Eurovision 2013: Is ‘Solayoh’ a Goer For Belarus?

After a weekend of new entries that did the opposite of ripple the betting market, Belarus added some much needed spice with the revelation of its new song ‘Solayoh’ performed by Alyona Lanskaya, now down to 20-1 to take the prize. You can listen to it here.

‘Solayoh’ is the fun ethnopop number we’ve been lacking so far. There are elements of previous winners: the drums are reminiscent of Ruslana’s ‘Wild Dances’ and it has an ethnic hook to rival Sertab’s ‘Everyway That I Can’. All this encapsulated in a cod-Latin vibe for all those disappointed not to see Norwegian runner-up ‘Bombo’ in Malmo.

Ethnopop remained popular enough as a genre to be placed in both the 2008 and 2009 contests, though it doesn’t have such a good record since, as evidenced by the failure of ‘Zaleilah’ and ‘Aphrodisiac’ last year. Can ‘Solayoh’ bring the genre back to the top of the scoreboard?

Let’s start with what the song has going for it, notably that immediate ethnic hook with which it opens. It’s the most familiar Eurovision-y riff in any upbeat number selected so far. This recognisable hook sets it apart from pretty much everything else at the moment. It’s just a shame we don’t hear it again until after the second chorus.

Otherwise, the structure is just what you’d expect and hope from such a song. The ethnic hook returns for a fitting climax after an instrumental bridge that can be used for something spectacular on stage. The Belarussians are known for their kitsch here, whether it’s costume changes (2005), butterfly wings (2010) or levitation (2007 and 2012). I can’t wait to see what they bring to the arena in Malmo with ‘Solayoh’.

Staging will obviously play a big part in how well it goes down with televoters. Belarus’s general record in the competition shows that it’s not usually the alpha or even beta country in the former Soviet bloc, and there is plenty of competition from the area this year. Nonetheless, Dimitry Koldun managed sixth place for them in 2007 with both Russia and Ukraine even higher up the scoreboard. This shows that if they send something good enough, formidable regional strength can reward it.

Some of that regional strength is on display in the semi from which ‘Solayoh’ hopes to qualify. Drawn in the second half of a very weak looking first heat of just sixteen, these advantages should help it into the final. (Unless it’s a car crash live, which isn’t out of the question.) The song will have to broaden its appeal to reward each-way backers on Saturday night, though.

In 2008, ‘Secret Combination’ showed that when you get it right on stage, ethnopop can win over most regions. Last year, Romania and Greece didn’t end up making it work so effectively. Their allies still allowed them a top ten place in the televote, but it was far short of what many had expected, and a poor jury score dropped both further down the scoreboard.

Whether juries will say “no way-o” to ‘Solayoh’ has got to be a huge concern. In many ways the song represents what jurors have been punishing most in recent years: it has an obvious lack of authenticity and musical artistry.

Juries didn’t buy the pseudo-Latin number with nonsense lyrics in an eastern European accent when Mandinga tried it last year. They placed it 20th out of 26. It’s hard to make a case that they will be any easier on ‘Solayoh’. If anything, Mandinga’s Elena is a better vocalist than Alyona, and her band brought their instruments on stage with them.

To be fair, footage of Alyona in the 2013 and 2012 national finals shows that she’s perfectly serviceable as a vocalist for a song of this kind. She has no range but isn’t terribly off-key, and can combine vocals with some movement. Shove in a few backing singers and she should be reasonable enough, though it’s hard to see her impressing in this respect.

Still, vocals were hardly strong for either Turkey’s ‘Dum Tek Tek’ or Azerbaijan’s ‘Always’ in 2009 and these ethnopop numbers managed seventh and eighth place in the jury vote. But I’d be surprised to see Belarus as high even in this poorer year, because it’s not Azerbaijan whilst ‘Dum Tek Tek’ had a far more contemporary and commercial sound.

I get the same sense when I play this demo of ‘Solayoh’ in a line-up with studio versions of other ethnopop efforts such as Adelen’s ‘Bombo’ or Tooji’s ‘Stay’, although poor live vocals hindered the latter examples on stage. The production of ‘Solayoh’ in its current form feels much less sophisticated, more on a par with Norway’s 2007 non-qualifier ‘Ven a Bailar Conmigo’.

There is time to beef up the arrangement and improve on this, but at present the song is nothing more than catchy but trashy.

There was a time when catchy but trashy was enough to do great things on the Eurovision scoreboard, but I fear that time has passed. What do you think of ‘Solayoh’ and these thoughts? Let us know below.

21 comments to Eurovision 2013: Is ‘Solayoh’ a Goer For Belarus?

  • Ben Cook

    This load of old toot even being considered as a possible contender just shows how utterly dreadful this year is turning out. It’s shaping up to be the worst set of songs in at least five years. If we come up with a half decent song we might have some sort of chance!

