Tuesday, June 21st, 2022

Kalush Orchestra – Stefania

Eurovision winner!


Katie Gill: In the weeks or so after Eurovision, you’ll see some bad Twitter takes about how Ukraine won this year due to international politics, not on the merits of the song itself. Those takes absolutely suck. One, Eurovision has always been about international politics–there is no way in hell that Greece and Cyprus give each other twelve points each year because they legitimately like each other’s songs. Two, “Stefania” is a legitimately great song. It shares a lot of the same DNA (and also a band member) as “SHUM,” Ukraine’s entry from last year that became a hit with the televote (and also TSJ staff). You’ve got this wonderful blend of traditional Ukrainian folk music and modern stylings–though while “SHUM” went for pushing electronic Gothic vibes, “Stefania” goes for more of a party, good times vibe, complete with staging that involved breakdancing and actually good rap (which is a rarity for Eurovision). It’s a fun blend of new and old that absolutely would have captured the televote’s heart and done well even if there wasn’t any conflict. People would have fallen in love with this song no matter what and those people include me. “Stefania” slaps, I doubt I’ll see everybody in Kyiv next year because (laughs nervously in geopolitical situation) but dammit we’ll be there in spirit.

Alfred Soto: The rapping is enthusiastic not great, but from the synth stabs and rhythm bed to the Mediterranean lilt of the vocals I hear traces of classic freestyle, itself indebted to Middle Eastern melodies.

Ian Mathers: It’d be easy for a Ukrainian Eurovision winner in 2022 to feel like it won for reasons beyond the actual song (and honestly, it’d be hard to begrudge voters and judges alike that even as over here we hear less and less about the ongoing invasion/war crimes etc. – how’s that going anyway?). Maybe it helps that “Stefania” was apparently written before and not about that invasion, but the combination of the tough-talking rap about how great his mom is with a genuinely lovely chorus and some nice sopolka/telenka work (yes I had to look this up and they are both kinds of flute as far as I can tell) and a back that gives even the more ballad-y bits a pulse mean it sounds like a worthy winner on its own sonic merits anyway.

Nortey Dowuona: 44th best rap tribute to mom ever. Shout out to moms.

Scott Mildenhall: In a Eurovision with a not overwhelming level of energetic entries, Kalush Orchestra’s mix of the melancholic and the celebratory was a standout. It didn’t need the increased resonance to achieve that — from the start it was a soulful piece with endless hooks and a distinct identity. It’s tempting to say that Ukraine are just good at the contest — and that would be true — but most impressive is the record of the Kalush-Go_A fulcrum Ihor Didenchuk. Perhaps he could enter every year?

Thomas Inskeep: Yes, I support Ukraine. Yes, I understand that this won Eurovision solely out of extramusical concerns. But on a purely musical level, this mashup of trad folk and contemporary hip hop (with fairly down-the-middle pop production) is nigh on unlistenable.

Reader average: [3.6] (5 votes)

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