Song Title: “Be My Valentine (Anti-Crisis Girl!)”
Artist: Svetlana Loboda
Semi-Final: 6th place in the second semi-final
Grand Final: 12th out of 24 countries
Last year’s entry: “Shady Lady” by Ani Lorak (2nd place)
After back-to-back runner-up finishes at the Eurovision Song Contest, it makes sense that Ukraine would double down on what had been working for them. The previous two entries featured aggressive pop tracks performed by strong female characters. Also, the 2009 Contest was taking place in Moscow, which means the rivalry between Ukraine and Russia would be reaching a new high. Enter Svetlana Loboda’s song “Be My Valentine (Anti-Crisis Girl)” and the Hell Machine:
This may be one of the most over-the-top Eurovision performances of the last ten years. The Hell Machine–the name for the gears and ladders setpiece–is one of the most elaborate setpieces even before you add in pyrotechnics. Metallic backup singers on stilts join Svetlana Loboda and her army of centurion dancers. Also, a drum kit? The camera work is frantic, partly because of direction to add even more energy to the performance, but also because it is unclear to know what element to focus on.
Even with these drawbacks, the performance is enjoyable. The song isn’t strong lyrically, but Svetlana Loboda commits 100%. Supposedly the song is about bringing to light issues of domestic violence, but I’m not sure how that is conveyed here.
“Be My Valentine” is mostly a footnote in Ukraine’s Eurovision history. It was middle of the pack in both the semi-final and final, so there’s no reason for it to shine among all of Ukraine’s top ten finishes. Also, the song drew the slot in the Grand Final running order immediately behind Norway’s juggernaut “Fairytale”, which probably didn’t help with scores.
I think what Ukraine learned from this experience is that, while staging is important, too many elements can be as much of a problem as too few. Ukraine continues to stage their entries with a high degree of art direction, but the delegation has found elegance in one or two elements rather than Hell Machines.