For this week’s edition of ‘Slideback Sunday’, we have headed east to a powerhouse nation both in terms of the worldwide political landscape and the Eurovision Song Contest: Russia! I have decided to use this opportunity to shine a light upon their 1995 entry, where we find a very familiar face but perhaps an unfamiliar song to certain fans.
Russia’s Eurovision Journey
In 1994, the landscape of the Eurovision Song Contest changed forever. While the previous edition saw the debut of three former Yugoslav nations, this felt somewhat like a trial-run of sorts when compared to the influx of new countries at the 1994 contest! Fans and casual viewers alike were treated to songs from the likes of Poland, Romania and Slovakia among others for the very first time. However, the appearance of one nation in particular ignited the interest for many at the time.
Russia selected their very first entry with a national final in March 1994, won by relatively unknown singer Youddiph. As a result, Youddiph and her song billed as ‘Eternal Wanderer’ (although performed in Russian) flew the flag for Russia in Dublin Ireland. In a result that surprised many at the time, Russia managed a top ten finish on their debut coming ninth with 70 points. The live performance is well remembered, involving Youddiph moving her stunning red dress in unique ways on stage!
A peculiar journey to the final
Now, after an impressive debut, you would think the Russian broadcaster would be very eager for their participation in 1995? The thing, two broadcasters share responsibility for Russian involvement at the Eurovision Song Contest. While Russia-1 was behind the debut in 1994, in 1995 it was the turn of Channel 1.
It seems that Channel 1 forgot that they needed to send an entry in order to participate in the contest. They were reminded one month before the contest was scheduled to take place! Pressed for time,the broadcaster needed an artist who would fund the participation themselves. They contacted Philip Kirkorov, already a big star at the time. As he was contacted only two weeks before rehearsals began in Dublin, Philip scrambled to find a song. He eventually settled upon an unreleased piece in his collection titled ‘Kolybelnaya dlya vulkana’, translated as ‘Lullaby for a Volcano’.
(In an interesting turn of events, it was later suggested that the song had already been released in Romanian 10 years earlier by a Moldovan singer Anastasia Lazariuc, make of this what you will ;) )
Did the lullaby make the juries erupt?
Unfortunately, Russia could not replicate their success in 1994. Despite a vocally impressive performance, Philip finished 17th with exactly 17 points. This included an impressive 10 points from eventual winners Norway. Maybe if the juries judged the performances on their preview video, Russia would have won. It truly is a marvel to behold:
A Eurovision Love-Affair
The poor result did not do any damage to Philip’s love of the contest. After performing many covers of Eurovision entries, he turned his hand to composing songs for other countries. Hits such as ‘Work Your Magic’, ‘Shady Lady’ and ‘Scream’ have all had the Kirkorov treatment. I have no doubt this will continue in the future, especially as he tends to deliver good results! Perhaps he will try participating as a solo artist once more? It has been 25 years after all, time for another try if you ask me!
This week’s guest star
Mikhail is a Russian Eurovision fan and journalist. He has been a fan since 1994, when Russia got its debut at the contest. When Eurovision came to Moscow, where he lives, he went to all the shows. He also went to Dusseldorf with tickets for all shows in 2011. Since 2012 in Baku he has gone as press; first as part of the ESCKAZ team (2012-15), then from 2016 representing MuzzNews.com, the fan site for Russian speaking fans.
Mikhail told us; The Russian performance in 1995 was one of our worst performances; Philipp Kirkorov’s “Lullaby for a Volcano”. To grasp the beauty and deeper meaning of this song you need to understand Russian. To the rest of Europe, who didn’t understand it, the song of course seemed boring and uninteresting. This was the main mistake of the of those who decided to send it to Eurovision. According to the language rule however it had to be performed in Russian in 1995. The language wasn’t the only problem, though, since our debut entry by Youdiph the year before was also in Russian and it finished 9th. If the song is good it can easily win in any language, as demonstrated by Norway this year. Despite singing in Norwegian, which I don’t think a lot of people in the rest of Europe understand, they won. Russia gave 12 well deserved points to Norway, and Norway gave us 10 surprising points back. Our other points came from Croatia (6) and Cyprus (1). The only Russian entry that did worse than “Kolybelnaya dlya vulkana” was Yulia Samoilova’s “I Won’t Break” which, as the only Russian entry to date, didn’t qualify for the final in 2018. These days Philip is better known as songwriter and producer of entries from countries like Russia, Ukraine, Belarus and Moldova.
