Remember in 2020, when Eurovizijos Atranka rebranded as Pabandom Is Naujo, and we had a magical six weeks of entrancing performances? Gabrielius Vagelis with Tave Ca Randu! Meandi with The Drip! Ruta Loop with We Came from the Sun! KaYra with Alligator! Monique with Make Me Human! And, of course, the eventual winners The Roop with On Fire. (By the way, The Roop, my dream act of The Roop ft. Ruta Loop has yet to take place!)
Yes, Pabandom Is Naujo returned in 2021, with 21 songs in the heats, but it all felt anticlimactic, like the biggest artists weren’t bringing their best songs because The Roop were shoo-ins to win it anyway. (And this isn’t a subtweet of anyone; it’s a direct call out of Gabrielius Vagelis for releasing the sublime Penkeri a mere 11 days before the Eurovision qualification period.)
So last night, when Pabandom Is Naujo returned without a clear Lithuanian favourite, expectations were high. The 2020 competition glow up was so fantastic that all of us thought we’d get some memorable gems to kick off the National Final madness.
Don’t get me wrong – the National Final wasn’t bad. I was entertained by the low-fi beats of David Byrne wannabe Joseph June….
…and pleased to see the outlandish costumes and choreography of Voldemars Petersons and the Break Hearters…
…and the glorious “fuck you” breakup anthem Back To Myself by Erica Jennings and her post-divorce revenge body.
But there wasn’t anything that captured the imagination of the fan community in the same way that Pabandom Is Naujo 2020 did. And many fans were dreading the prospect of multiple weeks of mediocre entries.
I will concede that last night’s heat wasn’t Lithuania’s finest. We know the country has an amazing electronic music scene. We know that there’s a strong element of humour that wasn’t present last night (Vaidas Barekis and Twosome, I’m looking at you.)
But the reason why Pabandom is Naujo is so great is that it truly is a competition open to anyone. Voldemars Petersons is a guy who busks in the streets of Kaunas in his spare time, or playing weddings with the Break Hearters. Mary Mo is a music teacher. Elonas Pokanevic is a former basketball player. None of them have Wikipedia entries. But all of them have dreams that they get to try and fulfil on one of the most democratic stages of them all.
I love that Pabandom Is Naujo really is about that person potentially writing a killer single and getting to perform it on the biggest stage in the world. Does it mean that we end up sitting through some duff songs? Yes. But that’s a small price to pay to let people live out their dreams of performing at Eurovision.
So yes, I won’t be making a Spotify playlist of 2022 Pabandom Is Naujo entries anytime soon. But I’m very glad the competition is there. Stay scrappy, Lithuania!