#tbt: Ruslana’s “Wild Dances” wins Eurovision

Continuing our look back at Ukraine's Eurovision history, we examine "Wild Dances" by Ruslana. This is the first Ukrainian entry to win the Contest.

Ruslana shows off her Ruslana shows off her "Wild Dances" at the 2004 Eurovision Song Contest (Photo: Ruslana's Official Website)

Background

Song Title: “Wild Dances”
Artist: Ruslana
Semi-Final: Finished second behind Serbia & Montenegro’s debut “Lane Moje” by Eurovision powerhouse Zeljko Joksimovic.
Grand Final: Winner! Ukraine edged out Serbia & Montenegro by 17 points.
Last year’s entry: “Hasta La Vista” – Oleksandr Ponomariov (14th place out of 26)

2004 was a significant year for the Eurovision Song Contest. First, four countries made their debut in the competition–Albania, Andorra, Belarus, and Serbia & Montenegro. Monaco also returned from a lengthy hiatus. In total, 36 countries said they wanted to compete. To accommodate this increased interest, Eurovision introduced the concept of the semifinal. 22 countries competed to earn 10 spots in the Grand Final. Those countries joined the top 10 countries from 2003 and what would become the Big Four (France, Germany, Spain, and the United Kingdom). It was also the first time the winner was decided completely by televote.

Although streaming wasn’t a thing yet, the Contest also had some implications in America, thanks to the winning song “Wild Dances” by Ruslana. The call to battle from the opening horns plus the stomps and battle cries punctuating the beats proved to be infectious. “Wild Dances” appears in the soundtrack for Grand Theft Auto IV on the Eastern European radio station. In 2012, U.S. gymanast Jordyn Wieber used the song as part of her floor routine at the London Olympics.

Legacy

It’s 12 years later and “Wild Dances” still holds up. The song doesn’t try to deliver any larger message, but it brings the party. The performance is ridiculously physical, making Ruslana’s vocals impressive. Also, it indicates a shift for Eurovision that maybe trying to be pop- or radio-friendly isn’t such a bad idea.

Ruslana has maintained quite the career since winning Eurovision. Along with being a judge on several reality music competitions (including last year’s national selection for Ukraine), Ruslana continues to record music. She has been a fervent supporter of Ukrainian democracy and EU participation. Ruslana was politically active in the Orange Revolution in 2004-05. She obtained a seat in Ukraine’s parliament for a brief stint in 2006. Ruslana was one of the more notable protesters during the Crimean peninsula incident a few years ago.

It would not be surprising if Ruslana were somehow involved in next year’s Contest, including a possible hosting gig.

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