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.