Malta 2024: Sarah Bonnici
Photo: Carlton Agius

Sarah Bonnici from Malta: "I want to deliver a jaw-dropping performance"

INTERVIEW It was thanks to Helena Paparizou that Sarah Bonnici started dreaming about Eurovision. A few years later, the singer is ready to do what she has always dreamt of doing: singing and dancing on the Eurovision stage

Malta is still one of the countries that has yet to conquer the Eurovision trophy. For the two past years, the nation has failed to qualify for the Eurovision Final, and even came in last in their Semi-final with their most recent attempt, "Dance (Our Own Party)" by The Busker.

In 2021, Destiny and her team made her country believe she could win it all, but finished 7th with "Je Me Casse."

This year, the 25-year-old Maltese singer Sarah Bonnici is hoping to get Malta back in the Final with the song "Loop." And Sarah has the whole package: She definitely knows how to sing, dance and write songs.

Malta 2024: Sarah Bonnici – "Loop" (Music video)

Before taking part in this year's Malta Eurovision Song Contest (MESC), Bonnici had already tried her luck before, more specifically in 2022 with the song "Heaven" finishing 12th in the Maltese selection contest. Even before that, she attempted Junior Eurovision twice but never made it as the main act:

– In 2022, my main goal was to give a good performance whereas this time around, it was completely different, I was much more involved in the process.

In a dress, sitting at a piano, and with a song that shares very few similarities to her current entry, "Heaven" was not Sarah's work:

– I knew I wanted to come back in order to do something that would really represent myself as an artist and that would simply be closer to my heart. I wrote most of "Loop" by myself and that was important to me, she continues.

– The way "Loop" is written and everything about it really is in line with my artistic vision. It was always a dream of mine to be on stage to sing and also to dance.

What was the trigger?

– It was always my dream since I was really young. I've always watched Eurovision and have always been the biggest fan. I recall when Helena Paparizou (Greece 2005: "My Number One") won, I said "One day, I want to be like her and I want to sing and dance my heart out on that stage." Being here now is a dream come true, she says.

Singing and dancing: a risk worth taking?

We've seen Sarah perform the song in the Maltese selection contest, in a couple of pre-parties, and we've watched the music video. The dancing element is clearly evident and will also be for Eurovision:

– Yes, there's going to be dancing but we will obviously adapt the choreography and the whole performance since it's a different stage, she says.

– In Malta, it was a studio-based production so we'll obviously elevate it but there will be dancing for sure and a lot of energy.

She goes on to say she's not allowed to say much but she'll keep the same group of dancers with just "one change." Sarah ends up teasing it as an "extension of the music video," and focuses on the fact that she wants her Eurovision performance to reflect exactly who she is:

– I like to be very much involved in the production. At the end of the day, I am the one performing on stage and I need to be fully comfortable and confident. The whole performance has to represent myself.

What do you want people to remember once your three minutes are up?

– Hard question. I want to give a great performance and that's how I seek happiness. I'd like people to acknowledge my hard work and the fact that I am singing and dancing at the same time which isn't easy. I'd like them to look at it and think, "I liked this performance and she did great."

Is it a risk worth taking, singing and dancing at the same time?

– I hope so. I mean, I am very passionate about singing and that's what I always say: I am a singer first and then anything else. Getting the singing right is the most important factor and I will not risk not having it right for dancing. I believe that I am here to deliver a show that is both entertaining and hopefully jaw-dropping for people watching.

Sarah Bonnici – "Loop" (Live at PrePartyES 2024)
Sarah Bonnici – "Loop" (Live at London Eurovision Party 2024)

"Loop": Spontaneous and revamped

Let's go back to Sarah Bonnici's song "Loop" and the creative process, which is also like a loop as it keeps on coming back to London, the city where the song was born:

– It's an interesting story because I was in London to write a Eurovision song with a group of writers. Since I was in town I thought, "Why not book another songwriting session just for fun?" Well, I did and the session I came to London for got canceled, Sarah says.

– So, I reunited with Sebastian Pritchard-James and Leire Gotxi Angel (two of the songwriters) and that's when we wrote "Loop," I think it was meant to be. I then returned to Malta and worked more in it with a local producer (Michael from The Busker) but I was not sure I would actually submit it.

It was during a wedding that she just decided she would:

– I was midway through the wedding and decided to go back to my car. I listened to it again, contemplated, and ended up submitting it on the day of the deadline.

We are trying to deliver the best possible productSarah Bonnici

The rest is history. Sarah won the Malta Eurovision Song Contest 2024 and has more recently revamped "Loop":

– We are trying to deliver the best possible product and I am a perfectionist myself. I think there's always room for improvement, Sarah says about the decision for revamping the song.

