Hungary have had a mixed history at the contest with a few stand out achievements among other fairly average results, however since their return to the contest in 2011, Hungary have to be applauded for their consistency to at least qualify to the final. Some of their recent highlights include András Kállay-Saunders who finished in 5th place in the final, and the other highlight was Joci Pápai who as we know will be returning this year to represent Hungary once again, this time with the song Az Én Apám.
Joci will be the first Hungarian participant to represent the nation more than once, but will he be able to replicate or improve on his 2017 result?
Song + Vocals
Origo was, and still is one of my favourite Eurovision entries, so I couldn’t contain my excitement knowing that Joci Pápai would be returning to the national selection. Upon listening to his entry, I remember having the thought, ‘This won’t win A Dal’ despite enjoying the song. It just didn’t seem strong enough, however as the competition progressed, it became clear that Joci was a favourite, and I was then starting to see the potential this had at Eurovision.
It is possible to compare Az Én Apám and Origo in the sense that both are genuine songs performed by a very genuine performer. Both have a distinct ethnic feel, although I’d argue that Az Én Apám is more radio-friendly whereas Origo was more ethnically charged. The song begins in quite an understated way with the core focus on Joci and his unique vocals, and then the song begins to build and a certain tension is created. Despite not understanding the language, it is very clear that a story is being told, and even though audiences may not know the story that is being told, emotions come through with his vocals and it’s hard as a listener to not feel any emotion towards this song.
As we know, there was a revamp of this song and admittedly I don’t think it was necessary at all. Joci credits his perfectionist tendencies for wanting to modify the song, however the changes that were made didn’t seem to add much to the song, and ironically the original version sounded more polished. Perhaps that’s due to me playing the original version repeatedly, so I was used a certain sound and suddenly that changed. The biggest change was the addition of the vocals to the previously instrumental part of the song which featured whistling. I actually think that break in vocals helped the song to build and made the final 30 seconds of the song more moving.
In the scheme of things, this change probably won’t phase many people, and for those hearing the song on the night for the first time, they obviously won’t know any different. It also isn’t enough to make me like this song any less. I find this song, and realistically, all of Joci’s songs (Eurovision or not) to be very emotionally charged and raw, and his vocal style albeit unique, is so genuine and you know that it comes from the heart.
Act + Performance
I am definitely thrilled to see Joci back in the competition, and after a great result in 2017, I am definitely hoping that the result can at least be replicated this year. What sets him apart from many other performers is that he is a relatable figure – he isn’t a performance artist that relies on tactics to amplify his performance – he is, however a performer with great stage presence and someone who can captivate an audience.
I think that is clear through the national final performances. Dressed in black, everything is kept quite simple yet I find myself with Goosebumps watching the performance. I find myself forgetting about the element of staging while watching Joci perform, and I would suspect that the Eurovision performance will be kept simple as it was in A Dal. There are various songs in this year’s competition, and specifically semi-final 1 which will be relying on choreography, props, pyro and any other trick in the book to elevate their performances, so a simple staging from Hungary matched with a raw, genuine performance could see the nation stand out.
I have internally questioned whether this entry will be able to reach the heights of Origo, and perhaps it won’t, but I do see this in the final and quite confidently so. Looking at the line-up as a whole, I would like to see this reach the Top 10 in the final as I believe it is totally deserving, but as we know, Eurovision comebacks don’t always go to plan.
Long story short, I love this song and I love Joci Pápai.