This year, Belgium will be represented by the young, 18-year-old Eliot, with his song Wake Up. But, before we get into the entry itself, it’s important to understand its place in recent Belgian Eurovision history...
In recent years, Belgium has had a solid record in Eurovision, finishing Top 10 in three of the past four years. The nation itself has two broadcasters who alternate Eurovision duties from year to year. Currently, every even year is the Flemish speaking broadcaster VRT, and every odd year is the French speaking RTBF. This is really important in relation to this year’s entry, because RTBF have had more success in their song and staging choices for the competition. RTBF's last three entries, Love Kills, Rhythm Inside and City Lights, have finished 12th, 4th and 4th respectively, compared to VRT having a non-qualifier, a 10th place, and a second non-qualifier, in the alternate years.
In 2019, RTBF have decided to go down a similar route as 2017, using the same composer in Pierre Dumoulin, and opting for a young, relatively inexperienced performer, who made the live rounds of ‘The Voice Belgique’, but went home early.
Now let’s start off by saying, this is no City Lights but nonetheless it’s a rather impressive entry.
Wake Up opens with a dark 80's synth instrumental, which immediately grabs me by my rolled up suit jacket and leg warmers. Eliot’s relatively high pitched vocal comes in and combines well with the building atmosphere of the first verse. The song is taking us on a journey, and I feel I’m in a restored 80's Pontiac Firebird, driving the streets at night (I’m obviously wearing sunglasses and a leather jacket), heading for a pretty exciting and possibly dangerous destination. It reminds me of the soundtrack to the 2011 movie, Drive, about a Hollywood stunt driver who works a second job as a getaway driver. The film has a soundtrack heavily synth-inspired, and this is the world Eliot has me in.
So by the time the chorus arrives I am READY to be blown away!
When we get there, unfortunately that chorus is a little like Belgium itself - pleasant and a little flat. It lacks the dark atmosphere of the verses, and suddenly that dangerous and moody world I was living in has turned into a pretty simplistic "teen romcom", fighting for the girl (or boy) in a relationship gone wrong. Singing “I came to fight. I came to fight over you…”, it’s hardly original.
The second verse kicks in and I’m relieved to be back on the streets. I realise just how quickly we’re cruising along - Wake Up comes in at around 145 beats per minute which is really quite up there. A faster BPM than Slovenia or Israel last year, and on par with Zoe’s L’oin d’ici from 2016.
The song, and our journey, reaches its final destination, detouring via a really strong bridge that actually builds up to a more climatic, and effective rendition of the chorus. Like a third glass of Leffe, the more I have of the chorus, the more I find merit in it, and I really start to enjoy it.
There’s a couple of important things working for this entry in terms of the atmosphere it delivers, and the team behind it. This entry will live and die with its staging. The chorus could really elevate "live" in Tel Aviv, and with this team, I believe it will. Do remember, City Lights was saved in 2017 from potential disaster with simple, but effective staging for a slightly terrified young performer. I think Eliot’s ‘The Voice’ experience will have him performing this well. The staging will be effective, and many elements of the song will be eaten up by the jury, and hopefully garner some public affection. Unfortunately, its weak points may keep it from hitting the heights of Blanche or Loic’s efforts of recent years.
Overall, I’m absolutely in love with every aspect of Wake Up. It's just the chorus, as pleasant and enjoyable as it is, that drops it from being my number one song, thus far, to a lower top five position. Belgium has somehow managed to make a modern 80's song, without it being retro or dated. It’s a solid effort from them, and I can see this qualifying comfortably, but finishing around the mid to lower Top 10, at best.
Now where’s my fourth Leffe?