At very long last (yes the pandemic meant I’ve stretched this out all the way into the new season) we reach the pinnacle of the top 41 of Eurovision 2020. My personal winner for 2020 and gold medal slot goes to a country that has not yet graced the top of my personal Eurovision tops to date nor the reached the top of the real contest’s leaderboard – but one of their songs did play a part at my wedding – it’s Lithuania.
#1 LITHUANIA: The Roop “On Fire”
This has been my favourite song of Eurovision 2020 from very early on – I first heard it around the time of the Lithuanian semi-finals and I recall being very hopeful that it would win in their national grand final. I was bit concerned though another song that the fandom had got excited about would win – but I needn’t have worried, it won both the jury vote and the televote, getting I think the biggest ever televote for a song in the national final, and was over 3 times as many phone votes as the song that came second.
“On Fire” went on to be a big hit in Lithuania and firmly established itself as my favourite – it’s a brilliant track. The Roop are a pop rock band, and the three members have been together as a band for several years, though have known each other or worked together for longer than that. They entered a song for Eurovision in 2018, and came an impressive third in the Lithuanian national final. It’s with “On Fire” though that they came up with what would have been Eurovision gold.
While they are a pop-rock band, “On Fire”, is actually a deep house/synth pop number and it’s ludicrously catchy and enjoyable – I defy people not to enjoy the performance
and that instrumental chorus. It has a very distinctive dance routine, which I am sure would have been seen taken up by fans in every pre-contest event and at Eurovision itself. The performance given at the Lithuanian national final was I think “Eurovision ready” – almost Swedish-like in how already polished and slick (but also very fun) it was.
Some may dismiss “On Fire” as bit of fun but meaninless camp enjoyment, but it’s far deeper and more accomplished than that. The song was composed by the three members of the band and lyrics by the lead singer, Vaidotas – and I think that comes across – it’s an authentic product that means something to the band performing it as it’s their own creation.
The song has a really good message to tell – it’s about being who we want, when we want, irrespective of age. In the music industry, Vaidotas found or saw how much it revolves around youth (those in their 20s), and if you’re older than that (like himself), then you’re treated as though you’re past it, irrelevant etc. (I am sure some of us eurofans can feel a bit like that on social media in the fandom or at some events!). I also have to add – it was so refreshing to see a bigger size guy as one of the backing dancers
While Bulgaria was the betting favourite (at time of cancellation), Iceland was obviously a huge viral hit, and you had Russia as potentially another winner, I still think Lithuania was the one to beat. I think if this was appreciated by the juries, I am sure this would have got a huge televote score – both through the power of the Lithuanian diaspora, which can be potent when mobilised, but I also think this would have got points from all across Europe (whereas Iceland and Russia might not have been so broad based) plus the Roop have had some international exposure or success in the past. As I’ve mentioned above , it was clearly Eurovision ready – the choreography, lighting, staging ideas, all were looking in sharp shape.
It’s so painful that Lithuania have been thwarted of what was easily their best ever chance to win the contest and match their Baltic neighbours Estonia and Latvia with a contest win. And I have to say, “On Fire” would have been vastly superior to the frankly quite poor songs that their neighbours won with. Yet for all the excitement The Roop’s chances generated (apparently there had already been thought put together on how the country might host), the band don’t look like they will get the chance to next year, or at least not automatically as it looks like Lithuania are holding their national final as usual. Vaidatos has been writing new songs in the lockdown summer though, in some
forest retreat, so don’t rule out some return.
That seems a terrible shame to me, but on the other hand, you could look at it from perspective of that any follow up would be a disappointment – as for me, and many others, “On Fire” was the winner of the Eurovision That Never Was.