It feels more than a little surreal and near flippant to be writing this preview of Ukraine’s national selection show, just at a time when the threat of invasion from their giant neighbour seems a very distinct possibility. Nevertheless, the (long) show must go on it seems and we have a choice of 8 artists to represent Ukraine in Turin (provided geopolitical events allow them to go…)
There’s been a change to the running of the selection, with the previous partner broadcaster no longer in charge of the selection. Some changes have followed and this is a somewhat curtailed national final for Ukraine – the usual semi-finals have been dropped. The name of the national selection seems to have changed/disappeared to simply “Eurovision national selection” though it’s still being referred to as Vidbir (the previous name) by many fan sites and social media accounts.
Ukraine retains the only 100% qualification record now at Eurovision, and they have a suitably eclectic and bold set of songs in this year’s line up. There isn’t a runaway favourite that I can see, but there are several songs in this line up that are distinctive and risk-taking (something Ukraine repeatedly tries at Eurovision) though I think they all have some downsides that I would like to see addressed before the main contest (and Ukraine also does revamps very well).
The (most likely) favourites
With no live performances from semi-finals to judge, we don’t have a lot to go on in terms of what vocals, staging, impact are like, or indeed how they will fare among juries and public vote. However, the three below do seem to have edged ahead as the favourites among the eight.
Alina Pash “Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors”
This definitely fills the bold, authentic and distinct brief. Folk pop is mixed with more modern sounds, including some spoken/rap in English. This is edging ahead as the favourite, and I think it could once again stand out for Ukraine (even if not quite as accessible/fun as “Shum“. The spoken part does grate a little and lyrics perhaps are a bit unusual in parts – but that’s not to say it couldn’t come together as a package.
This is probably the most accessible of the three favourites, at least to a wider Eurovision audience. It feels like a bit like a MARUV-lite and while it’s good, if it does win, I think it needs a bit more “oomph” to get it to pop out in the way that Maruv’s “Siren Song” did.
Kalush Orchestra “Stefania”
This is in the folk (electro) pop vein that Ukraine is doing so well at the moment and ordinarily, this would probably be my favourite in the selection. However, it is interspersed with quite lengthy sections of rap – which serves to inject the modern into this, but it’s been putting me off. Maybe it will come across better when live though and I will become a full convert.