This year at Eurovision we discovered that apparently subtle is the new black. It makes sense that with Eurovision heading back to one of Europe’s classical musical capitals people would want to keep it classy but there certainly was a little something missing. After racking our brains for a while the answer became obvious.
It’s Ukraine. Ukraine was missing. We need Ukraine. And this is why…
1. They know how to put on a hell of a show
Ukraine has proven itself time and time again to be the masters of putting on a show. In 2004 when Ruslana took to the stage, she brought with her an energy that hadn’t been seen before; she truly was a wild dancer. The leather, the whips, the stomping! It was as if Xena herself had stepped onto the stage. And so it happened in 2004 that Ukraine gave Eurovision the boot it needed to move from purely a song contest into a visual extravaganza.
2. They’re never boring
There have been a few times that Ukraine has given us a scare when it seems like they might be about to go down the route of being boring. In 2011 this seemed like it was about to happen after Ukraine selected Mika Newton with her ballad Angel to go to Düsseldorf. I know I personally suspected that Ukraine might fail to qualify for the first time when all of a sudden Ukraine’s Got Talent winner sand artist Kseniya Simonova showed up to save the day. The result was a magical performance that became less about the song and more about the sand.
3. They know how to polish up a song
Watching a Ukrainian national final is a bizarre experience, because quite often the finished product won’t even closely resemble the mess that gets selected. The best example of this was when in 2006 Ukraine selected ‘I Am Your Queen’. Realising that they had a complete mess on their hands they folked it up, transformed the dance routine, completely overhauled the lyrics and glammed Tina Karol up to present a completely different song by the time she got to Athens.
4. They know when to be a hot mess
Sometimes though, a song is so trashy that no amount of polishing can hide it. But not even that can stop Ukraine. Take 2009’s entry by Svetlana Loboda for example. When ‘Be My Valentine’ was selected it drove the trash factor levels off the charts. Rather than attempt to class it up at all, Ukraine decided to throw everything they could at it. Half naked centurions, a nonsensical final chorus, A drum solo in between flapping Ukrainian flags and whatever that hell machine contraption was. The result was such a mess that it became an iconic mess.
5. They’re truly iconic
And speaking of iconic messes, where would an article about Ukraine be without mentioning Ukraine’s number one drag sensation Verka Serduchka! For many people this is what Eurovision is all about. Absurdity, craziness, flamboyance and nonsense. Verka has gone on to become so synonymous with Eurovision itself that despite the fact that diehard fans (like myself) try our very hardest to convince our friends that Eurovision DOES have serious musical credentials, we find ourselves ultimately defeated. Besides, Verka has since made her way into the USA with a cameo in the recent movie Spy, so I think we’re just gonna have to ride this one out.
6. They can take it seriously too
Sometimes it’s not all about glitter and gowns and Ukraine has you covered there too. In light of all the trouble Ukraine is having now, it’s easy to forget that it was only 10 years ago they were in a similar position a mere few months before hosting the 2005 contest. So it was with their home entry that they decided to send a song that had been used during the Orange Revolution as the anthem for solidarity. Razom Nas Bahato had to have many of the lyrics changed in order to pass the ‘no political messages’ rule but the message was made nonetheless, and it’s especially poignant to think of Greenjolly’s entry in the wake of the last 18 months.
7. They aren’t afraid of a good prop
When during Mariya Yaremchuk’s first rehearsal in Copenhagen they wheeled out a giant hamster wheel there were plenty of giggles around the press centre. Moments later when we were treated to the newly revamped version of ‘Tick-Tock’ (See point number 3) the giggling died off and was replaced by “oohs” of appreciation. Ukraine has never been afraid of using a prop to liven things up be it a contortionist, a hell machine, a giant, a light box, a tambourine or even a video screen. It just works and it definitely made sure that the 2014 contest opened with a whir.
8. Sexy women with big voices
Quite often in pop music you get people who either have the look or they have the voice. With Ukraine, there’s no need to choose when you can have both. It’s like if the fembots from Austin Powers (wait is that too dated of a reference now?) were combined with the best vocalists of our time. In 2013 Zlata Ognevich stayed true to her name and gave us plenty of golden vocals while looking completely flawless even after she was dumped on a rock by a giant. It’s a feast for the ears and the eyes.
9. Even when they keep it low key it’s dynamite
Despite the overwhelming tendency of Ukraine to put on a huge show with lots of props and beautiful messiness, they can reign it in when necessary too. Take 2010 for example, after ensuring they wouldn’t be boring and dumping previously selected Vasyl Lazarovych (sorry Vasyl, but I stand by NTU on this one) a new candidate was hurriedly and messily selected to replace him. When the dust settled we were left with Alyosha and ‘Sweet People’. Much like Mika Newton after her I suspected that we were in for a boring song anyway but was I wrong. Despite keeping the performance to just her and the stage and dressed in what looks like a pile of rags, Alyosha blew everyone away with her powerful vocal and captivating stage presence. Not only are Ukraine the masters of extravagance they’re also the masters of subtle.
10. Their divas will give you life
And if all these other reasons aren’t good enough to want Ukraine back, then this one is. Ukrainian divas are just the best. They know how to strut, how to work and how to make you feel like crap just by looking at them. They hit every pose, they now how to sashay, how to strut, how to shimmy and how work a stage. It’s all just too much and too perfect. They will literally walk over a dude if they have to, and they’ll look flawless while they do. All these years later I am still so upset that superior Ukrainian diva Ani Lorak somehow lost to inferior Russian diva Dima Bilan but I suppose that’s the way it goes. Europe could not handle this much perfection. Now, If anyone needs me I will just be over here gagging on this elaganza.
Now while Ukraine is enduring some very troubled times I know it’s rather selfish of me to demand that they come back to Eurovision. I would never suggest that a song contest was more important than the defence of a nation’s sovereignty.
But I still miss you Ukraine. I want you back and I cannot wait for the day in which you’re back into my life. And with Ukraine sending an entry to this year’s Junior Eurovision Song Contest in Sofia, Bulgaria it looks like our wish might just be coming true.