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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Armenia: Genealogy – Face the Shadows

Genealogy - Face The Shadow | Eurovision 2015 Armenia

Genealogy is a group specially formed for Eurovision, made up of five international performers of Armenian descent, and Yerevan native Inga Arshakyan, who represented the country alongside her sister Anush in 2009 with ‘Jan Jan’.

As much as the allegation that Eurovision voting is more political than musical is a tired and inaccurate stereotype, there’s no denying that neighbourly and diaspora voting does give certain competitors a head start. With sizeable communities living in virtually every other European country, Armenia certainly fall into the category of nations who will probably never be in any real danger of scoring the dreaded null points.

If you’re aware of a built-in advantage, it would be foolish not to exploit it,  and Armenia have proven more willing than most to find ways to motivate their emigrant community – some subtle, some less so. ‘Face The Shadow’ is possibly even more overt in this regard than their previous patriotic watermark ‘Apricot Stone‘, collecting six popular artists of Armenian descent, five of whom were born and raised outside the country, to sing a song that may or may not be about the Armenian genocide – which just happens to have taken place exactly 100 years ago this April.

There’s nothing new about peace songs with a fairly obvious political context of course – Isreal’s ‘There Must Be Another Way‘ in 2009 for example was no more subtle than this is. But ‘Face The Shadows’  feels curiously confrontational and heavy handed for a Eurovision song, and without the context (which the Armenian delegation – naturally but somewhat ironically – deny) it’s hard to see who it’s supposed to appeal to, because all politics aside the actual song is a complete mess.

Writing a coherent three minute pop song for six very different and distinctive voices is a tall order, and the artists on Face The Shadows never come close to gelling successfully. The result is a song that feels clunky, piecemeal and in places horribly shrill, particularly during a final minute that pushes the song into genuine train wreck territory, with all the disparate vocal styles clashing horribly over a crowbarred-in duduk instrumental that appears to come out of nowhere.

Armenia have a lot of strong allies in their semi, both from near neighbours and countries like France who almost always give them high marks. For that reason, despite the terrible draw, I suspect the juries will have to really mark them down to keep them out of the finals. If they do sneak over the finish line, whoever winds up in eleventh can justifiably feel very aggrieved, because this is the worst Armenian entry in years. A noble idea perhaps, but one deserving of a much more competent delivery.