Forever compared to the other members of the iconic 2008 bop trilogy alongside “Shady Lady” and “My Secret Combination”, we give Sirusho’s “Qélé Qélé” some well-deserved appreciation. Over 11 years since it first came into my head, it hasn’t left since!
Yes im hay hoooghiiiiiiiiits
With 2005, 2006 and 2007 being substantially weaker years, 2008 was the first contest where I had more than a couple of favourites. Among them were Serbia, Greece, Georgia, Ukraine and Portugal. But my ultimate favourite that year was Armenia. Being a dumb 9-year-old at the time, I heard “Kelly” and ran with it, especially as Kelly Clarkson was my favourite artist at the time. I sure did get a kick yelling “Kelly Kelly!” as a tribute to my man-hating, part-Greek fave…
But back to Sirusho; the song is a bi-lingual Eurovision classic, featuring an Armenian-language intro but otherwise predominately English lyrics, featuring an Armenian refrain (‘qélé’ (Քելե) being a colloquial term for ‘come on’). Written by Sirusho herself, the song remains one of the strongest dual-language ditties to ever grace the Eurovision stage.
Qélé Qélé has aged impeccably and remains a standout from that Grand Final. The song was hardly reinventing the wheel at the contest, but everything it borrows from, it elevates. It remains one of the most effective uses of the classic ‘down-tempo folk intro into a banger’ in the history of the contest. This song structure remains a staple at the contest, see: the ill-fated fan favourite from last month’s Festivali i Këngës – “Me Tana”. The staging harks back to my Eurovision discovery moment – Greece’s “My Number One”, but the performance is perhaps even more polished and energetic than Helena’s. Those hair flips alone…
The Trilogy of Bops
The 2008 wasn’t only notable for the high calibre of songs across the board (not you, Ireland). It was also exceptional as it was the first with two semi-finals and the last where voting was 100% televote. To this day, it is highly speculated that this was the reason why Dima Bilan scored a somewhat controversial win over what I call ‘the Trilogy of Bops’. This trilogy consisted of Qélé Qélé, Kalomira’s “My Secret Combination” and Ani Lorak’s “Shady Lady”. In that order, they placed 4th, 3rd and 2nd. For some, this was a result of three strong, catchy and charming female-fronted uptempos ultimately cancelling each other out. In my opinion, it’s a miracle that those three songs still managed to all get top 5 results. In more recent contests, we’ve seen songs of a similar nature finish with much larger disparities. A prime example being “She Got Me” (4th), “Replay” (13th) and “Chameleon” (14th) from the most recent contest.
Debates around whether “Believe” should have won or if Shady Lady was ‘robbed’ are common place among fans, but ultimately pointless. For the record, I like Believe, but can’t help but feel that the Trilogy delivered stronger performances on the final, with better songs. My winner will always be Sirusho, whose entry went on to be a huge hit in both Armenia and around the region – including Greece and Cyprus, where the song has a sort-of cult following. I will never forget the time Qélé Qélé came on at a Greek wedding I attended years ago. To this day, it is still played frequently on London Greek Radio (LGR).
At a time where Armenia seem to have lost their way at the contest, I hope they can once again reach these dizzying heights.
What do the team think?
When looking into the history of Armenian Eurovision entries, Qele Qele is the one that manages to stand out for me. Personally, I think they formulated the right song. However, I think it was difficult to stand out, which is why I’m really annoyed that they did not win. But overall, Qele Qele hits all the marks for me, and I still dance to it. I do like the Dance Remix tho, I think it spices it up, and when she performed it in JESC, I was blown away by her performance.
I’ll admit, at the time Qele Qele was not one of my favourites of 2008. That happens sometimes, a song will initially sound a bit lack lustre to me and then after a few listens I realise “Ok, I hate myself for this but this is growing on me a loooooot”. The same thing happened with Qele Qele and now it’s one of my top songs of 2008. It’s a real shame that we don’t get any really ethnic songs like this any more, something that’s modern and appeals to everyone but is still clearly from the country it’s representing! It was an amazing effort from Armenia and probably one of my favourite entries from them now – hopefully they can bring something equally as fab to the table in Rotterdam!
Qele Qele is one of the fan favorites that I still don’t understand the appeal of. Perhaps there’s a redeeming quality in the studio version that I’ve missed, but the live performance was a shouty mess that I’ll never understand the continued fan appreciation for. Pretty much any other ethno-pop song sent during that time period was better, in my opinion. That being said, it was very on brand for the contest back in 2008 and Sirusho sold the hell out of it with her stage presence, so the result isn’t very surprising. Deserving? That’s another story. Here’s to Armenia sending an absolute banger to Eurovision this year to dethrone Qele Qele as their best scoring entry – it does not deserve that honor.
Qele Qele was my favourite entry in the 2008 contest and is still a favourite of mine almost 12 years on. From it’s opening few seconds, the song screams traditional Armenian folk which soon builds to it’s fierce, incredibly catchy chorus – oozing with ethnic flavour! Sirusho delivered a lively performance in Belgrade, reflecting the energy of the song to the audience and millions watching at home. Her confidence and charisma as a performer was hard to ignore, something which no doubt worked to her advantage when it came to voting. Armenia have come a long way since and have experimented with a variety of genres at the contest. This for me however, remains the style which they are most suited to and that one day, will give them their victory.
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