With a wide-open contest this year, several of the recent Eurovision powerhouses are circling, making it look quite likely that 2013 will be the year a nation will chalk up their 2nd 21st century victory. If we’re talking powerhouses, there are few more powerful in Eurovision than the Russian Federation.
Russia debuted in 1994 not long after the fall of the Iron Curtain brought the former USSR into the realms of the European Broadcasting Union. Along with the breakup of Yugoslavia, it was among the first in a wave of new nations to join the Eurovision family. Russia performed better than some of its fellow debutants, but they floundered in the next few years before taking a break.
Skip ahead to 2000 when they could perform in English, and they returned in style, coming 2nd. Mostly performing in English and with the now famous Eastern Bloc on their side, Russia have done very well since. They are one of only four nations since 2004 to have a 100% qualification record (the others being Greece, Romania and Ukraine). They have only ever finished as low as 17th, and have finished top 3 six times, including a win by Dima Bilan in 2008 and last year’s 2nd place by the infamous Russian Grannies.
So in short, don’t mess with them. Their performance is often unpredictable (who saw RedOne-produced 2011 entry “Get you” being one of their worst-perfoming?), but this year they are keeping it simple. Presumably they are terrified of being typecast after last year’s national selection backfired, sending a gang of old ladies cooking cat meat instead of the proposed star duet between former winner Dima Bilan and former t.A.T.u. artist (and Eurovision bronze medallist) Julia Volkova, to the utter mortification of the judging panel.
Enter Dina Garpova, winner of Russia’s version of “The Voice”, hand-picked by Russian Channel One to sing a nice uplifting peace power-ballad. I’ve read a few negative remarks about Russia sending peace songs considering their human rights records etc etc. Well to be honest, I’d rather one of the biggest military forces in the world to be singing peace ballads than a toothless conscientious objectors like Switzerland (and they’ve done that).
Particularly I feel like this because it’s rather a nice peace-ballad. Sure, the sentiment is a bit corny and reminiscent of an X-Factor winner’s single, and it has an astonishingly cheesy video with some really ridiculous reaction shots.
It’s jammed full of hopeful cliches for a brighter future, and it’s totally possible voters just won’t respond to it at all. But she can sing it really well (I’ve yet to hear a live performance), and that middle-eight is pretty killer. There’s a key-change, all well and good. But that final 15 seconds really does have the power to make people remember it I think, if they pull that off in Malmö that’s going to be a bit of a showstopper.
The only fly in the ointment is that in Semi 1 (already a tough group) it’s followed by the even more voxtacular Ukraine. But I don’t suppose that will stop them qualifying, and they could end up with a really good slot in the final. I don’t personally think Russia will win this year, nor cut it quite as close as they did last year, but it should at least be another comfortable top 10 finish to add to their collection.
Read more of my ESC2013 entry reviews and other news on my Malmö hub!