Eurovision 2013: How strong is Ukraine’s ‘Gravity’?

Ukraine was one of the first countries to select its entry for Eurovision, but the nation has a habit of following that up with a revamp at the very least. Having selected Zlata Ognevich back in December, the official video revealing certain changes to ‘Gravity’ was revealed only earlier this week.

The team from Ukraine have stated that the official video version won’t be exactly the same as the one we’ll see on stage in Malmo, but I imagine it won’t be appreciably different. The song is well fancied in the win market, currently trading at 16-1 fifth favourite on Betfair, but I’m going to start by bringing ‘Gravity’ down to earth a little bit.

I had issues with it in its original incarnation, mainly based around the structure of the song as well as its lyrical silliness. These remain a problem. “Nothing comes from dreams but dreams,” is the notion we begin with, and it soon becomes clear that the instrumentation is as Disneyfied as the lyrics. The strings pluck and synths stab as we build towards what should be the chorus.

What’s there instead (“I’m like a butterfly…”) feels more like a pre-chorus transition. But when we get to the short “My Gravity” refrain, it turns out that this is the chorus. We get a second verse before it’s repeated a second time, then in the bridge and climax – which is still a damp squib. Hence the overall effect of three minutes building towards something that never quite delivers.

Don’t get me started on the assertion that “I’m like a butterfly”, and “like gravity”. Could those two things be any more contradictory? With its world music motifs (toned down from the original version), overall the song feels like it was composed by a computer programme fed with Disney’s back catalogue and spewed back out randomly.

If I sound overly harsh, it’s partly because its elevated position in the betting market means that I am judging it more exactingly. I don’t expect ‘Gravity’ to have any trouble qualifying for the final, for example. It’s drawn in the first half of the much weaker first semi, and should sail through.

So why is it so popular in the market? That may be because of Zlata herself, who looks and sounds stunning. She’ll be one of the best vocalists in the competition, and the song gives her a chance to show that, which is its main strength. If Zlata’s vocals ensure that ‘Gravity’ is more jury-friendly than televote-friendly, then the change in the way that the points are decided will help.

Last year Ukraine’s Gaitana was similarly impressive, and she managed seventh in the jury vote despite having even less of a song. Unusually for a Ukrainian entry, ‘Be My Guest’ bombed in the televote with just 37 points and 20th place, though I have long argued that it’s the strength of their songs rather than a particular guaranteed allied vote that has boosted the nation in the past. The withdrawal of its biggest western diaspora ally, Portugal, this year may accentuate this.

However, one should never rule out Ukraine from a decent televote score. I did before rehearsals in 2011 and they whipped out a sand artist, which combined with a very good draw (the last ballad in the competition) saw Mika Newton hit the heights of fourth. This delegation has a certain knack with the Eurovision stage and early rehearsals will be eagerly anticipated to see what’s been pulled out of the hat this time.

One hurdle Ukraine has to face, in both the televote and jury vote, is a slew of not dissimilar saccharine stuff from the former Soviet bloc. We also have Russia, Georgia, Azerbaijan and potentially Moldova offering us rather cheesy slowish numbers.

It’s not easy for punters to work out at this stage which of these will come out on top. They all have slight distinctions: Georgia’s is the only duet, Russia has the greatest allied firepower, Azerbaijan at least offers us a male soloist. Everyone will have their pet theory at this stage, but the rehearsal period will tell us more.

The draw may also be rather crucial. Presumably Swedish producers will space them out across the running order and last of these entries will receive some advantage. Who knows which one it will be though it’s worth mentioning that not only does Georgia’s ‘Waterfall’ have a Swedish songwriter, but one of the planned backing singers is the partner of show producer Christer Bjorkman. How’s that for conflict of interest?

In conclusion, you’ll have guessed I’m not that keen on ‘Gravity’ given its current odds. Nonetheless, I have no doubt that Zlata will impress in the build-up. If the staging can also lift the song, that could help it up the scoreboard further. Despite my scepticism, this is the first-day rehearsal I am most intrigued by.

What do you think of ‘Gravity’? Are you more positive about it as a song and what do you think of its prospects against its regional rivals? Do let us know below.

46 comments to Eurovision 2013: How strong is Ukraine’s ‘Gravity’?

