I’m conflicted about national finals where more than 10 songs compete. On one hand, it’s a good test for the larger ESC, forcing an act to stand out from a pack of 25 songs. On the other hand, it makes for a very long show.
The Ukrainian national final presented us with no fewer than 21 acts. There were a fair number of good options to choose from, but we had to wade through some pretty low moments to get there. In the end, the Ukrainian winner was the only entry to receive a standing ovation from the jury. Gaitana, with “Be My Guest,” won the jury vote and took second in the public vote.
We’re happy that Ukraine will be bringing some fun to this year’s contest. Obviously it’s a much more disco-friendly, gay dance club anthem than Beauty and the Beast’s “Be Our Guest.” (Sorry, still got Disney on the mind). Gaitana reminds us of Patti LaBelle with her big vocals and strong stage presence, and we are confident that she will hold her own in front of a big crowd. We are also greatly entertained by the Gene-Kelly-as-Chocolat-inspired, trumpet playing backup dancers with the Phantom of the Opera masks. Let’s hope those guys stick around for the big show.
With all that said, does “Be Our Guest” stand a chance for a good result in the contest? Well, in recent years Ukraine has had far more chaotic selection processes than this and landed in the Top 10. Ukraine has a fine Eurovision tradition, neighbors who vote for them, and, above all, they seem to know how to stage a performance that will land with international audiences. This year, the raw goods are there once again. Is this a finalist? Probably. But is this our next winner? Probably not. The song is fun, but in the end it is a dance anthem. While dance songs are popular with Eurovision fans (us included), historically they have underperformed at the contest.
Ukraine had some other good entries this year we want to call out. Despite going 3rd, Max Barskih caught our attention early on with “Dance” (which is pretty much what you imagine it would be). Turns out we weren’t the only ones; he finished 2nd overall.
We also liked Renata with “Love in sunlight rays.” Renata represented Ukraine at the Junior Eurovision contest in 2008, and this year she was competing with a song written by Alyosha. Renata finished first in the public televote with her dewy ballad, but her bid was spiked by the judges. She finished 7th overall.
Finally, Show No. 1 winners The Incredibles put on a polished performance with “Just a Dream,” featuring some well-tuned boy band vocals and effective visuals with a scrim. They finished 4th overall.