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For Your Consideration: The Ukrainian Top Ten Reviewed

It is 2022 and what do you listen to while your country is being invaded by the third of the three big super powers? As you escape from the Ukraine to Poland through not safe enough corridors, do you still listen to pop music? And is Ukrainian pop music actually world music, gypsy, big ballads, small pop moves? In fact, Ukrainian pop is Russian pop, and at the moment both countries have anothing thing in common: they both love up and coming rapper Shadowraze.

So who is Shadowraze? From what I can tell, he is a Russian rapper who came out of the local scene with a series of singles each one bigger than the one before it. If you translate his words, it sure seems as though he is in the same world as soundcloud guys from 2020, the words are drugs, guns and suicide redux, the fans are teens and twenty something, and the songs cross right over to Kyev.

Now, of course that is no reason to annex the Ukraine just because they share a language and culture or the US would own Canada, and it is hardly a shock that the two countries would have similar cultural traditions (if you can call Shadowraze a tradition).Shadowraze’s biggest hit, 20 million streams and counting, is “Astral Steps” with a freshly minted beat and lyrics that suggest they’re bringing their glocks:

“I killed ’em, didn’t even wave my powers
Turned off these dogs, smoke gas, I’m steal
Showed ’em the old style, finished ’em all, who asked?
Astral step hit the motherfuckers and endured
I have a hundred ghouls, look – you’re alone again”

Even so, quite why Ukrainian teens, certainly as nihilistic as teens anywhere, might want their music to reflect their violent reality as they fight and they die beneath Russian jackboots, is beyond me. I can see why hip hop is so popular in Eastern Europe, it is easy, it is a freestyle form where you don’t have to write a tune to write a song, but shouldn’t there be a movie into patriotic hoo hahs like 1916’s “Your King And Country Want You”? The kids in the Ukraine are merging downwards into a world where they might escape from the absolute shit of 2022 by the imagined horrors of gangstaism.

If “Astral Steps” is Shadowraze’s-from what I can tell two young, blonde haired kids in tattoo and hoodies, biggest hit, their current hit, at # 1 in both Ukraine (70K streams today, in a nation of 45M) and Russia (a somewhat robust 450K streams in a nation of 146M) is their most recent single on the nose named “Showdown” with a weird flute like hook. If you take a look at the Baltics, say Estonia, you’ll find Shadowraze at #4 -beaten about by (gasp) Glass Animals and followed by Imagine Dragons…

At # 4 in the Ukraine is Kalush Orchestra, who uses as a banner on Spotify to include the legend, “STOP IT -While You Are listening to music here ukrainian people are dying from russian attack”. A Ukrainian band, offshoot from Kalush, where they use Ukrainian national elements in their rap. I am not sure why Kalush believe that people being attacked, and people being murdered is any reason not to listen to music. If you want to NOT listen to music because people are dying you won’t listen to any music at all. All people do is die. Having said that “Stephanie” is a vocal harmonized intro into a rat-a-tat rap, the song represents the Ukraine at the Eurovision song contest and it is a very strong song. You can tell when a Ukrainian band is going native, they bring out the flute wherever there is a hole.

A little further down is the Ukraine’s foray into hyperpop though it doesn’t remind me of Sophie, Wenaro and Lexnar’s “Ice”. I think it is a singer and a producer, but for some bizarre reason both Shadowraze and Wenaro and Lexnar use anime avatars. Meanwhile, Polish rapper Cyps takes on Putin (“the scum”, and mostly “the carcass”). A song that should stand as the national anthem of Russia’s war crimes and instantly the most important song of 2022. Just before that is fem.love, an emo singer who sounds more like grunge to me, the intro to the break up heart breaker “I Take Pictures Of Sunset” sounds like Hole with a nice piece of theft!

So that’s about it, Ukraine is a breeding ground for modern pop though maybe not precisely Western pop and just for the records, Cyps is a must hear and Shadowraze would be a hit in English. The Eurovision Song Contest 2022 will begin at 3:00 PM on Tuesday, May 10th and ends on Saturday, May 14th, for fuck’s sake make show Kalush are there to represent.

Now return to monitoring the end of the world…

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