Initial Review: “Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors” by Alina Pash (Ukraine)

Exactly how well this song does in May is going to depend on geopolitics. I went into this a bit in my not-so-brief brief review of this song yesterday, but to put it bluntly: a lot of this works on the level that it does because of the tensions between Ukraine and Russia, with the ongoing warnings from Western nations that Ukraine is about to be invaded. “Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors” is fundamentally a song brimming with themes of national pride. Don’t get me wrong: this will probably qualify regardless of what happens in the coming days/weeks/months. But I can see a path to victory if juries and viewers feel the need to make a statement of solidarity with Ukraine. This doesn’t take anything away from the song’s qualities, it just adds an extra dimension to it.

I’m not keen on whatever noises Pash makes at the beginning and end of the song: I’m sure they hold some kind of cultural meaning but they sound abrasive to those who lack this context. The rap in English would be better if she slowed down a fraction just to get those words out properly, but if her national final performance is any indication, she’ll be full of emotions come Eurovision. Musically there isn’t much here beyond a moody backdrop, but the backing singers provide plenty of atmosphere with their haunting voices to the extent that it isn’t necessary to do more.

I need to address the controversies around this, because it doesn’t feel like this is an entry which will be welcomed by all Ukrainians for reasons beyond “not my favourite song”. From what I understand, there are accusations that Pash has fallen afoul of the country’s laws regarding Russia and Crimea, although she has never been charged with anything. There was a small protest somewhere in Kyiv (presumably) against her participation in the contest. I don’t pretend to have a good grasp of Ukrainian politics, so I’m not drawing any conclusions, but I’ll keep an eye on these murmurings. At the moment, I doubt this is going to change the fact that Pash will be in Turin come May.

In any case, all this to one side for the moment: I can see the power in this song and I like what the backing singers bring, but I’m less keen on the overall package. At the moment I feel some discomfort with it, and I’m not entirely sure where this comes from, so I’m going to let that sit and work itself out. Once all the songs are released and we have them in context, I’ll go around and do a final review of each track just before the contest begins.