  • sonovox

    I’m inclined to be a little more forgiving. The lack of build/climax might fall a bit flat now, but there’s loads of potential to stage it as a song with understated ‘sublime’ moments that will be just as memorable as the ‘power’ moments of some of its near rivals this year. And I’d normally be trusting the Ukrainian team to get that staging right. I doubt the lyrical silliness ad generally maudlin vibe will be punished significantly by any constituency.

    As for where ‘Gravity’ sits more generally – for me Georgia still retains a slight edge in the Ukraine-Russia-Georgia-Azerbaijan rivalry. The most effective ballad lift/vocal moment in the competition so far, and its similarities to Spain 2012 and even Azerbaijan 2011 are unlikely to bother televoters with short memories. I think Russia’s odds are far too short for a nonentity of a song, and Azerbaijan is a little tuneless (though favoured by being Azerbaijan and having a male lead). There are a couple of other songs fishing in Ukrainian waters too – I think it would take all the stars aligning in May to see it finish in the top 5, but a finish outside the top half of the final seems equally improbable.

  • Tim B

    One thing that strikes me about ‘Gravity’ is that it’s very uplifting, giving it a good ‘overall impression of the performance’ which is something the juries are instructed to score on.

    Daniel, can I ask you what you think of Austria? Lots of people are comparing it to Adele (not sure I get the comparison though). It’s very contemporary, and for me has a hint of Slovenia 2011 which was a major hit with the juries. Even though Austria is pretty much friendless and has a poor draw, would you say it has a chance of qualifying as it’s pretty MOR (difficult to dislike) and likely to benefit from the new points system?

  • tpfkar

    I’m only just catching up on the entries. I didn’t rate Gracity at all on first listening, but this was mostly due to the awful backing vocals on the performance I saw, which Zlata seemed to be fighting throughout. The new version is much improved and given Ukraine’s performance track record the article seems harsh.

    The song that has stood out for me on a listen round is Austria’s SHINE. Much catchier than plenty of the dross in the competition, the singer seems to have real stage presence, and it’s very western-friendly. However I haven’t heard this mentioned anywhere at all as of interest. What am I missing?

  • tpfkar

    I promise I hadn’t seen this before posting my own comment – spooky huh?

  • Tim, re Austria, simply DITTO.

  • Daniel

    It’s interesting to have three of you showing respect for Austria and something to take on board. I regard it in a similar way to Lithuania.

    The song itself has lots of promise but my main worry is that the vocalist isn’t mature or strong enough to quite carry it off. For me, qualification will depend on how much this is worked on and boosted by backing singers. As you say Tim, jury points will be crucial, so this is how ‘Shine’ will stand or fall.

    I do have a tendency to be rather pessimistic in general, perhaps I’m being unfair to Natalia here. (I don’t think it’s a harsh assessment of Lithuania’s Andrius, however.)

  • yqt1001

    I am curious as to how the first semi-final is the weaker semi-final. You’ve created 10 articles judging promising songs and their chances in the competition at this early stage. 5 of them are in the first semi and 3 in the second. 4 of them are in the first half of the first semi-final, including Gravity. The competition in the first half is especially rough, since usually only 4 songs qualify, or are the 4 that are likely to qualify so clear that you can rule out all the remaining songs?

    • Daniel

      You make a good point yqt1001 and it’s one that’s open to debate. My way of looking at it is to consider the level required to be a borderline contender.

      You are right that the stronger first half of the first semi presents a quandary. Usually only four or so qualify from the first half. Most would choose Ukraine, Russia, Netherlands and Denmark. I think Croatia is strong enough to join them, giving us five already. That’s one reason why I have Austria as a borderliner.

      Maybe the change in the way points are allocated and the greater stress it gives to jury scores will lessen the traditional bias towards the second half of each Eurovision heat.

      In the second half of semi one, you’d think that Belarus was catchy enough to go through, and Serbia would still have enough voting weight. Who does that leave on the borderline?

      I have red flags against many of the others in that second half but have to include some in this 8th-12th list. Ireland and Belgium offer something similar and may get one place based on which is better on stage.

      For me the second semi looks a little more straightforward because I can make a case for plenty in the second half based on song or voting strength. These include Georgia, Norway, Greece, Armenia and Israel.

