Due to the pandemic, the long-standing tradition of the Eurovision Song Contest was canceled in 2020. The competition, held for over 70 years, has seen the likes of Celine Dion, Olivia Newton-John, Enya and ABBA enter and gain fame. It’s been a way for countries across the globe (but primarily in Europe) to playfully compete with one another and, as the years have progressed, intense fandom has naturally arisen from this. Who could blame them? The music is good, and the personality of the stars has grown over time — the theatrics have more money behind them than ever.
When last year’s competition was abruptly shut down, we had all the music we normally would without the winner. This added a new dimension of excitement, as winners in the past have been decided by the countries, not by popular vote, and people who cared saw that the 2020 competition was fierce. Two songs were particularly understood to be the catchiest the contest had seen in a while — so catchy that it would be ridiculous if one of them wasn’t the winner.
The first song was Daði Freyr’s “Think About Things,” representing Iceland. The second song was Little Big’s “Uno,” representing Russia. The synth-funk of “Think about Things” is something that’s been done to death, but with bright vocal runs and a bombastic chorus, the song more than made up for it. It’s really the melody that is so undeniable in this song, since what works against it is that the horns sound cheap, the aesthetics are cheesy and its style would fit much more comfortably in 2015’s cultural bubble. But if that’s the case, Little Big’s “Uno” comes from the aesthetic stew of 2012, or a world where cock-of-the-walk “faux machismo” acts like LMFAO and David Guetta had their highest currency.
Little Big’s schtick is most in line with the South African group Die Antwoord, which uses absurdity, shock value and reliance on music videos to draw people in. While not as overtly edgy as Die Antwoord, Little Big combines EDM influences and farce together in a way that hasn’t been the norm in the West for nearly a decade. Little Big continued this tradition by being a Russian band chosen to represent their country and presenting a song with obvious Spanish influences and lyrics — all in nearly nonsensical English.
The chorus culminates with them repeating the phrase “uno, dos, quatro” over and over again on top of grating electronics and, for no reason at all, missing the number three in the sequence. But this is what makes the band’s power so undeniable. When everything is so over the top to the point of lacking any real coherence, it just becomes astonishing.
“Think About Things” is inoffensive fun. There’s heart behind it, but it easily fits in line with the recent trends in vocal performances. The song has a lack of rawness that undercuts the best of Western music, and that torch is only really being carried by artists like Aldous Harding or Kelsey Lu. Of course, the medium is different, and “Uno” also lacks that breadth of vocal ability, but Little Big makes up for it with voices grating the extremes of their respective vocal ranges, which I haven’t heard quite like this since “Barbie Girl” by Aqua.
“Think About Things” structures itself in a continuous build: The last few seconds of the song are the loudest, and it crescendos in an incredible way. It’s not a cool song like “Uno” is, but even though so much works against it, you just can’t help coming back to it again and again.
Both artists truly made something special last year, and just maybe, no one really needed to “win” in the first place.
Daily Arts Writer Vivian Istomin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.