Following Rory’s recommendations for the Netherlands, it’s my turn to take up the possible artists baton, and today, I plan to introduce you to the wacky and wonderful world of Ukrainian popular music. Of course, their track record over the last 10 years is remarkable, and the standard of their entries to date renders them my number one ESC country overall – so what else do I think they should bring to the table in Denmark to continue this trend?
With Ukraine’s Eurovision offerings being so in line with my usual music tastes, I have spent a fair amount of time over the last few years delving into the back-catalogues of artists like Ani Lorak and Svetlana Loboda; which has in turn led to the discovery of a myriad of other Ukrainian popular singers – some of which I believe would be a veritable tour de force on the Eurovision stage!
I’ll start our journey by introducing you to three-piece band Lavika – which, I’ll admit, does for all intents and purposes come across as a female soloist with two backing musicians… but complain ye not. Aforementioned female soloist Luba (short for “Lubov”, aw) has an amazing voice, and their combined sound is just that little bit different to many of the artists which tend to grace the ESC stage year on year…
They are described in their homeland as an “up-and-coming” band (so there would be no reputation or ego getting in the way of a Eurovision attempt, tick.) and – having built up a formidable live reputation, have attracted descriptions such as this –
“They bounded onto stage with such effervescence there was a palpable surge in energy across the room. Lead singer Luba is simply stunning, with vocals that reach right into your soul and a magnetic stage presence.”
Okay, so the guy that wrote this has evidently swallowed an English dictionary (“effervescence”?! really!? how many native Russian speakers know what that means…) but his enthusiasm for the band is unmistakable. And he is not alone.
2011 single “Vechniy Rai” (above) was the song which first brought them the national exposure that they have been enjoying in the last couple of years. Anchored by insistent beats, Luba’s enchanting register-hopping vocals and – of all things – an infectious sax hook, this is the kind of authentically Ukrainian, yet universally popular sort of sound that I think would just slot right in to the contest. The structure of the song builds up the melody and interest, and then you get THAT chorus, with that little crack in her voice in the first line being spine-tinglingly brilliant.
One of the things I love about being a Lavika fan is that they seem to churn out new music at an alarmingly fast rate. In the last three years they have given us for studio albums – “Vechniy Rai” and “Singles” in 2011, “Serdtse V Forme Solntsa” (released in Standard, Deluxe, and Live editions) in 2012, and “Luschie Pesni” in 2013. Granted, there are quite a few songs which feature on multiple albums, and which have been released as stand-alone singles too, but the point remains that they have amassed a vast discography in a very short time; a discography which straddles genres and styles.
Check out, for example, their softer side in the sweet, almost Ed Sheeran-esque acoustic number “Dover Eto Mne”:
So: how beautiful is that melody!? This one was featured on the many incarnations of “Serdtse V Forme Solntsa”, and if they sent something like this to Eurovision, it would be a stark contrast to pretty much everything Ukraine has sent in the past. However, this is Ukraine. They would set up a brilliant stage concept for it, and Luba’s vocals, plus the band’s energy, would doubtless come across as both captivating and contemporary. They’re almost tailor-made for the contest; yet very original and almost, dare I say it, hipster? The logical follow-up to “Kedvesem”, if I might.
But that may be the problem. Would they agree to do it? Unfortunately, I am inclined to say that they wouldn’t, based on the following quote from an interview they conducted recently –
“We don’t want to be famous, it’s not what we’re about. We just want to harmonise, give love to people through our music, without expecting anything in return.”
Potential spanner in the works there? I’m not sure how to interpret it, in relation to Eurovision. They may see it as too high-profile an event for them, or they may see it as an opportunity to spread their fantastic music to a wider audience. Only time will tell.
Lavika aside, another Ukrainian artist who I reckon would have no qualms about strutting her stuff on the Eurovision stage is Vera Brezhneva:
So, a bit of background on this lady. A member of the multi-million selling Russian/Ukrainian girl-band VIA GRA (think Serebro but better) between 2003 and 2007, she has worked as a TV host and actress, alongside her continuation of music as a solo artist. The above single from 2009 “Lyubov V Bolshom Gorode” is taken from a Russian-language film of the same name, in which she played the role of Katya. Multi-talented, ey. All joking aside, however, whilst her voice doesn’t venture far from your archetypal Eastern European contralto sound, she definitely has the confidence and personality to bring all the energy Ukraine need for a Eurovision challenge. Her musical work to date has featured a range of genres, so it’s quite difficult to predict what sort of song she would contribute to the contest, but rest assured that if she did get involved, she would be pretty much guaranteed to be the biggest media personality in Copenhagen the entire fortnight!!
A few other Ukrainian songs you may want to check out are as follows:
Svana Lístí Agnarsdóttir from Iceland: For me, she is a fantastic singer and I’m sure she would be the best person for the job to follow up from Zlata!
Svetlana Andriyenko from Ukraine: VIA GRA should reunite for a Eurovision song, they are sound of my teenage years, and I grew up with their great songs. They should come back!
Karina Tuominen from Finland: I think she is great.
So, general agreement for Lavika, and something very close to Vera Brezhneva. What do you think of my suggestions for Ukraine? Surely, as one of the most perennially successful countries in the contest’s history, we should watch out, whatever they send, but if you had the power to select the artist, who would you go for? Feel free to leave a comment below!