NewsWorldUkraine takes the eyes in the return of Eurovision,...

Ukraine takes the eyes in the return of Eurovision, the strangest competition in the world

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This is how Ukraine’s song sounds at Eurovision 2022 0:36 London (CNN) — It says a lot about the Eurovision Song Contest that the Norwegian contestants, two grown men dressed as wolves who sing about bananas and their grandparents’ imminent consumption, go relatively unnoticed this year.

The singing contest, so striking and appreciated on the continent, will be held again in Turin, Italy this Saturday, May 14, but only one group monopolizes the attention in the preparations: the Kalush Orchestra of Ukraine. The folk-rap group is the big betting favorite and its presence in the contest has captivated fans from all the participating countries. “As we speak, our country and our culture are threatened. But we want to show that we are alive, that the Ukrainian culture is alive, that it is unique, diverse and beautiful,” Oleg Psyuk, leader of the group, told CNN. Kalush Orchestra during rehearsals. “This is our way of being useful to our country,” he said. At first glance, the six-member group seems to fit in comfortably with dozens of their more eccentric brethren at Eurovision. Most of the members wear elaborate national costumes, and rapper Psyuk also sports a pink bucket hat. One member is so immersed in patterned embroidery that only his mouth is visible, while the group’s double bass player is dressed as a ball of yarn. But getting the Kalush Orchestra onto the Eurovision stage cost a lot, and their journey is deeply intertwined with the war at home. The group initially came in second in Ukraine’s national selection contest, but was elevated after it was discovered that the winner had previously traveled to Russian-annexed Crimea. On February 22, two days before Russian troops invaded Ukraine, the group ran as the country’s candidate. “All members of the group are involved in some way in the defense of the country,” Psyuk told CNN via email. One of the members, Vlad Kurochka, joined the defense of the territory and is fighting at the front, so a late replacement was needed for the contest. Psyuk, for his part, volunteers to find shelter for internally displaced Ukrainians and organizes the transportation of food and medicine. The backdrop of the conflict complicated preparations for Eurovision. The group was forced to rehearse virtually until they were finally able to reunite in Lviv after weeks of war. And his song took on a new meaning. “Stefania”, sung in Ukrainian, is a tribute to Psyuk’s mother, who still lives in the western city of Kalush, from which the group takes her name. “Some days there are missiles flying over people’s houses and it’s like a lottery: no one knows where they are going to land,” Psyuk told CNN. Organizers barred Russia from the contest in February, 24 hours after a widely criticized initial decision to allow it to participate. The European Broadcasting Union (EBU) determined that the country’s presence would “discredit the contest.” Belarus, which aided Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, had already been suspended for suppressing press freedom in the country. Kalush, meanwhile, made it through Tuesday’s semi-final to a standing ovation from the crowd when she walked out on stage. Eurovision is a very difficult contest to predict, as its scoring system is based on both jury verdicts and public votes from dozens of countries, but Kalush looks like a sure bet to take the crown this year. A Ukrainian victory would mean that the country would qualify to host next year’s contest, but it is far from certain that it will be possible to hold an event like this in Ukraine next May. Psyuk, however, is optimistic. “We believe in our song … it has become a song about the motherland,” he said. “If it turns out that we win, Eurovision 2023 will be held in Ukraine. In a new, whole Ukraine… a rebuilt, prosperous and happy country.” Norwegian electro duo Subwoolfer will face Ukraine and dozens of other hopefuls. Favorites The Kalush Orchestra joins a typically mixed bag of national competitors in this year’s competition, and while they are the clear favorites to win, other artists have caught the eye of Europe in the run-up. Italy could take the crown for the second year in a row if local heroes Mahmood and Blanco put on a good show. Both are successful artists in the country; now they’re joining forces to emulate Maneskin, the punk rockers who took over last year. Subwoolfer, the enigmatic electro duo from Norway, have also turned heads with “Give That Wolf a Banana”. The pair claim that they formed on the moon 4.5 billion years ago and that they never take off their yellow canine masks. They look more like a Daft Punk created for TikTok, if the legendary French couple had hired David Lynch as art director and hit the kids’ party circuit. Less “out of the