Fahree  and Ilkin Dovlatov

Fahree  and Ilkin Dovlatov

In the glittering chaos of the Eurovision Song Contest, the simplicity and melodicism of Azerbaijani duo Fahree  and Ilkin Dovlatov stood out — not for capturing the audience’s favor, but for their conspicuous divergence from the prevailing Eurovision style. Their performance on the night of May 8 did not secure a spot in the finals, echoing last year’s outcome with the TuralTuranX brothers. Both years, Azerbaijani representatives performed twelfth and showcased a reserved stage presence, markedly distinct from the flamboyant displays often celebrated at Eurovision.

This year, as in the past, Azerbaijani entries have eschewed the contest’s trend toward eccentricity, outrageousness, and sensory overload. In a competition where the spectacle often overshadows musicality, the duo’s choice of costumes — evocative of medieval knight's armor — failed to bridge the cultural gap. This stylistic misalignment has become a recurring theme for Azerbaijani participants, who appear as anachronisms in the fast-paced evolution of European pop culture.

The recent removal of the professional jury from the voting process has further complicated Azerbaijan’s chances. Now, the contest’s outcomes hinge entirely on viewer SMS votes, which tend to favor geographical neighbors or countries with significant diasporic populations. Historically, Azerbaijan's strongest support came from Russia and Turkey, but with Russia excluded due to its aggression in Ukraine and Turkey absent for internal reasons, Azerbaijan’s support network within the contest has significantly diminished.

The shift in Eurovision’s cultural compass — from the melodic harmony of ABBA-era music to a spectacle-driven format — places Azerbaijani entries at a disadvantage. This divergence raises questions about the role and purpose of Azerbaijan's participation in the contest. Rather than aiming for victory, it seems the broader objective for Azerbaijan may be to showcase its cultural identity and maintain its political presence on the international stage.

The broader Azerbaijani community appears reconciled to this role. Following the substantial logistical and financial undertaking of hosting Eurovision in Baku in 2012, there is little appetite among local residents for a repeat. Instead, the prevailing sentiment suggests a focus on participation as a form of cultural expression rather than a contest to be won.

As Eurovision continues to evolve, it becomes increasingly clear that its path is veering away from the traditional Azerbaijani song culture. For Azerbaijan, the challenge will be to continue finding value in the contest as a platform for cultural diplomacy, rather than competitive success, in an arena that favors the visual and the sensational over the traditional and the melodic.

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