Three-Minute Throwdown: Australia Edition

Following the analyses of the Czech and Latvian national final songs, we now turn to Australia, who will be selecting their song early in the weekend. Following the pattern established from the three analysis articles on Duncan Laurence’s song “Arcade”, the potential Australian entries will undergo analysis of mainly production and music theory aspects. Due to the business of the national season, the author is only permitted to hit the pause button; no rewinding or replay will be allowed for the national final season unless the song was internally selected or already chosen. Without further ado, let us begin!

Note: this will be written in a stream of consciousness style.

Vanessa Amorosi – Lessons of Love

Preliminary thoughts: SBS and Eurovision promotional material dub her an “icon”. Wikipedia calls her a singer/songwriter who has experience in many varied genres. I am guessing that this would be pop to some extent, though there is a real chance that other genres may influence her singing style and maybe even create a hybrid in the musical backdrop.

A minor, piano-heavy (at the beginning) EDM power ballad – thinking “We are More” (Malta JESC 2019, Eliana Gomez Blanco) but with piano more in an audible, non-muddy range (higher piano sound in frequency and more movement). Off-beat snaps behind clearly auto-tuned vocals. I think the Autotune is meant to be an effect in this context, but live vocals are the name of the Eurovision game, and I don’t know how Amorosi will sound without the effect. Some applied chords/secondary dominants. There’s a D major chord that leads to a G major chord. The D major chord is non-diatonic – it uses notes that are not in the key of A minor (specifically the F♯ in the D major chord). As explained in the third article on “Arcade” linked above, however, there is a sort of V-I relationship between the D and G major chords. Since G major is not the key (A minor is), the V-I motion is localized and secondary to a V-i (lowercase for a minor chord) in A minor. Indeed, I’ve probably listened 20+ seconds further from there at this point (on pause), and the next chords were (from memory) E and then Am (A minor chord), which is the V-i motion that was being sought. That portion has chords F D | G E/G♯ | Am …, if I remember correctly. Another thing that comes to mind is that the chords have common tones between them. F and D share the note A, D and G share the note D, G and E/G♯ (G♯ is in the bass) share the note B, an E/G♯ and Am share the note E. In order for these chromatic chords to still emanate a sense of connectedness, the common tones were necessary.

The melody centers around the note C outside of the verses, suggesting C major, though like “Teenage Dream” (Katy Perry), I don’t remember hearing the major chord associated with the suggested key (according to melody). The instability propels both songs forward until the very end, when the song uses a ritardando (slowing down) to close.

Montaigne – Don’t Break Me

Note: the video above is not available for viewing in most of the Balkan Peninsula, Moldova, Cuba, much of Africa, and much of Asia, among other assorted countries and territories such as Greenland. This link will work worldwide wherever YouTube is available.

Preliminary thoughts: Montaigne has been dubbed an “art pop” auteur, and short thematic discussion mentions going through the breakdown of a toxic relationship. I’m guessing this may be a ballad or something similar to what was on Loreen’s album Heal, which had many lyrics describing toxic relationship experiences.

F minor, dark sound. Electric guitar is playing yet another tresillo rhythm (3+3+2 counting). Pentatonic melody. Would be nice to hear more high-end, but definitely a ballad with trap-like hi-hat cymbals (small paired cymbals with short, higher-frequency sounds). In the second half of the choruses, the instruments cut out for two beats (I am counting this song in half-time feel, meaning the snare hits on every third beat of four), only to come back in after the sub-bass glides to its destination note. Nice change in instrumental layering keeps the song fresh throughout.

Didirri – Raw Stuff

Preliminary thoughts: Didirri calls the song one he almost gave up on, learning to process life and to be vulnerable with those close to us, if my interpretation is correct. I am thinking something similar to “Don’t Come Easy” right now, though the “alternative artist” description leaves room for flexibility.

