It’s the first Friday of February. That means that we’ll soon have Super Saturdays coming towards us; The national final season will hit full throttle. No less is true for tomorrow, as four countries will choose their entrant. Ukraine, winner of the 2022 contest, is one of them and we’ve reviewed the 11 songs hoping to represent the sky-blue-and-corn-yellow banner in Malmö.

Which act in this year’s Vidbir will emerge on top of our ranking, who are the individual favourites on our panel and how many low scores will David hand out this time? Read our article and find out

But first the usual disclaimer:

Opinons stated below only reflect the views of the editor, and not of ESCUnited as a whole, nor those of our benevolent overlord Matt. You may direct your grievances at the editor responsible for vertical classification. Each reviewer is also aware that their opinions will be made public so if you’re one of these six reviewed artists and you meet the editor that eviscerated you, feel free to trash them back. They knew the risks. ^_^

On Today’s Panel We Find:

  • Bearer of Resting Slav Face, Boris Meersman
  • Bearer of bad news and worse, Danish musical tastes, David Popescu.
  • Enjoying the good life in the Californean sun, James Maude.
  • Padding out the numbers so we can hit our quota, Tyler Griffith.
  • Rating on a curve of contructive mansplainery, William Carter.

and today we will be reviewing the following six acts:

 

ltr: Yaktak, Ingret, Nazva, Anka, Drevo and Alyona Alyona & Jerry Heil. All rights belong to Suspilne.

Each of our pentarchic panel of pugilistic ‘pinionbearers has scored all eleven participants out of 10, according to their own preferences and taste, and provided a write-up explaining why they feel the way they do. We’ve split the proceedings in half, with the first six in the running order appearing today, and the other five being posted in a second part.

Obviously this entire process will prove to be very subjective and messy, but that’s the fun of it. Will we prove ourselves to a bunch of contrarian jerks this time around, or has Ukraine delivered a strong NF each of us could savour and enjoy? Let’s dive into it shall we, according to the running order, meaning we start with youngest of the group:

Favourite entry of David

Boris – 6.5 – “This kid is eighteen. FEEL ANCIENT YET? I feel like a corpse, and moreso than usual. Anyway,  “Lalala” is much more A Vibe than A Song to me? Not like there’s anything wrong with it – that’s just the type of ambience it goes for. It’s a groove I’d love to haphazzardly flail my limbs to in an attempt of a “dance”. There’s not enough of it though. Apart from its inspired rap break, it is fairly bare bones (it’s chorus is literally lalala + instrumentation) for a Vidbir entry.  It’s an okay composition in desperate need for a strong visual act to really hook my attention, and since we’re judging by studio cuts…”

David – 9 – “Whether you speak Ukrainian or not, it really doesn’t matter, this beat is fire, and it’s got you going all the way! Easy to sing a long with, thanks to the title of the song, and just the use of the word “dance” just makes you feel it on the spot. I would love some more energy when vocally performed, but damn, this is awesome!”

James – 6 – “A chill, efficient hip hop number that doesn’t overreach, doesn’t overstay its welcome, is relatively simple and well executed. The chorus with the synthesized horns are a highlight, with the repetitive “la la la” surprisingly not being overbearing. Yaktak’s flow is decent as Eastern European rap goes. Creatively, it’s not really pulling up any trees. Sure, it’s slick and it’s tidy, but doesn’t seem likely to blow the minds of anyone who is not already a fan of Ukrainian rap.”

Tyler –  3.5 – “The instrumentation is fine I guess, but “Lalala” feels so tepid to me. It has the vibe of an uptempo party bop, but then it gets no louder than a car accelerating in the distance. The bridge was okay and made the song more interesting, but I’m underwhelmed as a whole with “Lalala”. It’s a meh song, but maybe there will be bigger energy in the live performance? Who knows!”

William – 6.5 – “I mean, this is a good time. I will be blasting it in my car for the next three months. But, in 2024, we’ve gotta do better than choruses that are just, “la la la la” over and over. Ukraine shouldn’t send this … but even as I’m sitting here listening to it and writing a review, I am having a damn good time. 6.5/10 is probably too high a score, but whatever. Let’s live a little. ”

Statistics:

Total score: 31.5/50
Highest rating: 9 (David)
Lowest rating: 3.5 (Tyler)
Final Mark: B- (63%)

Listen to “Lalala” below?

