He shares the same handsome matinee idol looks as Australian entertainer David Campbell, but will looks alone be enough to secure Israel’s Imri Ziv a place in the Eurovision finals in Kiev? Does the former boy band member have a chance of taking out the top title?
The 25-year-old, who is known in Israel simply as IMRI, already has some of his fans divided about I Feel Alive, the song he will sing in Eurovision. Some feel that it’s simply too techno to tug on the audience’s heart muscles, while others describe it as uplifting and predict that it will be included in the soundtrack of this European summer.
In a Eurovision 2017 playlist that is heavy on overwrought ballads, I Feel Alive, written and composed by Dolev Ram and Penn Hazut, is high energy and sung entirely in English with some traditional Israeli overtones. You can almost imagine people joyfully dancing to it in one of the Jewish festivals.
Dolev Ram and Penn Hazut have had a successful pop partnership in Israel with many recent hits. However nothing has been left to chance with the selection of I Feel Alive: This is a song that had to be passed by a heavyweight committee including representatives of IBA (Israeli Broadcasting Authority); Keshet Broadcasting (affiliated with the Next Star for Eurovision) and IPBC (Israel Public Broadcasting Corporation). It’s described as a song about rising up to challenges before achieving your goals and it’s clear that the Eurovision goal for Israel is taking out the top prize in May.
No stranger to the Eurovision stage, IMRI has sung back up vocals at the last two contests. He was with Hovi Star, who was placed 14th last year, and Nadav Guedj, who came ninth in 2015 with the hit song, Golden Boy.
The lyrics to I Feel Alive suit IMRI, who has faced some obstacles in life. Born into a cultured family in Hod Ha Sharon in Central Israel, he’s the son of a painter and an IT specialist, and his brother is a musician. Following sustained bullying at school, he changed schools and wound up at Ilan Ramon High School where his fortunes improved when he joined a boy band.
The music continued even during his obligatory military service where he joined a band of the Education and Youth Corps Unit of the Israel Defense Forces.
His turn in the spotlight came when at 20 he was a contestant on The Voice Israel. He picked Rami Kleinstein as a mentor before being eliminated in one of the dueling rounds.
Competing at Eurovision in Kiev is meaningful for him because he is of Romanian and Ukrainian descent. He plans to learn some of the language while he’s there and embrace some of the culture.
When he performed in The Next Star for Eurovision last February, IMRI sang the soulful Halo by Beyonce and then a reworked version of Because Of You by Kelly Clarkson. Despite the fact that I Feel Alive is not nearly as heartfelt, he remains upbeat about his prospects.
"I’m excited to be participating in the Eurovision for the third time - and this time around I’ll be front and center,” he said after winning the right to represent his country. "I’m very happy and I promise to do my best to bring the Eurovision to Israel next year.””
He also thanked those who had voted for him for making "my biggest dream come true”.
At the age of 25, Imri Ziv believes that he’s ready to shine throughout Europe.
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.