Ukraine’s national selection comes to a close this weekend, as Vidbir 2020’s final takes place in Kyiv. With six excellent songs in the running to represent Ukraine on their return to the contest, what did our team think of the hopefuls?

This time, it’s Daniel, James, Melanie, Roy and Sean who take on reviewing duties.

Krutь – 99

Daniel – 8 – “This is a cool folk song with an incredible implementation of strings. It is very much a different vibe from all the other songs in Vidbir and for that reason, among others, it sticks out. Her voice is so mystical and the harp really teleports you to a new world. It is a strong entry because it really brings an interesting perspective to a pop-heavy contest. I do not reckon it will win, but I do not think it even matters when they are pumping out quality.”

James – 7 – “A folk indie selection relying heavily on Ukrainian folklore with use of the bandura, especially with the animated starry haired black cat providing its whiskers in the video for said bandura. This one is a bit more accessible due to its English chorus and “this song is for everyone” sentiment. This is an engaging journey of a song, has some great sing-along potential despite being a somewhat chill song, and unlike a lot of songs heard at national selections, seems upbeat in attitude and not negative in lyrics.”

Melanie – 8 – “Krutь makes me think of an angelic version of Melanie Martinez. I really love how passionately she plays the Bandura on stage and it sounds so lovely in her song “99.” Combined with the graphics she uses in her Vidbir staging, she takes the listener into a fairytale journey. Only thing she has to work on, are her vocals. But with her charming personlity, I wouldn’t mind her representing Ukraine in Rotterdam.”

Roy – 10 – “I have been debating this entire week whether I would give it a rare 10, but in the end I can’t see a reason why I shouldn’t. This to me is the absolute best song of the entire national final season. It touches me, often makes me emotional and you can pretty much play this in whatever mood I am. The oddest thing is that this isn’t the type of music that I would usually gravitate towards, but this little piece has something special. The purity of the instrument, the voice and Maryna’s happy face fulfils me so much, I can’t even put it to words. I guess there is 1 word to describe it all: This isn’t just music anymore, this is magic!”

Sean – 7 – “This would be something different. I love the traditional element, and I like the mystical, ethereal vibe that the whole song and performance gives. This obviously tells a story and while I do like the English-Ukrainian mix, at the same time I’m worried that the message won’t be put across effectively. I mean, I’m not sure what this song is about – but hey, I like it anyway. Would Europe appreciate it, with this in mind?”

Total = 40 (avg. 8)

Jerry Heil – Vegan

Daniel – 3 – “I mean it is timely, if anything, and she has a specific aesthetic. In all honesty the actual beat and musical part of the song is actually pretty cool, bringing that 80’s retro vibe and that I do appreciate it. I appreciate until that drop that seemed more forced than anything. Now, for the subject matter, I get that it is an extensive metaphor but it is kind of bizarre. Oh those last forty second struck a chord that I did not want struck, yikes, big yikes.”

James – 4 – “Is this a song making fun of vegans or a song by a vegan trying to be a smartass and singing at a strawman non-vegan in her head? Satire got taken out the back and shot years ago, so it’s harder to tell if anyone’s political or lifestyle proclamations are serious anymore. Anyway, there’s a lot of eye-rolling here as the song does subscribe to almost every cliché about vegans, from the militancy to the sneering comments when someone asks a simple question about where they get their protein. The best reason for going vegan in 2020 is that it’s environmentally friendly. Well here’s a thought – cut your CO2 footprint and stay home, don’t travel to Rotterdam. I will say, though, nice simple bass heavy track underneath, and I actually did laugh at the “I can’t even call you honey” line.”

Melanie – 6 – “The staging of this song is AMAZING! It just looks like a children television show that promotes children eating there vegetables and I’m loving it! The song itself isn’t bad. I love the beat, but I just can’t take it serious. It’s a fun song for kids and maybe can even win the Junior Eurovision Song Contest. But I can’t see it do well on the Eurovision stage. Please come back next year Jerry with a more serious song.”

Roy – 6 – “No Roy, do not like this! I repeat, do not like this! This is what I told myself about a thousand times, but I guess I can’t help myself.. I low-key enjoy this, the beat is good, the production is very high and even Jerry’s vocals are incredibly good live. Those lyrics thoooough…. “I can’t even call you honey, every time we’re having beef, it’s my little suicide” Lyric of the decade already. She is also talking about butts and a whole lot of other stuff. It is enjoyable though…”

Sean – 8 – “I feared the worst listening to this for the first time, but I’m pleasantly surprised. I’m not sure if it’s meant to be some kind of parody but this is a memorable performance and would slot seamlessly into the Eurovision complexion if chosen. This is a very boppable electropop song with a dirty synth, a strong stage show and a catchy hook, so I’m sold!”