 


Boris – 5 – “I’ve got enough life experience under my belt to know what Ingret fans and I will never see eye to eye. She is not for me, I Am Not The Demograph (– Alesia Michelle). I fail to understand why people enjoy witnessing and then crying over misery? Like sure, you want to feel like a good person, go ahead, just don’t inflict it on the rest of us who tune into Eurovision to have a fun time, please. Anyway, as a composition “Keeper” isn’t too bad, largely because it picks up in its third act and climaxes in a glorious powerful outro, complete with Ukrainian washerwomen choir. That could result in a fun live, at least. As far as the two previous minutes are concerned though, [No Opinion Is To Be Had]”

David – 2 – “The song keeps it’s slow pace for far too long, before is slightly bursts out, just to pull it back. First things first, my interest is no longer present by the time it slowly starts, second, I can’t even tell what kind of style the song aims for, and third, the lyrics seem quite poorly done in English, the message flies past completely. There isn’t much that pulls me in for this song, just minor things.”

James – 7 – “It takes a minute to get going, with the slow folk going into slow EDM. Its slow back and forth between modern and folk sounds both in instrumentation and vocalization are the highlights. Ingret’s opening vocals do take some getting used to, though. Her pronunciation and style is that modern female singer-songwriter style with forced syllables. Lyrically it tells a story of women left at home while fighting is going on, but it isn’t patronizing with its message. This is a slower and pensive take on the blend of electronica and folk we have come to expect from Ukraine and loved in the past.”

Tyler –  7 – “Keeper” is pretty good! I like Ingret’s vocals in this, both when it’s a slow ballad and then when it gets faster with the key change. The song is interesting to listen to, and has an important message behind it in its lyrics. Ballads generally aren’t necessarily my thing, so since I’m not blown away by the song, this score seems the most appropriate to me. Hoping the live performance will be great!

William – 5.5  –  ” This song is beautiful and transporting. It is. And Ingret’s vocals are killer. But here’s my concern: ‘My Sister’s Crown‘ was covering a lot of this same ground last year, both sonically and thematically. (And with some Ukrainian lyrics even.) Vesna, though, did it with a little more fire and innovation. So, even though this song is quite good, it’s still only getting a 5.5/10″

Total score: 26.5/50
Highest rating: 7 (James, Tyler)
Lowest rating: 2 (David)
Final Mark: C (53%)

Listen to “Keeper” below:

 


Boris – 2 – “It’s astounding how quickly the novelty ages like a fine milk when the jokes fail to land.”

David – 1 – “This is just a song on how to mock Russians and their accent when they speak English. Horrible lyrics, dreadful music, poor – and probably purposely done – pronunciation.”

James – 6 – “Like Verka, but with much less camp. I can occasionally have a soft spot for comic pieces with turbofolk influences. This one doesn’t annoy, but it doesn’t veer into full-on party mode or have a humorous point of view that would be accessible to non-Slavic people. Is it a send-up of stereotypes people have about Slavic people’s attempts to speak English, or is it a darker piece where Nazva is lamenting the rush to learn English as an abandonment of Ukraine and its culture and language in its hour of need?”

Tyler –  3.5  – “I can see this song being simple enough for the masses to be a televote tour de force, but this is just not for me in the slightest. It reads like a parody song, but of what, I do not know. I like the idea of staging being people in English characters and historical figures, but it’s a year too late to make more of an impact. “Slavic English” isn’t interesting to me and feels like Ukraine try to craft a viral televote entry instead of being the cutting edge country that picks daring songs that would already be televote-heavy songs.”

William – 6 – “This is stupid and kind of a troll. Actually, not kind of. It’s a troll. But it’s a fun troll. It’s a catchy troll. It’s a troll with some ethnic sounding-bonafides. So I’m not mad at it. And hey … Jerry Heil was jumping around the Vidbir stage with giant dancing broccoli four years ago. We’ve all gotta start somewhere.”

