NF Season: This week’s national final previews (December 16th-22nd)

Six months since we first started up ESC Views, we’ve reached our very first National Final week! We’re thrilled to have you with us as we start out on the mammoth journey from here to the song selection deadline in March, and hopefully, you’ll enjoy our planned coverage which will guide you through all the highs and lows to come in the next four months or so!

The broadcasters to make their decisions this week: NTU (Ukraine)
The broadcasters to make their decisions this week: NTU (Ukraine)

Just to let you know how we plan to take on this challenge – we will preview the national finals which will take place each week, offering our opinions on some of the songs wherever possible, and predicting the entries we think are most likely to win the ticket to Denmark. We will also relate the national finals back to our artist suggestions and personal hopes for each nation, and put the potential entries in their Eurovision context (I don’t know how better to express that but it will make more sense when you read it!). Following the results of each National Final, we will post a review article of the show and the selected entry, and assess its chances at Eurovision next year. And, as always, your opinions are most welcome throughout, we would love to know what you think!

This week’s calendar:

21st December 2013: Ukrainian National Final

Ukraine: 

Ukraine will pick its entry on December 21st.
Ukraine will pick its entry on December 21st.

Similar to their approach last year, Ukraine have elected to stage their twenty-song national final at the end of December. In the middle of the day too, for some inexplicable reason. Now, especially considering the early stage of proceedings, and going on the precedent set by Zlata last year, and the majority of Albanian entries since 2004, a song selected in December will likely make it to the ESC stage sounding considerably different to its initial form. Therefore, the demo versions available to us right now are probably more like “templates” of what the eventual ESC song would sound like. Nevertheless, we have listened to all the available previews – helpfully organised here by Eurovision Ireland, thanks guys! – and have come to some preliminary conclusions about this year’s Ukrainian candidates!

Reviews and Predictions:

James – Listening to the available songs so far, there are three which stand out for me from a personal point of view, and three which stand out from a “challenging-for-the-title” point of view. And unfortunately, they’re not the same three each time.

As predictable and cliché as this statement will be, I do see this NF turning into a Viktoria-Natalia-NeAngely race for the ticket. The three of them do seem to be attracting the majority of fan attention, two of them for their prior connections to the Eurovision world, and the other for its Scandi production. Out of these three, I would be happiest to see Natalia Valevskaya win, having loved her 2010 NF entry “Europa” and being impartial to dance music in general. “Love Makes You Beautiful” isn’t really a strong song, but I hope it could be sufficiently spruced up à la “Carry Me In Your Dreams” to create something both catchy and credible. She has a cracking voice, if nothing else!

NeAngely’s track “Courageous” is along similar lines, very clubby and contrived, and on a superficial auditory level, very palatable. The fact remains however, that this is a Swedish song, through and through. Not that I have a problem with that, and I do adore Swedish music, but this contest is looking for a Ukrainian representative, and Ukraine have thus far been one of the few who have managed to avoid the temptation of Scandifying their entries… I would prefer them to continue sending authentic home-grown music if I’m honest. And… not wanting to ignore the elephant in the room here… why do they sound like men? I legit thought they were transvestites at first. *awkward*. As for Viktoria Petryk’s “Wrecking Ball”-inspired effort “Love Is Lord”, I am decidedly underwhelmed. She could do better. There’s a vague hook floating throughout the three minutes but it just never gets going and leaves me feeling empty to be honest.

The three songs which I particularly enjoy on a personal level will probably surprise anyone who has some prior knowledge of my musical leanings… My number one so far is the wonderfully eccentric “Tick Tock” by Mary Yaremchuk. It’s maybe five years out of date, and undoubtedly hampered by the composers’ unfamiliarity with the English language, but as a piece of music, it is multi-faceted, sassy and unbelievably catchy. With a few amendments here and there, this one would ROCK the Eurovision stage. I’m also loving the ballad “Believe Me” performed by Tanya Burke (now isn’t that just a council estate cleaner name or what?!). You know, that one at #16 which you listened to for 15 seconds and then moved on, feeling you’d had enough of dodgy Ukrainian ballads for one day. Well, it deserves your attention. Beautiful chorus, which showcases Tanya’s Diana Vickers-esque vocals beautifully. And my third place? Denis Lyubimov. On both aesthetic and auditory merit. *swoon*.

