Despite tough times and an ongoing conflict with Mother Russia, Ukraine has shown us that they can still make some kickass music. These past few years, they have kept us on our toes after we snubbed the original versions of their songs, only to worship them after producers totally reworked them. They regularly transform ugly caterpillars into beautiful butterflies. In honor of all this, let’s take a look back on Ukraine’s recent history at Eurovision.
Ukraine is a relative newcomer to the contest, having débuted in 2003. However, they have quickly become one of the contest’s most respected and successful countries, having picked up a gold, two silvers, and a bronze.
2014: Mariya Yaremchuk with “Tick Tock“, 6th place with 113 points
2013: Zlata Ognevich with “Gravity“, 3rd place with 214 points
2012: Gaitana with “Be My Guest“, 15th place with 65 points
2011: Mika Newton with “Angel“, 4th place with 159 points
2010: Alyosha with “Sweet People“, 10th place with 108 points
2009: Svetlana Loboda with “Be My Valentine! (Anti-Crisis Girl)“, 12th place with 76 points
2008: Ani Lorak with “Shady Lady“, 2nd place with 230 points
1. How many sets of “douze points” has Ukraine actually received since 2008?
Nine sets in the Grand Final (Portugal in 2008; Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Slovakia in 2011; Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Croatia, and Moldova in 2013), and seventeen in the semi-finals (Belarus, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Georgia, Portugal, and Turkey in 2008; Belarus in 2011; Belarus in 2012; Belarus, Cyprus, Italy, Lithuania, Moldova, Montenegro, and Slovenia in 2013; Armenia and Azerbaijan in 2014).
2. Who has Ukraine awarded their recent “douze points” to?
In the finals – Russia (2008), Norway (2009), Azerbaijan (2010), Georgia (2011), Azerbaijan (2012), Belarus (2013), and Sweden (2014)
In the semis – Georgia (2008), Azerbaijan (2009), Azerbaijan (2010), Slovakia (2011), Belarus (2012), Belarus (2013), and Armenia (2014)
3. How many Ukrainian acts have received writing credits for their entry (either music, lyrics, or both)?
3 – Mariya Yaremchuk, Gaitana, and Svetlana Loboda
Best Scoring Entry:
2008: Ani Lorak with “Shady Lady”, 2nd place with 230 points
After being narrowly and controversially defeated by GreenJolly in 2005, Ani came back with an even better song a few years later. “Shady Lady” oozes sex and mystery, the epitome of Eurovision. In 2007 Ukraine carried out the most successful trolling in Eurovision history with Verka Serduchka. A year later Ani proved that they still make serious music worthy of the victory. Quite a shame that she lost to Dima, to be honest. But hey, second ain’t nothin’ to laugh at!
Most Memorable Lyrics: “No one knows who I am, but I don’t give a damn, gonna set’cha on fire”
So, if I piss you off, you’ll burn me alive? Alright, that’s cool.
Worst Scoring Entry:
2012: Gaitana with “Be My Guest”, 15th place with 65 points
Although Whitney Houston tragically passed away a few months before the contest, she lived on through Congolese-Ukrainian soul singer Gaitana. While fifteenth isn’t anything to be ashamed of (Latvia would kill for a ranking like that), there are a few obvious reasons why she didn’t place as well as her fellow countrywomen. First, the dress. Fashion crime in the purest form. Secondly, the dancers. If your dancer only appears on stage for the last thirty seconds and it looks awkward, you better make sure you have a lot of neighbors and a good song to qualify (or, in Loreen’s case, win). And thirdly, she shouted the entire damn time in unintelligible yet simple English. Gurl, we know you speak five languages fluently (I’m jealous here), but you couldn’t have worked on the pronunciation a bit more? It’s more fun to watch your interviews, because at least we know what you are saying!
Most Memorable Lyrics: “Welcome, girl and boy, take my hand, let’s enjoy”
This sounds like something Julie Andrews would say. A diva really shouldn’t shout this at a million Azeris.
There are two other songs from Ukraine that I absolutely adore.
Firstly, “Show Me Your Love”, which Tina Karol performed in Athens. Combining spinning, jump roping, and super cute dancing, Tina rocked her way to seventh place in one of the most fun-loving numbers to date.
Secondly, I must honor who I call the most successful troll in Eurovision history, Verka Serduchka. No joke entry has ever done this well in the contest, but with the awesome mix of nonsense lyrics, monkey dancing, butt-slapping, and a teeny little Mama alongside her during press conferences, Verka took home the silver along with the hearts of Eurovision fans all over the world (except for a few upset people in Andorra).
