Initial Review: “Stefania” by Kalush Orchestra (Ukraine)

Famous last words: in my initial review of Alina Pash’s “Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors”, I said that I didn’t the think the controversy around her would stop her from being sent to Turin. Clearly, I underestimated the situation. The broadcaster Suspilne announced it was investigating Pash over allegations she flew into Crimea from Russia in 2015, which is against Vidbir rules. In response, Pash withdrew, saying she didn’t want to be in “this dirty story” any longer. I’m not going to comment on the rule itself and so on, because countries have the right to select artists in the way they choose, but I’m surprised due diligence wasn’t done, given how seriously the broadcaster takes this rule. Pash is said to have mentioned her visit to Crimea in an interview from 2019, so Suspilne could have investigated this before they selected her to participate in the event. Either way, it’s not a good look for anyone.

As a result, runners-up Kalush Orchestra were offered the ticket to Turin and they have accepted. In my brief review I talked about how the song has a similar sound to last year’s entry by Go_A, and that’s still my biggest issue with the track. “Shum” was my favourite entry from Eurovision 2021, but this is no “Shum” — it’s not even close. The best part is the chorus, which also sounds Go_A-inspired; I’m not impressed by this particular style of rapping so whenever it starts up I’m waiting for the chorus to return.

What this does is take the political heat of Ukraine’s entry this year. A ode to one’s mother is hardly contentious when compared to Pash’s strongly patriotic track. So even though I called this a high-risk, high-reward entry in my brief review, the more I listen to it, the safer it sounds. Most likely it will qualify, because Ukraine always finds a way. If the staging is anything like the floral theme of the national final it will certainly be memorable. I don’t know how to feel about this in the end. Pash’s song made me feel uncomfortable in ways that I hadn’t finished processing, but this one is increasingly falling into the category of “sure, it’s okay”.