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.

Czech Republic Flag

Czech Republic: Marta Jandová and Václav Noid Bárta – Hope Never Dies

Marta Jandová & Václav Noid Bárta - Hope Never Dies | Eurovision 2015 Czech Republic

Marta Jandová is well known in central Europe as the lead singer of German alternative metal band Die Happy. Václav Noid Bárta is a singer, songwriter and actor who has performed extensively in theatre and musical productions.

To label any country ‘the worst Eurovision nation ever’ is a fairly bold statement, but the Czech Republic’s brief, lamentable run of entries from 2007 to 2009 would certainly mark them out as a strong contender for the title. Scoring a grand total of 10 points in total – 9 of which came from their 2008 entry – whatever the magic formula is for Eurovision success, the Czech’s failed spectacularly to capture it.

Somewhat understandably, the country pulled out in 2010 – after their 2009 entry achieved the ultimate indignity of scoring nul points in the semi finals. With five years of silence and minimal interest (or, it seems, comprehension) from the Czech public, few expected them to return. But credit to the EBU who seem to have worked doggedly with Czech TV to bring the country back into the fold for 2015.

Clearly, this comeback is only going to be sustainable if the Czechs are able to acquit themselves with a little more dignity than their previous efforts, so it’s little surprise that Hope Never Dies – carefully selected by a specially commissioned panel of experts – is a far cry from the bewildering likes of Malá Dáma and Aven Romale

A tasteful rock ballad with a liberal sprinkling of musical theatre and just a hint of eastern mysticism, this is a song that feels tailor made for the contest. Marta Jandová and Václav Noid Barta are both singers with international pedigree, and their powerful, rock-tinged vocals complement each other well. Crucially, they should both be comfortable performing at a large-scale live event without coming painfully unstuck. In short, everything about this entry feels carefully studied and delivered with total professionalism.

All of this feels like the right route for the Czechs to take if they want to have a future in this contest, and it’s difficult to find any glaring faults with either the approach or the end product. And yet, there’s something about Hope Never Dies that just isn’t connecting. It feel a little too tasteful, too careful not to offend, alienate or embarrass, and consequently it doesn’t leave much of an impression when it’s over. It also feels slightly dated – like a Croatian entry that would have come 11th in 2005.

For all that, there is a good song here, and the delivery is more than competent enough to give them a strong chance of their first ever double-figure points total. That it’s the best Czech entry to date by far goes without saying. But I’m just not quite sure it makes enough of an impact to push them into the finals. Which would be a huge shame, because they’ve obviously worked hard on this. At this point, a solid borderline entry that may rely on a striking performance and audience goodwill to carry it over the finish line.