Will Malta’s Eurovision entrant, sultry Claudia Faniello, eclipse Joe Camilleri as one of the most famous Maltese singers we’ve ever heard of here? Does she have what it takes to win the international contest that has increasingly become fascinating as much for the talent that is unearthed (think Abba) as it is for the politics surrounding the song fest.
And this year will probably not be very different with its setting in Kiev, thanks to Ukraine’s victory in the 2016 contest with the song 1944 written and performed by Jamala and with the politicking in the region already heating up.
But back to Claudia Faniello.
Certainly the 29-year-old with a Kim Kardashian’ hourglass figure will garner our attention when she steps onto the stage in the International Exhibition Centre, in Kiev, Ukraine on May 11 for the second semi-final of the 62nd Eurovision Song Contest.
If the YouTube video of Breathless, her choice of song for the contest, is anything to go by, her performance will be epic. Faniello is a true diva, who has a wardrobe of glittering, statement gowns. (She had several changes in the dramatic Breathless video where she also demonstrated an unusual way of stepping backwards as sings - although this made some viewers slightly giddy).
In fact, Claudia Faniello’s entire career has been leading up to Eurovision and it’s been a very long journey, which began in her childhood, growing up in a talented Maltese family. Her professional career started at the age of 12 when she began performing on television and entering various talent contests. Barely a year later she sang live with Malta’s National Orchestra at the University of Malta, to help raise funds for impoverished children. She was accompanied then by Malta’s ambassadors in the Eurovision Song Contest of 2004, Julie & Ludwig and also her brother, Fabrizio, who went on to enter Eurovision in 2006 on a night plagued with technical problems including his mic going on and off.
That same year Claudia Faniello competed in the Malta Song For Europe Festival with the song, High Alert composed by Ray Agius and won the award for best newcomer.
She also went on to win the Festival Kanzunetta Indipendenza with another Ray Agius’ song, Ma Nafx.
Faniello was soon on her way to the Malta Song for Europe semi-finals in 2007, where she just missed out on making the finals.
Now all her Eurovision hopes rest with her delivery of her ballad, Breathless, which was composed by Philip Vella and Sean Vella and written by Gerard James Borg. Perhaps also she will be spurred on by some sibling rivalry?
The signs for Breathless connecting with its audience were obvious when she won the right to represent Malta at the Eurovision finals held in mid-February at the Malta Fairs and Conventions Centre where she beat Janice Mangion and her Maltese language song, Kewkba. There were plenty of people hoping that Kewkba would propel Malta into a wave of nationalistic fervor but it was not to be, Faniello won the finals convincingly.
As for that other well known Maltese singer, Joe Camilleri, who was born there but left as a small child - well, the singer, songwriter and saxophonist, has done great things as a member of Jo Jo Zep & The Falcons as well as The Black Sorrows, whose single, Chained to the Wheel, was in the top ten in March 1989.
Camilleri has been described as "one of the most genuinely talented figures in Australian music” and was inducted into the Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA) Hall of Fame in 2007.
Sadly he has never done Eurovision but no doubt he will be hoping that Claudia Faniello will do their birth nation proud.
The Eurovision Song Contest will be broadcast over SBS’s Eurovision weekend - Friday 12 May, Saturday 13 May, and Grand Final Sunday 14 May at 7.30pm on SBS with LIVE early morning broadcasts begin Wednesday 10 May at 5am on SBS.