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Ukraine: Jamala – 1944

After their year long sabbatical, and what felt like a year long national final, Ukraine have returned to Eurovision and selected Jamala with song 1944 to represent them in Stockholm. It didn't tale long for the Kiev 2017 tweets to start flooding in from excited fans. Likewise, 'this year's Suus' was posted in various places. Firstly, Kiev 2017 isn't going to happen; 1944 isn't the next Suus or Molitva and Ukraine's only hope of a reasonable Eurovision finish went up in smoke when The Hardkiss finished second. Their national final performance was far from perfect, yet their song was far more accessible…
Song Appeal
Vocal Strength
Staging Potential
Likely Televote Appeal
Likely Jury Appeal
Cohesiveness of Package


1944 has a ceiling and at the moment, I doubt it's in the top-5.

User Rating: 3.54 ( 50 votes)

After their year long sabbatical, and what felt like a year long national final, Ukraine have returned to Eurovision and selected Jamala with song 1944 to represent them in Stockholm.

It didn’t tale long for the Kiev 2017 tweets to start flooding in from excited fans. Likewise, ‘this year’s Suus’ was posted in various places.

Firstly, Kiev 2017 isn’t going to happen; 1944 isn’t the next Suus or Molitva and Ukraine’s only hope of a reasonable Eurovision finish went up in smoke when The Hardkiss finished second. Their national final performance was far from perfect, yet their song was far more accessible to a Eurovision audience. Furthermore, Helpless was better suited to creating a competitive and engaging stage production – something the Ukraine is renowned for.

Jamala’s 1944 describes the forceable removal of Tatars from the Crimea. It’s an atmospheric, if not rather morbid song, but based on last night’s performance, the message is vague and poorly delivered, so will likely struggle to gain traction outside of its eastern bloc target audience.

Some of the lyrics chime with recent Crimean events and Russia might raise this with the EBU. However, the main negative for Jamala is the lack of a hook for people to remember or hum along to. Not every song needs a hook, but the absence of a discernible melody adds to a growing list of problems.

Jamala’s aloof performance adds to the disconnect and the whole package seems way too self indulgent and esoteric. The wailing and screeching moments remind me of last year’s Don’t Deny (another political song), which was at least memorable and musically palatable. Rona Nishlu also enjoyed a good screech, but comparing Jamala to Rona is like saying Rykka could be the next Margaret Berger.

I’m sure the staging will be vastly different in Stockholm and there’s bound to be a musical rework in the pipeline, nevertheless, 1944 has a ceiling and at the moment, I doubt it’s in the top-5.

Will this be a successful return for Ukraine? 

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About Gavster

ESCtips Owner   I’m a qualified designer and dedicate a lot of my free time to keeping the ESCtips show on the road. My family routes allow me to support the UK, Ireland and Italy.


  1. This all depends on if europe gets the emotion in the song. I personally don’t get what the hype is for, just your normal ballad to me. Prediction wise I think being Ukraine and having a decent jury appeal it should sail into the final and get like 10-13 in the final. However it could finish higher or lower depending on Europes reaction to it.

  2. That whole NF was a complete farce, and the way the public were whipped up into a patriotic hysteria so they would vote for Jamala really concerns me.

    I’m sure the EBU will be taking a good look at the song title and lyrics.

  3. Too much politics and too little music in Ukraine.
    This isn’t my cup of tea, but neither were Suus or Love Injected. Both of those finished top 3 with the juries. When you add the facts that the final will be full of solo male performers, Ukraine’s televoting strength and history of good staging and, of course, the inevitable politics aspect, I don’t see how can this finish outside of top 5.
    Honestly, if the trend of choosing middle-of-the-road songs continues, this could unfortunately end up winning.

  4. I do feel drawn to her. Jamala’s got this presence to command attention for three minutes with a song that shouldn’t be able to do so. I like it still. Vocal aerobics Ukraine style!

