Vision Music Awards 2017: Moldova’s SunStroke Project wins Biggest Surprise


In the months leading to the Eurovision grand final in May, many of us spend hours trawling through every song, video and rehearsal of the 40-odd entrants. We listen to their entries on loop. With so much exposure pre-contest, we confidently claim where each song will place on the scoreboard. But, like clockwork, we’re frequently left in utter shock and awe by certain acts who blow our expectations (be they good or bad), showing Europe what they’ve been hiding up their sleeves.

This year, Azerbaijan’s DiHaj surprised us by bringing her gothic melody to life with incredible theatre, featuring a man on a ladder wearing a horse head (because why not). Israel’s IMRI put his package on fine display, giving us two tickets to the gun show and making us feel alive. Norway’s JOWST grabbed his moment by building upon his funky electronic beat with an awesome light-up mask en route to a Top 10 finish. And Croatia’s Jacques Houdek skipped the Eurovision pre-parties across Europe to surprise us with his solo-duet and inconceivable operatic pop realness.

But in the end our readers felt that one act surprised Europe the most. Securing a whopping 46% of all votes, Moldova’s Sunstroke Project has won the Vision Music Award 2017 for Biggest Surprise.

Violinist Anton Ragoza, lead vocalist Sergey Ialovitsky and meme-legend Sergey Stepanov stormed their way to the top 3 of the grand final, eclipsing pre-contest Italian stallion Francesco Gabbani to deliver Moldova’s best result ever at the Eurovision Song Contest.

Prior to the contest, our Wiwi Jury was divided, scoring “Hey Mamma” 16th with a score of 6.67, behind eventual non-qualifiers Latvia, Serbia and FYR Macedonia. The divide in opinion was stark.

Singing the song’s praises, wiwiblogger William gave it an 8.5, writing:

“Contemporary and on-trend, ‘Hey Mamma’ balances crazy and mainstream to great effect, creating a real earworm of a tune that could make the most uptight listener undo his collar and tap his foot. The saxophone against the electro backing sizzles and the lead singer’s vocals balance sexiness and vulnerability perfectly. As he begs his mother-in-law for a bit of peace, you can’t help but cheer him on. Witty, catchy, infectious — this deserves a spot in the top ten.”

Deban, however, wasn’t feeling it, giving it a lowly 3.

“Sunstroke Project has dated very badly,” he wrote. “Their continuous use of the Epic Sax Guy is abuse of a one-trick pony. Their sound doesn’t travel beyond their landlocked republic. As I rush to put other songs on repeat, ‘Hey Mamma’ gets played in full solely for critiquing purposes only.”

Come May, however, jurors were left surprised with an off-the-charts routine, as SunStroke Project scaled up their performance from the Moldovan National Final with eye-popping visuals and an epic dance, delivering yet another meme-worthy performance from Epic Sax Guy. Their quirky bridesmaids and fun-spirited choreography showed off one of their biggest strengths: personality.

They still have the most popular grand final video on Youtube at almost 10 million views.

SunStroke Project join a strong list of Eurovision artists whose performances sent shockwaves through the Eurovision Song Contest, including Poland’s Michal Szpak (2016), Belgium’s Loic Nottet (2015), The Netherlands’ Common Linnets (2014) and Malta’s Gianluca Bezzina (2013).


  1. SunStroke Project 2,105 votes (45.93%)
  2. Jacques Houdek 817 votes (17.83%)
  3. JOWST 792 votes (17.28%)
  4. DiHaj 516 votes (11.26%)
  5. IMRI 353 votes (7.7%)

Total votes: 4,583


This award is just one of a dozen awards we have launched as part of the Vision Music Awards 2017 (VMAs).

Our 13 categories — from best dressed to most wronged at ESC — identify the contestants who left the biggest impression on Eurovision fans, regardless of whether they won the contest or not.

You can watch the nominations video and read more about the awards here.