When Ukraine made its debut as Eurovision hosts in 2005, it was forced to revise its competing song entry. The original rendition of Razom Nas Bahato, performed by rap band Greenjolly, carried an overtly political message: as well as drawing heavily from a traditional revolutionary anthem, then-President Viktor Yushchenko was mentioned by name. This was interpreted by some as propaganda, a clear breach of contest rules. Substantial revisions were made and eventually the now-sanitised and inoffensive hip-hop track was cleared for performance in the final. Ukraine finished 20th.
It’s fitting then that Kiev’s second stint as host city arrives off the back of Jamala’s 1944, a haunting anthem about the Soviet Union’s historical deportation of Crimean Tartars. The decision to allow such politicised lyrics — They kill you all… where is your heart… you take away peace — to stand undiluted was as surprising (and controversial) as her victory. Swiping the crown from under the noses of the Russian favourites no doubt made it sweeter.