XTRA Throwback Thursday: Uniquely Ukrainian

Happy Birthday Ukraine! Twenty-six today, and fresh as ever.

This week’s XTRA Throwback Thursday celebrates Ukrainian Independence Day with an exploration of what this Eurovision powerhouse does that no other nation can match. Whatever the genre, this nation’s entries are always uniquely Ukrainian.

This week’s theme: Uniquely Ukrainian

Only fourteen Ukrainian acts have taken to the Eurovision stage, yet this young country feels like a linchpin of the contest, guaranteed to show the continent how things should be done.
Ukraine also has a canny knack of picking a song that will work. Really work. Even when at first it sounds and looks dreadful.  Whether the vibe is class or trash, ballad or banger, rock band or pop diva, Ukraine knows how to turn any frankly shoddy national final performance into Eurovision gold.
The odd internal selection has been thrown into the mix, but you’ll probably have to navigate a national final to make it to Eurovision for Ukraine, and they are not to be missed. You may encounter artists that haven’t appeared on the pre-released running order, acts that announce their withdrawal immediately after participation and, when it comes to the voting, you may well be grilled on your geopolitical views by an emotional Ruslana.
From Kyiv and (mostly) 26 years old, Svetlana Loboda was the representative of Ukraine in 2009. And what a way to represent this nation. Only three acts have given Ukraine a lower finishing position, but ‘Be My Valentine/Anti-Crisis Girl’ epitomises what this country brings to the contest.
Sass/kween/slay/fierce and all that? Confirmed. More close ups of groins, abs and arses than faces? Absolutely. Surprisingly good vocals? naturally. National pride? Confirmed. Minimal musical content but produced magnificently? Of course. It’s Ukraine. Props and gimmicks that actually seem to work? Well, yes.
Svetlana’s ‘hell machine’, supposedly now the favourite hangout of her parents’ cats, was eight years ago a tool to show off Svetlana’s splits and her dancers’ thighs. What else could Europe need?

Ukraine has presented many entries of greater – shall we say – musicological value, but even offerings like Alyosha’s ‘Sweet People’ and Jamala’s ‘1944’ have that distinct sprinkle of Ukrainian magic. Furthermore, greater professionalism than many acts who have far greater budgets and far fewer troubles to contend with en route to the stage.

With five podiums in fourteen attempts, Ukraine knows its onto a good thing. Long may they continue!

What the others had to say….

To be honest, Svetlana Loboda is not my favourite entry, but I think it’s the craziest one in a good sense:) The song itself is definitely not a masterpiece, but the singer and her performance makes it quite powerful. Svetlana is a real “show girl”, she is an outrageous singer. You can check her music videos and you will see what I mean. As for me, it’s a case when a singer is so confident about her performance and about what she is doing on stage that she is kind of ‘infects’ the audience with it and makes people vote for her.  My favourite song of Ukraine is ‘Wild Dances’. And for me it’s still the best Eurovision winner ever. I think Ruslana inspired the whole country with her victory and since that time there were more and more Eurovision fans in Ukraine and more and more amazing entries from Ukraine, not counting the year right after her victory!

Ukraine is by far my favourite Eurovision country, so keeping this comment short will be about as challenging as it was for Svetlana to concentrate on miming singing ‘Be My Valentine’ whilst in such close proximity to those gladiators swoon
First of all, trashy as it undoubtedly is, I love everything about this entry. Energetic, catchy, and full of attitude, it’s one of those drunken diva songs that I can’t help but PERFORM whenever it comes on. Some people have Beyoncé – we have Svetlana, and I am not complaining in the slightest. She’s such a character too, and a real visionary artist. Though she’s quite hit and miss, when she gets it right she strikes absolute gold. Have a look at ‘Na Svete‘ or ‘Zhit Legko‘ if you fancy getting more of an idea of her range.
Aside from that, if we pretend 2003 and 2017 didn’t exist, I’ve loved pretty much every other entry Ukraine have ever sent. Zlata’s ‘Gravity’ and Ani Lorak’s ‘Shady Lady’ are in my all-time top 5, and I’ll never tire of rambling on about how incredible those two are. I also adore Tina Karol’s 2006 entry ‘Show Me Your Love‘, Jamala’s haunting ‘1944‘ (and her 2011 NF entry ‘Smile‘ which showed a COMPLETELY different side of her) and of course Ruslana’s iconic ‘Wild Dances‘. Ukraine very rarely let me down, and their entry is always the one I look forward to hearing most. Any country wanting to succeed at modern Eurovison: take a leaf out of the Ukrainian book and you won’t go far wrong.

Svetlana needed Eurovision to save her career back then and ouch, the song wasn’t great. Anti-Crisis Girl? Really? The whole act was fun, that’s fine, but girl, please, you could do much better. Did you know that she hooked up with one of her dancers, got married and they had a baby? Competely true! I love Svetlana today, she turned into this speaking-rather-than-singing-plastic-surgery-fantasy. She’s great.
Speaking of other Ukrainian entries, clearly, Ukraine delivers awesome diva moments. Starting from their first ever folk inspired Ruslana winner, Ukrainian women have been bringing it in terms of spectacle and results. Unsurprisingly, many have gone on to have very successful careers. And yes, I had Lorak’s choreography down back in 2008. And yes, she is the rightful winner of 2008.


What’s your favourite Uniquely Ukrainian moment? Share your memories to celebrate Ukraine’s birthday with us below and @escxtra
днем народження!

Next week

Our Tom explores the vaults of Le Royaume Uni for another Throwback Thursday!

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