Australia Decides 2022 Reviews: All Finalists

Given that I’m running out of time with a lot of songs to review in the next couple of weeks, I’m going to resort to single posts for each show (so those with semi-finals will still get two posts). Let’s start with my home country, Australia — this is our third national selection after opting for internal selections the first few years of our participation in the contest (and then re-selecting Montaigne internally for 2021). I was there for the last one in 2020, but decided to sit this year out given the uncertainty in relation to the pandemic when I had to make the call on whether to go. I’m sad I won’t be there this weekend, but I’m extra determined to be in the crowd for the 2023 show.

I’m reviewing the songs in order of release.

Voyager — “Dreamer”
The first song from this year’s batch was immediately something arresting. Mixing prog-rock, electronica and heavy metal yet still keeping the track fairly accessible, Voyager appear to have struck a chord with Eurovision fans both in Australia and abroad. “Dreamer” has easily to follow lyrics, and a distinct, impactful sound that sets it apart. The only downsides I can see are that it repeats itself a little too much for my liking, and for some reason I can’t quite fathom, quite a few Eurovision fans are allergic to rock and always compare it to the most recent entry from that genre, as if it’s all the same thing.

Jude York — “I Won’t Need to Dream”
As per the lyrics, one day York hopes that he won’t have to dream, but in the meantime he gives us a very dreamy fairytale-like ballad, making good use of his versatile vocals. It’s has a nice progression into a more upbeat section where I can imagine the audience clapping along. This probably isn’t going to appeal to enough people to be in contention, but those who do like it will really love it. Lastly, I wish he’d found a way to make use of the full three minutes rather than ending the track at around 2:37, as there’s something about this that feels unfinished.

Jaguar Jonze — “Little Fires”
A fan favourite from the 2020 contest, Jaguar returns with a greatly increased profile in part due to her advocacy for survivors of sexual abuse (particularly women) within the Australian music scene. A survivor herself, this song deals with the abuse she suffered and her role in drawing attention to the toxic culture in the industry. With a slow build that leads to a thrilling last minute, and lines that hit hard like “we had to stand up, carry the pain, over and over and over again”, and “I’m gonna make you remember my name”, this is one of the front-runners and my choice to send to Turin.

Isaiah Firebrace & Evie Irie — When I’m With You
Australia’s 2017 entry to the contest Isaiah Firebrace returns a different person than he was when he went to Kyiv at the age of 17. This time he collaborates with Evie Irie for a radio-friendly song which mixes hip-hop and R&B. I’m hoping this really lights up on the night with some good chemistry between the duo because I think that there’s a lot of potential for the staging even though the song doesn’t seem to have won over too many fans at this stage.

Paulini — “We Are One”
In a ballad-heavy line-up, this is this the banger some fans will be waiting impatiently to hear. Paulini’s powerful voice is perfect for the big beat that drives this song. The lyrics could have been a bit more original, and the sound isn’t exactly cutting-edge, but if you’re looking for a song to dance to and don’t have anything against a bit of a 1990s throwback, this is most likely the entry for you.

Charley — “I Suck at Being Lonely”
Relative newcomer Charley debuts on the Australia Decides stage with an emotive dream pop track about struggling to overcome the end of a relationship. This is a slow burn kind of song, where the best thing to do is drop any expectations and just let yourself drift along with the piano and string arrangement which elevates Charley’s yearning voice. I’d expect the staging to be fairly simple and intimate, but ultimately this may be a bit too low-key to really challenge for the win.

Andrew Lambrou — “Electrify”
Further diversifying a pretty diverse line-up, this mid-tempo electro-pop track conjures up images of a crowded nightclub on a Balearic island. The lines in Spanish probably help here (the first time we’ve heard this language at Australia Decides), but the vibe is there nonetheless. As such, it’s more of a smooth club hit than a Eurovision banger, especially considering that Lambrou’s vocals probably meld with the music too much for this format, but with a good bit of neon lighting as part of staging this should still be a lot of fun to watch.

Sheldon Riley — “Not the Same”
Currently the favourite in the odds, Riley comes to the contest renowned for his stunning voice, which will be his main selling point. “Not the Same” is a very dramatic ballad which gives him plenty of opportunities to showcase his vocal talent. On the assumption he hits all the right notes, the jury will love this, and if he still has a strong following among televoters from his forays into talent shows like America’s Got Talent and The Voice Australia, it could give him more than enough votes to win. He’s also fond of elaborate costumes, so we can expect some impressive staging as well.

Erica Padilla — “To the Bottom”
Padilla was the winner of the TikTok wildcard competition which meant that this year’s line-up has 11 artists instead of the usual 10. She made a name for herself on the platform over the last couple of years by showcasing her soulful voice with covers. All this in a time when the music industry was in shutdown. Her song plays to her vocal strengths, with lyrics about endurance and determination over a mixture of pop and R&B beats. It will quite the milestone for someone who has entered the music industry in such an unconventional way.

Seann Miley Moore — “My Body”
If his press interviews are any indicator, we can expect a delightfully flamboyant performance from Moore, whose body-positive song might be the kind of thing which reaches out and gives a boost to those struggling with their self-image. His expressive voice is the draw card, with some impressive falsetto in the first minute and a big note towards the end of the track. Musically this is a bit sparse at times though: the only thing that stands out aside from Moore’s voice are the backing vocals.

G-Nat!on — “Bite Me”

The youngest act to take the stage consists of six teenage girls who promise a return to the days of girl groups ripping up stages with elaborate choreography, thumping beats and sassy lyrics. G-Nat!on are no strangers to television, finishing runners-up in The Voice Australia 2021. They already seem like a pretty tight unit, and this certainly sounds like something a girl group from the early 2000s would have released, so even if I can’t see this winning the competition, I’m sure they’ll come away with a new set of fans.

I’ll be undertaking a live-tweeting session for Australia Decides this Saturday (26 February), which starts at 8:30pm ADST (9:30am GMT).