ESC 2023 Song Review: “Heart of Steel” by Tvorchi (Ukraine)

1) The Result

We begin where we left off last year, with the country which should have been hosting had it not been for its invasion by Russia in late February 2022. Kalush Orchestra’s “Stefania” placed 4th with the jury in the final and scored the highest televote result to date (at least, under the new voting system) on the way to a comfortable victory, 165 points clear of the United Kingdom in second place.

2) The Process

In an impressive feat, the Ukrainian broadcaster managed to put together a national final in a bomb shelter next to an underground train station in Kyiv. Despite the many challenges they must have had, the show was one of the better-produced national finals with 10 acts competing for the ticket to Liverpool. Tvorchi ended up winning the public vote and placing second with the jury, enough to win outright.

3) The Story

Tvorchi is a duo made up of producer Andrii Hutsuliak and Nigerian-born vocalist Jeffrey Kenny (birth name Jimoh Augustus Kehinde). Their first song was released in 2017: since then they have added four albums and several singles to their name. They finished 4th in Vidbir 2020 with the song “Bonfire”.

4) The Song

Slow burn R&B with flourishes of electronica. There are a few songs this year which reference the Russian invasion of Ukraine, but this is arguably the most subtle, with lyrics that can be read in the context of the war, but equally could just be about battling personal struggles. It’s an interesting choice given that the style is something you’d expect to come out of one of the Western European countries, but that was probably also part of the point, given that Ukraine’s political pivot to the West is now a matter of the country’s survival. Beyond that is also the simple truth that Tvorchi are popular in Ukraine.

5) The Verdict

Tvorchi released a revamp in mid-March which added some nice flourishes but otherwise didn’t do much to change the vibe, which is the correct way to go about it. The staging at Vidbir was particularly impressive given how little they had to work with, so I’d say the only way is up in terms of its presentation. Expect something slick but with a lot of impact.

Even though “Stefania” was already shaping up to be at least a top 10 if not top 5 prospect before the Russian invasion, there was an undeniable solidarity vote which carried it to such a big victory. It will be interesting to see how this year’s entry fares in comparison. My guess is that we may see a return to a more ‘average’ result for Ukraine, which still means top 10 or thereabouts.

Personally I think this is a solid entry with a lot going for it, although I note that I don’t really seek it out when I’m listening to the full list of songs.

My ranking: 14th