What’s that? Controversy at Eurovision!? Well, you must be talking about Belarus! Entering the contest eleven times and attempting to send sixteen different songs in that period is always going to raise a few eyebrows. But look beyond the accusations of vote rigging, Presidential intervention and occasional Soviet throwbacks and you’ll find a country with some surprisingly good entries…and some completely bonkers ones too. So grab a slice of cheesecake, your butterfly wings and disco ball and let’s go on a journey to Minsk!
Recent History: Belarus 2009-2014
2009: Petr Elfimov with “Eyes that Never Lie”, 13th place in Semi Final (25 points)
2010: 3+2 with “Butterflies”, 24th place in Final (18 points)
2011: Anastasia Vinnikova with “I Love Belarus”, 14th place in Semi Final (45 points)
2012: Litesound with “We Are The Heroes”, 16th place in Semi Final (35 points)
2013: Alyona Lanskaya with “Solayoh”, 16th place in Final (48 points)
2014: Teo with “Cheesecake”, 16th place in Final (43 points)
1. How many songs did Anastasia Vinnikova try to send to Eurovision in 2011? Three: initially she sent “Born in Byelorussia“, then “I Am Belarusian” (both disqualified for breaking the EBU rules), before finishing with “I Love Belarus”.
2. How many sets of 12 points has Belarus received since 2009? In the finals: Georgia (2010), Ukraine (2013) and Russia (2014)In the semi finals: Russia (2010), Ukraine (2012 + 2013), Georgia (2014) and Lithuania (2014)
3. How many times did Anastasia say “I Love Belarus” in 2011? A grand total of fifteen times!
4. How long did it take Teo to write “Cheesecake”? Only five hours. You couldn’t tell…honest.
Best Scoring Entry (2009-2014)
2013: Alyona Lanskaya with “Solayoh”, 16th place with 48 points
The modern queen of controversy at Eurovision, Alyona Lanskaya, is also their best performer in recent years. Alyona’s journey started back in 2012 at the Belarusian national selection, Eurofest. There, she “won” with the slightly shouty and dreary song “All My Life“, only for an investigation (authorised by President Lukashenko himself) to reveal that her producer boyfriend had rigged the voting. This disqualified Alyona and Litesound went off to Baku instead. But fear not! Alyona returned to Eurofest 2013 and won fair and square…except she didn’t win with “Solayoh”, the song she ultimately performed in Malmö. No, she won with another song called “Rhythm of Love“, but decided later to ditch that altogether.
Keeping up? Good! Because Alyona fought through all the controversy and shade being thrown at her from every direction to drag Belarus in to the final for only the third time in their history, and the first time since 2010. “Solayoh” was as cheesy as you could get away with at a modern Eurovision, from Alyona’s short-as-can-be blue dress to the fact she emerged on stage from a disco ball. LITERALLY. This was never a song that was ever going to win, but it certainly seems to have sparked some renewed hope in to Belarus’ Eurovision hopes. And Alyona doesn’t seem finished with Eurovision just yet either…
Memorable Lyrics: “Solayoh, Solayoh, turn the music up, it’s gonna get ya, we play-oh, we play-oh, we can make it into a hot night.”
Worst Scoring Entry (2009-2014)
2009: Petr Elfimov with “Eyes That Never Lie”, 13th place in the semi-final with 25 points
How not to start your Eurovision performance: entirely dull and unconvincing guitar solo? Check! Bizarre shroud creature caught in a wind machine in the background for no purpose? Check! As if those elements weren’t bad enough, you then get to Petr himself, a 29-year old sporting a lovely blonde mullet…no, your eyes will never lie about that hairstyle. It’s not just the hair that’s dated though: the entire song is a poor rock number from the 80’s. In the highly competitive field of 2009, Belarus were in an absolute no man’s land. They were over forty points away from certain qualification and the juries even picked Waldo’s People over them. That says all you need to know about this one…
2007: Dmitry Koldun with “Work Your Magic”
Belarus’ best scoring entry of all time is also perhaps its most highly regarded. “Work Your Magic” was the first Belarusian entry to ever make it to the Saturday night grand final and went on to finish in an impressive sixth place. It’s gone down as, arguably, one of the best entries of that year (the Wiwi Roundtable certainly thought so!) and Koldun is frequently praised by many Eurovision fans. They’re also the same fans who have said he had a startling resemblance to Princess Diana…
Featuring some typically bizarre Belarusian staging (we thought Ukraine could be bad!) and with a Philip Kirkorov-led production, it’s easily the high point of Belarus’ time in Eurovision. So much so that Koldun *still* performs the song to this day at Belarus’ national finals! The man himself has briefly mentioned a return to ESC before – now that the country has found its feet, could 2016 be the right time?
