Conchita Wurst, Austria’s selection for the Eurovision Song Contest, will sing “Rise Like a Phoenix” in Copenhagen. Will Europe be talking about the Bond-inspired track or the singer’s persona?
Frankly, I’m a little surprised Bond themes and the Eurovision Song Contest haven’t had much, if any, overlap. Both are bombastic, both have non-sensical tendencies, and both generate a reaction regardless of goofiness. Though “Rise Like a Phoenix” by Austria’s Conchita Wurst is not officially a Bond theme, the song shares at least 007 characteristics with songs from the franchise. Take a listen:
The song isn’t that bad—a little over the top, but what power ballad isn’t? Austria selected Conchita Wurst quite early though did not debut the song until a few days ago. There has obviously been a lot of work put into this song, and I think it pays off. The lyrics are clear, the orchestration is top-notch, and Conchita delivers a strong vocal. Although a live performance has not been provided yet, Conchita was the runner-up in Austria’s selection in 2012 and ably delivered a strong ballad in that year’s superfinal.
The biggest obstacle for Austria will be how Conchita Wurst is received throughout the rest of Europe. Although the Contest has a large gay following1, it does not mean Eurovision exists in a post-LGBT space. There was a significant amount of transphobia expressed on Twitter during Dana International’s performance in 2011. It will be interesting to see how Conchita is discussed in Eurovision circles leading up to May. Conchita exists at a point on the gender spectrum that does not fit well in linguistic binaries, and concepts may get lost in translation. For example, I have avoided using pronouns in this entry because I am not sure which pronouns are appropriate.2 I appreciate that Conchita is bringing these challenges to the forefront and I am excited to see how Europe reacts.
The song is strong enough to get Austria out of its recent Eurovision slump, and Conchita will make the second semi-final something to talk about.