My top 5 songs from…Azerbaijan

We’re now onto my third edition of this page, and perhaps that is not so surprising given that Azerbaijan have but a dozen songs to choose from, each year it means their latest entry has more of a chance of making it onto my top 5. Following 2019’s contest, that’s exactly what has happened and this is a revised Top 5.

Azerbaijan still rank as a relative newcomer to Eurovision, having only joined in 2008, but they applied themselves VERY seriously to it and had a string of high placings, including their 2011 win (not on this list!). After a few less successful years (though still with a record most countries would enjoy), they returned to the top 10 in 2019.

While for a few years they were clearly aiming for the win, I’ve tended to prefer Azerbaijan when they’ve either stuck to their roots and bringing those ethnic sounds, and/or when they just go utterly bonkers/avant-garde with the staging and performance (as with my number 2 and 4 in this list).

5. Farid Mammadov “Hold Me” (2013, 2nd place, 234 points)

Yes, it’s very cheesy this one but you can’t deny Farid is VERY easy on the eye. It was runner up to Denmark, and is their second most successfult entry to date, although this was the year marred by the accusations of vote buying. Still, you can’t but help the classic Eurovision combo of man in a box, man on top of a box, and lady with unfeasibly long dress train…

4. Elnur & Samir “Day After Day” (2008, 8th place, 132 points)

This was Azerbaijan’s first ever entry. It’s one of their bonkers ones, but I enjoy this as it’s a bit different and certainly made a splash. Elnur came back in 2015 as a solo artist, though didn’t make the top 10 on that occasion.

3. Chingiz “Truth” (2019, 8th place, 302 points)

Azerbaijan returned to the top 10 after a few years’ absence with this dance-pop banger with some Azeri sounds and instruments sprinkled in. Delivered by the handsome, hirsute and muscled Chingiz (who no doubt won many fans via his Instagram stories), it had slick and visually impressive staging and a songwriter/composer on the team with a very strong Eurovision pedigree (Boris Milanov). One curious fact about this song – the title word “truth” doesn’t appear at all in the song’s lyrics.

2. Dihaj “Skeletons” (2017, 14th place, 120 points)

Heading back to the bonkers/avant-garde, 2017’s entry certainly fits with that criteria. I wasn’t a fan of this when it was released as a music video, but my view changed with seeing the actual live performance and staging. Completely mad yes, but underneath all the staging, I think it’s a good (electro/synth) pop song too. Also possibly the first time we’ve seen a live use of a chalkboard on the Eurovision stage (as well as the man in horse head mask up a ladder…)

1. Aysel & Arash “Always” (2009, 3rd place, 207 points)

Classic ethnopop has remained my number one. A top 3 placing in just their second contest and it’s a great ethnodance banger – my favourite combination. Like almost all of Azerbaijan’s entries, this had some experienced Swedish influence – one of the songwriters/composers was Swedish and Arash is Swedish-Iranian – but as we have seen with Azerbaijan’s other results, it’s worked well for them.

So should I have left out their sole winner, Ell and Nikki’s “Running Scared”? Or was it right to leave them out? Do let me know what you thought about that and any of my other choices in the comments below!

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