Where Hartwall Areena, Helsinki, Finland
What Work Your Magic, Koldun
Result 6th with 145 points
First things first…wondering why I’ve chosen this particular Eurovision entry to celebrate peak spooky season instead of, say, Vampires Are Alive? That’s fair. All I can say is that a) choosing Vampires Are Alive would have been very predictable; b) I desperately wanted an excuse to discuss this song/performance again; and c) there are some Halloween-y things to it, believe it or not. I mean, the song is all about magic and brewing potions and other things witches would do while gathered around a cauldron, right? And everybody on stage was dressed in black (think Addams Family feat. fake tan). Oh, and Koldun looks frighteningly like the late Princess Diana, so there’s that.
But yeah, 90% of the reason I chose to throw back to Work Your Magic today is because I wanted to talk about it. Who wouldn’t?
Eurovision 2007 was a special edition for me. It’s the first contest I watched as a fan who actually knew what the heck was going on. As such, I refuse to hear a bad word about it, and I hold a special place in my heart for everything from the hosts (Mikko + Jaana = second only to Petra + Måns) to the adorable postcards and the whimsical visual design. When it comes to the songs that year, my far-and-away favourite was Belarus – something I haven’t been able to say since. Fast forward to 2019, though, and I must admit it’s been a long time since I’ve listened to or watched Koldun’s performance of Work Your Magic. So how does it come across these days, 12 years (WHAT) after competing and leaving a massive impression on me and no doubt many others?
The answer to that is insanely well. I still love it, and there’s no shame attached whatsoever! Sure, it’s aged – nobody would get far with this kind of thing at Eurovision now (unless they’re Sergey Lazarev). But for me it’s a flawless example of 2000s Eastern European power-pop. The song itself is dramatic, catchy and memorable, and the performance made the absolute best of it without being as elaborate as the music video (which I think would have been a mistake…simple but effective was the way to go). Sleek, all-black costumes went hand-in-hand with a classy monochromatic colour scheme, and the only points of interest on stage were the choreography and those “floating” panels that were used (in a way that pre-dates Sergey’s 2016 OMG moment) as part of that choreography. Just when you think it can’t get any better, Koldun and his kick-ass backing crew strike their final poses as showers of sparks come shooting out of the panels. SO MUCH YES.
I feel like Belarus tried to replicate this, and its success, in the few years that followed – but Hasta La Vista and Eyes That Never Lie couldn’t come close to recapturing the magic (pun intended). The only thing stopping it from being 110% magical = Koldun’s slightly ropey vocals (I’m also concerned about his apparent lack of nipples, but that’s another story). Back in 2007 we didn’t have juries to nitpick over stuff like that, and everything else was A+ anyway.
Work Your Magic was composed by Bulgarian-Russian Philipp Kirkorov (Russia’s 1995 rep) and Greek Dimitris Kontopoulos, with lyrics by Russian-Armenian Karen Kavaleryan – multinational names you should be familiar with if you’ve been a Eurovision fan for more than five minutes. It’s easy to think this song was destined for greatness with those writing credits, but Koldun’s entry was actually Kirkorov and Kontopulous’ first joint composition to make it to the ESC, and Kavaleryan’s first time teaming up with those two for the contest. The trio would join forces again in 2008 to create a little song called Shady Lady for Ani Lorak.
After that, Kirkirov and Kontopoulos paired off to write Shine for The Tolmachevy Sisters, plus You Are The Only One and Scream for Sergey; Kirkirov had a hand in My Lucky Day by DoReDos; and Kontopoulos brought us This Is Our Night by Sakis Rouvas, Hold Me by Farid Mammadov, This Is Love by Demy and X My Heart by Aisel. Kavaleryan had kicked off early with Northern Girl by Prime Minster and Never Let You Go for Dima Bilan, before continuing to (mostly) kick butt with Anytime You Need by Hayko, Peace Will Come by Diana Gurtskaya, Apricot Stone by Eva Rivas and Gravity by Zlata Ognevich. Combined, these guys have serious ESC pedigree, and at one time they were like the Powerpuff Girls of competition song writing. Though a better result was to come for the three in Belgrade, Work Your Magic still gave them a fantastic finish.
It also gave Belarus a result that still stands as their best ever (which is both impressive and unfortunate). 2007 remains the only year they’ve cracked the top 10, with a 16th from Alyona Lanskaya in 2013 the closest they’ve come since. Koldun qualified to the final from the Semi of Death – a.k.a. the 28-strong SF that prompted the decision to have two grand final deciders instead of one that lasts, in the immortal words of Alekseev, FOREVEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEER – in 4th place. The only other Belarusian act to qualify in the top five was Teo in 2014. I think we all know what this means: Belarus should bring Koldun back with a Kirkirov/Kontopoulos/Kavaleryan banger in 2020 and blow all of our minds in the process. It would be pretty damn difficult to top Work Your Magic, but if this team of K-names kan’t do it, then nobody kan.
Fun fact (depending on your definition of ‘fun’): In Russian, ‘Koldun’ means ‘magician’, and it’s not even a stage name – it’s the guy’s real last name. I did get that translation info from Wikipedia though, so it’s possible it actually means something like ‘shoelaces’ – or the thing that would make the most sense, ‘man who bears a striking resemblance to a beloved British princess’. Another fun fact: The CD single of Work Your Magic included a remix by Deep Zone, who went on to represent Bulgaria at Eurovision the following year. They were a little less successful.
What are your thoughts on Work Your Magic? Did it cast a spell on you in the Helsinki days, or do you think it’s overrated and a different Belarusian entry deserved to do better? Let me know below!