijan: Elnur Hüseynov – Hour of the Wolf

Elnur Hüseynov - Hour of the Wolf | Eurovision 2015 Azerbaijan

After his success at Eurovision 2008, Elnur Hüseynov appeared in a number of stage productions before claiming victory on the fourth season of The Voice of Turkey at the end of 2014.

Elnur Hüseynov was last seen as half of Azerbaijan’s first ever Eurovision entry Day After Day. You may remember it as the one with the screaming falsetto angel (Elnur) duetting with the hirsute gothic devil. It was a mind-boggling cacophony that surely ranks among the top five or so strangest Eurovision entries of the twenty-first century, if not ever.

It was also the first, last and only Azerbaijani entry to date to be composed by a native – the country having since relied on foreign songwriters to provide more professional, broadly appealing Eurovision packages. It’s a tactic that’s served them well – every subsequent entry up until last year’s Start The Fire placed within the top five, including a win in 2011.

On the other hand, it does mean their entries tend to have a slightly cold, clinical quality. There’s no such thing as an Azerbaijani ‘sound’ to be found in their entries – give or take the odd Balaban solo – because their entries don’t come from any kind of musical heritage, and are designed to appeal to the broadest possible audience. They’re not the only country to be guilty of this, but they’re probably the country whose collection of entries have the least to say about who they are as a people.

Hour of the Wolf is another very professional song that any country would be proud to have as an entry. It has a dramatic, soul-stirring chorus, a powerful and committed vocal performance from Hüseynov (no screeching this time), and it feel tailor made for a momentous live performance. The chorus of voices in the final minute may be difficult to recreate, but there’s no question that the Azeri team will put together a highly impressive stage show, complete with a visual memorable gimmick to stick in the viewer’s minds.

In short, it does everything that it should and everything you’d expect. Azerbaijan are consistently one of the strongest performers at the contest, and in many ways they deserve all their success. I just wish their entries had a little bit more heart and soul beneath the glossy exterior. This is another entry that’s easy to admire, but somehow difficult to love.