Team Wiwi Says:
Deban: Since Belarus joined the family in 2004, we have witnessed a myriad of music styles — from the sedate “Butterflies” (2010) right through to the corny “Cheesecake”(2014). However, my favourite entry from the former USSR dictatorship is “Work Your Magic” by Dmitry Kouldon. The uptempo song had the best choreography that year, and boasted a catchy chorus that set the Helsinki arena alight. In addition to being Belarus’ most successful entry to date, the accompanying maxi single contains 9 fierce remixes, and a portrait of Kouldon that channelled the late Princess of Wales. Pure magic!
Sopon: Belarus is all talk and no game when it comes to Eurovision. They always make a big deal over the national selection and mess up the voting in order to get Lukashenko’s lackeys off their backs, resulting in an insignificant or embarrasing entry that places mid-table (thanks to love from Mother Russia). One decent but often overlooked entry that I would call one of Eurovision’s biggest injustices was Litesound. But to be fair, their song was for a certain type of listener. I’m also a guilty lover of “I Love Belarus”, but cannot stand anything they sent between 2008 and 2010.
William: Before Alyona Lanskaya — she who had her EuroFest title stripped over charges of vote-rigging — there was Anastasiya Vinnikova. This Belarusian beauty won with one song but then had it recast as “I Love Belarus” — a patriotic ode to the Motherland. Its pro-Belarusian lyrics and sexy video could, no doubt, serve as porn for the Politburo. In Düsseldorf she turned up the heat, but sadly went down in flames. In any event, I love her. My favourite act, though, has to be Alyona Lanskaya with “Solayoh.” The entire premise — a song about an imaginary planet where the sun never sets — is just so ridiculous. Equally insane is that Alyona emerged from a giant disco ball. Every time they opened the door in rehearsals she looked seriously relieved. The song made me move and lived up to its sunny billing. It doesn’t matter that backing vocalists carried most of it.
Francesca: Belarus is a hit-or-miss kind of a country, but it usually misses. A seemingly corrupt government, acts frequently disqualified, and just bad song choices in general have plagued this country’s selections. That said, my absolute worst of the pile has to be (without a doubt) “I Love Belarus,” which is not even subtly nationalistic and ultimately is very childish. The best of Belarus, though, was a well put-together and incredibly staged “Work Your Magic”. Moving walls, hot Koldun, and a fantastisk song? #YESIMWILLING
Anthony: A love-hate relationship springs to mind when it comes to Belarus and their Eurovision entries, mostly misfiring but managing to bring the occasional hidden gem. Continuing with the festive theme, they seemed to have played the pantomime villain lately, picking up unwanted controversy when they change their mind. Belarus: “Oh no we didn’t”, Europe: “Oh yes you did”! So while Dmitry Koldun goes all James Bond-esque with his 2007 classic “Work Your Magic”, which indeed worked magic on getting the country’s best Eurovision result to date, Belarus has also brought out two of my all-time favourite guilty pleasures: Anastasiya Vinnikova’s “I Love Belarus” in 2011 and Alyona Lanskaya’s “Solayoh” in 2013. Both infectiously catchy and addictive pop songs sung by a gorgeous female artist.
So, that’s what we think. But what do y’all think about Belarus and their entries? Who’s your favourite? And who could you just not stand? Let us know in the comments!