  5. Ukraine has a strategy in Eurovision where they select the song, revamp it where they can, tighten up the screws and stage it as creatively as possible while maintaining the relevance and atmosphere of the song.

  6. Jamala had the profile to take this from day one,but,,,seeing the Presidents press officer tweet “vote Jamala” on his twitter account just shows this result up for what it is.Jamala might of won anyway,but they made sure she did win.
    From an ESC powerhouse like Ukraine this song is way below par.Sure to be loved by fans, but for me yet another rubbish entry.Ukraine can polish rubbish,but there is very little to work with here apart from a strong vocal.

  7. I felt my lifeforce being sucked away with every rambling speech.

    Anyways, I don’t get this song and probably never will. Well ok, I get WHY she made this song, but it’s just too weird even for my tastes. Bah. Some of my friends are saying “Kiev 2017”, I highly doubt it.

  8. Two stars for song appeal? Wow, maybe it’ll do even worse than Be My Guest.

  9. Ukraine has made decision – and we see this country never takes their previous mistakes into account. Europe surely has tired of all this ukrainian whining and asking for support – but now they decided to brought it onto another level. Most probably EBU will allow this song to participate as it was for Armenia 2015 or another politically-aligned entries. But no wonder Jamala will barely finish at top-15 – I see neither juries nor audience impressed by it.

  10. The Hardkiss and Pur: Pur had much more going for them than this imho. This is not nearly as strong as Alyosha’s ‘Sweet People’ that finished 10th in 2010 but could achieve a higher finish given the lack of quality so far this ESC season and the scoring system change should benefit Ukraine to a degree on the televote side of the equation.

  11. ESC may ban it. There was an article in the Independent talking about its political nature breaking the rules.

    • Like they banned Don’t Deny? Only way this gets DQed is if Russia protests really hard, which won’t happen because Russia couldn’t care less.
      Besides, the song is about crimes made under Stalin’s regime, and even the current Russian establishment hates Stalin.

  12. Ukraine’s biggest problem with being similar to Don’t Deny from a political point of view is the producers are going to try and kill it off by sticking it in somewhere where people will forget about it and the issue with that is unlike Armenia, Ukraine doesn’t have a huge diaspora and mainly relies on allies voting (and in this semi Ukraine is god in that block). No matter what happens at this stage I can’t make a case for it NQ unfortunately but you never know, once rehearsals come around we will think again.

  13. I don’t know nearly as much as Gav about song structure and what’s suitable for eurovision and what not.
    But for me this lady is bringing the spectacle on stage in a totally over the top ethno-extravaganza style.
    If I remember correctly, Ukraine’s entries have often been borderline insane, now this one is way beyond that line. Thumbs up!

  14. I think this is borderline for a ban given ESC sensitivities to politics. Banned or not, it is not one of Ukraine’s better entries in recent years and don’ t see it troubling the left hand side of the scoreboard.

  15. “comparing Jamala to Rona is like saying Rykka could be the next Margaret Berger” from Gav’s review,the brutal truth you simply wouldnt get on other ESC sites and i think sums this up perfectly.

  16. I find myself surprised by the reaction here to “1944”. I saw Jamala’s performance for the first time on this page, and just found it totally entrancing. There’s many a song this year that sounds alright or mildly satisfying but this song alike “Heartbeat” from Latvia feels like something that can demand my attention and sustain it for three minutes. I think Jamala’s presence coming through the camera is immense. Like Shell’s mentioned above, she brings a spectacle to the stage like no other that takes the entry beyond what it should be capable of, in what has been a very Ukranian habit at the contest. Frankly, I don’t expect to be surprised if the East give this 12s and 10s on the Saturday, considering the lukewarm line-up awaiting as of now.

    Just for the sake of starting an argument in the comment section, Ukraine gives me the impression of Albania from 2012, only with a stronger diaspora vote waiting for them.

