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.

Belgium Flag

Belgium: Loïc Nottet – Rhythm Inside

Loïc Nottet - Rhythm Inside | Eurovision 2015 Belgium

18 year old Loïc Nottet hails from Courcelles, in the French-speaking Wallonia region of Belgium. He co-wrote Rhythm Inside with Luuk Cox, Shameboy and Beverlo Jo Scott.

In a recent interview, 18 year old Loïc Nottet confessed that he hadn’t been aware that ABBA competed at Eurovision. This would doubtless be the cause of much outraged tutting among seasoned Eurofans, but – while ignorance should never be celebrated – there is something cheering about the thought of a generation of artists coming to the contest with none of the preconceptions that were solidified in the seventies and eighties.

A finalist on The Voice Belgique, Nottet’s own taste runs more towards boundary-nudging current pop stars such as Sia – who approvingly tweeted his cover of her hit Chandelier out to her 1.3 million followers – and Lorde. If those two pop stars were ever to collaborate, the result might not sound unlike Rhythm Inside, which rides an offbeat, finger-snapping verse very much in the Lorde vein, before exploding into a behemoth of a chorus that could match Chandelier for power and volume.

This is very much the sound of pop music in 2015, but fortunately Nottet is able to put enough of his own stamp on it to avoid sounding like a Cascada-esque opportunist. His voice is tremendously powerful, but also edgy and unwieldy in the way that only young and untrained voices tend to be. The lingering traces of his French accent add to the song’s a quirky charm – particularly on the ‘rap-pap-pap’ pre-chorus, which cleverly provides listeners with a second memorable hook.

Belgium are an inconsistent qualifier, and on paper they’re easily in the tougher of the two semi finals. Looking back over Nottet’s Voice Belgique performances, his lack of technique can work against him, and there’s a lot that can go wrong on a song that’s so heavily dependent on his vocal. The Belgian team would be wise to forgo dancers (who wouldn’t suit this kind of song anyway) and recruit a team of reliable, powerful backing singers who can complement and bolster Nottet’s performance. If they can put together a package that’s as fresh and inspiring as this song, and everything comes together when it counts, I see this as a genuine contender for the win.