    • Eurohound

      I’m keen to see an analysis of the Swiss novelty effort. I doubt it has legs to trouble the top 5, but a top 10 could be in sight if it gets a bit of media interest. Thoughts?

      • Daniel

        Hi Eurohound and welcome to Sofabet. I’m afraid I’m much more pessimistic about Switzerland’s chances. Don’t forget the band are not allowed to keep their uniforms or name for Malmo so it will seem less like a novelty (though the older personnel will still be present).

        With a lack of allies and in the more competitive semi-final, I think even qualifying will be a tough task.

        • troll

          do you think there are chances for hungary to qualify? I am totally in love with it, but am sceptical and trying to figure out how it will do.

          • Daniel

            Hi there, I have nothing against the song at all but it may not be right for Eurovision. His vocals are not going to get huge jury points and it may get a little lost with televoters.

            Having said which, there are only 17 songs in the semi, Romania just made everyone’s life a little bit easier there and it’s drawn in the second half. I certainly wouldn’t rule it out, but I’m not confident either, I have to admit.

  • I still think there’s a lot of ifs buts and maybes concerning this entry there’s definite potential here that I’m not denying. But I do think it’s being a bit overhyped right now.Everyone’s thinking about a big ruslana type stageshow but what if it doesn’t come what if ends up with staging more like last years Greece?How the juries will view it is debatable but even with the example of 7th with the jury it would have to pretty much hammer the televote to actually win. the staging will probably be the key here I think it doesn’t want to come across as to much of a carbon copy of a ruslana etc but it needs to be severely powerfull for this song to work well

  • Boki

    If they get everything 100% right (staging, singing etc.) it might place high just because of bad competition this year. I don’t see it as a serious contender for all the reasons you mention in the article. Latin vibe from Belarus simply doesn’t feel right.

  • Justin

    This one is definitely my guilty pleasure this year.

    I am not entirely convinced that ethno pop is finished. However, I accept the point that this could struggle with juries given their apparent preference for ballads and/or authenticity. Alyona’s vocals are going to need to be spot on.

    What it does have is enormous potential for fantastic staging and, if successful, a big televote haul particularly given the relatively dull entries of its local rivals Russia and Georgia.

    One to wait and see what rehearsals and the draw bring before I get involved.

  • Chewy Wesker

    I really can’t see why “solayoh” was backed into 20/1 today. Even with a weak top ten at the moment, i can’t see this making a top ten spot. I think there are stronger songs with much bigger odds already. I’d like to see some match bet markets open, so i could wager against belarus. I think plenty songs outside the the top ten, would wipe the floor with it!

  • gus68

    If this polluted tune gets a top ten…it should be only because the former soviet vodka drinkers…

  • Daniel

    This is the UK’s Eurovision entry, according to newspaper reports just out:

  • tpfkar

    *Groan* Did we learn nothing at all last year? Or that Englebert would have won if he’d been blonde?

    I’ve only had time to listen to a few, and none in the past fortnight, but nothing at all has grabbed me so far, even Mrs tpfkar thinks the German entry is rubbish and she’s been telling me they would win for the past 3 years. Have I missed anything good or is it a weak year?

  • Tim B

    I think ‘Love Will Set You Free’ is much better than ‘Believe In Me’ – at least the former goes somewhere. It will sound quite good on Radio 2 but not in the ESC. This will score almost nothing with both televoters and juries. I’ll be holding out for a zero by the end of the night. After the incredibly lucrative angle of opposing the UK last year, perhaps there will be some value this year for them to do quite well? 😀

  • Curtis

    I love Bonnie Tyler but I hate the song and it’s not going to do well.

  • Ben Cook

    UK – she will be better known to viewers than Englebert because her biggest success was 15 years later than him and “Eclipse” has endured. Most of the twenty-somethings I was speaking to in the office today knew who she was.

    But the song is a bit disappointing isn’t it? It is nice. But it just doesn’t really go anywhere. I reckon 14th to 19th sort of region.

    Just seen Israel – the strongest ballad in the competition and should do as well as Harel with the juries but probably not so well with televotes.

  • james benning

    I agree, I was disappointed to hear firstly that we had voted a veteran artist. Then when I heard the song on Radio 2 I was left with convincing sense that we have no hope this year. Whre’s the imagination and vibrancy of this nation gone?

  • yqt1001

    The first live performance of Solayoh was tonight at the Romanian national final. I personally wasn’t expecting her to actually do a good job performing the song, so I was nicely surprised!

  • Montell

    Here’s the live performance of Solayoh:

  • Boki

    I guess the Sweden article is cooking today, curious to see it, Yohio would be much more easier to discard as a contender if he won.

    Btw have some problems with the site (don’t want to open when I click to a comment, especially in the beginning), is it only me?

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