Here is what Team Wiwi has to say on Ukraine’s recent performances:
Sopon: Ukraine never sets out to win anymore, but they love to entertain! Except for in 2010, where they tried to put us to sleep instead. I still can’t make it through “Sweet People”, it’s just too cheesy and tacky. Speaking of cheesy and tacky, Svetlana Loboda is probably my favorite Ukrainian act from recent years (I’ll forgive her for the cheesiness, as that was actually intended). Just like Tina Karol, Svetlana is a multitasker. She plays drums, pole dances, and does acrobatics all at once! Oh, and she sings too. Shoutout to Mariya as well. Anyone who turns trash into treasure deserves an award. She truly made that number shine.
Robyn: Ukraine always delivers. Every year we can expect a diva with a solid tune and amazing staging. Sometimes I wish they’d mix things up a bit – sending a male singer, maybe a group – but despite the template, it never gets boring. They always bring the wow, whether it’s sand drawing, a man-giant, or a hamster wheel. With Ukraine usually finishing in the top 10, it seems Eurovision is something the country takes seriously and ought to be well proud of.
Zach: Ukraine is my all-time favorite Eurovision country. Out of their 12 entries, I only dislike two of them. And the rest I adore pretty much equally, so picking a favorite proved to be an extremely tough endeavor. However, for me Alyosha really stands out. Her rock influenced song has its own unique place in the Ukrainian Eurovision catalogue, she sang beautifully, and the song had a very important message. That long note at the end was exemplary! For my least favorite, even though it came before 2008, I have to say their debut entry, Hasta La Vista. It’s funny really, the two male singers (VERKA doesn’t count haha) are my two least favorite. But Hasta La Vista takes it die to being cheesy and too “by the numbers” cliche. I LOVE UKRAINE!!
Wiwi: No one does over-the-top better than the Ukrainians. From the muscle-bound, Roman back-up dancers in 2009 to the sand artist in 2011, they look at subtlety and just laugh. From collagen lips (hey Svetlanta Loboda!) to spilling cleavage (hey Gaitain), bigger is definitely better in Kyiv. Even Alyosha, whose song on nuclear fallout left me feeling a bit queasy, managed to win me over with her extra-strength wind machine. Ukraine can do no wrong at Eurovision. All hail!
Angus: Ukraine have in their relatively short history at the concert managed to nail pretty much every genre that ever succeeded at the Contest short of rock. Kiev has sent big ballads, towering disco numbers, dazzling dance and in their best entry ever threw elements of all three into a melting pot that produced ‘Shady Lady’. There’s something six years on that’s still mesmerising about Ani Lorak’s performance on stage in Belgrade. The woman literally didn’t put a foot wrong. It’s also a huge injustice that she lost out to lame Dima Bilan and his lamer ice skater. She was the literal bomb. I also have to give a shoutout to Gaitana. ‘Be My Guest’ was amazing and let-down by whichever moron decided sending it without backing vocalists was a good idea. The only song that never really lit my fire was Mika Newton’s ‘Angel’. Wordy songs tend to flare up poor diction and I felt Ukraine was only saved in 2011 by a fortunate late draw in the running order and the sand artist. Without it Kiev would have nose-dived.
Francheska: Ukraine knows how to pull out all of the stops. Ukraine’s flawless qualification record and 7 top-10 placings since 2004 are trophies to that achievement. The most underrated song of this period, I firmly believe is GreenJolly’s “Razom Nas Bagato”, the political anthem of the Orange Revolution turned mildly less political song for Eurovision. It doesn’t necessarily fit into the standard “Eurovision formula” of pop songs, but it is a wonderful misfit in its context. It’s a clear message for change and political activism while being one of the first rap/hip-hop songs introduced into the Eurovision Song Contest. Yet, few things can anger me more than the atrocity which was Mika Newton’s “Angel”. The original Russian ballad version was beautiful, smart, and a truly special ballad. The Ukrainian national selection process worked well here (and quite frankly Ukraine should use this system again, in my opinion), but when it was “re-mastered” into the less powerful song that it was, I grimaced. Mika Newton has a lovely voice, but the song was ruined like a new haircut during a humid summer day.
Who was your favorite? Your least favorite? Govori nam v kommentarijakh! (Tell us in the comments!)