Friday, November 25, 2011

Guilty Pleasure: Verka Serduchka (Верка Сердючка)

Have you ever looked at something completely ridiculous and, against your better judgment, not looked away from it even though you just know it’s the nuttiest thing you’ve ever seen? Some people have no stomach for something like this, but others have a penchant for taking pleasure in completely madcap, over-the-top spectacles and enjoy it without irony. I belong to the latter group, but if you have been reading my blog long enough, you’ll know that I have a mild fascination with Eastern Europe and in particular the Eurovision Song Contest in all its insane glory.

Verka Serduchka (Верка Сердючка) is perhaps the most outlandish music artist the Ukraine has to offer. He first came to prominence outside of Europe thanks to his unforgettable entry in the 2007 Eurovision Song Contest with “Dancing Lasha Tumbai”. A totally nonsensical song in English, German, Mongolian(!) and Russian, the pop-happy dance single is performed by a drag alter ego of Ukrainian singer Andriy Danylko. Given that Eurovision in 2007 contained an unusually large number of hard-rock entries attempting to ape the previous year’s winner Lordi, seeing an accordion-laced dance-pop single in four languages made up of catchphrases and no clear narrative thread or cohesion made for an unforgettable spectacle.

The single and its star were met with considerable controversy in the rather conservative Ukraine, and the selection committee was heavily criticized for sending a drag queen to represent them. Remember that in parts of the former Soviet Union, effeminate men are still the target of homophobia and Russia is in the process of trying to make any public references to homosexuality illegal, which if you ask for my opinion is just – and I am breaking with my higher level of diction here – totally dumbass and a total embarrassment for the entire country, and I hope they get over it soon. Anyway, back to the fun of Eurovision!

Watch the performance and take note of the genius of it.

I’m not sure what I love most about this clip, the single and its performance. Is it that they are taking this seriously as a contribution to popular culture and art in general? Is it the tinfoil Christmas tree chic getup on Serduchka herself? Is it the part of the chorus where “lasha tumbai” could be mistaken for “Russia goodbye!” or “Russia, Dubai”? Is it the nonsensical “la la la” that finishes it all off?

No, I think it is the moment when he utters, in a perfect pause, “I love you!”. It’s the surest sign that he means to take this seriously as art but with his tongue planted firmly in cheek. To speak in a freely vulgar manner, I lost my s*** when I heard it the first time.

So sit back and enjoy this piece of madcap performance art. I am still trying to find it on iTunes in North America so that I can work out to this song endlessly. Oh, and look out for his holiday single “Dolce e Gabbana”. The live performance has dancing bunny costumes. You’re welcome.