Russia offered up one of the most mysterious selection processes this year, with little to no news about whether they would renew the opportunity for last year’s representatives Little Big to return to the contest. Towards the back end of the national selection season, the broadcaster vaguely announced a national final, however it was still ambiguous as to what role Little Big would play in that national final. During the show, it was announced that the group would not be representing Russia, and instead, three acts competed for the ticket to Rotterdam. Manizha won the selection with her song, Russian Woman, which will now go on to represent Russia at Eurovision this year.
Anita (Eurovision Union)
Song and Vocals
I’m sure like many others, I was disappointed to see that Little Big wouldn’t participate this year. I saw them as strong competitors in the 2020 field, likely to finish in the Top 5 with their earworm, Uno. It was one of the first Russian Eurovision entries that I’ve truly enjoyed, and was anticipating another banger for this year’s contest. Alas, it was not their time, but hope that they do return sometime soon. With that said, I think the lack of clarity about their selection process, and then the reveal that a new act would represent Russia kind of dampened the mood, and it’s taken some time for me to get on board with the new entry.
With a fresher mind, I’ve listened to Russian Woman a few times now, and the nation certainly made the right choice from the three artists competing. Russian Woman demonstrates the intersection of modernity and tradition. There are strong ethnic elements within the song which give the song a lot of charm and character, while also having more of a modern hip-hop style beat matched with rapped lyrics. Switching between the styles during the song, it had the potential to be really disjointed, but actually, it works surprisingly well.
We’ve seen the song performed live, and I have to say, I much prefer the live version over the studio version. It’s not often I would say that, but Manizha really amps up the performance and gives it so much personality. Vocally, she is on point, and manages to successfully emote through her vocals.
Act and Performance
While her live performance ticked all the vocal boxes, what was missing was a better demonstration of the mix of modern and traditional. Her outfit change gave us a taste, but I think there should be stronger imagery used in the staging to really highlight all the great things about this song. I would assume that the Russian team would be working on this for Eurovision, and staging is a strong point for the nation so I have high expectations. Manizha is strong with the camera work, so that is yet another box ticked ready for the Rotterdam stage.
This is a strong entry from Russia, and despite all the controversy surrounding her participation, I think Russia will end up doing fairly well at Eurovision. I believe that Manizha will glide through to the final, and I anticipate a fairly good position in the final. This is a unique song in the field, and it is performed well. Personally it’s not my favourite tune from the class of 2021, but it’s an enjoyable listen from start to finish.
Song and Vocals
Russia sends a song with a powerful message about the rise of feminism in Russia. Manizha has covered this topic in her music before and now gets to share it with a bigger audience. The song seems to be made up of three different styles, which has been an issue at Eurovision in the past. There is a rap section, instrumental breaks and ethnic shouting sequences. It’s an interesting composition and will stand out in the class of 2021.
Performance and Act
Manizha knows how to sell this song. She works the camera from the first second, when she is just alone on screen. But later on, we also see powerful shots of her group, standing in a circle, as they form some kind of tribe. It’s powerful and should be able to gain a lot of votes within the women of Eastern Europe.
When I put aside the disappointment that Little Big is not returning to Eurovision in 2021 for Russia, I have to say they came up with an interesting ethic song, with diverse surprising changes in the composition. Along with that, the lyrics show a deeper message, making it not just a standard song in the field. I wouldn’t mind seeing this song being performed in the final on Saturday again.
Additional Scores from Eurovision Union and ESCDaily editors:
Average Score: 7.1/10