About time I started this off then, kicking off the 2014 session with one of the biggest national finals any country has for their Eurovision pre-selection. But it seems to work, because this country is Ukraine. They’ve had plenty of issues on home turf in the last few months, but the show must go on; they’ve got a good strike-rate to maintain.
Ukraine are one of the biggest hitters in Eurovision right now. Since their 2003 debut they’ve had 5 top 5 finishes, including last year’s 3rd place finish for the amazing Zlata Ognevich. Can they do even better in Copenhagen, and maybe even claim a second victory?
Ukraine was the first country to hold a national final, getting things sorted on 21 December. A 50/50 split of Jury & SMS voting decided the winner. I’ll look at each of the 20 finalists from 20th place to the eventual winner.
You can watch the entries too, they have all been helpfully uploaded by Youtube user Bonn Bon
Well this doesn’t sound too bad, plonky minimal electro. Oh wait, the vocals… it’s a bit whiney isn’t it? It’s quite interesting, I wonder why anyone thought this would be a Eurovision entry though. I like the production, it’s just not really a crowd-pleaser is it? Jesus fuck, what is that scream!? Well at least it’s not boring. It’s growing on me already.
Lissa Wassabi – No Fear
Is that a shamisen in the background? Very Asian-sounding isn’t it. Another oddball female singer with an… unconventional melody. I listened to about 30 seconds of chorus before I could work out what the beat was, it’s like everything’s happening at random, there’s no timing! Maybe it’s the sound quality. A bit of a mess if I’m honest. I just don’t like how random everything sounds, it doesn’t help things at all.
Anna Hodorovska – Yesli yest lyubov
More intriguing females, with a blonde bombshell singing what sounds like a normal song with a normal melody, thank goodness! This isn’t bad, a bit old-fashioned but that ethereal ballad sound never really sounds dated. It sounds like an amazing song is in there somewhere but it never quite makes it. Still nice though.
Anna-Maria – 5 Stars Hotel
Interesting title, I wasn’t expecting a female duet ballad though. Oh no, is that sign language or just strange choreography? Either way it’s a bit distracting, but I think that’s not a bad thing in this case, it’s a bit boring. Their voices are nice together but the song isn’t anything special. Why did they paint their hands?!
Tania BerQ – Believe Me
Are all these entrants women, or are they just cluttering the bottom of the results table? I don’t think red is her natural colour. I’m not sure singing is her natural talent either. I mean it’s OK but she sounds a bit shaky. It doesn’t help that she’s only got a dreary midtempo ballad to work with. She gets a strobe warning, a shouty glory note and a damaged mic stand towards the end, I guess that’s something.
Denis Lyubimov – Love
A man! Or more accurately the lowest-ranked man in the contest. Oh he’s quite hot! He’s got a voice for a rock song rather than this watered-down MoR stuff. I mean it’s quite good, he sounds a LOT like the guy from The Calling doesn’t he? It’s a decent radio-friendly lite-rock and he performs it well, but it’s no winner. A sexy spoken-word middle-eight too, lucky me!
Marietta – It’s My Life
Back to the females though, I like the sound of this one, it’s sort of modern folk music. OMG I don’t know if it’s the average stuff I’ve heard so far that’s lowering my expectations but I love that chorus, particularly that little Bluegrass bit. This is good stuff, I could see this at Eurovision – perhaps not qualifying because it was sent by FYR Macedonia, but I’d be sad about that. Love her!
Tatiana Shirko – Let Go
I do feel the quality slowly improving as we go along, it’s quite easy to compare them though as they are nearly all female-vocalled. We’ve got some dramatic interpretive dance in the background too, always a winner. She’s got a good voice, and I love some of the production flourishes on this, even if it’s not a particularly interesting song. She does well though, she could’ve been a contender with a better song.
Roman Polonsky – Wanted Dead Or Alive
Oh lord, is this real? That name! Those sound effects at the start, how odd this is. He looks like Pitbull. Unfortunately this Mr Worldwide is going nowhere fast with this one. The chorus has a nice bit of dramatic rock overkill to it. It’s growing on me, but I’m not sure it’s quite connecting for me. Some interpretive dance is thrown in at the end too … it finishes well but, yeah, not rocking my world.
