“Go big or go home” seems to be Moldova’s motto at Eurovision. Knowing very well that it’s a small country with equally tiny chances of winning, Moldova steals the music show visually, either with oversized hats, a record-breaking dress or an epic sax guy. Let’s remember the most wacky Moldovan numbers, shall we?
2006: Zdob si Zdub, “Bunica bate toba”
Long before Russia brought grandmas on stage, there were these guys, who brought a grandma beating a huge drum an spinning at the same time. The catchy rock-folk tune, like a Red Hot Chili Peppers hit on Moldovan acid, as well as cute bunica’s smile, pushed the country’s debut song to its highest score at Eurovision to date – 6th place, with 148 points.
2009: Nelly Ciobanu, “Hora din Moldova”
My personal favourite Moldovan song at ESC, “Hora din Moldova” was complemented by Nelly Ciobanu’s memorable dress and purple boots (which I remember created a mini-storm on Twitter), not to mention the energetic dancers and the back-up singer’s huge mop-like stick. Oh, and the infectious rhythm that got everyone at home off their couches. The song ended up 14th in the Final, but it deserved a better score.
2010: SunStroke Project and Olia Tira, “Run Away”
Sure, the song is dated, but who cares, when there’s this violonist on a rotating plate and an epic sax guy who steals the show and gets his own internet meme – and I think the only 10-hour Eurovision video on YouTube. Not even the 22nd place (I know! What were you thinking, Europe?!) in the Final can deny that this was one performance for the ESC history books.
2011: Zdob si Zdub, “So Lucky”
Moldova’s best rock export Zdob si Zdub tried their hand at Eurovision again, with a more modest result this time (12th place), but who can forget their oversized hats and the girl on the unicycle? Exactly.
2012: Pasha Parfeny, “Lautar”
Edward Norton and Colin Farrel’s love child, Pasha Parfeny performed last on the Eurovision stage in Baku, but he left a mark: “Lautar” was one of the most talked about performances and finished on a strong 11th place, ahead of much bigger contenders. Was it because of Pasha’s charm? The cuckoo choreography? The silly outfits? The catchy song? Or perhaps all of the above?
2013: Aliona Moon: “O mie”
Aliona’s courage to perform Pasha’s song in Romanian was dwarfed by the sheer fearlessness to wear a four-meter tall dress that left everyone picking their jaws from the floor. Sure, Sabina Babayeva had worn a similar projection dress the year before (as did Carrie Underwood at The Grammys!), but Aliona Moon’s dress took it further – and higher – than ever before, and the visual impact helped propel the ballad to 11th place. As usual, Moldova brought the crazy back to Eurovision, and it paid off.
Despite the apparent craziness that surrounds almost every Moldovan act, the small Eastern-European country takes Eurovision very seriously, and each year the national selection “O melodie pentru Europa” is viewed as the most important and prestigious musical contest. It is no surprise, then, that they put so much heart and soul in their performance on the European stage. The Moldovans’ artistry and imagination always mark a high point of the competition and help define Eurovision as what it is: not only an amazing song contest, but also a dazzling visual TV extravaganza. And, for this, Moldova deserves our admiration and respect – and, hopefully, to win one day.
Here’s what my colleagues had to say about Moldova:
Wiwi: I’m still upset that Olia Tira & the SunStroke Project didn’t finish higher. That is easily the most memorable act from 2010. Dated? Yes. Amazing? Absolutely. The Moldovans always go big and they don’t care whether that offends you or not. That’s why I always cheer for them. Speaking of big, Aliona Moon totally blew me away in Malmö. Ahead of the contest I really wasn’t into her or her song. But when she landed in Sweden and started unveiling her staging I knew the Moldovan magic was back! It’s one of the best examples of how staging can complement a number. Long live Moldova at the Eurovision Song Contest!
Angus: Moldova seems forever confined to the B-list of Ex-Soviet countries. They’ve never seriously threatened for victory, but neither have they been dead cert non-qualifiers. I don’t really mind though as I’ve never been a massive fan of their entries and they tend to be forgettable. Aliona Moon also entirely annoyed me because she completely ripped off Sabina Babayeva’s staging from 2012 and got credited as though it were an original idea… and the 2012 entry just got on my nerves.
David: Good Artists borrow, great artists steal, goes the Hollywood saying. Aliona’s “O mie” was amazing. Easily should have been in the top 5. The song, the presentation, the performance were all pitch perfect. She has an amazing voice and the lighting of the dress was genius. In 2012, Pasha Parfeny gave us a song that was Eurovision at its best – both the song and the act would never work outside of Eurovision. But in Eurovision it was an excellent number, and better for being something different. Although the dresses the dancers wore reminded me of my grandmother’s lampshades. And the one song from Eurovision my wife really likes? “O mie.” That’s an amazing accomplishment.
James: 2010’s entry by Sunstroke Project & Olia Tira was pretty epic though – that hair and makeup, the see-through neon violin on a rotating platform and of COURSE the epic sax guy who became his own internet meme far beyond the realms of Eurovision. And the song itself was a really good, energetic, thumping eurodance number! It’s still on my favorite songs playlist.
Katie: In my opinion, all of the best Moldovan entries feature Pasha Parfeny and Aliona Moon in some way or another. “Lautar” is probably my favourite because of the pure catchiness, especially in the introduction. I love that Aliona featured as a backing singer in 2012 and ended up singing the next year. Vice versa for Pasha who played the piano for Aliona in 2013. “O mie” featured the same artists, yet is so different from “Lautar”. I found it a bit boring at first, but the more I listen to it, the more it grows on me and the more I realise how beautiful Aliona’s voice really is 🙂
Deban: Moldova may not be a ‘serious’ contender for the ESC trophy, however as a country, it has managed to showcase one rising star, Pasha Parfeny, who made his mark in 2012 with the self-penned “Lautar” (my guilty pleasure in Baku, hands down) and finished in 11th position. He returned the following year with his protégé, Aliona Moon, composing and providing the musical arrangement for “O mie”. Parfeny made critical adjustments to the presentation of the song right up until the very last minute and his involvement and directorship was crucial to the success of the song. Typically for Moldova, most of their entries register low on the ‘taste’ barometer, but Parfeny has managed to successfully balance the kitsch factor with musical respectability, both as a performer and a composer. And yes, Sabina Babayeva pioneered the LED dress, but Aliona Moon tells a story with hers. Musically, both entries are solidly structured with killer hooks in folk style. When it comes to showcasing national elements, Moldova seldom strays from the brief. Moreover, Eurovision isn’t just about the stage show. It goes beyond that, and some of the smallest elements have a major impact. For me, Moldova had the best postcard in 2013. Simply magic.
What do you think? What was the most memorable Moldovan performance of the country’s brief history at Eurovision?
Bogdan Honciuc is a Romania-based correspondent for WiwiBloggs.com.
You can follow him on Twitter @stingovision.
Photo: Sean Gallup