Russia has proved to be one of the strongest countries at Eurovision in the new millennium, with twelve top 10 placings since 2000 – five of which occurring consecutively since 2012 leading to this year, when Sergey Lazarev earned a very respectable third place in Stockholm, losing out to Dami Im and Jamala. He wowed audiences with his song, voice and general good looks, but the trump card Russia pulled out was the staging, which involved *that* wall that Sergey managed to “defy physics” by climbing, as well as interacting with it. It proved to be a massive hit and as a result, Russia ended up winning the televoting results by a margin of 38 points over Ukraine. But how would Sergey have fared without the wall to help him as a prop? This is what we plan to explore in the following article!
Going into the rehearsal schedule, Russia was odds on favourite to win the whole contest due to the massive fan reception it had received when it premiered on March 5th. France and Ukraine were trailing behind, but it was generally perceived by the Eurovision community that we were more than likely off to Moscow in 2017. Why? In the music video of “You Are the Only One” (YATOO), it was blatantly obvious that Russia had listened to fans and sent an artist the community had been craving for years, and they weren’t coming to the Contest only to be second best. It clearly showed that they were going to be throwing everything -including the kitchen sink – at this year’s Contest and this was really proven by the video and the various projections, fire breathing and striking dance routines shown. So, to say that Russia was a fan favourite would be the understatement of the year.
Expectations for Sergey were as high as ever and when the staging first came out and we saw what Russia was bringing to the table in Stockholm, it’s fair to say that these expectations were met and surpassed by a country mile. Of course, this may have been because of the wall, as someone magically climbing – and conveniently falling from – a vertical surface would be certain to wow any audience. The viewing public obviously was put under his spell (as the public are always mesmerised by and love props, *ahem* Babushki, Ani Lorak, Måns *ahem*) and voted in their masses, giving Lazarev 361 points – the highest score given by the televoters. However, the wall was THE only staging to the song, so what might have happened if all the staging was taken away and we were left with the song on its own?
Let’s take a look back to Vienna and Russia’s previous entry – Polina Gagarina’s “A Million Voices”. Again, like Sergey, Polina had been high on the list of many Eurovision fans to represent her country and when she did, she gathered a mass of fans with her peace ballad (which, on the other hand, many fans saw the hypocrisy, given Russia’s current track record with foreign relations). Russia spent considerably less money on the performance and it purely focused on Polina herself and ended with that gorgeous shot of the globe without borders. Although seen to be highly contrived by some fans and booed when they received high sets of points (although this was covered up with canned applause – not cool, ORF, NOT cool), Russia ultimately finished in second place in a field of 27.
Returning to Sergey – who finished 3rd in a field of 26; if he had a simple, bare staging, it may not have had a similar effect than Polina’s effort. If we look at both songs, ‘A Million Voices’ was a conventional pop peace ballad, inoffensive and doing its best to be as inclusive as possible – it didn’t need much staging. ‘YATOO’, on the other hand, was what I would call ‘neo-schlager’, whereby it’s a mix of that regular four-on-the-floor beat that repeats continuously along with modern beats to make it more marketable to today’s audience. If Sergey was to have staging à la Polina, it would seem completely incongruous with the genre of the song and, to put it bluntly; Russia would have crashed and burned with simple staging. If there was such a thing for Sergey to use at Eurovision, I honestly think that viewers wouldn’t have gotten behind him as much as they did and ultimately, we wouldn’t have seen Russia qualifying for the final for the first time (and if they did, it would have been towards the bottom end of the scoreboard). A song like YATOO demands more extensive staging and although the song and staging were not my personal favourite, they did match each other perfectly. No doubt, Russia will come back with a vengeance next year and look to redeem themselves…..and I can already see the banners already; #JusticeForLazarev.
That’s what we think, but what’s your opinion?
Rosie Owen from the United Kingdom: I don’t think he would’ve got high without the graphics. Listening to the song as it is, it’s not the most amazing one. The graphics enhance this song.
Jonah Williams from the United Kingdom: Was a bit too much for me and I could tell Russia wanted the win too much.
Svana Lístí Agnarsdóttir from Iceland: The song was made to have massive and complicated stanging, I couldn’t see without the wall. Even though I hated the song, I still know that it was the only way to live up to the music video.
Well, judging by the fan’s opinions, they do agree with our point that Sergey would have crashed and burned in a blaze of fire if the wall wasn’t included. Some fans saw it as an overcompensation and a bit too much of a desire to win, so that may be something that Channel 1 should take on board and we could be off to Moscow 2018!
In any event, we’d love to know what you think! Do you think Sergey would have won the Eurovision without the wall or would you agree with the fans and say that he would have flopped? Would you have made any changes with the staging? What would you tell Russia to improve for next year’s show? Be sure to make your voice heard by commenting below!