The Wiwi Jury — our in-house panel of music unprofessionals — are re-assembling to celebrate the 2010s. Today we stop by Ukraine, to discuss the dark and emotionally-charged “1944″ by Jamala.
One of the more lyrically-controversial entries in the list, the raw and vulnerable energy of “1944” stunned people when it was entered into Ukraine’s national selection. There it stormed to victory, to represent Ukraine at Eurovision. Still fresh from political tensions in the area, the brutal and thought-provoking themes of the song resonated across the whole continent. The staging captivated audiences when paired with an iconic moment where a golden tree burst out of Jamala to signify hope and rebirth.
Things were tense during the Eurovision 2016 voting, the first with the new system that wouldn’t reveal the winner until the very end. Viewers didn’t yet know that Ukraine had beaten televote winner Russia’s Sergey Lazarev until the very last second. Do the Jury still think this was the right result in arguably one of the toughest years of the decade?
Jamala – “1944”
William: This is dark, direct and at times nihilistic: “They kill you all and say, ‘We’re not guilty’…everyone dies.” In lesser hands this would come off as melodrama. But Jamala delivered it with conviction and soul, resulting in a strangely intoxicating and other-worldly sound. “1944” defied convention, mixing traditional Crimean Tartar music with soul and R&B, and yet it somehow remained universal and accessible. At the end of the song she channelled the pain of a thousand victims in one single cry. This is a gift that can’t be taught. Throw in that magical tree moment and it’s no wonder this won against some very stiff competition.
Lucy: When “1944” was first chosen to represent Ukraine in 2016, I was unsure due to certain themes in the song, but once I saw the live performance I was sold. The emotion in her call, just before the last choruses broke me and made me pick up and vote a whole bunch of times, and the dark moody instrumental in the verses really honed in on the bleak situation the song is referring to. Relevant, brave, heart-breaking. I adore Jamala, and couldn’t have been happier with her victory. Oh, and the tree deserves a mention surely? THE TREE.
Calvin: I have no words for this song and performance. Everything is simply perfect. It feels like I’m taken out of the contest and into a Jamala concert. The tree of life might be the best visual we have ever seen in the contest. This song, performance and message are so much bigger than Eurovision and I’m glad that many people understood it. In contrast to many other entries, her performance aged very well and I feel the same intensity of emotions today as on the night of the final.
Edd: The true merit of “1944” is its uniqueness: The beat, the instruments, the topic, the Crimean Tatar Language, the vocal tricks, even the song title itself. The lyrics are dark and impactful, yet the staging is beautiful and simplistic. Jamala’s voice is not only unique but also highly powerful, and she gives one of the most sincere and moving Eurovision performances in history. Although it’s not the most appealing song to listen to, its meaning and Ukraine’s political situation at the time helped make the performance be so impactful.
Steinunn: At first I wasn’t so sure about the quality of this song. Yes, it was dramatic and emotional but there was something missing for me. Then Jamala entered the stage. I still remember the goosebumps I got when seeing this performance on stage for the first time — and that was just a rehearsal. The story behind the song is conveyed in a perfect emotional way by Jamala and it doesn’t matter at all that you don’t understand half of the lyrics. In this case words are not necessary, the sentimental elements are what matters.
Katie: I have nothing but respect for the way Jamala was so unapologetically herself at Eurovision 2016. She was firm in her convictions about 1944’s message and she showcased her Crimean Tartar culture proudly to an international audience. This is one of my favourite things about Eurovision and why I believe it is a really valuable platform, so I’m happy that Ukraine chose to send this entry and that it faired so well. Let’s not forget Jamala’s staging and the stunning light display that Eurovision artists still draw influence from. In hindsight, though I don’t think 1944 is a memorable winner like “Heroes”, which we heard again in Tel Aviv, Jamala’s performance was nonetheless iconic.
In the Wiwi Jury we have 24 jurors but only have room for six reviews. The remaining scores are below:
We have removed the highest and lowest scores prior to calculating the average. This is to remove outliers and potential bias. We have removed a low of 4 and a high of 10.
Wiwi Jury verdict: 7.82/10
What do you think of this song? Share your own score and review below!