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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Australia: Guy Sebastian – Tonight Again

Guy Sebastian - Tonight Again | Eurovision 2015 Australia

Guy Sebastian won the first series of Australian Idol in 2003, and has since scored 12 top ten singles and sold over 3.7 million records in Australia. He has also appeared as a judge on X Factor Australia.

If local news reports are any indication, the news that Australia was set to make a ‘guest’ participation in Eurovision 2015 was greeted with as much bemusement among the Australian public as it did many European viewers. The SBS team’s commitment to joining the contest has been impressive – now they face the dual challenge of justifying their position not just to a sceptical European audience, but to their own viewers as well.

The presence of Guy Sebastian is a major coup in this regard. Although relatively unknown in Europe, he’s a massive star on home turf having won the first series of Australian Idol and gone on to multi-platinum recording success. His presence sends out a strong message that Australia intend to take this seriously, and sets a high standard for any entrants that might follow in his footsteps (the official line is still that this is a one-off, but I’m pretty sceptical).

Tonight Again was written specially for the contest by Sebastian, but it’s very much in the style his fans will be accustomed to; a funky slice of uptempo RnB soul that provides plenty of space for him to showcase his impressive vocal chops. The obvious point of comparison is Bruno Mars – the two singers have very similar voices – but Sebastian is comfortable enough in this material that it doesn’t read as pastiche in the way that Denmark’s entry last year did.

The best thing that can be said about this entry is that it doesn’t feel like a self-conscious ‘Eurovision song’. It’s well calibrated for contest success – toe-tapping chorus, plenty of hooks and opportunities for audience participation, an on record ‘live’ feel that should translate well to a big stage – but it also feels like a hit record in its own right, and one that will have a life outside of the contest for Sebastian. It’ll do well, and perhaps more importantly, it’s something the Australians can be unambiguously proud of. Not everyone may not agree with their presence here, but if this is an indication of the standard we could expect from them in the future, I’d welcome them as a permanent participant without hesitation.