Total score: 18.5/50
Highest rating: 6 (James, William)
Lowest rating: 1 (David)
Final Mark: F (37%)

Listen to “Slavic English” below:


Boris – 9 – “THE THRILLS ARE ALIVE TO THE SOUND OF WHITE VOICE. I’m not sure why this song, specifically, had to make it through the wildcard round to get into Vidbir? It’s very good and several of these other options include Slavic English and Endless Chain. Anyway, “Palala” is an ethnobanger and earworm of the same stock as My Sister’s Crown and Shum, so of course I’m fully on board with its flutey rhythms and white voice chanting. I won’t insult your intelligence by explaining its greatness. This is the sort of song Ukraine excel at bringing live, and I have no doubt they will. Another point for the best country in Eurovision.”

David – 3 – “There’s something off-setting about this song, I don’t understand the modern/traditional mix, it sounds like such huge contrasts, that they more cancel each other out. I also don’t get, why the song is so short? There could’ve been better use of the time, and maybe more musically usage, a lot of details are just missing.”

James – 8.5 – “Anka does well with what has become a rich well for Ukraine, namely folk music fused with electronica. Anka adds a bit of trap to the mix, creating an atmosphere of paranoia and dread. Woodwind instruments play off synthesizers and a pounding bass, getting more frenetic as the song goes on. It runs a little short, but would adding an extra verse or lengthening the post-bridge section really add anything to “Palala”? Some could use the extra 40 seconds to get their idea across, but I think Anka gets hers across just fine.”

Tyler –  7.5 – “This was pretty good! I like the flute instrumentation used in here and liked the tonal changes throughout the song that really kept my interest. It really shows how strong Vidbir is when this song was longlisted instead of being in the final already. The song is chill and nice, but doesn’t go big enough for me. I’m excited to see the live and whether it can amp up the song even more.”

William – 6 – The song is cute. Love the flute. Love ANKA’s little tennis grunts. I need to see this staged. With the spoken word and everything, the danger of cringy white girl posturing is high. But if ANKA can sell it, I’m buying. That being said, Ukraine has OPTIONS, and at least four of them are better than this. That’s just the bottom line.

Total score: 34.5/50
Highest rating: 9 (Boris)
Lowest rating: 3 (David)
Final Mark: A- (69%)

Listen to “Palala” below:

 


Boris – 6 – “I’m too distracted by Drevo’s diction to do anything other than cackling lol. I’ve MISSED dreadful pronunciation like that, okay? Eurovision is too competence-driven nowadays. “Endless Chain” is, well, not good (d’uh), but it has an “Audition in Belarus” quality to it that makes its inteptitude fun to behold. That Drevo also has the exact same tone, inflection and accent as any Belarusian male vocalist just adds to the experience.”

David – 2 – “There is no way I would’ve been able to tell, that this song was fully in English, had I not seen the lyrics while listening. Over the top vocal performance, which completely makes the song unintelligible. The music is fine as it is, nothing special either.”

James – 5 – “It is not the best throwback to ‘90s British alternative rock, and I am also not sure that Drevo’s vocal style lends itself well to singing in English. And though the song is called “Endless Chain,” there is a fair bit of repetition and “whoa-ohs!” that make it drag on a bit. Probably a deliberate choice, but being a simpler rock piece, it can make your attention wander. However, this does have potential with a revamp and Drevo could well kill it live. But for now, the studio version feels a little flat.”

Tyler –  4.5 – “I like the beat and sounds of “Endless Chain”, but I don’t care for the lyrics or the vocals, whoops! I’m sure Drevo has a good voice, but his style and intonations are something I personally don’t like, so that’s a demerit already. I find the lyrics to be too basic to the point of derivative? I understand that English may not be a first language, but it’s still too simple for me to really like. Did I find myself bopping my head around to the beat though? Maybe so!”

