This week on Throwback Thursday we delve into the Hungarian dream of Kati Wolf and her Düsseldorf delight from the 2011 Eurovision Song Contest, ‘What About My Dreams?’
Hungary returns from exile
Throughout this decade it has become common place to expect Hungary to be a regular feature in the grand final. Since 2011 Hungary have obtained an impressive streak of eight consecutive qualifications. Currently the joint second longest active qualifying streak, alongside Sweden. Behind Ukraine, who hold their 100% record with 14. However the sound of Europe’s heart wasn’t always beating strongly for the land-locked nation. Success and failure have been an interwoven fabric in Hungary’s stop-start relationship with the contest.
Their first attempt in 1993 started with non-qualification in the Eastern Bloc pre-qualifying selection for Andrea Szulák’s ‘Árva reggel‘. From then on it has been a consistent pendulum swing of good and bad results during their 16 participations. Yet they did almost get a teaser of glory in their official debut in 1994. Friderika Bayer’s gentle ballad ‘Kinek mondjam el vétkeimet?‘ led the voting for a time, but eventually finished in 4th place.
Of course this turbulence has been scattered with withdrawals from the contest. From the absence between 1999-2004. As well as the withdrawal in 2006. The most recent withdrawal came at the very start of this decade. After the Moscow contest MTV (now MTVA) formally confirmed their withdrawal from 2010 participation, citing financial difficulties. Undeterred and with a local name starting to make an impact, Hungary immediately announced their return for the following year. So up steps Kati Wolf and her Düsseldorf dreams!
Kati Wolf’s journey to Düsseldorf
Thankfully during the 2011 national final season, Hungary’s hasty return hadn’t yet given rise to the A Dal format. Thus the arrival of Kati Wolf came through the March period of internal selections. Starting in the industry from a young age, Kati (born Katalin Wolf) featured on the opening theme to the children’s cartoon Vuk (in English The Little Fox). After finishing her schooling at the Hungarian Music Academy, Kati once again ventured into television. This time taking centre stage on Hungary’s version of The X Factor (X Faktor), where she advanced to the live shows and finished in 6th place.
Following her successful breakthrough Kati quickly became the name touted for Hungary’s imminent return. In February of 2011 she released the Hungarian language version of what would become ‘What About My Dreams?’ titled ‘Szerelem, miért múlsz?’. During the official presentation it was revealed that Kati would present a mixed English and Hungarian version at the contest. On the team were composers Viktor Rakonczay and Gergő Rácz, who represented Hungary in 1997 with ‘Miért kell, hogy elmenj?‘ and also co-wrote the 2008 entry ‘Candlelight‘.
What about my Schlager dreams?
Heading into the contest Kati had firmly established herself as a fan favourite. This had not gone unnoticed with the bookmakers, where she was tracking as the 4th favourite in the pre-contest odds. As it goes, I concurred and ‘What About My Dreams?’ remains my favourite Hungarian entry. It will come as no surprise to many, that I picked an entry not from the national final process and that has the most life affirming beats!
For me this was a great representation of a Disco Schlager banger on the Eurovision stage. The gradual build with the piano melody as Kati lays bare her soul, before the chorus pops and descends into the 80s electro tones fused with the 808 machine drums beats in the breakdown. The Roland TR-808 was the go to kit that produced many of the familiar electronic drum patterns used in 80s/90s Disco and Hip-Hop. Such as the intro to Whitney Houston’s classic hair brush anthem, ‘I Wanna Dance With Somebody‘. So for those that are unsure of what Tamta is talking about when her, “heart beats like an 808” in ‘Replay‘, now you know!
There is a fighting spirit within the songs lyrics, as an inspiring message of letting go of your burdens and embracing your destiny. To add a little colour, there is the addition of the Hungarian language. Although I think a reverse image of predominant Hungarian and tiny section of English would’ve maintained the vocal consistency of the song better. More interaction with the dancers and creating a performance for Kati could have elevated the song beyond its 22nd placing in the grand final. But the laser show to rival an Armin van Buuren set was more than enough to have me waving my glow-sticks that night. Whilst the voting public gave their verdict, ‘What About My Dreams?’ and Kati Wolf stand the test of time and remains a popular request at Eurovision events.
Kati Wolf after Eurovision
Despite not achieving what might have been expected, the 2011 experience didn’t dampen Kati’s passion for the contest. In the following year and introduction of the new format for Hungary’s selection process, Kati put her Eurovision experience to use and was a judge on the first edition of A Dal in 2012. More recently in 2015 Kati switched roles and entered A Dal as a participant. This time taking things downtempo with the Linnea Deb co-written ballad, ‘Ne engedj el’ (in English ‘The Less I Care‘). Unfortunately it wasn’t to be for a return to Eurovision, as she finished just short of the super-final in the national final. Meanwhile Kati has embraced her placement in Eurovision folklore and the fans hearts in attending events such as the Eurovision Cruise and Eurofest. Last year Kati made her music comeback with the release of mid-tempo electronic track ‘Underwater‘.
What the others had to say…
Take me back to platform stilettos, highlights, glitter eyeshadow
The studio track was awesome and I recall being really hopeful for how the entry would perform. Unfortunately, unfortunate styling from head to toe paired with lazy camera cuts and empty staging brought this pop-tactic track down to 22nd place. This is why I always say: staging matters, styling matters.
Funnily enough my strongest connection so far to this song is the pop melody. Took me so long to get it at the time. I was like… who is this Kati and what is this annoying song part? Which is kinda stuck in my brain now. But as I am listening through it now again in full, I can say that I actually like it. Love the start, it reminds me of one my favourite Eurovision entries. Guess the lyrics speak more to me now, as I am learning it is healthy to be selfish sometimes and do the things you actually want to do. Not just what other people want you to do. Furthermore I seem to be falling for the Hungarian language at Eurovision, so that part is golden to me.
Ah, Hungary. How I love you! Seems like every artist you send eventually find a way into my heart and my top 10. And Kati Wolf? Well she is…the exception. HOLD ON! You already have your pitchfork ready, I’m sure, BUT WHAT ABOUT MY FEELINGS? WHAT ABOUT MY DREAMS? HUH? They have been pretty good ever since I stopped watching the entirety of A Dal each year, actually.
As for this, the entire act always came across as someone trying their best to emulate Melodifestivalen with bits and pieces they found lying around on the floor after Andra Chansen. I still can’t figure out how she was able to hold that microphone while wearing an entire royal wedding’s worth of jewerly on just one finger as a ring. And don’t even get me started on the bootleg light-up Backstreet Boys backflipping behind her…Maybe that’s why Kati looked so stiff and scared on stage, she was just too afraid to walk around and see all the things going on around her and I honestly can’t blame her.
A true Hungarian entry. Great song, great potential, yet all falls flat by the execution on stage. There was nothing about the production and presentation of ‘What About My Dreams?’ that did justice to a smart piece of pop music. As someone in the Live Stream that night said at the end of voting, “Poor Wolf Kati, she is all Europe needs!” Yet Europe was unstirred.
What do you think of ‘What About My Dreams?’ Do you want Kati Wolf to return? Let us know in the comments and social media @ESCXTRA