Anatoly Shparev – Waiting For You
Is this the Ukrainian Eric Saade then? That’s a bit generous, maybe Anton Ewald. No that’s unfair, his voice is pretty decent, and as tacky as that dance routine is, it’s supposed to be a 80s throwback isn’t it? That explains the horrific outfits at least. That chorus is solid though, love it! OMG I love it the more I watch it. Didn’t even make the top 10, where’s the justice??
Stas Shurins – Why
Top 10 now, and another young man with a vaguely rock-lite voice. Despite some earpiece problems he’s kept it together, he’s got a nice voice. I’m not sold on the song though, it’s sort of boring. I can see the appeal but it’s not really my thing. That chorus could be a grower, I like the overall sound of the track.
Shanis – Moya dusha
All these Ukrainian women are very pretty aren’t they? Here’s a Ukrainian-language slow-jam. I’m not sure my life was crying out for that sort of song. She’s got a lovely voice but I just don’t feel anything for this song, it just sounds like dated 90s R’n’B music, no matter how good a singer she is.
Evgeny Litvinkovich – Strelyanaya ptitsa
More local-language balladry, not skimping on the syllables either. Evgeny makes the language sound really interesting though. I don’t mean to be rude but Evgeny IS a guy, right? This has got a nice power behind it, and those female backing harmonies really give it a nice depth. Really melodramatic but this is how I love my Eastern ballads. It might not be up there with the best but it’s a good one.
Nataliya Valevska – Love Makes You Beautiful
Female-vocalled EDM pop with extravagant backing dancers? Count me in! Her voice is a little hard to understand, and admittedly most of the work is done by the modern synth production, but I’m enjoying it. Fairly unoriginal as a concept but it’s a good pop song performed well. What more can you say about that?
neAngely – Courageous
In a similar vein, here’s a striking duo of two imposing women singing … well, is this Ukrainian schlager!? It’s fantastic, whatever it is. The vampiric brunette has an unexpectedly deep voice, it’s quite distracting! Chalk this up as “one for the gays” but I really love it. Typical. This would be filed under 2009’s Svetlana if it had made it to Eurovision. They are performing the hell out of this song!
Illaria – I’m Alive
WTF IS THIS!? That spooky music-box intro is nice, but… what an odd outfit, I thought she was in blackface for a moment, but it was just a light-up dress and shower cap. Whatever it is, it’s hard not to look at her. I’m not sure I like the song that much though, it’s a bit miserable and the melody takes a while to get going. It’s an interesting, hypnotic show, with a bit of stunt operatics in the middle-eight before a much-needed key change. Strange but I sort of like it now.
Viktor Romanchenko – Na krayu propasti
I love the dramatic flower-crushing at the start, hardcore! The hooded monk look isn’t really working well either. He’s got a powerful voice, verging on shouty. This Ukrainian-language entry evidently did well, finishing 4th, but I feel like I’m missing some crucial part of the appeal. It’s fine but how did this get to the top 5?
Volodimir Tkachenko – Byti tam de ti
Definitely a bit of a wildcard entry, but I sort of like that chilled out guitar love song sound in this one. There’s a limit to how exciting or viable this could be as an entry, but it certainly stands out from the other songs so far. But the song itself doesn’t do a lot for me. I like the last 30 seconds more though.
Viktoria Petryk – Love Is Lord
Interesting title, and another club diva female nearly won the Ukrainian ticket, coming 2nd in the final. Hate that dress though! Frustratingly she stays relatively low-key despite that beginning. It has some promise but there’s just not an interesting melody in there. She’s a great performer though, even if she saves it all for the last minute. It really builds into a pretty awesome electro-ballad in that final stretch, this turned out rather good. Close… but no cigar.
Mariya Yaremchuk – Tick-Tock
So here we are, the first song for Copenhagen. Judging by the standard of the entries in this national final I’m expecting good things. Ooh this really gets going early, she walks like Rihanna doesn’t she? Fortunately she can sing and she can dance. What a fun little chorus though. “Tick tock, ticky ticky tock tock tock”. The rest is better though.
Wow, they really have a great chorus there don’t they? This is a really solid Eurovision entry, I can’t see this affecting Ukraine’s rare 100% qualification rate for the grand final. That last 30 seconds is amazing, I LOVE IT! Is it running a bit short though?
This is slick stuff, and a brilliant start to the season. Well done Ukraine! I expect this to do well, perhaps even go all the way… it feels way too soon to be speculating like that, but I mean listen to it!