      Azerbaijan, Bulgaria and Malta are my most fancied three from the first half of the draw. That leaves Finland in my 8th-12th list, which I think is a much stronger entry than the likes of Ireland/Belgium.

      Of course, you and others might have a different idea of individual songs here. But my concluding theory is that the entry that just misses out in semi 2 is likely to be stronger than the entry that just misses out in semi 1. And qualification is what matters most when considering relative strength in each heat.

  • Ben Cook

    Another vote of confidence for Austria from here. She’ll need to improve on her NF performance, but I think she will, and I can see the comparison with Slovenia 2011. It’s a decent pop song and she’s got a good voice. I think she’ll pick up enough points here and there to be knocking on the door of the top 10.

  • Rob

    I think Daniel has been overly kind regarding Ukraine in this article. Being subjected to such a saccharine, meaningless Disney dirge for 3 minutes is the aural equivalent of being forced to remain on a rapidly spinning merry-go-round you are not allowed to get off despite already feeling severely nauseous from the repeated refrains by about halfway through. It’s a great example of a good voice wasted as Zlata is clearly a capable performer. They will need to pull out some ingenious staging of the sand artist kind to help salvage this.

  • Boki

    +1 for Austria here. My first thoughts were that she simply has to qualify but that was before “Birds” was announced, I understand Daniel’s concerns regarding number of strong entries in 1st half of semi1. Austria and Holland are both friendless while Croatia has few and not to mention only male entry within first 8. Let’s see the running order first…

  • According to Sietse Bakker from EBU there won’t by anny running order before March 24th. Both the running orders from the semi finals and the grand final will be decided by the creative directors of SVT and EBU.

    The running orders from the semi final will be announced internally and with embargo to the national broadcasters….for rehearsal schedule purposes. But we won’t know it in time I think.

    • Daniel

      Thanks for this Gert. We had previously been told that the semi-final running order would be revealed in April some time. Does your information mean that no one outside of organisers and national broadcasters will know the semi-final draw before rehearsals begin or is it just until April still?!

  • Boki

    Question from twitter:
    @SietseBakker Hi, one question. Are we going to know the semifinals’ running order on 18th or after?
    reply:
    @dantz159 That will take some time, and we’ll let you know soon when exactly. Expect early April!

  • Daniel

    Aliona Moon wins the Moldovan national final giving us another slightly cheesy ballad from that part of the continent:

  • Chewy Wesker

    I must say i’m positive about “gravity” i love lift i get from hearing it, the synth stabs and Zlata kinda tricks the ear into like this song even if theres not much too the song it’s self. The way she sings “i’m like a butterfly” the words sound more like “i’m A like A butterfly” she rolls the words really well, and is the best female vocalist in the competion this year, and lets face it there are a lot of ladies this year. Ukraine last year were a lay for me even with a late draw, i knew gaitana “be my guest” wasn’t going to set the phones ringing. But my judgement is Zlata will score high with the televote. Not first place for me, but i now think she will score above russia and georgia, and think all three ballads will be top ten placed.

  • Well, after seeing this live performance………Ukraine will be TOP 5. Moreover, I think the song overall is better than Azerbaijan and Russia. It’s more original in a field full of ‘contemporary’ ballads, it even has a certain ‘M People’ feel to it.

    But what impresses me more is the sheer charisma of the singer. She is so self-assured, catches the camera so well. And then these vocals. Wow :-)! The song is perfect for her; a song that keeps building and building and building.

    From the Eastern European countries this is my favourite now for a TOP 5 placing in the final. I just hope the staging will be kept very simple, to let the singer shine as much as here.

    Ukraine has always been my favourite ‘former Soviet country’. They add a certain ‘French flair’ and originality to Eurovision.

  • Daniel

    Some updated news about the new running order arrangements. As suggested in our original article, semi-final qualifiers will draw whether they are in the first or second half of the final.

    Also, full running order dor the final will be done by 3am on the Friday morning, so just a few hours after second semi finishes.

