XTRA Debate: Is Ukraine’s loss Hatari’s gain?

Can hate prevail?

Drama is no stranger to any edition of Eurovision, this year is certainly no exception. However, the shock withdrawal of Ukraine still feels almost too raw, especially as the Head of Delegations meet to confirm the songs for Eurovision 2019. The news sparked a big debate within the fandom, national and international media. However, does the late withdrawal of Ukraine somehow benefit Hatari?

Now, quite obviously the simple answer is yes. One less country immediately increases the chances of success to qualify for all other participating nations. But for Iceland in particular, the odds seem to be in their favour…

Siren Song?

Ukraine was due to perform in the second half of the first semi-final, the same as Iceland. I think it is fair to say that both songs were on the more ‘unconventional’ side of things. Both songs include a high-production performance with no hesitation using sexualised imagery or props/movements easily linked to sexuality.

As I’ve previously explained in another debate, one concern I had going into Eurovision 2019 was the abundance of songs that tap into a similar musical or performative vein. I was originally talking about ‘bops’, yet it seems many nations have gone with ballads, go figure. Nevertheless the point still stands. Although MARUV and Hatari’s respective performances certainly stand out, having the two acts perform close to one another easily dulls the impact of both. There was a very real potential they could have essentially cancelled out one another. Audiences and juries alike may have cognitively lumped the two together, ignoring obvious differences such as style or language into ‘kink’ songs. Thus, the absence of Ukraine not only makes Hatari stand out, but they act as a magnet for attention. There is huge potential for the act to become televote fodder.

I expect the song will fare much better with televoters than the jury, the former more prone to impulsive voting behaviours. You only need to go back to Copenhagen to conclude that a vote based on shock, sensual scandal and impulse definitely helped Poland achieve 5th in the Grand Final. Or even more recently Poland 2016, a song branded as ‘dated’ and divisive coming third in the televote…

Hate will prevail!

It goes without saying that Hatrið mun sigra is not for everyone. It is a divisive song, with incredibly pointed lyrics and even more pointed performance. However, I personally love it and it certainly has a growing following. This is the key to success at Eurovision, at least for the televoters. In a field of 17 or 26 songs, a ‘safe’ song may provide a pleasant performance or a cute stage show… but that is it. A nice ditty does not make me want to pick up my phone and vote. Sadly, this is a lesson Iceland has learnt the hard way in recent years.

Like most people out there, I will only vote for something if I proactively want it to succeed. You can hate a song all you like, but it is highly unlikely you will vote for any/every other song (up to 20 times!) to try and make something fail. Beyond the initial spectacle of leather, latex, straps and bodily flailing there is a cleverly crafted song with provocative lyrics. Arguably, there is more to captivate and enthrall the senses than Siren Song had to offer, even if it was a more easy to consume and appreciate.

Performance and memory

Since Hatari’s win, the ESCXTRA team have had multiple in-depth conversations about Iceland’s chances this year. The team did almost the exact same thing following MARUV’s win. The connection between the two is far from coincidental. Both songs act as talking points, creating a buzz that can easily draw attention from less explicit or visually stimulating performances. However, unlike MARUV whose performance in the Vidbir final was fairly explicit, it is nothing compared to the BDSM menagerie provided by Hatari.

Yet Hatari’s overt sexuality is almost trivialised. It is used as a performative mode to portray the disdain and the poignant message of the song. Rather than just depending solely on sex to sell the package, Hatari’s angst hooks onto an inter-generational feeling. Be it 16 or 61, I think almost everyone has felt an indignant rage caused by external forces or systems seemingly outside of your control. The song taps into a nostalgic dissonance hidden in all of us. A primal emotive authenticity which is rarely represented in great numbers in the Eurovision Song Contest.

Image result for simpsons teenage dance

The techno punk performance art group tap into a personal and competitive form of memory. I think it is a bit too early to say if Hatari could win or not. However, I’m finding it difficult to see how they wouldn’t qualify or at least do very well with the televote. Ukraine’s loss is almost certainly Iceland’s gain.

Aivis’ opinion

I must confess, Hatari’s victory is quite a feat to Eurovision, and Oliver has chosen a great argument indeed. What springs to my mind is another Icelandic entry – 2016. Similar to this years performance, Greta had a very similar stage concept to Sergey Lazarev of Russia. Back then, the entry definitely fares less well because the Russian performance felt more polished and smooth, and I still would stand by my claims that it would have qualified had Russia been drawn in the other semi.

Countries like Russia and Ukraine definitely invest in their stage performances, which is something that Iceland may not be able to replicate to the same level of extravagance so readily. However, the rawness and grit of Hatari could come into their favour. I cannot disagree with Oliver – Ukraine’s withdrawal will have definitely benefited Iceland. It will stand out (in a good, or bad way) and therefore get some votes for its wow-factor if not the song itself, something that it may have to struggled to attain were Ukraine to compete.

Protest power

Another thing to consider is the fact that Icelandic song is an anti-capitalist protest, an extra layer that Ukraine’s fun bop lacked. Maruv’s song gave us lust. I’m sure there are definitely fans out there wishing to be part of her thigh-cannon (or at least tried the move out in their bedrooms!).

On the other hand, Iceland’s entry evokes angst, yet also delivers the potential beauty that can be found with disorder. I do think that this protest, and the broken order, will translate well with both juries and televotes. For some reason, their performance reminds me of Turkey 2010. If we follow the tradition and the success of MaNga – Iceland could and should come second. Beyond the initial shock of the vocal shout, and many straps, there is something about the song that you can connect with. Keeping the song in Icelandic will force commentators to explain the message. How often do we see the message of English songs explained to audiences for context? It’s pretty hard for the message to be lost in translation!

Nevertheless, being different can backfire bigtime. See Triana Park. Despite standing out with a colourful and vibrant performance closing the semi, they also finished last. On the other hand, Finland 2006 managed to easily win by being as scary as Hatari. It will be interesting to see how Iceland fares, and whether their protest will cause consequences.

Will Hatari do a ‘Triana Park’ or a ‘Lordi’?

Undeniably, Ukraine really has helped Iceland here, at least in theory. We will see the final outcome in May, and if Iceland does well, well then let the hate prevail.

Do you agree that Hatari could benefit from Ukraine’s withdrawal? Or is too small to make a difference? Let us know in the comments or social media @ESCXTRA!

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