Rory – From the songs that have been released, I think the Ukrainian line-up is quite a reasonable mix and I think the fact that not every song is in English is actually a good thing as it means Ukrainian could actually make a return to the competition!! Obviously, it’s going to be hard to follow from the Queen Zlata, but it’s a task that will have to be done.. although Zlata going to Eurovision every year would be just as good! Anyway, let’s go through what I think about the finalists:

Roman Polonsky is just..emm… what can I say about it?! It’s not exactly the sort of thing that Europe would wanna hear, and he doesn’t sing it that well, so I can almost tell it’s gonna come towards the bottom of the scoreboard.  I could also say the same about Uli Rud, whose song, ‘Tsvetok’ does sound like ‘Royals’ on marijuana or something. Like seriously, it sounds… like nothing that I would listen to. As for the ones I love, Natalia Valevskaya has a fantastic song! It’s got the elements that do well at Eurovision: Blonde diva, check! Modern pop song, check! But she’s definitely not out of the woods, with NeAngely and Viktoria Petryk both doing well. It’s definitely gonna be a tight year, but judging by the songs alone, I think NeAngely or Natalia will take the crown and represent Ukriane, but nothing’s decided yet!

(oh and Denis Lyubimov – wow!)

Context:

A few months back, we put together a “Possible Artists” article for Ukraine, in which our main suggestion was Lavika, and our secondary artist was Vera Brezhneva. Of course, neither of those two will be featured in the show on Saturday, however this in itself highlights the beauty of national finals, in their potential for introducing complete unknowns to a wider European audience. Seeing as though Ukrainian supergroup VIA GRA recently released a stunning new single “Magiya” which was a convenient three minutes in length, I had got my hopes up that they might have a Eurovision challenge lined up… alas not.

However, it cannot be denied the range of styles on offer in Ukraine this year is most definitely varied, with a number of as yet unheard entries to be revealed. Having supplied a string of incredible Eurovision entries in the last few years, I am always apprehensive that they are bound to drop the baton any time soon, but the field in this national final does present a lot of hope for 2014 at least. It may lack the punch of a big name artist-wise, but there are plenty of deserving songs here.

How would any of these entries fit in with Ukraine’s recent canon? Well, looking back, it is of note to point out that they have sent a female soloist every year since 2008 – and if we gloss over Verka Serduchka as a blur to the gender lines, that record can tenuously be extended back to Tina Karol in 2006! They’ve sent a range of styles though, so there doesn’t appear to be a preferred genre among the Ukrainian public when it comes to Eurovision. One very important precedent where Ukraine is concerned however, is that they are one of the few remaining countries who have never failed to qualify to the grand final – will their 2014 entry carry on this impressive record?

Your Views:

Which of the Ukrainian songs stands out to you?
Which of the Ukrainian songs stands out to you?

Svetlana Andriyenko from Ukraine: I will be voting for Denis Lyubimov, he has great voice and very sophisticated song, I think he will be the best to present Ukraine to Europe in Copenhagen!

Svana Lístí Agnarsdóttir from Iceland: NeAngely will win the national final – it’s almost guaranteed. The song is modern, it’s crowd-pleasing and they have vocals. The Cher impersonators will take it.. I’m already picturing the music video…

Ilias Kozantinos from Cyprus: It would be great if Tania BurQ would win, but given the fact that Anastasiya Petryk’s sister’s song is really good, i dont think it’s what’s gonna happen.. I would also love see Natalia to do well. She has a “katapliktikos” song as we say in Greek!

It cannot be denied that the frontrunners in the contest appear to be NeAngely, Viktoria Petryk and Natalia Valevskaya, but it’s nice to see that the fans we received views from also enjoyed a range of other songs too. Which song will emerge victorious and win the honour of representing Ukraine in Denmark? We will find out on Saturday! In the meantime, feel free to leave us a comment below – which ones are your favourites??

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