    Semi running orders to be done by March 29.

    http://www.eurovision.tv/page/news?id=76313

  • Nitro

    I do got issues with her pronunciation of “I am a like-butterfly” but don’t think it’s a deal-breaker. This is a very uplifting entry, has a catchy tune and has an immediate impact many contenders lack. Her short refrain might even be an asset in a 15 second recap! Very strange composition though…

  • Tim B

    Daniel, are you planning on writing an article for Azerbaijan’s ‘Hold Me’ despite it drifting in the outright? At times it has been trading higher than the UK which is absolutely laughable imo. This is an open year, and the 12 it won’t receive from Turkey this year will be replaced by a likely 10-12 from both Greece and Cyprus, due to its extremely famous Greek composer.

    • Daniel

      Hey Tim, I will keep an eye on the market. At the moment the three in the higher echelons I haven’t covered are Azerbaijan, UK and Italy. I’ll most probably do two of those before the semi-final draw is revealed on March 29. There’s plenty of time in April to do the other one too, as well as Amsterdam and London event reviews.

  • Daniel

    Some more info on when the automatic qualifiers will know where they fit into the scheme of things here:

    http://escxtra.com/2013/03/big-5-sweden-running-order-positions/

    The draw for Sweden in the final (the only one done randomly), is being held today. Anyone interested in backing or laying the host country needs to keep their eyes peeled.

  • Tim B

    Cool, thanks for the clarification 😀

  • Tim B

    This is an absolutely stunning vocal. Zlata must be not only the strongest singer in the competition but one of the most attractive and captivating as well. One to watch!

  • Daniel

    SWEDEN GETS DRAWN 16 IN FINAL

  • Tim B

    Backers of The Netherlands must be nervous about whether Anouk will get drawn into the first or second half of the grand final – assuming she qualifies. If she’s anywhere at all in the first half then ‘Birds’….won’t….fly.

  • Italy goes with ‘l’Essenziale’ to Malmö. One of the strongest ballads in the field now. This is another TOP 5 contender now.

    PS: I am not nervous about Anouk and where it gets drawn ;-). I mean, I am quite used to the ‘Eurovision Curse’ Netherlands is experiencing since 2000 :-).

  • By the way, isn’t this the most ballad-heavy Eurovision Song Contest ever since the mid 1990’s now :-/. So interesting to see how Eurovision has developed. From an extra cheesy circus full of camp acts we have now arrived at one of the most ‘serious’ contest in decades. Is it because of the economic crisis? Are more Europeans worried? What do you think Daniel?

  • Daniel

    Hi Gert, I agree that this is as ballad-heavy as Eurovision has been in decades. When you think of 2005, there was hardly a ballad in sight. Not sure how to explain it. There were a lot of internal selections this year and much of the uptempo stuff has actually come from national finals.

    And yes, as soon as it was announced qualifiers would be drawn into the first or second half, the Netherlands Eurovision curse crossed my mind. Now Anouk has a more than 50% chance (after Sweden’s draw) of being in the first half.

  • It’s kind of…..sweet so many people are worried about The Netherlands :-). For me personally, I am actually quite used to 14 years of failures. It also gives a certain Dutch Eurovision fan some kind of a unique perspective on the field of participating songs. For me personally…..I am quite used to ignore Netherlands and focus, without any national bias, on all other songs. Actually, for me it made Eurovision quite a fun experience. You see things, like end results, a bit more objective. You understand the demographics better and you’re not going to ‘accuse’ other nations for not supporting Netherlands. On the contrary. 14 years of failures gave me a more or less objective and neutral vision and opinion on things :-). I also can understand how Luxemburgish Eurovision fans must feel these days hehe.

  • pimpin4rizeal

    Are we sure there was no playback etc in zlatas live performance there? I know shes a fantastic singer but at times that sounded almost identical to the studio version especially at the start?

    • Ben Cook

      It’s definitely mimed and I disagree with Gert regarding her charisma. I don’t get it at all. The song is so boring too. Unless it has a gimmick it won’t be top 5.

  • Henry VIII

    How strong is Ukraine or for that matter any of their stronger eastern neighbours? Is their strength, when submitting average songs, overrated since the jury re-introduction? Russian ex-pat or Muslim votes are powerful but not enough against something original from the West.

    Only one eastern winner since the jury re-introduction – when Azerbaijan had a nice production and everybody else submitted average songs.