I think we have sent many good songs to ESC. The Russian entries I love the most are Alla Pugacheva’s “Primadonna”, both of Dima Bilan’s entries, Serebro’s Song #1, “Party for Everybody” (2012), “What If” (2013), “A Million Voices” (2015) and “You are the Only One” (2016). And of course in 2020 – LittleBig’s “Uno”. But unfortunately we all stayed at home and missed Eurovision this year.
My very favorite Russian Eurovision entry however is “Lady Alpine Blue” from 2001. I love Russian rock music and fell in love with Mumiy Troll long before their Eurovision participation in 2001. I’ve been to their concerts in Russia many times. “Lady Alpine Blue” was something new, not typical and unusual for the contest. It really stood out among all the other songs that year, as it was very non-standard and non-Eurovision-format for the early 2000s. And that’s the second reason why I loved it. I always love thee songs that stand out from the boring songs we have every ESC. I still listen to almost all of them, like Hatari from Iceland last year and Jamala in 2016. I think Mumiy Troll was among the first artists at ESC who broke the “Eurovision entry” format. Because after 2001 more and more songs and performers continued to break the format. And in 2006 we finally got Lordi who won the pop contest with a rock entry. That’s great!
What does the team think?
I have recently started looking into Eurovision entries prior to 2000. Despite debuting later in the contest, they have managed to cement themselves as one of the countries with best results. I do have to give it to Phillip Kirkorov, despite not having much time to put together a Eurovision entry, he has done well, and it looks sleek and professional. However, as we learn later on, it seems that Phillip working on Eurovision entries seems to be a better suit for him. However, I would not mind him coming back to the competition in the future, with an entry where he can actually prepare for everything!.
A rather uninspiring ballad paired with a rather uninspired performance where Kirkorov seems to be trying too hard but at times ends up sounding like he’s having a rather drunk karaoke night. One of Russia’s worst entries. Not much else to say…
In all I’ve heard (mostly in passing) about Philip Kirkorov’s colourful career, his Eurovision entry always comes across as a minor footnote. Early in the Russian entry list and having a cool title – any title with ‘volcano’ in it is cool – but that’s about it. So yes, given Kirkorov’s reputation, it’s weird how normal this is. A pleasant building ballad, Philip has some good power in his voice and I can’t say I dislike listening to this. He looks a bit odd on stage with his baggy shirt in the live performance. This is honestly not too different from an 80s rocker hairstyle, the thought of which makes me wish he could have had a song with a bit more life to it. That would probably have done well in 1995 which was, and I say this with immense love for what won, the contest where Europe went to sleep.
I often find I really like the Russian Eurovision entries, especially the ones other fans aren’t too keen on. I also enjoy powerful male voices and national languages. So this volcano lullaby should be very my thing, For some reason however it just isn’t. The song itself is a fairly traditional ballad, and a pretty boring one at that. It’s not bad, just boring. And that’s possibly the worst thing a song can be. I also feel that his voice is a bit on the screaming side, rather than being powerful. My favorite Russian Eurovision entries are Mumiy Troll’s “Lady Alpine Blue” (my second favorite Eurovision entry ever) and Peter Nalitch’ “Lost and Forgotten” (my second fave from 2010, and among my top 20 ever).
What do you think of the 1995 Russian entry? Let us know in the comments and on social media @ESCXTRA. Be sure to stay updated by following @ESCXTRA on Twitter, @escxtra on Instagram and liking our Facebook page for the latest updates.