In the Eurovision fandom, Natalia Gordienko’s Sugar is a critic-proof song. No one can like it or hate it because any discussion of it is inevitably derailed by an account of its birth in the world.
You see, Gordienko’s song was produced by former Eurovision contestant, Russian Voice judge, and overall gadfly Philipp Kirkorov. Kirkorov represented Russia ONCE in 1995, and now hangs around Russia and associated countries much like Putin does. He even has the audacity to call himself Mr. Eurovision. Here’s Kirkorov in 1995…
….and here’s Kirkorov today.
And quite frankly, for Kirkorov, that’s toned down. The man is usually extra enough to make Liberace look subtle.
Anyway, because Kirkorov has produced the song for Moldova, he dictates that the premier of it will be in Moscow (not Chisinau) with all of his famous buddies. The whole affair was very….mafia wedding? Daddy-Daughter dance with all of Daddy’s friends? Famous dictator holds a Sweet Sixteen for his daughter? The red carpet bit of the show lasted about twice as long as the show itself.
So by the time we finished meeting Kirkorov’s friends, and listening to Kirkorov talk, and watching Gordienko perform a bunch of songs that were also produced by Kirkorov, the Sugar video was finally unveiled. And thousands of Eurofans, who had been watching a Facebook live stream for what seemed like the entirety of San Remo at that point, all looked at each other and said, “Is that it?” Poor Natalia’s song has not recovered from this ignominy.
Which is a real shame because, as you can hear below, it is a really good song!
In addition to being a total banger, Gordienko is not getting enough credit for the complete zeitgeisty nature of her song. She has created a pandemic masterpiece cloaked in the guise of a love song.
Think about it – we’re conditioned to hear “sugar” as a euphemism for sexxy times. But during the pandemic, these times are few and far between. Singletons can’t get within 2 metres of other people, while couples are spending so much time together that the real erotic thrill is getting 10 minutes to yourself.
Let’s be honest – the most complex emotional relationship many of us have had over the past year has been with food. We spent most of lockdown making it (sourdough, anyone), missing it (the humble iced coffee somehow became an object of lust), and ordering it (because talking to a delivery person is the most human interaction a lot of us got.) At a time when none of us can do much, we’re obsessing over the one thing we can do – eat.
Add to that the fact that in the summer of 2020, when we were all spending too much time on social media, everything was suddenly a cake. That bowl of fruit? A cake. That book? A cake. The curled up cat on a blanket? Cake, cake, cake. ALL CAKE. EVERYTHING WAS CAKE.
So in a way, Gordienko is merely reflecting the fever dream that has been the past year, when people made baked good for fun and then watched other people break into baked goods on social media. The final reveal of the male hunk as a hunk of cake is testament to our changing pandemic desires, and our changing pandemic expectations. In short – no sex please – we’re too busy licking icing off the spoon.
And the genius of Sugar is that a video with dancing ice cream cones and a Godzilla-sized Gordienko now seems absolutely normal. It’s not, of course. This video is, like the best coming from Moldova, deeply, deeply weird. In five years, we’ll look back at this and say, “She ripped his jaw off. That’s really disturbing! Especially in such a pastel-coloured video.” But in this moment, we all laugh and say, “What a cake reveal!”
I hope Gordienko will be able to translate our obsessive relationship with food to the staging, although I fear that the pandemic will stop her from fully translating her candy-coloured nightmare world. It’s a shame that the one moment Gordienko has to let her freak flag fly is being overshadowed in so many ways – whether its circumstances or Kirkorov.
Anyway, it’s a banger. Listen to it.