  17. I’m inclined to agree with Black n Blue here and I’m sure it will get a hefty amount of jury points from the East. I don’t think it will get quite as much jury love as Suus due to the bad enunciation and it is a bit more standard in terms of structure. Under the ranking system though if one or two jurors don’t get it or don’t appreciate the political aspects it would get knocked down, but I can still see it getting 7 or 8 at least from the East with the odd ten or twelve. I can see it getting fifth place for now. For Westerners with no link to Ukraine it will just be too weird and morbid to get enough points to challenge for the title.
    On the other hand, if Armenia dissapoint tomorrow and Russia on Saturday, it could dominate the Eastern points so much that it does come into the picture.

    • Agreed. Another element to this song is the title. 1944 is pan-lingual, you don’t need to speak Crimean Tartar to understand this, and it’s a title I’d assume commentators will fill in some context for as well.
      Probably the sole reason I cannot rule Ukraine out of a top five is due to the nature of the song. It’s slow in parts, but not a ballad, fast and dramatic in others but not uptempo, there’s some old-ethnic influences but it’s not archaic, and there’s modern synthesized beats yet it sounds like nothing released as of late.
      It’s a beast of its own creation, you cannot affiliate this to anything. Despite the title, the song has a timeless quality to it. It’s neither from the past, the present or the future. Just something to be marveled at, for reasons unexplained.

  18. “comparing Jamala to Rona is like saying Rykka could be the next Margaret Berger.”

    In this comparison, Rona would be Rykka. Don’t get me wrong, Rona’s performance was great, especially as she has not taken any lessons in singing (and, for that matter, I voted for her). However, some of those screamy notes of her were off-key.

    On the other hand, if there is someone who can scream, that’s Jamala. Having a background in operatic singing surely helps her (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zFH2bFCj6fw, from 3:00 onward). Her vocal strength and stage presence are simply overwhelming, as in https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q3uvS-_c5qI, or in https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mj5c_Re93nI. But, I guess she thinks a more subdued approach is appropriate for “1944”. At least an approach more subdued than in “smile”, from Ukrainian ESC preselection 2011 (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fjvEioFJj4g)… An awesome singer, can’t say more.

  19. There seems to be quite a bit of money backing Ukraine and it seems aimed at the bookies offering EW terms 1-4.I expect there is a rework that comes across stronger and the staging is coming together.
    I wont be joining in the backing,but it might pull some of the eastern block votes away from Russia if these price changes hint at Ukraine’s lackage coming together.

  20. I’m really surprised about the ‘lack of love’ for ‘1944’ from the writer of this article. This is a certified TOP 10 song…..It’s the ‘Suus’ of this year. Powerful, emotional, alternative and a shoe-in for jury’s.

    • I think the problem is its not accessible in its present form to televoters.Why would anyone outside of the diaspora vote for it?.Its not an event anyone outside of the area would care about,sad but true.Im also not convinced on the jury side at all.Obvious it will pick up some jury points,but its not banging their door down with song quality.
      The price moves may be because a rework of the staging etc is coming together well though so that needs to be watched.Top 10 is always in reach for Ukraine of course.

      • Why would anyone vote for:
        France 2009? (T: 17th; J: 4th)
        Ukraine 2010? (T: 13th; J: 6th)
        Germany 2011? (T: 15th; J: 12th)
        Albania 2012? (T: 8th; J: 3rd)
        Netherlands 2013? (T: 11th; J: 7th)
        Norway 2014? (T: 16th; J: 9th)
        Latvia 2015? (T: 8th; J: 2nd)
        Norway 2015? (T: 17th; J: 7th)
        Estonia 2015? (T: 5th; J: 11th)

        IMO all rather dark, moody entries that make an appeal to the different emotions than the usual ‘happiness’ we all think off. And those emotions are: Sympathy, melancholy, sadness, understanding…. But all in such a way that they give you goosebumps. True, heartfelt goosebumps, so that you can relate to it. The break-up story of Estonia 2015, or suicide-sadness of Netherlands 2013. Or simply a singer that almost begs you to vote for you with a ‘cry’ for help (Albania 2012…and indeed Ukraine 2016).

