Of all the many events cancelled as a consequence of the Covid-19 pandemic, few will be missed more than the 65th Eurovision Song Contest, which was scheduled to take place in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, on May 16. Fear not, however, for Emerging Europe has trawled through the 18 entries from the region (Bosnia and Herzegovina, Hungary, Montenegro and Slovakia didn’t intend to take part in this year’s contest anyway, and Kosovo wasn’t allowed to) in order to find the most impressive acts that we’re going to miss out on.
We will leave it up to you decide whether that’s a blessing or disappointment.
We start with Azerbaijan, which hosted the contest in 2012 following Eli & Nikki’s win in Germany. This year’s song, Cleopatra, is performed by Efendi, who sings: “Cleopatra was a queen like me, just like me, yeah, just like me, straight or gay or in between, in between, yeah, in between…” It’s a brave first verse, considering the fact that Azerbaijan is far from being recognised as a paragon of LGBT rights.
“Cleopatra is a song about trusting your gut instinct, standing up for yourself and being a ‘queen’ – even when things get tough and especially if someone betrays or hurts you,” says Efendi. “It is truly a song about freedom, a celebration of all cultures and all sexualities and it’s a song that is meant to inspire people to be who they are and to be proud of themselves – just as Cleopatra was. She was a queen who went through love, heartbreak, and betrayal, but she stood up for herself and is now remembered as an icon of strength and femininity.”
Latvia’s entry Still Breathing, performed by Samanta Tīna, is a story of a woman’s inexorable power, drawing attention to society’s stereotypes of women. “We must be ideal mothers, wives, mistresses, and successful careerists with big future career plans, sometimes able to be masculine to exist for ourselves, our loved ones and our dreams. At the same time, you must maintain a perfect look and be able to take care of everyone around you too,” the singer says.
Listen to the song and tell me the singer’s wild inner self doesn’t want to get out.
I feel like we really shouldn’t omit Lithuania’s entry from our list: On Fire performed by The Roop. The band explains that the title refers to being in a state of excitement, a passionate feeling, engaged and full of energy. According to band leader Vaidotas Valiukevičius-Naive, it’s “…about something I carried within and observed around myself. It’s about writing yourself off too quickly. We are underestimating ourselves too often”. With this song, they wish to send their listeners confidence and good vibes and the message that we are all capable of being who we want, when we want, and at any age. Okay, let it be!
Serbia’s Hasta La Vista is performed by Hurricane, formed in 2017 by Sanja Vučić, Ivana Nikolić and Ksenija Knežević on the Caribbean island of Saint Martin. The Serbs are no strangers to sending all-girl groups. It comes with a message of empowerment. The song tells the tale of a troublesome man who thinks he is too good for the singers. But individually they remember to stay confident and true to themselves in the face of this man’s indifference.
Finally there’s Ukraine, double Eurovision winners, this time with the band Go_A who create a modern reinterpretation of Ukrainian folklore, packaged in electronic sound. The song, Solovey (Nightingale), is based on lead singer Kateryna Pavlenko’s personal story about a strong girl who falls in love and realises that she is no longer taken seriously.
While that’s our top five, we also felt that you should have the chance to listen all 18 entries from the region in order to make you own mind up as to which you prefer.
We have created a playlist with them all here. Happy listening, and bring on Eurovision 2021.
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