Georgia’s Eurovision journey
Georgia could be considered a ‘new’ country in Eurovision, debuting in 2007 with ‘Visionary Dream’. They managed to qualify right away, getting an 8th place in the largest semi-final in Eurovision history: 28 participants in total! Their good luck streak continued in 2008, when ‘Peace Will Come’ got an impressive 11th place in Belgrade. Moscow 2009 is the only year the country missed out on the contest, due to the controversy surrounding their selected entry ‘We Don’t Wanna Put In’. The caucasus country thankfully returned in the following years, qualifying 5 times between 2010 and 2019.
Georgia always manages to bring a surprising mix of music to the contest! They are not afraid to experiment with different kinds of music and staging, like 2014’s ‘Three Minutes To Earth’ and 2016’s ‘Midnight Gold’ proved. However, they also do not shy away from classic Eurovision ballads, as fans are sure to recall their most successful entry ‘Shine’ in 2010. From dark performances like ‘Warrior’, to rock music with ‘One More Day’, to ethno-jazz with ‘For You’, Georgia has something in store for every Eurovision fan!
In 2019, Oto Nemsadze provided Georgia with their second Eurovision song sung in Georgian. ‘Keep On Going’, also referred to as ‘Sul Tsin Iare’, was given to Oto after he won Georgian Idol, the show that was used to select the Georgian entry. However, this was not Oto’s first attempt at Eurovision: in 2017, he performed in the national final with his band Limbo. Unfortunately, their song ‘Dear God’ ended up in 10th place. His second try proved to be more successful, and he got to perform in the 1st Semi Final in Tel Aviv. In the end, Georgia reached 14th place in the Semi, meaning Oto could not perform his song again in the final.
In my opinion, it is a shame that we did not hear Georgia again the Grand Final. Initially, I was quite neutral about ‘Keep On Going’, which had only been performed on Georgian Idol, with one dancing jury member reminding me of its existence. My opinion changed when I heard it live during Eurovision In Concert in Amsterdam. Oto proved himself to be a fantastic and charismatic live performer, elevating the song with his impressive vocals. The live performance in Tel Aviv was fantastic, the staging perfectly captured the vibe from the song and the backing vocalists added a new layer of mystery. Plus, who doesn’t love singing along to ‘Varada varada’?!
What does the team think?
Georgia is a country that’s very much hit or miss for me at Eurovision. I LOVE “Visionary Dream”, “One More Day”, “Shine”, “Midnight Gold” and “For You”. On the other hand, I’d be eternally grateful if I never had to listen to “The Joker”, “Keep the Faith”, “Peace Will Come” and “Waterfall” ever again. “Warrior” is somewhere in the middle, and “Three Minutes to Earth” is half and half; parts are brilliant, other parts are horrendous!
I love a bit of drama, and also a powerful male voice. Add a language other than English and a song that tells a story and Wiv’s a happy camper. “Keep On Going” ticks all the boxes, but for some reason Wiv’s just a happy’ish camper. I love Oto’s voice, and I really hope we get to hear more of it. I love the dramatic emotions, the Georgian language is sheer beauty and the story this song tells (see Oliver’s comment below) is one that people from many countries can relate to. I think what’s missing for me is a clearer melody that I can sing along to. The anger and despair are just a bit too much “in your face”.
This should be right up my street, but try as I might, I can’t find anywhere to park. Oto’s husky vocals contrast well with the choral backing, the backing track’s production has plenty of atmosphere, but what’s missing? I struggle to get hold of any melody or hook, so to me it makes sense that ‘Sul Tsin Iare’ ended up 14th in its semi. As far as the stage show is concerned, great use of dramatic landscapes on the screens, but I don’t think the smoke jets really work for the performance.
Despite the 3min song length limit, Keep On Going, or Sul tsin iare (სულ წინ იარე) is incredibly intense and packs a lot in. The lyrics are commendable and worth mentioning, including the consistent imagery of barbed wire and occupation. A not so subtle image that resonates not only with Georgia, but historically many countries across Europe and beyond. ‘Varada’, a word repeated throughout refers to a common Georgian folklore refrain, which is borrowed from the Abkhaz language. We often hear comments from casual audiences, fans, commentators, acts and delegations alike about representing a country and culture. Weaving in a narrative of a tireless charge to resist occupation, promote unity alongside specific cultural markers marks the importance of the entry. True, it may not be to everyone’s taste. Yes, it might be a bit ‘much’ or intense of the average viewer. However, much like the barbed wire floating through the stage screen and the doom-laden pyro, Oto becomes the embodiment of so much more than a scoreboard or arbitrary number of points. His voice is really impressive and for all its intensity, he maintains vocal control throughout to narrate the lyrics across the language barrier.
I think it is important to note this is only the second song that is fully in Georgian. This may initially sound trivial, but I think there might be something to be said in terms of linguistic reception and audience response. I wonder how many folks within the fandom are used to hearing Georgian as a language, much less Europe (and Australia) more generally.
Is this my favourite Georgian entry? Probably not. However, I do appreciate it a lot and it added much needed diversity to the roster of 2019 entries. As ever, Georgia should be praised for their innovation and authenticity in the Eurovision Song Contest.
If there is a country that is surely not afraid of daring to show something different and taking risks that is definitely Georgia. I commend them for that, even though results in recent years haven’t exactly been on their side. I will admit that while this song was not on my radar prior to Tel Aviv, it definitely climbed my rankings with the staging. It was cool, expensive yet it also wasn’t trying too hard. I love the fact that they kept the song in Georgian which sounds so good and when a song screams the country it represents, it’s always a plus for me. I can’t say I am surprised it didn’t make the final as it is perhaps too niche, but I still applaud Georgia for this entry.