meet anisa: eurovision you decide 2019 contestant
Prior to her national television debut, Anisa radiates serenity, a stark contrast from the nerves one would expect. Perhaps this is unsurprising, as at only 31 the singer is no stranger to the music industry, nor the spotlight, after writing and opening for multiple big artists. Just in the last few years she toured with Brandy, Ashanti and Neyo, as well as writing ‘Piano’, an upbeat song for Ariana Grande’s first album. These days she asserts her musical influence on the U.K scene, working with M.O, Melissa Steel and former JLS member Oritsé Williams. The songwriter has also recently discovered and perfected her own sound for an upcoming EP, which she describes as “chilled but heartfelt, new soul with sprinkles of old school RnB”.
But it is not her songwriting that has catapulted her into a national spotlight, but rather her voice, which will potentially be heard by millions across the world in the Eurovision Song Contest. Anisa is one of six contestants participating in Eurovision You Decide tomorrow night. She's entering with the song ‘Sweet Lies’, written by Maria Broberg, Esben Svane and Lisse Cabble who wrote the 2013 winning entry.
Kerrie-Anne, another contestant, is also entering with the same song, yet the two versions couldn’t be more different. While Kerrie-Anne puts an up-tempo, dance spin on the record, Anisa transforms the song into a stripped down ballad, reminiscent of Alicia Keys or Leona Lewis. Her simplified piano version allows the lyrics to take centre stage, as well as highlighting her skilled vocals. Anisa says: “I thought it was an emotional song and that's how I want it to get my emotion across. I slowed it down and made it quite thick with lots of harmonies,” Adding: “It's all about chasing highs even though you know that they're going to come with low moments. So if someone gets that message from it then I'd be happy.”
Opening up about her initial reservations of performing someone else’s song, Anisa says: “It was tricky because I've never done it. That was my only hold back with the whole thing. I was like, I really want to do, but gosh, I can't sing my own song.” However, embracing her creativity and selecting the song that would give her the most freedom put the singer more at ease: “I just put my own stamp on it and now I feel like I've worked at it so much that it feels like my own song.”
Despite the U.K’s notorious losing streak, young hopefuls are drawn to the competition year after year. For Anisa, it is the element of fun which attracts her, describing Eurovision as “one big party”, and a source of unity not only between nations, but within households: “You could be doing whatever in your house and someone would always shout down, oh, it's Eurovision and you just run down and get together and watch that show once a year.” The northern songwriter is keen to represent the country’s diverse and thriving music scene, frequently speaking of her admiration of current British music. Of course, being the face of such an iconic scene comes with an undeniable sense of pressure, but Anisa chooses to channel this into positivity, speaking instead of the honour and excitement the opportunity will bring.
At a time of political divide and uncertainty in the U.K, Anisa remains passionate that the original aims of Eurovision, to unite the continent following war, are still prominent: “It's music and it's bringing everyone together in a time where politically we don't really know what's going on, and we need that.” However, despite the initial aims of unity, there has been controversy surrounding Israel hosting, with celebrities such as Vivienne Westwood and Mercury Prize winners Wolf Alice backing a campaign to boycott Eurovision this year. Similar protest groups across the continent, as well as Australia, are gaining recognition and prominence in the media, creating a deeper conversation regarding Eurovision and its place in politics. Anisa is quick to defend the show, saying: “It isn't a political contest and it shouldn't ever be. It's about the music.”
Eurovision You Decide will air on BBC Two on Friday at 7:30PM.