This is in D♭ major, again one of my favorite keys. This isn’t the first piano song in this list, which might also be a reflection on what song won last year’s contest. The chord progression at the beginning, I5/3-♭6/4 (D♭ – G♭m/D♭ without added tones), is also found in songs such as “Song to the Moon (La Luna)” as composed by Z Randall Stroope and “World on Fire” by Trading Yesterday (defunct group headed by an ex-member of Evanescence). The pedal 6/4 chord, written as a G♭m/D♭ (fifth, D♭, in bass), sounds relatively unstable and gravitates strongly towards the more stable D♭ chord. The B♭♭ (double-flat, sounds like the note A) in the G♭m/D♭ chord falls outside the key of D♭ major and thus drives an instability far stronger than the pedal 6/4 within the first two chords of songs like “Det säger ingenting om oss” by Lisa Nilsson, where all notes are diatonic to the key (uses notes normally inside the key). Beautiful piano ballad and orchestration after the first chorus. Pedal D♭6 in the violin part – would sound stunning with a live orchestra. Based on the lack of bow attack heard, I think it’s synthesized, though quite pristine-sounding.

Jaguar Jonze – Rabbit Hole

Preliminary thoughts: SBS describes Jonze as a “multimedia artist”. Perhaps that means that music is not her only creative outlet. This song is about her journey with complex PTSD in the same way that “Zero Gravity” dealt with Kate Miller-Heidke’s postpartum depression. Will voters gravitate towards discussions of once-stigmatized conditions?

A minor. I was expecting the song to be slower based on the first two guitar strums, and then the drums and bass came in. Spaghetti western guitar sound – reverb, tremolo, slight distortion. This is nothing like “Zero Gravity”, going for a more pop-rock ethos, similar to a blending of The Strokes, twenty one pilots, and Lisa Miskovsky’s song “Got a Friend“. Her acting within the music video and singing complements a frenetic vibe from the instrumentals. The increasingly distorted vocals in the bridge feed into this energy. Complex PTSD is no laughing matter (speaking as a friend of someone with such a history), and this is an artful take on the mental disorder.

Jack Vidgen – I Am King I Am Queen

Preliminary thoughts: Vidgen won Australia’s Got Talent in 2011 as a teenager, after which death threats and related difficulties led him to burnout. He returned as a coach for Guy Sebastian’s team on The Voice in 2019. Based on the single cover and title, this could be a self-affirmative anthem.

Somehow another piano ballad beginning the song. G major. Off-tonic beginning (begins with C). Could be nice to hear more harmonizations before the chorus. Would probably have used a B major chord instead of a B minor chord somewhere in that chorus and slightly more dynamic range in the backing choir in the chorus. Predominantly pentatonic melody. A major chord piqued interest in the bridge. No drums and a B5 note from him, solid vocals. Hope it stays during live shows.

Jordan-Ravi – Pushing Stars

Preliminary thoughts: 19-year-old singer-songwriter Jordan-Ravi was eliminated from America’s Got Talent during the judge cut rounds in 2019; however, his eclectic taste and skill set has not left him unnoticed. Written by an Australian-Swedish songwriting team and enhanced by the artist himself, this could be an interesting mix of standard Eurovision fare and the artist’s unique musical experiences.

A♭ major song. The bass drum rhythm and vocal line at the beginning reminded me vaguely of “You’ll Be in My Heart” from Tarzan. Rhythmically active and bassy bass. The B♭to D♭ to A♭ major took me by surprise in the chorus. Given the overall sound of the song, this song’s chorus chord progression can be taken a lot less flippantly than Cee Lo Green’s 2010 hit “F*** You”. The guitar sound is very distinctive, possibly a bit tinny in sound. Nice, organic mix between the band instruments and the orchestral layering, particularly at the ends of the choruses. Maybe a bit noodly in the guitar in the bridge. Rhythm could stand to be a bit more emphasized, perhaps by adding snare drum parts.

Diana Rouvas – Can We Make Heaven

Preliminary thoughts: Singer-songwriter Diana Rouvas won the 2019 season of The Voice for which the aforementioned Jack Vidgen was coach. According to Rouvas, the lyrical themes may frame empowerment and other markers of positivity as a choice. In discussing the song, Rouvas reflected upon the united effort of Australians on recovery after the bushfire catastrophe.

