They were underrated at home, where the national jury did not award them their top scores. They were underrated by the international fan club OGAE, who awarded them zero votes. They were underrated by the bookies, who at one point had Moldova at the bottom of the odds table. Even we ranked them 17th of 43 in the Wiwi Jury! (Were we deaf and blind?)
They were overlooked by almost everyone, but in the end Sunstroke Project proved that returning artists can do better than before, achieving Moldova‘s best-ever finish at third place. In Kyiv, their performance of “Hey Mamma” swayed both national juries and televoters to secure them a place on the podium. How did that happen and how come no one saw it coming?
First off, let’s look at the performance. Unlike Italy, whose staging was too colourful and crowded, Moldova’s staging was full of light but it wasn’t overwhelming. It played on simple themes of black and white, and despite being somewhat frenetic, it never seemed too busy. The backdrop managed to do something which Lisa Angell’s didn’t — it filled the stage with movement. Speaking of movement, each moment of the song was enhanced by a dance move, a gesture or a smirk, which kept us entertained for the full three minutes. The camera caught it all and there was no dead time.
Singing about a man trying to win over his mother-in-law, the group nailed their costumes — funky tuxes and switch-a-roo wedding dresses. They were camera-ready and looked so universal — who hasn’t had a wedding, attended a wedding, or made fun of a wedding while watching a rom-com? By the way, how awesome was the moment when “the brides” threw the bouquets of flowers into the audience? It was a final, endearing moment that helped secure SunStroke Project a place in our hearts — and on the Eurovision podium.
Secondly, we need to look at the song. A lot of people, if not all Eurofans, were surprised that the juries marked Moldova as highly as they did. There seemed to be a fear that juries wouldn’t like the outré fun, and that the thrusting and brides might come off as gimmickry.
Well it didn’t. Out of the 41 other countries, 22 gave Moldova at least 3 jury points, although not even Romania gave them 12 points. Still, everyone noticed that Moldova kept getting points and creeping up the Grand Final score table. That’s because the song is original — who has heard of a pop song dedicated to the girlfriend’s mother? — and the delivery perfect. The saxophone sound — delivered just on the cusp of summer — also gave this a radio-friendly vibe. At the national final not even a wardrobe malfunction (the white dress of one of the backing vocalists failing to drop) could distract from that.
Moreover, national juries are made of people — and just like us, they appreciated the entertainment factor, the vocals, and the overall qualiteh of the performance. And last but not least, the vocals were consistently strong throughout the First Semi-Final and Grand Final performances. That’s Sergey Ialovitsky and the backing vocalists’. Total slayage!
We also need to look at how the show organisers helped SunStroke Project achieve success in 2017. During the First Semi-Final, during a break in the show, Timur reminded everyone that the band had taken part in the contest before and showed a clip of Epic Sax Guy thrusting his hips while “playing” the saxophone. The endearing Serghey Stepanov then proceeded to do an impromptu live sax riff, met with rapturous applause from the audience and presumably fangirl squeals at home. This also solidified the Moldovan band’s success, as audiences remembered — or were acquainted with — the 10-hour meme. By the way, Epic Sax Guy is now the star of yet another 10-hour viral video on YouTube. Congrats, Sergey!
Last but definitely not least, “Hey Mamma” was a televoting success: Australia, Romania, Italy, Portugal, and Ukraine all awarded Moldova 12 points. SunStroke Project brought the old-school fun factor to Eurovision this year, but pulled it into the 21st century with a sophisticated and slick performance that managed to beat highly polished acts like Robin Bengtsson. Perhaps most surprisingly, they beat Francesco Gabbani, who had earlier been tipped to win the contest, but the latter’s stage show looked somewhat desperate by comparison, while SunStroke project looked like they were having lots of fun. And so were we!
SunStroke Project placed third on the Grand Final scoreboard in Kyiv, with a total of 374 points. This marks Moldova’s best result yet at Eurovision, with the “Hey Mamma” performers beating the likes of Zdob si Zdub (6th place in 2005) and Pasha Parfeny and Aliona Moon (11th place in 2012 and 2013, respectively). This year, the Moldovan band beat bookies’ favourites Belgium, Sweden, Italy, and Romania, who had all been tipped to do better than SunStroke Project ahead of the Grand Final.
What do you think? Did Moldova deserve to place higher than the likes of Italy and Sweden? What was your favourite moment from SunStroke Project’s performance this year? Let us know in the comments!