William – 2 – “Out of all 11 songs, this is the only one I’d be skipping in the playlist. Not a fan of Drevo’s vocal choices. Maybe I’m wrong, but the way he sings sounds put on and contrived. I appreciate the performative, lo-fi, garage rock-iness of this entire package, but it’s a bit dated and thin. This song is just not to my taste, and it never will be”

Total score: 19.5/50
Highest rating: 6 (Boris)
Lowest rating: 2 (David, William)
Final Mark: F (39%)

Listen to “Endless Chain” below:


 

Favourite entry of James and William

Boris – 9.5 – “What an anthem. In a matter of seconds, Jerry Heil manages to conjure up an atmosphere of triumph and strength, of female empowerment and of unfailing resillience. The religious metaphors serve to reference “Mother Nations” and their perserverance in the face of adversity, but they’re universal and serve merely as a subtle undertone. The music takes the centre stage in this song: A powerful choir, a catchy chorus and clever harmonies. Is “Teresa and Maria” a catchy bop, a humanitarian statement or mother’s loving embrace? I’d say it could be all three at once without compromising anything. Alyona Alyona then mops up any remaining doubts with a strong spitfire rap break. If this song comes together live, it goes to Eurovision. And if it goes to Eurovision, it could very well be its next winner.”

David – 5 – “The title alone, is a giveaway, that this is regarding religious figures. Having a look into the lyrics, it’s indeed a religious song. The beat is nice and enjoyable, but this religion theme just really doesn’t feel right, and then we have some rapping inserted as well, why? Smart to be majorly in Ukrainian, just to slightly hide the message.”

James – 9 – “This has already scored millions of views and listens for various reasons, so I will spare you a lot of the superlatives already laid down on this and agree that it is worth the hype. After what seems like years of futzing around trying to find her voice, Jerry Heil has finally lived up to her potential and brought us modern pop using religious iconography and the religious trope of the seeker that very few artists have done well. And props to Alyona Alyona for that excellent rap verse that is a powerful companion to the chanting vocals in the chorus. This song’s so-called controversy is overblown, and I expect this to be a Top 5 contender if selected for Eurovision.”

Tyler –  7 – “This is good! Not great though. I suppose I’m just pushing back on the idea that “Teresa & Maria” should be the entry, but like, this won’t be winning the entire show in Malmö so why bother? I get notes of “Stefania” in here which could be good, but I’m much more of a fan of Alyona Alyona’s rapping than I am with Jerry’s vocals. The song is a good ballad, but I won’t be blown away until I see the live performance. (Reviewer’s Note: I’m adding this part in the day after I listened to this song, and couldn’t tell you a single thing about it lol it’s so unmemorable to me <3).”

William – 9 – “Mother Teresa actually kinda sucked. (Don’t @ me.) But with that out of the way … THIS SONG RULES. It’s got the evocative storytelling sound of Ukraine’s best Eurovision entries. Both of these ladies are bringing their own voice and style to the table, and the song manages to blend the two to perfection. Not an easy feat. This is a musical mixture that could easily have gone VERY wrong. Send this to Eurovision, please. We’ve made Jerry Heil wait long enough. It’s getting 9/10. The missing point will come from the staging. Pull THAT off, and a perfect score from me is within reach.”

Total score: 19.5/50
Highest rating: 9.5 (Boris)
Lowest rating: 5 (David)
Final Mark: A+ (79%)

Listen to “Teresa & Maria” below:


PRELIMINARY RANKING

With our first six reviews poster, we’ll now include a ranking below to recap what you’ve just read:

  1. Alyona Alyona & Jerry Heil – “Teresa & Maria” (79%)
  2. ANKA – “Palala” (69%)
  3. YAKTAK – “Lalala” (63%)
  4. INGRET – “Keeper” (53%)
  5. Drevo – “Endless Chain” (39%)
  6. NAZVA – “Slavic English” (35%)

Pretty divergent but clear scoring: Jerry Heil and Alyona Alyona take first place on our preliminary ranking with a distinct 10% margin over Anka, while Drevo and NAZVA receive scores below the average. Will tomorrow’s update upset the balance, or is Teresa & Maria on a course to steamroll this round of reviews?

All shall be revealed tomorrow, when we post part 2 and mark down MÉLOVIN, SKYLERR, Ziferblat, YAGODY and NAHABA.

 

Do #YOU agree with the reviews so far? Who is #YOUR favoruite in Ukraine’s national selection. Let us know in the comments, on social media, on our Forum or in our Discord!

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