To our delight, Russia has chosen the Buranovskiye Babushki for Eurovision.
The Babushki are grandmothers from a small village in the Udmurt Republic. The group started as amateurs by singing folk songs and Beatles covers in their local area. During the 2010 Russian national selection these adorable, spirited ladies in traditional dress won our hearts and finished in an unexpected 3rd place. See our write up from 2010 here. Since then the Babushki have become something of a phenomenon. They tour, regularly travel to Moscow for TV appearances, and for two years have been part of every imaginable discussion about who should represent Russia at Eurovision.
This year’s entry, “Party for Everybody,” is basically a drinking song. The Babushki expand it into a joyful, clap-along folk experience. Here’s “Party for Everybody”:
The Babushki are not about high quality vocals. Rather, their charm comes from their authenticity. These women remain humble and unaffected by their fame, and the Russians love them for it. Rightly so. What’s not to love here?
The Russian national final is usually a lot of fun to watch (when they decide to hold it, that is). You get true talent, Western music wannabes, and train wrecks. Most of the time the music sounds like it is from this decade, which is also a plus. In winning the Russian selection, the Babushki bested an entirely plausible return attempt from 2008 ESC winner Dima Bilan duetting with Yulia Volkova (of t.A.T.u. fame) and an odd Timbaland-masterminded collaboration between hiphop artist Timati and opera singer Aida.
In addition to selecting this year’s representative, Russian finals often serve as a proving ground for artists we see in Eurovisions to come. Artists who do well build up good will with organizers, gaining entrée to a short list for internal selection or inclusion on future national selection rosters. For example, Alexey Vorobyov impressed in 2008, and as mentioned earlier the Babushki made a big splash in 2010. Who, based on the 2012 contest, do we expect to hear more from in the future? We thought that Lena Maksimova proved herself a talented singer with a knack for over-the-top staging. Chinkong & Karina laid down a radio-friendly dance pop song. But for us, the unexpected delight of the evening was angry-t.A.T.u.-with-accordion duo Syostry Syo. Their entry, “Une Marionette,” had over-the-top posing and drama school theatrics, and was ridiculously entertaining. It finished 4th.
Thinking ahead to Baku, there is no one in the contest quite like the Babushki, but there is precedent that suggests they could do very well indeed. In 2005, the wonderfully eccentric Zdob şi Zdub gave Moldova a 2nd place finish with “Grandmamma beats the drum,” which featured the lead singer’s grandmother in a rocking chair with a drum. Bottom line: the appeal of little old ladies should not be underestimated.