That was a hell of a chord journey to get to the G major chord that sounds most at home: Am G/B C D Em D/F♯ G. The less-syncopated rhythms in the chorus really contrasts with in particular the piano part in the verses. Were the verses the hell to the chorus heaven? The question seems answered within the lack of syncopation; it would sound much less settled with more rhythmic tension (syncopation) in the chorus. Nice gospel-like backing vocals, however.


Preliminary thoughts: Glam rock star and entertainer iOTA has been seen worldwide on screen as the orchestra leader in The Great Gatsby and the Doof Warrior in Mad Max: Fury Road. His personality seems big, and he’s singing about life. This could be a bombastic combination.

Piano again. A major. 6/8 time. Thinking Sigur Rós meets a bit more adrenaline and a brass band. I don’t think I can watch this – I get motion sick. Simple, straightforward organic, but uplifting and to the point. Oh no, I’ve been mooned! Thankfully there was a stoppage of that hot pink shaky cam thing that was making me actively uncomfortable – it wasn’t his fault, though.

Mitch Tambo – Together

Preliminary thoughts: Tambo has been dubbed a rising First Nations artist and was a 2019 Australia’s Got Talent finalist. His identity as a First Nations member shows within his artistry – headwear, paint, and language usage all suggest this, and he covered John Farnham’s “You’re the Voice” in the Gamilaraay language, a language that has undergone revitalization efforts after only 35 speakers were left in 2006 according to the Australian census. The surviving remnants of the language blends Gamilaraay terminology with the prevailing English, though some researchers may be attempting to piece together an approximation of the original form, according to Ethnologue. By background alone, Tambo seems likely to bring something new to the table just as duo Electric Fields did in 2019.

DIDGERIDOO IN D MAJOR! Piano returns again. Nice to hear something more than English sometimes. C – G – D, for example at 1:00, gives a Mixolydian mode sound (D Mixolydian contains notes D E F♯ G A B C). The Mixolydian double plagal sound was also featured in John Farnham’s “You’re the Voice”. Melismatic “(a)-lone” in the second chorus. This is a rangy song – he sings consecutive words with frequencies relatively far away from each other. The color scheme is reminding me of Jessica Mauboy’s song’s staging. Final chorus beginning with piano could do well with more dynamic range in vocals – he doesn’t have to belt the entire thing.

Casey Donovan – Proud

Note: Most of the same restrictions to Montaigne’s song also apply here. The song is available via YouTube Music and other services found here.

Preliminary thoughts: the winner of the second season of Australian Idol, Casey Donovan is back in the music spotlight for more. This seems to be another self-affirmatory song, just like the Macedonian song that won the jury’s hearts in 2019. The minimalist portrait sketch juxtaposed with text and a microphone on the album cover could suggest a no-nonsense approach to the song or even something that may sound relatively old-school, given the Elvis-style microphone and cable.

G♭ major. Much more subdued and modern than anticipated, and the piano is back! Am thinking cinematic orchestra à la Adele’s “Skyfall” except uplifting and not Bond-related. The orchestration might bring back undertones of orchestral pop, but the recording fidelity far outpaces the chronological origins of the genre. Reminds me of 90’s film classics like “Can You Feel the Love Tonight” (Elton John, The Lion King), “My Heart Will Go On” (Céline Dion, Titanic), “I Believe I Can Fly” (R. Kelly, Space Jam). The transition into the final chorus is huge, between the drums, the descant part Donovan sings above the backing singers’ melody. It fits with the song’s title, though much less restrained in its delivery.

Of these ten songs, which one do you favor most to win the selection? The representative will be decided by a combination of public and jury vote, the latter group including that of Swedish 2015 winner Måns Zelmerlöw. The show will be broadcast live at 19:30 AEST (10:30 CET) on SBS.

Source: SBS

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