On March 15, the Azerbaijan representative for Eurovision 2015 was selected. The choice was made via an internal selection organized by İctimai Television (İTV), the Azerbaijani national broadcaster. Previously (from 2009-2013), the participant was selected, via a national final titled Milli Seçim Turu (a national final is how most other countries select an individual or group to attend the current year’s Eurovision Song Contest). Last year, the aforementioned broadcaster organized a type of talent show, based off an existing format, called Böyük Səhnə. This year, there were plans to re-use the talent show method in order to pick the participant; however, in the end the ITV decided to select this individual or group internally instead.
When it came down to the final stage of national selection, there were three individuals up for the top spot of being chosen to represent Azerbaijan in this year’s Eurovision Song Contest. Narmina Seyidova, Narmina Behbudova, and Elnur Huseynov ended up battling it out for first place, with Huseynov taking first place after the internal voting selection was complete. The vote was made by the National Jury; this jury consisted of such members as Azerbaijan’s General Director of Public Television and Radio Broadcasting Company, as well as Head of Delegation Tamilla Shirinova.
Huseynov will be singing the song Hour of the Wolf on stage in Vienna, Austria, for this year’s Eurovision Song Contest. This will not be the 28-year-old’s first go at the ESC prize; in 2008, he represented Azerbaijan with the track Day After Day, accompanied by native pop singer Samir Javadzadeh (the duo was called Elnur and Samir). The pair placed sixth, which was an impressive feat given that this was their first debut into the competition since it’s debut in 1955. Earlier this year, Huseynov took home the winning title of O Ses Türkiye (The Voice Turkey).
In 2012, Azerbaian became the new host country after winning the previous year’s competition with the song Running Scared, sung by duo Ell and Nikki. Although an immense honor for the citizens of this nation, the joy of hosting came with some tough controversies due to both the issue of human rights, as well as tensions with the neighboring country of Iran.
Western media scrutinized Azerbaijan’s involvement in the Eurovision Song Contest as being merely related to their wish of “mitigate misgivings about its poor democracy and human rights record.” In other words, there was concern that the nation would use the competition as a way of promoting a fake acceptance and tolerance that did not truly exist, in order to turn eyes away from the events that were really going on.
Iran clerics blasted Azerbaijan’s government for exhibiting what they referred to as “anti-Islamic behavior”, and made reference to the country “hosting a gay parade”. These comments lead to a large protest outside of the Iranian embassy, where many held signs mocking the Iranian leaders for their intolerance. Following the 2012 Eurovision Song Contest Final having taken place, it was revealed that the Ministry of National Security of Azerbaijan had thwarted multiple planned terrorist attacks on the venue in which the competition was being held.
Elnur Huseynov will represent Azerbaijan in the first round of semis in this year’s Eurovision Song Contest. This will take place on May 20.
By Rebecca Grace