Ukraine: Rozhden and Illaria through to the final

Rozhden and Illaria  have won a place in the national final of Ukraine. They will join Tayanna and Salto Nazad who were the two highest scorers in last week’s heat. 

Eight more acts have fought for their place to represent Ukraine at the Eurovision Song Contest 2017. This week’s heat saw the battle of the rock and indie bands as 3 took to the stage to impress the public and expert jury. In a much stronger heat than last week, the viewers were treated to a much higher calibre of songs in comparison to last week.  Do the winners of this weekend’s heat have what it takes for Ukraine to win the Eurovision Song Contest for a second, consecutive time?

The Songs

Letay –  Світ Чекає (The World Is Calling)

Letay describe themselves as a ‘phenomenon that combines high-quality sound, interesting melodies and soulful lyrics’. Their style is a mixture of rock, pop, indie and acoustic ballads. Світ Чекає (The World Is Calling). The band from Kharkiv includes lead vocalist Illya Reznikov, Dmytro Natarov, Andriy Panasyuk and Maya Serik.

Illya took to the stage in a complete beige outfit. Singing in a mixture of Ukrainian and English, he was accompanied by one long backing singer and surrounded by strobe lights and lighting effects. He shown confidence on the stage throughout the performance. The song was performed well but could be criticized for sounding a bit repetitive.

Mila NitichMystery 

Mila Nitich has tried to represent Ukraine at the Eurovision Song Contest before. In 2011, she took part in the fourth heat of the semi-finals with her song Goodbye. This was the same year that Zlata Ognevich also tried and failed with The Kukushka. In the end, it was Mika Newton who was chosen to represent Ukraine with her song Angel. Speaking to EuroVisionary last month Mila described her song to us. “This song reminds us that we are humans in the first place who do mistakes, stumble but get up again and despite all move on and overcome! It tells us about how important it is to give a hand to those in need”

Mila belted out Mystery in front of the live studio audience and received a good reaction from the studio audience. Mila wore a white and black outfit with her hair in a high pony tail. She was accompanied on the stage by one backing singer and although there were lighting effects the main focus was on her throughout the performance.

Kuznetsov Deep Shivers

Kuznetsov has not shied away from controversy in this year’s selection process. He was the winner of the online Wildcard selection process that took place last year. He won this despite having his votes annulled when there was evidence of hacking the server and using bots to provide votes. Deep Shivers is an indie-style song that has a similar sound to British band The Feeling.

Kuznetsov had a laid back style of clothing, wearing a pair of jeans and a t-shirt. He performed with his guitar and 5 backing singers. He received a warm response from the audience and like the other contestants used the effects of strobe lights to enhance the performance.

AghiazmaSynthetic Sun

Aghiazma have been another controversial act in this year’s selection process. Originally, Aghiazma took part in the online Wildcard selection. And, just like Kuznetsov, they also had their votes annulled when evidence of bots voting was found. However, they managed to get a place in the semi-finals after attending auditions where jury member Konstantin Meladze felt they were good enough to attend the shows. They changed their song to Synthetic Sun, which the band describes as ‘full of protest and perfect for the show’.

Aghiazma were the most unique looking act of the night. Lead singer Cora Rex sported bright green hair and crazy looking contact lenses, the rest of the band had equally crazy and zombie like looks which suited the performance and the song. The performance was energetic and raw.

In January, EuroVisionary interviewed Aghiazma, when we learned their opinion about the hacking scandal and why they think they would make a good Eurovision entry for Ukraine.

Detach Distance

Yet another rock band to grace the Ukrainian stage. Detach have an interesting story. They were recently runners-up in the Ukrainian X-Factor, where they were mentored by none other than Julia Sanina from The Hardkiss, who were the runners-up in last year’s national selection. During their time on the X-Factor show, they wowed the audience with their own take on Verka Serduchka’s Dancing Lasha Tumbai. 

Distance is a rock ballad about the emotional distance between two lovers. The main vocals were sung by Alexei Verenchuk. He was accompanied by fellow band members Denis Fandera, Max Stadnyk, Evheny Astafev and Ruslan Voytovich.

Detach received a huge cheer from the audience when they were introduced by host Serhiy Pritula. The band performed to a red and back backdrop. The screens behind the band shown asteroids hurtling towards the stage as the performance took place which matched the desperate tone of the song. The vocal performance was strong throughout.

RozhdenSaturn 

Rozhden is a performer who is originally from Odessa. He released his first album in 2014 and participated in the Russian version of The Voice. His blind audition of Ain’t No Sunshine was the most watched audition of the series.

Saturn is one of the most original sounding songs of the evening. With a heavy rock semi final, Saturn made a refreshing change to the line up. The sound is very similar to the band Jamiroquai and it had a real electro funk sound to it. The stage was full of yellow spot lights. Rozhden was joined on stage by two male and two female backing and he wore a baggy grey suit with sneakers on his feet. He oozed confidence as he sung directly into the camera earning a good response from the audience.

PanivalkovaDocuchayu

Panivalkova are an indie-pop trio from Kyiv. They consist of Irina Kulshenko, Dasha Puhachova and Ira Luzina. The trio from Kyiv had an interesting look. All were dressed in matching blue dresses with red and blue head dresses. Each member of the group played their own instruments which included keyboard, drums and a gong.

Docuchayu was sang in Ukrainian. The performance was stationary which each member sitting or standing by their instruments throughout the performance of the song. Docuchayu was a laid back and easy to listen to song but also very unique.

IllariaThank You For My Way.

Illaria has tried to represent Ukraine at the Eurovision Song Contest before. In 2014, she entered the national selection with I’m Alive. Despite the song having a lot of fans, it was Maria Yaremchuk who was given the pass to represent her country in Denmark.

Thank You For My Way is a soft ballad with an interesting sound. It is the most subtle song of the night but one that stays with you. Illaria wore a long flowing blue and white dress lined with flowers.The back drop to the performance had similarities to Zlata Ognevich’s Gravity with an enchanted garden full of lush greenery, streams and flowers. Even expert judge Andriy Danylko commented on the similarity when giving his feedback.

The Show

The second heat of the Ukrainian semi-final was again hosted by Serhiy Pritula. There was a change to the expert jury panel this year. 2004 winner Ruslana was replaced by the current winner Jamala. The rest of the expert jury consisted of 2007 runner-up Andriy Danylko (Verka Serduchka) and producer Konstantin Meladze. The acts selected to progress to the final were chosen by a 50/50 voting system. Half of the votes were given by the general public and the other half by the expert jury.

The Result

The acts selected to progress to the final were chosen by a 50/50 voting system. Half of the votes were given by the general public and the other half from the expert jury.

The jury vote was the first to be announced. The three judges took turns to announce their scores. The two acts with the highest jury vote were Rozhden and Illaria.

The viewers vote was then announced and the two acts with the highest jury vote were Kuznetsov and Illaria.

Ukraine at the Eurovision Song Contest

Since making its debut in 2003, Ukraine has had an excellent reputation at Eurovision. It has never failed to qualify for the Grand Final and has had a total of nine top 10 placements. Six of these also being in the top 5.

Ukraine has won the contest twice. Ruslana was the first artist to bring the Eurovision crown to Ukraine in 2004 with her song Wild Dances. Jamala won the contest with her song 1944 last year, when the competition was in Stockholm. Jamala came second in both the jury and the public vote, but came in first place overall.

You can see Jamala, the current winner of the Eurovision Song Contest, and her song 1944 below.

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