ordinary” are the candidates from Sweden, Poland and Greece: all three have contributed ballads that will surely interest the national juries. And here are some words this seasoned Eurovision reporter never thought to write: the UK could win this year. Sam Ryder, pictured here rehearsing in Turin, represents the UK’s best chance of winning the contest in a generation. That’s right: the nation that, over the past decade, has sent what’s left of Bonnie Tyler and Engelbert Humperdinck to compete with European up-and-comers has grudgingly accepted that modernity isn’t just a fad, turning to a TikTok sensation. in a move for the European under-65 demographic. Sam Ryder’s “Space Man” is an unusually strong British proposition that draws inspiration from Elton John and Ziggy Stardust-era Bowie, and some bookmakers believe Ukraine is the only one most likely to win. But the track draws heavily on the remarkable vocal stunts that helped Ryder go viral during the early days of the pandemic, so you can’t afford a bad night if you want to break the UK’s 25-year Eurovision curse. The best (and worst) of the rest Italy hopes to put on a show on Saturday night, to mark the first post-Covid Eurovision in front of a full audience The 2020 edition was cancelled, and last year’s was held with audience restrictions “That contest marked the release of two years of pent-up weirdness, and the tone of this contest is somewhat more traditional by comparison. But this is still Eurovision, and it’s still weird, so casual viewers who don’t tone up exclusively to shake your head and click your tongue will not be disappointed. Latvia was eliminated with their eco-friendly anthem “Eat Your Salad” which began with the phrase “I don’t eat meat, I eat veggies and p***y”. Unsurprisingly, the organizers asked them to omit the allusions to female genitalia, thereby removing the song’s only interesting feature. Konstrakta weighs in on the importance of hydration for Meghan, Duchess of Sussex’s hair. Serbian Konstrakta begins her entry “In Corpore Sano” with the question that keeps us up at night: “What could be the secret of Meghan Markle’s hair?” Then, she continues with that topic. “What could it be?” Konstrakta sings in her mother tongue. “I think it’s about deep hydration.” Last year, the landlocked micronation of San Marino inexplicably included Flo Rida in their song, then forced the bewildered rapper to sit back and watch as the people of Europe disparaged his waning star power, throwing the country into a fourth post, from bottom to top. This year, Achille Lauro, a man who takes his stage name from a famous hijacked cruise ship, is the entry from the smallest country in the contest. With a tattooed and androgynous aesthetic and lyrics that compare his heart to a sex toy, Lauro is probably the bad boy of Eurovision 2022. (Though he still has a way to go to top last year’s winners, who were ultimately acquitted.) of taking cocaine live after a viral video that provoked an investigation by the organizers). Other worthwhile long shots are Stefan, Estonia’s answer to Johnny Cash with a Western-themed music video, and while the closest he gets to Clint Eastwood is being able to wear a poncho and look somber, his throaty voice and its catchy chorus could put the favorites in trouble. Albanian contestant Ronela Hajati arrives at the opening ceremony of the contest. And then there are the colas from Australia. Initially invited in 2015 to celebrate the show’s 60th anniversary, Australia continues to participate each year, case of wine in hand, giggling awkwardly at Europe’s inside jokes and hoping to score a win for die-hard fans who wake up in the wee hours. to watch the program in your country. To be fair, Australia gives it their all, and this year’s competitor Sheldon Riley’s “Not the Same” is expected to make a respectable finish. And the popularity of Eurovision in the southern hemisphere is a testament to its growing strength, even in its seventh decade. The United States recently began airing a knockoff of this contest, dubbed the “American Song Contest,” which Europeans look at with the same frown they do when examining private-label mayonnaise at a discount store, and a 2020 Netflix movie starring Will Ferrell and Rachel McAdams introduced new generations to the contest. Eurovision, with all its oddities, holds a special place on the cultural calendar. But winning would have unique meaning for the Kalush Orchestra, and it’s hard to imagine a more popular winner in the competition’s history. “For us, victory would mean appreciation of Ukrainian music, its uniqueness and its beauty,” Psyuk told CNN. “The victory would also lift the spirits of the Ukrainian people, who have not had any pause (of) joy for more than two months.” Eurovision will air on Saturday at 9:00 p.m. local time (3:00 p.m. ET), and is available on Peacock for US audiences — Xiaofei Xu contributed reporting.

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