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Throwback Thursday; Czech this out!

It’s a new year, and we are of course back with more historical moments in our Throwback Thursday feature! We kick off the new year by congratulating the Czech Republic on their 25th anniversary, which they celebrated on January 1st! Dear Czech Republic; it should really have been “your turn”.  

What’s new this year is that, in addition to the escXtra editors giving their opinion, we will also include one external voice that has some sort of connection to the entry of the week. And this week’s guest commentator is, of course, Czech.

The Czech Republic in Eurovision Song Contest

There is no denying that the Czech Republic’s record in Eurovision is, shall we say varied. In their debut year they sent popular rock band Kabat, who however failed to qualify for the final, finishing last in the semi with just one point. The following two years showed Tereza Kerndlova and Gipsy.cz finishing second to last and last in their semis respectively. Consequently, the broadcaster decided to withdraw from the contest. And many of us thought; well, that was that.

Czech Republic
(AP Photo/Martin Meissner)

However, after a surprise comeback in 2015, their results took a turn for the better. They have achieved two near-qualifications by finishing 13th in the semis in 2015 and 2017. And in 2016, Gabriela Guncikova finished 9th in her semi, giving the Czech Republic their first appearance in a Eurovision final. They finished second to last in the final, but still; they were there!!

Martina Bárta – “My Turn”

I almost cried when Marta and Vaclav didn’t qualify in 2015. I celebrated as if I were Czech when Gabriela qualified in Stockholm. And I cried, no almost this time, when Martina failed to reach the final in Kyiv.

I love “My Turn”; it’s just such a “me” song. The jazzy piano rythm, perfectly complementing Martina’s warm, full voice, and the wonderful harmonies in the melody. The beautiful message that I think we can all relate to. And even though I did not love the staging; I still don’t get how it didn’t qualify. Granted, this is the kind of song that might require a few listens to have maximum impact. This might be part of the reason why “My Turn” only received 2 points from the televote. The juries, however, recognized true beauty when they heard it, and placed the Czech Republic in 7th place.

The very first time I heard “My Turn”, I pictured the entire performance in my head. And then, when I saw the video, which had exactly the same atmosphere I had pictured, I got my hopes up. It would be easy to recreate the emotional performance from the video on stage, a performance which could easily have helped build up to a climax that the perfomance in Kyiv completely lacked.

I guess we’ll just have to be grateful they decided not to go with the “eyes”. Not that it made much of a difference in the end.

This week’s guest star

Once upon a time, on a small rock in the middle of the ocean, a group of students from all over the world met and became friends. Among them was a Eurovision obsessed Norwegian, and she managed to talk the rest of them into watching the Eurovision final in 2016. Another of them was a very Eurovision doubtful Czech. At some point during the few hours the final lasted, however, he experienced an awakening, as he fell for the Czech entry, “I Stand”. It’s my great pleasure to introduce Eurovision (kinda) convert, Vitek Opravil!

Vitek; A native’s opinion

I can’t shake off the feeling that “My Turn” was a bad fit. Martina Bárta, even though no one had heard about her in the Czech Republic before (and after) Eurovision, seems to be a great jazz singer. The song itself though doesn’t fit her voice. Most of it is set in this weird semi-whispered low scale which to my ears sounds just bad. This is doubly sad because the chorus and higher ranges are beautifully sung and really show what she is capable of (at least in the video, the live performance didn’t really go well at all). The lyrics are refined and could be read to continue the tradition of mild self-referentiality in terms of Czechia’s path in Eurovision.

However, what I truly find disturbing and why I think the performance utterly failed is Bárta’s peculiar English accent – the palatalised “s” almost sounds like the Czech “š” and other phonemes also don’t sound like any known variety of spoken English. If she had stuck with Czech, I believe she would have done much better.

What the others had to say…

Angelos

I embraced the comeback of the Czech Republic in 2015, and despite failing to qualify with Marta and Václav, which til today is my favorite Czech entry, the Czechs managed to qualify the year after something that made many fans happy. After achieving their best ever placing, hopes were high last year with Martina Bárta, a very component jazz singer. The song is cozy in it’s own little way, but nevertheless not easy to remember. It takes few listenings to get used to it, so in order to make it memorable this requires a strong performance to add that little extra it was lacking to make it stand out among the many slower songs and especially female ballads in Kiev.

For me, this was a borderline qualifier, depending on the live and visual performance. Unfortunately, from the moment I saw the first rehearsals it was clear to me that this wouldn’t be performed a second time in the Grand final. The performance felt lifeless and, pardon my french, the outfit did not look very flattering on Martina.
Hope never dies though for Czech Republic and I am already looking forward to what they will have on offer in 2018.

Matt

I think this song got the place it deserved. Other entries in Kyiv did the more toned down staging much better. Look at Bulgaria’s ‘Beautiful Mess‘ for example. Yes, the two entries are different but Bulgaria’s ‘look and feel’ of the whole package presented on stage is what the Czech Republic could have achieved. Martina is a very good jazz singer and I would have liked to see her sing a song that matches that genre. Overall the entry feels quite lightweight. Nothing is terribly wrong, but nothing is standing out either. Is this the best 3 minutes we could possibly see of Martina? I’m not sure.

Without many voting allies, the Czech Republic need to be clever with their selections and consider how they can grab votes. Ultimately, viewing figures are key, but a few good Eurovision finishes could help broadcaster CT with interest back at home.

Simon

The juries judged “My Turn” on its musicality, and the voting public judged it on its performance, which was, to be polite, oddly constructed. Why the production that doesn’t really give Martina a hope to show off her vocal style in the way the studio version does? And why the bland staging? Also, why that outfit, so detached from the style of the song? Where was the entry’s soul?

Forgive me for being an old git, but I think the Czechs have yet to top 2007 when it comes to their Eurovision entries. Whilst it was ignored by all of Europe except Estonia (thanks for the single point!), the song has something distinctive and energetic to it that I still enjoy. Since their return in 2015, perhaps bitten by the results of Kabat, Tereza Kerndlova and gypsy.cz, they have played far too safe. Good luck Mikolas!

Nick

No matter how lovely Martina’s 2017 effort is, it was a step backwards for the Czechs. Wiv’s right, it is lovely. But chanceless from the moment it saw the light of day. This was not, however, the case in 2015 or 2016. Their return in 2015 is one of my most glorious Eurovision moments in recent history. Marta Jandová is an eternal heroine for me, and that song she delivered – including her shoes being thrown away – was a highlight. The fact that it didn’t win, or even qualify, is a horrifying thought. Hope never dies for the Czech. You could however say Eurovision 2015 died when Marta and Vaclav failed to make it to the final.

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Next week

Next week it’s Vincent’s turn to take you back in time, to yet another historic Eurovision Song Contest performance. He’ll be transporting us back to the mid 90’s to share with you one of his favorite Eurovision entries, and winners.

We would be delighted to hear you guys’ thoughts on our chosen Throwbacks, and also on our opinions! 

 

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