In 2011, Austria returned to the Eurovision Song Contest with Nadine Beiler and her big, big ballad “The Secret Is Love.” The runners-up last year were the goofy hip hop duo Trackshittaz with “Oida Taunz,” an accordion-tinged party anthem staged with tractors of all sizes and hot dancers in skimpy Lederhosen.
Since then, Trackshittaz have hit it big with two number ones and one number two on the Austrian charts. When I was in Vienna last summer, “Touchdown,” their anthem for the Austrian national American football team was in heavy rotation on Gotv. (Yes, Austria has a national American football team, who had home field advantage at this summer’s World Championship of American Football. Surprisingly, the U.S. has not won every single World Championship, but that’s only because they didn’t participate in the first two competitions.)
Anyway, in my mind Trackshittaz was the front-runner to represent Austria going into this year’s national final, called Österreich rockt den Song Contest. However, that’s because I didn’t know there was another contestant with an ace up her sleeve… okay, she didn’t have sleeves, but she did have an excellently groomed beard:
Conchita Wurst is a drag queen whose gimmick is that she doesn’t bother to lose the beard when she gets dolled up. She is one shave away from being a fishy queen (thanks, RuPaul!). She had a ton of support, and was actually the betting odds leader going into Österreich rockt. To be honest, her song “That’s What I Am” didn’t really do much for us. It sounded like “Drama Queen,” the song drag queen DQ performed when she represented Denmark in 2007, with lyrics that reminded me of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “My Time” with an “I Am What I Am” twist. She had a decent voice, but wasn’t a particularly compelling performer, relying on her unique look and her Cher-like undertones to get her through. Still, she made it to the super final, and garnered 49% of the vote.
For us, the stronger contender, and probably the strongest song on the night, was by 3punkt5’s “Augenblicke,” a serious hip hop song to counteract Trackshittaz’ fratty vibe. Although it felt a little derivative of late-era Jay-Z, it had a nice atmospheric urban vibe to it.
There were two other highlights for me. I really liked Krautschädl’s “Einsturzgefohr,” a fun little blast of Bloc Party-style rock with a gutsy tempo change during the instrumental section. My main complaint is that bass player Sonti stuck his tongue out way too often. Although, I guess if you have an impressive tongue, why not flaunt it?
Norbert Schneider closed the show with a country-tinged blues number “Medicate My Blues Away” that was far better than it had any right to be. The English lyric was a little crowded, but Norbert sold it well and was a terrific guitarist. It was never going to contend (especially since he followed Trackshittaz), but it was an enjoyable end to the evening.
But in the end, it was all about Trackshittaz, who pulled out all the stops with their tushtastic dance club anthem “Woki Mit Deim Popo”:
Personally, I love this. Trackshittaz have a lot of energy (without getting spastic like Jedward, who they will go head to head with in the first Semi in May), and have definitely become more polished as performers since the last Austrian final. The staging had a nice use of florescent lighting, although it did have the brief effect of making the back-up dancers look like day-glo frogs:
Jen thinks they are going to need to tone down the ass-centric focus for the big show, and I can’t disagree with her. It’s not as racy as Dita Von Teese was during rehearsals for ESC 2009 (she had to tighten her corset so her pasties wouldn’t be on display during her appearance in “Miss Kiss Kiss Bang”), but the organizers may feel it’s a bit much for their little family show. Moreover, there is the question of their name, which you may have noticed has an English language cuss word in it. I would guess they would have to perform as Lukas and Manuel instead.
I get the impression this number is dividing the hardcore Eurovision fans. Of course, hardcore Eurovision fans are going to find a lot to hate this year, what with another Jedward number, a joke entry from Latvia, and whatever the heck Georgia is sending. Plus Montenegro’s Rambo Amadeus is likely going to come out with some avant garde piece of art pop, because that’s what he does.
My question is not what the hardcore fans are going to like, but what is going to resonate with the general public. I have a sneaking suspicion that “Woki Mit Deim Popo” is going to have an immediate impact during what is shaping up to be a particular dour semi. I know Trackshittaz are making a push into Germany and will probably try to do a lot to raise their profile elsewhere. If they play their cards right, I am willing to bet they could do very well in Baku.