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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Austria: The Makemakes – I Am Yours

The Makemakes - I Am Yours | Eurovision 2015 Austria

The Makemakes won the Austrian national final with a whopping 78% of the last-round votes. I Am Yours subsequently shot up to #2 in the Austrian charts.

In light of their rather dismal pre-Conchita record, a pre-qualified Austria at the Eurovision finals is still a fairly mind-boggling concept. It also presents their broadcaster with an interesting challenge. The past few winners – Denmark, Sweden, Azerbaijan – all felt like the product of a consistently strong approach to the contest. Conchita’s success feels much more anomalous to the overall quality level of Austrian entries. In her wake, the country can either slide back into mediocrity, or take the opportunity to raise their game.

To their credit, the early signs are good. Having internally selected Conchita and given her free reign to source a suitable song, this year the National Finals were brought back, but in a distinctly new format that focused strongly on live performance and quality songwriting, all with the aim of uncovering the perfect package to avoid a home-ground humiliation.

That package comes in the form of The Makemakes, already an established group who achieved domestic success with their singles ‘The Lovercall‘ and ‘Million Euro Smile‘. The National Final paired them with Award winning songwriter Jimmy Harry, who has written hits for Madonna, P!nk and Kelly Clarkson among others. The result of this collaboration is ‘I Am Yours‘, a song that may lack the dramatic power of Rise Like a Phoenix‘, but nevertheless stands as one of Austria’s most polished, competitive entries ever.

It’s not the most original piece of music in the world – the vaguely bluesy piano-soul sound could have come from any number of singer-songwriter types past and present – a touch of Hozier, a sprinkling of Jason Mraz, a shot of Coldplay, plus a hefty dose of Hey Jude/Maybe I’m Amazed era Paul McCartney. But because it sounds like all of those artists, it also sounds both timeless and entirely suitable for the charts and radio stations all over Europe. It’s the kind of solid, credible entry that could do well in any year without sounding dated or gimmicky.

It’s highly unlikely that Austria will win the contest twice in a row, but they should be safe from embarrassing themselves here. There’s a musicality and – dare I say it – authenticity to this that should help it to stand out enough even in a ballad-heavy year to secure an upper mid-table finish with the potential to go even higher. From the country that once brought us Trackshittaz, that’s a major step in the right direction.