Russia want to win. They put the effort in, they have a considerable PR machine, and they understand social media.
They also have a deep understanding of the different Eurovision demographics (arguably better than any other country that participates in Eurovision), and the Russian delegation have an insatiable determination, both at the main Eurovision and the Junior version of the show. I’ve witnessed it myself.
They wanted to win when they burst into the party in 2003. Back then they ‘shocked’ the world with two disinterested faux-lesbians and threatened to unstitch reality by getting the two of them to kiss on stage during the live show.
Fans were apoplectic (well, one of them at least) that the two girls who were so resistant about engaging with the press (because they know they didn’t need to) went on to 3rd place with what was at the time quite a progressive ditty in Eurovision terms. They also sang spectacularly out of tune too.
This hasn’t been a rarity either. ‘Northern Girl‘ (10th, 2002) was a mish-mash of singing and dancing talent. Bizarrely, Dima Bilan hit the right notes (at the same as looking terrifying) with ‘Never Let You Go‘ (2nd, 2006), but struggled in 2008 with the ponderous ‘Believe‘ (at least he ditched that awful mullet).
‘Mamo‘ in 2009 was a far more entertaining number; 2010’s ‘Lost and Forgotten’ was more satisfying musically even if it did seem a little odd in places. ‘Shine‘ (7th, 2014) wasn’t bad either. And although a total rip-off of something from Frozen, ‘A Million Voices‘ was as satisfying musically as Italy’s ‘Grande Amore‘ the same year – just a shame the lyrics don’t really chime with what’s going on outside the Eurovision bubble.
Russia’s singer this year, Sergey Lazarev, is rufty-tufty and easy on the eye. He has broad appeal. In the opening sequence of his preview video (above) he appears with his shirt off. That’s important – because that hooks people in immediately and keeps people watching in the vain hope they might see more of him later on. They don’t. At least not with his shirt off. No matter. Because at the time of writing Lazarev’s preview video has registered a considerable 1.5 million views on You Tube.
Those considerable statistics may well have something to do with the appeal of his song. ‘You’re The Only One‘ is a high-octane, highly crafted disposable song designed to get your heart-rate up. It sweeps you up in its musical whirlwind and abandons you at the end, insisting you listen to it again.
Its introduction is, stylistically speaking, its best asset: it hints at something transformative. And it kind of delivers, almost, save for the unambitious melody and the deeply unsatisfying chorus. Sergey plays the tough guy – all boots, tapered trousers and stubble – but his chorus lets him down. This is a throw-away number with a magnitude that insists you vote for it. Personally, I’d like to be seduced not instructed.
But that maybe just me. I see plenty of men, women and, inevitably, quite a lot of children giving Sergey their unconditional support for what I find an increasingly dissatisfying number. The Saturday night viewer won’t hear it anymore than once so, on that score, it will achieve what it set out to do: acquiring hundreds of votes and a comfortable win.
But it is the sureness of some to point an unequivocal and emphatic win so early on in proceedings that provokes my cynicism. I want something that invites repeat listens and reminds me of a happy time. Eurovision isn’t about dead certs, it’s about uncertainty, surprises, and nail-biting finishes.
I want a large glass of red with flavours & aromas that linger; I don’t want a sugary cocktail I can down in one gulp.
Russia, it is unbelievable and so unforgettable. You are not the only one.