Total = 27 (avg. 5.4)

Go_A – Solovey

Daniel – 9 – “I love that flute intro. This sounds like Poland 2019 but with more pizzazz and more modern (and not as screech-y). This song combines ethnic beats with musically forward rhythms. The voices have a unique factor to them and the song makes me feel as though the presentation will be vibrant and colorful. The transitions are wonderful breathers and the song understands how to play to its strengths. This is a fantastic song and it truly captures Ukraine’s Eurovision tradition in this song.”

James – 8 – “White voice and dubstep? Sure, why not? There are some neat traditional Ukrainian instrumentals, a traditional story (or at least images from Ukrainian folklore, such as the titular Nightingale, contained therein), on top of a slick hip hop track. Some Eurovision fans may be wary of this entry due to Tulia’s non-qualification Eurovision 2019 (Tulia who paired white voice with rock), but that was a more aggressive and loud entry. “Nightingale” is a touch more chill, like if Enigma embraced modernity and also decided to do a white voice album.”

Melanie – 7 – “So I just listened to this song like a hundred times with a bottle of wine and I still don’t know if I like it or hate it. It’s such an intriguing song that is giving me ethnic & modern vibes at the same time. The problem I have is that I have the feeling that she is screeching to me the whole song. If she can tone it down, she has the potential to show Europe how beautiful the Ukrainian language is.”

Roy – 6 – “This is the type of thing that Tulia should have done last year. It is dope that you want to show off something of your culture like the white voice music, but I truly appreciate Go_A making sure it is mixed with something modern. I really like that a lot, but I find the voice of this particular singer to be a bit too sharp. Good song and performance, just not fully for me.”

Sean – 7 – “I have to appreciate how well Go_A have managed to mix the traditional with the modern in this entry, and because of this I think this could have a lot of fans in Rotterdam if chosen. For me, the vocals are a little too shouty for my ears and the performance is a bit stiff, but there’s also a lot to please me here. The last twenty seconds in particular are powerful and will leave a lasting impression.”

Total = 37 (avg. 7.4)

David Axelrod – Horizon

Daniel – 6 – “This is a pretty song. It is produced pretty well. He has a nice voice. The instruments work well. If you have not caught on based on my choppy sentences, I am not exactly feeling the song and it may be because Vidbir is bringing it this year with the fun and quirky. This song is the textbook definition of a cute ballad, but for the year 2020 it is outdated, it is out-matched in originality and it just is missing that whoa factor. He is a phenomenal singer though.”

James – 5 – “I was hoping for a second this would be President Obama’s moustached former Chief of Staff David Axelrod. After watching this performance, I was still hoping. At least it answered the question, “is there good hair conditioner available in Kiev?” I’ve defended a few too many of these old style ballads in 2020 already, and this English language one clearly aimed at a Western audience just doesn’t do it for me. I was surprised he made the Final, but being a granny favorite from the Voice of Ukraine will probably not be enough to send him to Rotterdam.”

Melanie – 3 – “Hi David! The 90’s just called and they wanted their outdated ballad back. Still suprised how this song advanced to the final of Vidbir. Please Ukraine, just don’t send this song to Rotterdam, because it’s just a basic ballad that we heard 1000000 times before. A great song for an X Factor winner, but not for winning Eurovision.”

Roy – 2 – “This song is not truly worth a 2, but it is sooo far below the quality of the other 5 songs that I couldn’t justify giving it much higher. This is the most basic song in maybe the entire Vidbir selection. A lot of other songs would die for a song like this and it isn’t bad. It is just a little bit dated and basic. The staging is grand and done quite well, but no, this should not win!”

Sean – 3 – “Ukraine are worth so much more than this song, but I guess every selection has to have at least one Eurovision harkback like this. I mean, there’s even the angel wings to throw the cliché-ometer into overdrive (Roko perhaps was the straw that broke the camel’s back on that particular gimmick). David is a good vocalist with conviction, and this would’ve worked brilliantly 30 years ago, but times have moved fast since then. Watch this win.”

Total = 19 (avg. 3.8)

Khayat – Call for Love

Daniel – 10 – “Strong beginning that has those ethnic strokes ever-present. This is a banger, that back beat is fun and would totally be a moment. Wow this song combines those ethnic with pop influences and I think I might just call for love. This is a Eurovision of the 2020 while still embracing a unique perspective. This song is a Siren Song meets 1944 with an ethnic drop. All around an extremely compelling song that does the deed. Must be one of my favorites.”