        People underestimate this emotion. But if I look at Jamala…..I’m honestly touched. And because of that Ukraine will do very well. It’s pure, it’s authentic…and very sincere. The story works.

        Yes, most of the times such moody entries won’t win. But they are perfect stuff for a TOP 10-result (in the lower ends of the TOP 10). By the way…..why are the odds of Ukraine shortening now?

  21. No other song is even close to having the potential for creating as magical and emotional moment. I’m also confident Ukraine will fulfill this potential. Without any inside information, I’ve been backing it for a long time in the EW terms very heavily, my biggest bets so far. I agree that most viewers will not get it at all, but the ones who do are in my view very likely to pick it as the best of the night.

    I find Jamala to be engaging from the first moment and the song is growing every second. I love the trip-hoppy downbeat tempo, it has a hypnotic quality. Visually it’s very likely going to be gorgeous. They will also most likely beef up the music a bit and Jamala is more than capable of adding few amazing money notes to the final performance.

    I’ve talked about this issue way too much during the last week and right now I don’t have it in me to build an argument for Ukraine here. It would be way too long and boring anyway.

  22. From my comments above, you can see that I am backing Ukraine to do very well. Like you’ve said Johnny, it does have that bit of magic to it. There are little moments from the clip above that really transcend the song in an evocative artful way. For example, those few seconds from the 2:30 mark where she’s about to burst into tears only for her to persevere on into the crescendo. This is the kinda stuff that leaves the audience rooting for the singer.

  23. I was listening to 1944 on Youtube when my wife (no fan of Eurovision) stopped what she was doing and asked who the singer was. That night we played the song to friends (both Eurovision fans) who both loved it. I can’t help feeling that 1944 is this year’s Suus or Love Injected and in a year when there is no obvious winner it might just sneak the win. Also in a year when a number of the better songs have a similar ‘feel’ (e.g. Malta, Bulgaria, Armenia, Australia, Azer) this song stands out. Jamala can certainly deliver vocally – and there is what feels like genuine emotion there rather than just well-crafted pop. I can’t agree with Gavster about the song. It won’t be everyone’s cup of tea but neither was Suus and that came 5th in a much stronger year. What may count against it are the modern-day political connotations. However, on the other side of the coin, this could make it the most talked about song in the contest and look what that did for Rise Like a Phoenix. The way the market is moving my very small (sorry Gavster I’m not in your league!) each way bet at 33-1 is starting to look like a good investment.

  24. ESCKAZ have shared some comments from Ukraine’s staging director who says that Plan A for Jamala is for her to be alone on stage (maybe hidden backing singers) accompanied by an animation, so this might end up being something a bit like Angel in 2011. Plan B is for her to have dancers around her.

    • A great mistake if they are gonna have dancers. Last time I’ve seen Jamala with dancers was Ukrainian ESC preselection 2011, and then one of the jury members said they are just disturbing (even though they were good dancers). Jamala’s stage presence is enormous, she’s enough herself.

      • One thing…..does it become very clear to everyone that…..the staging of many succesful entries since 2009 have become…very understated? Visually maybe not so, but looking at many performers choreography has become much more static and dramatic. “Less is more” seems to be trendy again as opposed to the previous decade, the ’00’s.

        I was watching the 1983 contest the other day…..and I’m surprised how much of static choreography has returned to Eurovision again.

  25. Is this a fanwank for intellectual fans? I can’t see people voting for this.

    People who admire her voice and like the uniqueness of the song, like me btw, will still vote for something rousing and uplifting. It’s just so depressing. And the rest of the audience will just go “urrrggh wtf is this?”

    • It is depressing but it will do well in the more nationalistically-minded nations of Europe that can identify with her on some level – and I’m sure the staging will even be evocative and eye-catching enough to capture a good few floating voters. They want to tell the story of the song, so this IS going to qualify easily and probably get top 10, but no, it is absolutely not going to win.

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