It feels like only yesterday we were watching Kalush Orchestra lift the Eurovision trophy, yet here we are getting ready for another edition of Vidbir! While Ukraine’s national final has historically been held in February, it is the first selection contest of the Eurovision 2023 season, likely due to the ongoing Russo-Ukrainian conflict. As a direct result of the war, Vidbir will also be held the Maidan Nezalezhnosti metro station in Kyiv which is sure to make for moving and inspirational viewing. Timur Miroshnychenko (co-host of Eurovision 2017), Go-A’s frontwoman Kateryan Pavlenko (Eurovision 2020 and 2021) and Zlata Ognevich (Eurovision 2013) will all be hosting. The jury will consist of Jamala (Eurovision 2016 winner), Julia Sanina (Vidbir 2016 runner-up) and Taras Topolia (vocalist of Ukranian band Antytila, who recently collaborated with Ed Sheeran).
We know that, as last year’s winners, Ukraine are guaranteed a place in the Grand Final but what do we know about the ten artists hoping to take to the stage in Liverpool? Read on to learn more about Vidbir’s finalists and listen to their songs.
Moisei – I’m Not Alone
Up first on Vidbir’s roster is musician and soldier Moisei. He has already achieved viral fame, as videos of him playing his violin on the frontlines and in bunkers have captured the hearts of viewers around the world. A quote-retweet of one of these videos says: “Absolutely beautiful. Absolutely haunting. Absolutely sad. That someone with this amazing talent is standing in his defender’s uniform playing his music instead of being in an orchestra somewhere in Ukraine.” One video even shows him playing 2019 winner ‘Arcade’ by Duncan Laurence! Whilst being interviewed by Zenger News, Moisei explained that he plays his violin in the bunker “…for the guys to help keep them distracted. Someone sings, someone here plays the guitar. We try to hold on and support each other.”
His Vidbir effort ‘I’m Not Alone’ was also composed while Moisei was in a bunker and puts his beautiful violin playing centre-stage. As the show opener and an increasingly prominent figure in the Ukrainian music scene, Moisei is sure to impress but will it be enough to win the contest?
OY Sound System – Oy, tuzhu
Kyiv trio OY Sound System (sometimes shortened to OYSS) consists of vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Marko Halanevych (who is also in the Ukranian folk quartet DakhaBrakha), electronic musician Taras Halanevych, and vocalist Victoria Rodko. Their music spans a range of genres and styles: anything “ranging from bass, dub and world music to electronic rock and reggae”, according to their Soundcloud.
Their song ‘Oy, tuzhu’ (‘Oh, longing’) stays true to the band’s form, being a genre-defying piece of art. Rodko’s stunning vocals are accompanied by a sparse soundscape in the verses with an electronica hook that is sure to blow viewers away on the stage. Could we be seeing this at the M&S Bank Arena in May?
DEMCHUK – Alive
Demchuk has appeared in both The Voice Kids in 2015 and The Voice of Ukraine in 2018, unfortunately progressing no further than the knockout stages in either show. He also participated in the Ukranian TV show Everyone Sings in which he was a finalist. As well as his TV talent show appearances, Demchuk has continued to post his music on TikTok, where he has 1.6 million followers to date. It is here that his music attracted the attention of well-known Ukrainian singer NK when he posted his song ‘Sorry’. NK ‘duetted’ with Demchuk on TikTok, adding her own vocals to the track, which attracted 250,000 views in a matter of days. This then prompted the pair to record and release the duet, dubbing it ‘Sorry 2’ and bringing Demchuk wider recognition.
‘Alive’ is Demchuk’s first original song to be released in English and is a romantic ballad that showcases his vocals perfectly. Will you be wooed by it at Vidbir?
Jerry Heil – When God Shut the Door
Eurofans will recognise Jerry Heil from Vidbir 2020, where she reached the final with her song ‘Vegan’, unfortunately placing last with both the jury and televoters. However, even outside of Vidbir, Heil is notable for having a top 10 hit in the Ukrainian charts with her 2019 single ‘Okhrana, otmyena’ (‘Security, cancellation!’). The song also won Single of the Year at the Jager Music Awards, which aims to recognise the independent music scene in Ukraine, Russia, Kazakhstan and Belarus. Heil is also known for her speaking voice as well as her singing, having appeared in the Ukranian dubs of ChalkZone and The Addams Family.
While ‘Vegan’ offered a sharp, witty look at how Heil’s dietary preferences affect her relationships, ‘When God Shut the Door’ is different and altogether more serious. Addressing the feelings of hopelessness that come from living in a time of war, Heil also references the well-known proverb ‘When God closes a door he opens a window’, suggesting that even though times are dark now, brighter days are ahead for Ukraine. Blending a thought-provoking message with a range of genres, including opera and rap, it’s easy to see why Heil’s song is the current fan favourite but we all know anything can happen in a national final. Will we be watching Heil represent Ukraine in May?