– There were a few a things I wanted to challenge and so we took that opportunity but it was mostly production elements without major changes.

While she admits she avoids looking into the comments sections too much, she admits it was thanks to some of the constructive criticism she read online that she also decided to apply the changes to "Loop":

– I avoid looking at them because you can get too influenced by them. It can really affect your mood but I value constructive criticism and that's also why we did this revamp, there were a few comments stating the words weren't too clear, for example.

Take us through those changes.

– We changed a bit of the lyrics to make it easier for people to understand it and to make sure there weren't too many words. At the end of the day, we want to make sure that the viewer fully understands what I am singing. The melody line of the hook and chorus were also changed so it'd be easier to sing along, she clarifies.

– We ended up also cleaning and improving the quality factor of the song. For that, we got Joy Deb on board who's actually worked on a Eurovision winning song (Sweden 2015: "Heroes").

She mentioned Helena Paparizou as the person who triggered her Eurovision interest, which certainly is an incredible role model. But there are more people who guided her along the way. Not only is she a close friend of Michael Joe Cini from The Busker who also helped on the song, but she was also mentored by Malta's Miriam Christine (Malta 1996) when she was younger:

– I was very young when she mentored me but she has always believed in me and pushed me to go forward in times I didn't believe in myself, that's precisely the advice I took from her: that I can do whatever I put my mind into even when I feel that I can't.

From Junior to Eurovision

Speaking of her younger days, Sarah Bonnici attempted to represent Malta in the Junior Eurovision Song Contest (JESC) twice. She ended up not winning, but went to JESC 2010 as a dancer:

– I remember it being an amazing experience and it honestly fueled even more my desire for Eurovision, she reflects.

– It is a completely different world but some of the things are similar, it puts you on a massive stage and in front of all of those cameras... But when you're young you don't really acknowledge the sense of responsibility it brings along but I wasn't the main act so the level of pressure was lower.

– Obviously, Eurovision comes with great responsibility as I am representing my country and myself. But I am looking forward to work as hard as I can to give the best possible performance.

She goes on to share the best lesson she took from the experience:

– To try, as much as possible, to enjoy and appreciate the journey, which is hard because there's just so much work to do and I feel like people don't really understand how much work goes into this. That's the main thing I took from Junior Eurovision, to enjoy this opportunity life has given me.

While growing up, she participated in multiple other musical competitions, something she's not looking forward to in the near future:

– I am actually not drawn into competitions. I do believe they give you confidence and you end up learning about yourself and, of course, you get extra exposure but as an artist my focus right now is not competitions, she stops and thinks.

– Eurovision is different as it has always been a dream and my main goal was to always represent Malta in it. After the contest, I have other plans for my career.

Those certainly don't include going back to her previous career. If Sarah's musical career hadn't worked out, she had a plan B: Accounting.

– I hope I never have to go back, she laughs.

– I always wanted to become a singer but opportunities lack in Malta so accounting was my plan B even though when I was in university it was my plan A, she recalls.

– It took so much of my time and sometimes I look back and think I shouldn't have given it so much importance because now here I am focusing on my music.

It's always wise to have a plan B.

– Definitely. But if I could turn back time, I would've prioritized my music more. I didn't have to focus on having good grades or come first in my class.

I hope I never have to go back to accountingSarah Bonnici

From being the first in her accounting class to first in the Malta Eurovision Song Contest to what place in the Eurovision Song Contest?

– Well, we're a small country and looking at Malta's history throughout Eurovision, especially in recent years, it's tough to even qualify. But, as I said before, giving a great performance is my goal which puts my nerves a little down but, of course, I aim at qualifying.

– Outside of my career, I love Eurovision and being here already means a lot... Having this opportunity is simply amazing.

Before we wrap up our chat, Sarah goes on to share she is full girl power this year:

– I love the Italian entry ("La Noia")... I love Sanremo and that country so I am a bit biased, but I also heard the Polish entry ("The Tower") yesterday and liked it, as well as the Georgian ("Firefighter") entry... Oh! And Cyprus ("Liar")!

As we say our goodbyes, Sarah didn't forget to thank who's been there for her:

– Having people's support makes a huge difference. I am so grateful to be given this opportunity and to perform at Eurovision, I am very humbled by that so thank you to everyone who gave me this opportunity and to everyone who's supporting me.

Sarah Bonnici will open the second Semi-final of the Eurovision Song Contest 2024 in Malmö with "Loop" on 9 May.

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.

Eurovision News