THE news may have leaked early but last night it was confirmed: Dami Im will be Australia’s second Eurovision contestant this year in Stockholm.
Revealed to a packed audience at the Opera House to see 2014 Eurovision winner and drag icon Conchita Wurst’s one night only concert with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, Im was welcomed onstage along with Australia’s 2015 contestant, Guy Sebastian.
Despite only achieving moderate charting success since her X-Factor win in 2013, with her unique artistic style and show-stopping voice Im is by no means an artist to write off.
“I am so thrilled and honoured to be representing Australia at Eurovision this year in Stockholm,” Im said.
“I am really excited to be following in the footsteps of Guy Sebastian and Jessica Mauboy who have both graced the Eurovision stage before me.
“I truly believe that the Australian public and Eurovision fans around the world are going to love the song I will be performing in Sweden. I cannot wait to showcase it to the world and represent Australia to the best of my ability.”
After an impressive fifth-placing for Sebastian last year in Vienna, Im will face a different competition in 2016 as she will have to compete in Semi-Final 2 to secure a spot for Australia in the Grand Final on May 14 (May 15 Australian time).
SBS managing director Michael Obeid said despite the tougher effort required this year, he believes Australia’s “fighting spirit” will see us through to the grand final stage at Stockholm’s Globe Arena.
“We’re a competitive nation, and last year with our very own contestant to cheer for and a chance of winning, Australia was completely captivated by the contest on the other side of the world,” he said.
“Reaching over four million Australians, it was our biggest Eurovision audience ever. We’re thrilled to be welcomed back to the Eurovision family this year, and Dami is the perfect artist to take that next step for Australia on the world’s biggest stage.
“The essence of the Eurovision Song Contest is about bringing countries together for a celebration of their diversity and culture through music, and it’s that element which resonates so strongly with SBS’ own purpose.”
In the lead up to Thursday night’s announcement, speculation was rife about Australia’s contestant, with Im’s name being shortlisted alongside Delta Goodrem, Tina Arena and Sia.
Some expressed concern that Im’s moderate mainstream success may not have provided her with the on-stage confidence, but popularity in Asia since her 2013 win has grown exponentially and has seen her perform to millions.
“I got to sing in China for for their Chinese New Year [celebrations] on TV this year. In numbers it was really, really big, like 200 million viewers,” Im told Fairfax Media.
“I sang a Carpenters song and sang a Chinese duet… with a Kazakh singer Tasiken. I had to learn it in Chinese, but I think they really appreciated my efforts.”
The Korean-born 27-year-old said the symbolism of being asked to represent Australia on the global stage was not lost on her, and it was a great opportunity to showcase its diversity.
“For Australia to be sending a Korean-Australian, of Asian descent … it [says] a lot about our country and how open we are and accepting of the diverse cultures we have here,” she said.
“It’s very mature. Also it’s unexpected, so it’s a strength for Eurovision. How many times do you see [the] expected at Eurovision?
“There’s so many surprises, so I’m happy to be that surprise.”
Due to a special bond between Australia and Austria and her frequent visits to down under, Wurst’s concert with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra Conchita: From Vienna With Love was seen as the perfect opportunity to announce Im.
Wurst said despite having no clue who Im was when she was first told, after subsequently hearing her music and watching her on the Opera House stage, she was glad she wasn’t competing against her this year.
“Oh wow, Dami is just a force. What a voice and spirit. I would hate to be anyone going up against her this year,” Wurst told the Star Observer.
“The first thing I thought when they told me it would be Dami was ‘okay, who?’ and then they showed me a picture of her and I immediately thought ‘oh my god, she is so stunning and beautiful’.
“But I hadn’t heard her sing live until [Thursday night] but I did look her up and watched a few videos… what a beautiful voice and what a talent.
“I said it on stage and I mean it: Europe, get your act together cause this lady… she’s going to blow your mind.”
With her fourth Australian trip coming to a close following tomorrow night’s performance at the Mardi Gras Party, Wurst said everything was ready and the stage is set.
“Well listen, my job at Mardi Gras is actually pretty simple and really easy, I really won’t have much of a hard time I mean I’m only singing one song,” Wurst joked.
“But I will have the chance to relax and sit back, and enjoy the beautiful party and people. I’m very thankful for the opportunity and to finally be here for Mardi Gras.”