James – 9 – “Finally, someone brought us a song we can play on a Saturday night at the Abbey in West Hollywood. The deep voice spoken “Call for Love” is the cherry on this fun club number that we need among the emo dirge being dumped in Rotterdam. I’m afraid Vidbir, after Maruv last year, may be wanting to be a little too serious this year, too. No, we don’t need that. We don’t need any more boys with emotions or millionaire eco-rebels. We need some f%$# bois calling out for love! I do like the club vibe his staging is going for, but it’s a little too subtle and clothed. His shirt should have been ripped off sometime during the second verse, and I know he’s trying in conservative Ukraine, but lose the chicks in Rotterdam.”

Melanie – 8 – “Khayat has a winner song with “Call For Love”. The staging is ready for Rotterdam and looks amazing. The only big problem I have with this song is his English pronunciation. I thought that he was singing in Ukrainian the whole time. He really has to work on that, otherwise someone else will take the win.”

Roy – 8 – “Yeeesssss, give me more debuting genres at Eurovision. Deep-house has always been low-key popular, but usually only around summer-periods. Absolutely lovely to see such a song being very competitive in a Eurovision preselection. Khayat’s vocals aren’t the best, but luckily these type of songs do not rely on that all too much. The staging and camerawork are also exceptionally good. If this wins I better practice my shuffling and other dance skills, because this will be absolutely banging! This could do really well at Eurovision!”

Sean – 6 – “Khayat had one of my absolute favourite Vidbir entries last year, so I may be a little biased in my dissapointment that a lot of the mystery and atmosphere of “Ever” has melted away and left behind a fairly generic offering this year in “Call for Love”. Generic may be harsh, as there are some interesting elements here and it does have a distinct Ukrainian pop sound, but I think Ukraine have better options, even if they opt for the traditional.”

Total = 41 (avg. 8.2)

Tvorchi – Bonfire

Daniel – 9 – “Did I hear some horns? But actually this song is a pretty lit song. It has that R’n’B feel that transitions into an epic build and that drop. I guess we are just about subverting expectations. This song is super cool, trendy and modern. It combines many cool aspects of today’s music and does it in an interesting format that leaves you wanting more. Like Malta 2019, that drop is at first shocking but then by the end of it you are like, what else would you do? Phenomenal song.”

James – 7 – “Wesley Snipes proclaims “Young is the new law” before some “la la la” over some heavy bass on this mid-tempo electronic track. Not sure what his point in his official video was (Ukrainians should know better than anyone the communists were no better to the environment than the capitalists everyone finds fashionable to trash now), but he didn’t really bring that message over to the stage. They have great energy, and even though his appealing to the youth may be a little cringey in that Christian rap kind of way, they don’t come off as creepy even with the early ‘90s black trenchcoat and small sunglasses look. They’re a group and a performance that will leave you asking questions, but at least they’re intriguing enough for you to be engaged for a full three minutes.”

Melanie – 8 – “I love the vibe of Bonfire. The song sounds very current with a drop and a great hook (Believe me, the La La La La La will be stuck in your head) They only need to work on the vocals, because they were really shaky in the semi-final. Also the staging needs to be upgraded, because now I have the feeling that I’m watching to 2 best friends dancing funny when the drop hits. But great competitor for the win.”

Roy – 8 – “Yeeesssss, give me more debuting genres at Eurovision. It is kind of baffling that we never really had a trap song appear at Eurovision given the genre’s popularity. Little fact about me, it is one of the first EDM subgenres that I fell in love with. I get that people may not enjoy this drop accompanied by the many hi-hats, but this is genuinely good. The live performance, although a bit sloppy at times, is quite interesting too. The singer oozes charisma and I actually enjoy his vocals a whole lot. But Hell to the Yes for Trap at Eurovision!”

Sean – 6 – “This entry seems to promise so much and yet deliver so little. The verses are fascinating and build up towards a release that never really comes. I know minimalism can be a viable option in this genre, but I don’t think it quite works here. Tvorchi certainly have power in their grasp, so it feels like a missed opportunity not to go big for the drops in “Bonfire”. A revamp if chosen wouldn’t go amiss”

Total = 38 (avg. 7.6)

What does this mean for the team rankings of Vidbir 2020? Let’s see…

  1. Khayat – Call for Love – 41
  2. Krutь – 99 – 40
  3. Tvorchi – Bonfire – 38
  4. Go_A – Solovey – 37
  5. Jerry Heil – Vegan – 27
  6. David Axelrod – Horizon – 19

So it’s a tight call, but it seems that Khayat’s “Call for Love” is our favourite ahead of Saturday’s Vidbir final. Will Khayat be taking the title? We don’t have long to wait to find out!

What do #YOU think of Vidbir 2020? Share your thoughts with us on our forum HERE or join the discussion below and on social media!

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