ANNET’S INTERVIEW A TRUE REVELATION
NEW YORK CITY (NY), USA — “Now I’m running the show. And my label is letting me run the show, they are really cool with everything that I do. From this point forward, I’m just going to do me. If people love it, awesome. If they don’t, there are others who will.”
That is the kind of steely resolve that wins Eurovision, and it is clear Annet Artani is more than ready for the practical application of it. Fresh from a performance at New York City’s Stellan Lounge, the luscious-looking singer, currently bidding to be Switzerland’s representative, sat down with Oikotimes to talk about the controversy swirling around her 2006 performance and her journey since, starting with why she is re-entering in the first place.
“This has been something in the back of my mind,” Artani admits. Through a contact in the Eurovision “sphere,” she discovered Switzerland opened up its entrant process to non-citizens, and after having initially submitted a song, decided to be the singer as well.
“This is a song that no one has heard; I’m on it, I approved it,” she recalls. “I spoke to my office in Los Angeles and asked how they would feel if I submitted it, and they were like, ‘Go for it!’ So I guess I’m going for it!”
What she didn’t expect was the reaction
“By the next day I got word that it was front-page news all over Greece and all over Europe,” Artani recounts, an allusion to the fact that although she is based in New York, the Greek-American singer is firmly established in Hellenic celebrity. Her team forwarded her link after link heralding her re-entry into the fray.
“So, where I felt like I was nervous to submit a song to begin with, now I am really nervous because now everyone knows about it.”
The Mystery Tour
If it is odd to hear an artist admit to a case of the heebie-jeebies, it stems from a bizarre set of circumstances that at best could have resulted from a technical difficulty to at worst an outright sabotage. In 2006, when Eurovision was held in Athens, Artani, competing for Cyprus, chose to sing an elegantly styled ballad, “Why Do The Angels Cry.” In a contest known for flamboyance and spectacle, a serious and introspective piece was itself an attention-getting move.
“I went all-out, as a non-Cypriot,” explains the New York-born Artani. “Because it wasn’t my country, I felt I had it even more on my shoulders: ‘Oh my God, I can’t suck. This has to be the best performance of my life, or I am screwed.’”
Having sung back-up with Britney Spears (major coup) and collaborated with Spears on the hit “Everytime” (major-er coup), the singer took no chances and flew in on her own dime a vocal coach from Team Britney in addition to a banking gospel choir. The resulting performance is one she still uses as a showcase of her range and abilities.
So when she failed to make it out of the semi-finals, Artani was left mortified, and her fans suspicious. Lacking any sort of concrete proof or corroborating evidence, and well aware a protest seven years after the event smacks than an indignant artist stuck in the past, Artani freely admits she has no idea how the judges came to their decision. Her fans were not nearly so reticent, then or now.
“I got tons of e-mails,” Artani recalls. “They all said, ‘We tried to vote for you, but the vote didn’t go through.’ If I had heard it from one person, OK. To hear it from thousands of people… something doesn’t feel right.”
As with any large competition, Eurovision often finds itself the playing field for various maneuverings and national interests. Georgia was bullied out of the 2009 competition by Putin’s myrmidons in Moscow. Various Muslim countries continue to omit Israeli singers out of sheer political spite from their broadcasts, thereby disqualifying their own teams. By far the most spectacular hijacking was in 2000, when two members of the victorious Israeli group Ping Pong, actually disguised journalists for the Ma’ariv newspaper, unfurled a Syrian flag on stage with calls for peace. It was up to interpretation who was thunderstruck more: the Israeli broadcasting authority that instantly disowned the band, or Eurovision itself because two untrained singers infiltrated the competition undetected “as a joke” and still managed to beat out 83 other acts.
In fact, Artani alleges she was in fact told she wasn’t going to advance only minutes before she took the stage, that because the Greek act that year, a renowned singer for almost 40 years Anna Vissi, was also singing a ballad, the contest was, in effect, thrown to assure Greece’s advancement at the expense of Cyprus and whatever act represented it (Greece did not win that round of Eurovision). In the long-standing and cantankerous mother-daughter relationship between Greece and Cyprus, the former is used to being the senior partner, and the one that wins out. As a civilian caught on the battlefield, the entire scenario carried a bitter irony for Artani: Both nations are “Greek,” as is Artani herself as a Greek American. Understandably she remains hesitant to compete for her country of origin, saying mixed feelings still linger.
Now pushing hard to represent Switzerland, or possibly Denmark, Artani has the future firmly in focus.
“I have literally been annoying everyone to death to vote,” she laughs, “because the voting is in German! I know they are going to get flustered, so I keep sending people translated instructional e-mails.”
Artani admits the idea of representing Switzerland, a neutral and multicultural country, has its allure. One can also see the singer is also more than ready to give as good as she gets. Artani sees a Eurovision redux as something of a reinvention; while New York knows her as an up-tempo artist, she is often identified internationally as a ballad singer thanks to her 2006 performance.
“I’d like to be given an opportunity to do this again,” Artani says. “I can show them a different side of myself. I think I am more mature now as an artist and as a singer. I know the game better. You can’t get to a point where you say, ‘Oh my God, such-and-such happened; is it over?’ — if I did, I’d be in the wrong business.”
WRITTEN & EDITED BY DAVID PERRY (USA)