FIINKA – Dovbush
Fiinka has been posting satirical skits onto her YouTube channel under the guise of a news channel Lizhnyk TV (Sleeper TV) for the past three years, as well as her own music. She belongs to the Hutsul ethnic group and her song ‘Dovbush’ is sung in this dialect. Of her heritage, Fiinka has said: “Behind this speech is a huge layer of culture. I want people to start taking an interest in Hutsul region; I want people to start really appreciating and cherishing their own.”
‘Dovbush’ represents Oleksa Dovbush, a legendary figure in Ukranian folklore, comparable to Robin Hood. Fiinka has said she was inspired to write the song “two days before the start of the war, when Moscow tanks already stood on our borders”. The song appears to be a rallying call to arms, with Fiinka saying “I am sure that this super power flows through our veins, because it is passed down from generation to generation.” The song incorporates traditional folk elements with hip-hop, which helped Kalush Orchestra secure a victory in Turin last year. Will it also work in Fiinka’s favour?
KRUTЬ – Kolyskova
Like Jerry Heil, KRUTЬ (real name Maryna Valeryivna Krut) will be recognisable to many as a Vidbir 2020 finalist, where she placed third overall with her song ‘99’. She is renowned for playing the bandura, a Ukranian folk instrument similar to the lute, using it to elevate what she describes as her ‘indie soul’ sound. Historically, bandurists were often kobzars, a group of bards who were usually blind and travelled between towns to perform their songs. They were heavily persecuted throughout history, notably being put to death by Stalin in 1932. Therefore, playing the bandura carries great significance even today.
Unsurprisingly, Krut’s song ‘Kolyskova’ (‘Lullaby’) places her bandura-playing front and centre and paired with her vocals creates a serene, beautiful sound that lives up to its title. She was on the Vidbir podium in 2020: can she top it for 2023?
Tember Blanche – Ia vdoma
Tember Blanche are an indie-folk duo consisting of Oleksandra Ganapolska (Sasha) and Vladyslav Lagoda (Vlad). Both were street musicians who met, fell in love and began recording music together in their home studio. Their name comes from the month of September, when the pair started dating. The band made waves on the Ukrainian segment of TikTok with their song ‘Vechornytsia’, which was noticed by 2022 winners Kalush, who offered to make a hip-hop version of the song. This collaboration became known as ‘Kaluski vechornytsya’ and became Tember Blanche’s most popular song, attracting over 5 million streams on Spotify to date.
Their Vidbir entry ‘Ia vdoma’ (‘I’m Home’) sees the duo return to their indie-folk roots. Although the song is a sweet, simple affair, its music video shows a family fleeing war; in the midst of this, a young woman puts her headphones on and dances to the song, showing the power music has to help us escape our troubles, even if only for a moment. It’s moving for sure but can this translate into votes?
Angelina – Stronger
She might only be a teenager, but Angelina Terennikova is no stranger to a song contest, having twice submitted songs to Junior Eurovision (‘Fly Away’ in 2019 and ‘The Vibe’ in 2020), although neither were selected to represent Ukraine. Swedish viewers may also recognise Angelina from the early stages of this year’s Swedish Idol. Having fled Ukraine due to the war, Angelina now resides in Sweden, which is how she came to audition for the show. She wowed the judges with her renditions of ‘Alive’ by Sia and ‘Never Enough’ from The Greatest Showroom, progressing to the Friday night finals and the top 24 overall.
Her song ‘Stronger’ is a ballad about overcoming adversity and shows us what a powerful vocalist young Angelina is. She’s taken to a Swedish stage: is now the time for Angelina to represent her native country?
2Tone – Kvitka
Ukrainians may well recognise musical duo 2Tone from their appearance on The Voice of Ukraine in January 2022. In their blind audition, they covered 5’Nizza’s song ‘Soldat’, impressing judges Svyatoslav Vakarchuk and Olya Polyakova so much that they got on stage and performed with the pair! Unfortunately, they were then eliminated in the knockout stages. However, this has not deterred 2Tone, who premiered the music video for their single Хворий (‘Sick’) less than a week before the release of their Vidbir effort ‘Kvitka’ (‘Flower’).
2Tone are known for their acoustic guitar playing and two-part harmonies and so of course these feature on ‘Kvitka’. However, at the chorus, the song builds into a more anthemic, rock sound which is sure to help the band hold their own on the stage at Vidbir. Will it impress enough to allow them to take to the stage at Liverpool too?
TVORCHI – Heart of Steel
Our final act of the night (and another duo) is TVORCHI, which was formed by Andrew Hutsuliak and Jeffery Augustus Kenny in 2018. Like Jerry Heil and KRUTЬ, TVORCHI also competed in the Vidbir 2020 final. They placed fourth despite having won the second semi-final, claiming they had been plagued by earpiece issues and even that the contest was rigged!
Despite this, the pair have returned to Vidbir again, this time with the song ‘Heart of Steel’. The song features the electronic sound that has garnered them both critical acclaim and millions of streams on Spotify. They didn’t have the best experience at their last Vidbir but could ‘Heart of Steel’ change that?
Are you looking forward to Vidbir? Who do you hope will take the trophy and represent Ukraine in 2023? Be sure to let us know in the comments and follow us on Twitter, Instagram and TikTok for more exciting Eurovision content!