    • Henry VIII

      Just reading through the comments I came across this one of mine above, made in a more provocative mood, that I’m now driven to qualify. My favourite couple of songs comes from the west this year but I’m not sure if they’re quite good enough (I hope they are). Zlata’s voice shines brighter without backing singers and the whole effect is quite stunning, saccharine though it is.

  • Personally, I truly believe Ukraine is very underrated. It is of my opinion that their entries have been way more original, more creative than certain Russian, Belarussian or Azerbaijani entries. A short summary:

    2008: Ani Lorak. In my opinion a wunderful performance and the best scoring disco smasher to date. I dare to say she was the ‘Madonna’ of Belgrade 2008. I had her as a winner in my bettings, sadly she ended as runner-up.

    2010: Aloysha came with an Anouk-like, Melissa Etheridge-like rock ballad. Severely underrated by the typical Eurovision fans, but for me an almost certain TOP 10 thanks to juries who appreciate this un-Eurovision quality.

    2011: Another example why perfectly interpreted, original ballads still score. Allthough she wasn’t the best singer, it’s too cheap to say her 4th place only happened because of the sand drawings. If she came out for -let’s say- the UK flag, this criticism wouldn’t be there. I still can remember a similar kind of criticism, when Norway won in 1995: “There are almost no lyrics!” or “It’s only a violin instrumental!” But it worked if you ask me, and both Norway 1995 and Ukraine 2011 were equally emotionally groundbreaking.

    Other notable Ukrainian entries: 2004, when Ruslana won (Belarus tries to copy that this year, way too late if you ask me). Groundbreaking kind of winner. 2012, when Ukraine sent the first black singer to Eurovision, with a positive WC Football-like anthem.

  • Just a random observation! Excluding Gravity, Ukraine has had 10 entries from 2003 to 2012. The earliest a ukranian entry was performed in the final was 10th, which was in 2004 when they won. The second earliest was 16th (2003 & 2005). The rest of their 7 entries were performed from 17th onwards! Talk about luck!!!! Maybe it’s time for Zlata to draw a first half slot and SVT to give her #4 or so!

  • Tim B

    Woah! That’s interesting. ‘Gravity’ wouldn’t be the worst choice to open the final with either. Would depend which proper uptempos land in the first half of the draw though.

  • Actually, I did a prediction of the draw of semi final 1. But if we would have looked merely to style/genre of the songs, on which the appointed producers draw is based, I would have switched Slovenia with Ukraine. So: Ukraine from slot 3 and Slovenia from slot 7.

  • I think their breath-taking acrobatic dance routine can lift Zlata’s performance and embrace the theme of ‘gravity’. Ukraine 2011 2.0?

  • Nitro

    Its worth noting this got 60% of Ukrainian televotes in a field of 20 entries!

    • eurovicious

      In a crap field of 20 entries, of which Zlata was the most known name. Less than 15,000 televotes were cast in the Ukrainian final. Unless you’re looking at NFs in which hundreds of thousands of people vote (Scandinavia, Germany etc), NF voting statistics like these aren’t significant. Narodnozabavni Rock got over three times as many votes as its nearest rival in EMA 2010. When the televote is only in the 10,000-20,000 range, as is often the case in a lot of Eastern European NFs (people don’t waste their money voting), one mobilised fan block or a local campaign in a particular act’s hometown can make a huge difference.

  • Nitro

    Almost 5 times as many votes as the nearest rival is very impressive even in an extremely weak 20 entry field. Further more, the voting total being in line with last year speaks against a local voting push. So why point to a diminutive chance of vote manipulation in the face of much more likely scenarios?

    Compare her 60% vote share with other favorites:
    Norway’s winner 2009 75% (4 entry field)
    Iceland’s winner 2009 40% (4 entry field)
    Sweden’s winner 2012 30% (10 entry field)
    Ukraine’s televote winner 2012 30% (20 entry field)
    Ukraine’s winner 2012 20% (20 entry field)

    Denmark’s winner 2013 50% (3 entry field)
    Norway’s winner 2013 45% (4 entry field)
    Sweden’s televote winner 2013 20% (10 entry field)
    Sweden’s winner 2013 15% (10 entry field)

    • Nitro

      …Narodnozabavni rock (Sloveniay’s winner 2010) with 45% of votes in a 14 entry field is not a good analogy since it was very much targeted at the domestic market.

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