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. 

Cyprus Flag

John Karayiannis – One Thing I Should Have Done

John Karayiannis - One Thing I Should Have Done

John Karayiannis – also known as Giannis Karagiannis – is a Cypriot singer/songwriter from Limmasol. He co-wrote ‘One Thing I Should Have Done’ with Mike Connaris, who also wrote the 2004 Cypriot entry ‘Stronger Every Minute’.

Cyprus marked their return to the contest with a lengthy and frankly over-complicated new selection process that saw a total of fifty-five hopefuls gradually whittled down to a final six by a team of national and foreign experts. The problem with the format was that by forcing the competitors to appeal to a jury of serious-minded music industry types, it whittled out anything potentially quirky and interesting, leaving a competent but bland final six battling for a ticket to Vienna.

It isn’t all bad news though, as on reflection Cyprus have probably made the best choice in crowning John Karayiannis – who seems to have anglicised his name from Giannis Karagiannis since winning – with a gentle acoustic ballad that stands out from everything else chosen so far.

Songs like ‘One Thing I Should Have Done’ are easy to underestimate during the Eurovision build-up stage, as they don’t exactly scream showstopper. But you need only look at the success of artists like Tom Dice and ByeAlex to see that a subtle approach can be surprisingly effective.

Cyprus may also be remembering the last time they really did well at the contest – with Lisa Andreas in 2004. Her ‘Stronger Every Minute‘ was another low-key ballad that put the focus squarely on the vocals, and she was rewarded with a fifth-place finish, still the best Cypriot showing ever.

Karayiannis is a somewhat diffident performer, but like Andreas he has a strong and attractive voice. There’s a moment in the live version of ‘One Thing I Should Have Done’ where the music drops out and leaves him singing a few lines acapella. Moments like this can really catch the attention of viewers and jurors alike, with the added bonus that it gives a sense of momentum to the end of the song – when the music comes back in – without having to resort to a flashy key change or a glory note, which would be totally out of place on a song like this.

Safe bets are few and far between at Eurovision, and there’s a lot that could go wrong here – Cyprus have few reliable voting neighbours (aside from Greece, who are in the other semi-final), and if Karayiannis fails to connect with the cameras or delivers a sub-par vocal this could very easily get lost. But if everything comes together as it should, this could give the Cypriots their best result in many years.