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Azerbaijan: Samra – Miracle

Samra - Miracle | Eurovision 2016 Azerbaijan

21-year-old Samra Rahimli competed on The Voice of Azerbaijan before being internally selected to carry their Eurovision hopes for 2016.

Say what you like about Azerbaijan – and many do – it’s hard to deny that when it comes to crafting a ruthlessly effective Eurovision package, this is a team that knows what works. While their methods of selection have varied, with final result is usually the same – a slick, Swedish-penned pop number fronted by a photogenic local star and featuring a visually striking stage show. The only exceptions have been their oddball 2008 debut and their languid 2014 effort, which was also a Swedish production despite the more low-key vibe.

That song crashed out in 22nd, and last year’s Hour of the Wolf also underperformed slightly, just barely scraping through the semi finals on the way to a modest 12th place finish. However, any speculation – that having won and hosted the competition in 2012 -Azerbaijan were beginning to lose interest in Eurovision, should be obliterated by Miracle, an enormous return to form that could be very, very competitive in Stockholm.

Fronted by The Voice of Azerbaijan competitor Samra Rahimli and penned by a crack Swedish (of course) songwriting team of Amir Aly, Jakke “T.I Jakke” Erixson and Henrik Wikström, Miracle is a towering pop anthem that sounds like a Demi Lovato track with shades of former Nordic national finalists Heart Shaped Hole and Survivor ramping the Swedish factor up to eleven.

All in all, this is practically tailor made to be one of the big fan favourites of 2016. But can it go further than that? Some reservations apply – there’s a faceless quality to the song that might hamper viewers from truly buying into it. Based on clips from her time on The Voice Samra is also an inconsistent live vocalist at best. However, on the plus side her English-language diction is among the best ever heard from an Azeri entrant, and there’s little doubt that the team will come up with a lavish, memorable stage show, with plenty of room for shadowy ‘backing’ vocalists to take care of the heavy lifting on her behalf.

Qualification prospects

Near certain. With an instantly appealing hook and a modern, aggressive production this feels more tailored for victory than the rather dated Russian effort, and should sweep through the semi final without difficulty. It’s not inconceivable that the two traditional old friends of the east could find themselves battling out at the top of the leaderboard during the finals as well. However, it’s equally possible that they could cancel each other out, clearing the way for a more low-key competitor to push ahead for the win. Either way, this is Azerbaijan at their most competitive, and a strong indication that they still have the hunger to make a return to Baku in the next few years a prospect worth betting on…