In her official music for “I Won’t Break”, Julia Samoylova becomes one with a massive mountain, her face emerging from its peak. And during Russia’s first rehearsal at Eurovision 2018, she took the idea further — sitting atop a plinth decorated to resemble a mountain. Onto the mountain — and the circular stage beneath it — producers project any manner of colour vistas, which include waterfalls and even flora. It’s an awe-inspiring and eye-catching scene, and one well worth lingering on.
The vocals are another matter. While Julia’s frail voice works well during the verses — and indeed with a song about the many challenges she has faced during her life — things fall apart during the chorus. It’s unclear whether it’s Julia or the backing vocalists who are at fault. Either way, the result is the same: a sound that’s both discordant and incredibly uncomfortable to listen to. This did improve slightly with each take, suggesting they are well aware of at least some of the issue.
Julia’s three backing vocalists wear all white, as do her male and female dancers, who perform modern ballet around the mountain and later around the circular stage. Too much focus is placed on the dancers. In fact, during rehearsals there was a 43-second segment were we didn’t see Julia at all. The show even ends with a close up of the dancers and Julia appearing only as a speck in the distance. It’s all rather curious given how impressive the central visual of the mountain is. It may be that Julia is not singing during that segment at all and producers hope to conceal that fact.
There’s a lot of work to be done here. But thankfully for Russia there is also a lot to work with.
Update: Following Julia’s performance, we caught up with her songwriters backstage. They said that following the performance they too were annoyed that the camera panned out and left Julia looking tiny. Apparently the producers didn’t get things right. Also: They said that Julia had some problems with her in-ears, which might have impacted the vocals. They are working to sort these technical issues ahead of the next rehearsal.
Julia Samoylova — “I Won’t Break”: Reviews and Reactions
Russia: First rehearsal at Eurovision 2018
Russia: First press conference 2018
Footage & Photos: EBU & RTP