Czechia 2024: Aiko

Aiko from Czechia: "The revamped version gives it a bigger story"

INTERVIEW The third time was the charm for Aiko who was shortlisted to compete in Czechia's national selection contest for Eurovision, which she ended up winning with "Pedestal." With an upcoming album and Eurovision 2024 around the corner the singer knows who she is, and she's ready to apply lessons learned from the past

We met this year's Czechia representative Aiko just a day before her performance at the Madrid pre-party where she'd sing the new version of her Eurovision song "Pedestal" for the first time.

Despite delayed flights, which can be stressful, Aiko was relaxed and happy:

– I am fine, I've just arrived and I've just been greeted by fans, which was really sweet.

Whenever the Madrid PrePartyES takes place, fans gather outside of the hotel where the artists stay in order to meet the year's Eurovision artists.

Czechia's national selection ESCZ 2024 was the first selection held in this year's Eurovision season.

– It was intense because I was the first act announced [from a national selection competition] and only by January more joined the lineup. I had a while of attention, she says.

She was introduced to the Eurovision community in the most radical way as all eyes were on her:

– It was the first time I saw the whole Eurovision community in action, and only then I came to understand that some people are extremely passionate about it, so it was interesting.

Aiko – "Pedestal" (Music video)

Winning ESCZ 2024

A few days after ESCZ 2024 took place, Aiko was officially announced as the winner with her rock song "Pedestal." You surely cannot please everyone, but in this case there was a gap between the national and international vote.

While the international public ranked Aiko highest, she was only fifth among the Czech vote:

– I didn't get many angry private messages. I did receive a lot of support and I think people were overall nice, but I am sure there would be less fortunate comments under pictures or videos. I wouldn't do that to my mental health.

Aiko – "Pedestal" (ESCZ 2024)

She goes on:

– People have a lot of opinions, but I have to say it was interesting because people who wouldn't normally pay attention to Eurovision suddenly had an opinion and would come for my blue hair or something like that.

How do you cope with negative comments?

– You have to filter through them. You know what you stand for, you sort of know the ones you should listen to and the ones you shouldn't. For example, I did get some feedback on my performance and I took it in because I knew some aspects weren't so great.

In the end, Aiko and "Pedestal" were chosen to represent Czechia in Eurovision. The news was delivered without notice in a kind of prank as she thought it was only promotional stuff for the show:

– I did not expect to win.

– But I also wasn't aware they were going to announce the winner right there, I thought it was just an interview. The funny thing is, as I was leaving my friend's house I told her, "Imagine if they pull a prank on me and they tell me I won." She laughed and said, "You wish."

People suddenly had an opinion and would come for my blue hairAiko

She surely did wish for it as this represented her third attempt on representing Czechia:

– I did try to represent the Czech Republic three years in a row.

– I love making music. I am a musician first and foremost, so I kept on making music after getting told "no." Eurovision was something I'd love to be a part of and that I'd love to achieve so I kept on going, Aiko explains.

The Eurovision version of "Pedestal"

It was just a month ago that Aiko released the revamped Eurovision version of "Pedestal." The changes weren't massive aside from a more polished production, a few words that had to be replaced, and the bridge:

– We still had 30 seconds we could use to extend the song. Not that I felt any pressure from the team, she says while looking at Czechia's Head of Press, Ahmad.

She laughs and continues:

– It was more like, give it a try, go into the studio and try to come up with something. If it happens, amazing. If not, the song's good as it is. We sat down, had some ideas from the team as well as our own, and we created this new version which I believe gives the song a bigger story and depth.

How about the staging? Will it be changed for Eurovision?

– It will, but I cannot share a lot.

She confirms she'll be dancing and that the music video will have no connection to the performance. But she keeps silent on the answer on whether there'll be a band with her on stage.

Aiko is happy for working with the Czech broadcaster (ČT):

– They have a lot of experience and know what they're doing, I fully trust them also because I've always felt heard.

– Every time I wanted to give an idea, they'd take it into consideration and would try to achieve it. I respect their opinions and they respect mine, so everything's flowing.

Aiko goes on speaking about her Eurovision goals:

– I want it to be an empowering experience. I hope it makes people want to pursue their dreams and goals. And that I will serve as maybe an inspiration? After all, I am still an independent artist.

– Moreover, I want to put on a great performance and spread the message of the song which is essentially coming down to loving yourself and putting yourself first.

Was that what inspired "Pedestal"?

– Yes, the actual inspiration was a not-so-happy relationship, even though I hold no bad feelings towards that person. It was me understanding that, at the end of the day, I only have myself to count on. Whenever we're in a relationship, we tend to get lost in the other person and, as I said, we should put ourselves first always.

Before and after Eurovision 2024

While "Pedestal" was chosen to compete in the Czech selection ESCZ 2024, Aiko submitted two other songs for ESCZ 2024:

– I did submit multiple entries. One is fully unreleased, and I doubt it will ever be released because I have an upcoming single with a former Eurovision star that addresses the topic, she says referring to her soon-to-be-released collaboration with last year's Austria representative, Teya, who sang "Who The Hell Is Edgar?"

– I also submitted "Opposites Don't Attract" from my most recent album. "Pedestal," nonetheless, has a bigger message and the lyrics are memorable. It's also fast-paced, and when I toured in October I saw there was a different, and good, reaction to it.

Throughout her career, Aiko has lived and studied in London, participated in other shows, and has released three albums with another one coming after Eurovision. There was a lot to learn from those experiences:

– I was 15 when I first competed in a talent show and it was really about understanding what I wanted to do with my life because music's always been important to me. I wanted to understand if I wanted to work within the music industry.

– Taking part in a competition showed me that I did want to, and taught me that you have to act really quick after something like that ends. A year after is already too late, people move on.

She did wait longer than that, and a few years later decided to move to London hoping to get another shot:

– I went to university there and it was sort of the base for me because it was easier to function as a student there. I was always surrounded by a lot of creative people, it was easy to find collaborations.

Who was Aiko then, and who is Aiko now as an artist?

– When I released my first album, self-titled, I was still learning how to produce and how to write, wondering what I was doing here. With my most recent album, "Fortune's Child," it was more about having a concept, an idea and an artistic identity. I guess I have a clue on what I am doing now, she giggles.

That doesn't mean she knows it all now. Eurovision is a new learning chapter for the singer who also admits she cannot shake off all the nerves:

– I admit that I am a tiny bit nervous about the whole thing even though I am trying not to think too much about it. Otherwise, I will be lost in it. Nevertheless, it's a massive honor to have this opportunity and to represent Czechia, she says.

With the second Semi-final around the corner, Aiko expects to continue to release more music proving she's following her own advice of acting quick after big opportunities.

Just a week after our conversation, she released a new single titled "White Flag," and as we've mentioned an album is coming after the song contest that, according to her, "has been an inspiring journey."

Before we say our goodbyes, she ranks Bambie Thug's song as well as Marina Satti's song as her two main favorites of this year's contest.

Aiko will represent Czechia in Eurovision 2024 with her song "Pedestal" in the second Semi-final.

About the author: Pedro Santos (Portugal)

authorPedro comes from Lisbon, Portugal. He's 30 years old and graduated in journalism. He has attended Eurovision Song Contest three times live - 2018, 2019 and 2022 - and covered the show twice more (2021, 2023) but his first Eurovision memory takes him back to 2007 when Sarbel delivered his catchy "Yassou Maria" performance. Pedro's favorite Eurovision song is Albania's 2015 "I'm Alive" by Elhaida Dani which is also his favorite Eurovision edition.

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