May 21 2013

It’s rare that Russia is robbed …

… but in the case of the 2013 Eurovision Song Contest,I think it’s a pretty clear-cut case.

Malmö's Central Station "all dressed up&q...

Malmö's Central Station "all dressed up" for Eurovision 2013. via shazzersnaps

The kitschy annual European music-fest was hosted by my Swedish hometown of Malmö this year, hence myself and many of my friends were much more engaged in the spectacle than we normally would have been.

Russia’s entry was easily my favorite performance the night of the final competition. Unlike years past, I actually watched portions of the semifinals since it was “local” and a surprising number of people I know had scored tickets. The song, titled “What If”, was good enough on the first listen to actually pull my attention away from my hyper-active Eurovision streaming twitter feed.

So when my new friend Matilda (who appears to have recovered from her recent dinner party to which Dr. Darling and I accidentally brought a collection of broken glass as a host gift) posted a video of her favorite Eurovision entry on Facebook (the Ukrainian number, which I had also noted as very good the night of the final), I had to dig up a link to the Russian song in reply.

Naturally I had to listen to it again before posting it to Matilda’s timeline, and I liked it even more upon hearing it a second time, and a third time, and a fourth time. The song starts with strings (always a good choice) and a simple melody, but it’s the lyrics that really grab you … in part because they actually make sense. This is by no means a given for Eurovision songs sung in English because in most cases, the lyrics have been written by a non-native speaker of the language.

There are so many reasons they got this performance right. The young Russian singer (21-years-old) has a rich alto voice and a ton of control. And when the four background vocalists come in (I’m a total slut for tight harmony), the energy starts to build toward a terrific bridge, and then all five of them hit the climactic key-change perfectly, and proceeded to basically BLOW THE ROOF OFF of Malmö Arena. Had I been there to hear it live, I’m sure I would have dissolved into a puddle of tears by the time they had finished.

Unfortunately, our house-guest for the weekend was adamant that I could not possibly vote for Russia … I presume for political reasons … and wanting to be a considerate host, I cast my vote for Estonia instead. (For the Americans reading this, I could not vote for Sweden’s song because participating countries are not allowed to vote for their own entry.) Russia ended up finishing 5th, which was quite respectable given how poorly my other favorites performed (Estonia, 20th and Sweden, 14th), but I felt kind of guilty for not sticking to my musical guns.

 As you can see/hear in the video below, it’s basically the perfectly constructed pop power ballad, eller hur?

If Disney doesn’t option this song for its next animated film, they’re idiots.

**UPDATE: I’ve since learned that the song’s composers and all four backing vocalists are Swedes, which doesn’t surprise me at all and makes me feel even more justified for loving it so much. Heja Sverige!


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