Great Forgotten Pop Songs: Ruslana – Wild Dances

For a recent great forgotten pop song, I shared my love of Scandipop. Now, I’m going to spread the love in a distinctly Slavic direction.

Ruslana’s Wild Dances won the 2004 Eurovision Song Contest (and an eternal place in my heart and hard drive) with one of the highest point totals of all-time, whilst Terry Wogan tutted on-high, branding her Xena: Warrior Princess. Lucy Lawless wishes!

Ruslana exudes fierceness. And no, we’re not talking the sexy-scowly wild-eyed fierceness that Tyra and her minions specialise in, yet a total ferocity where you wouldn’t be surprised to see her tear a man into mincemeat before busting out a nifty little dance routine atop his carcass and finishing things off with a howl of a top-note. And he’d still come back begging for more.

Wild Dances pounds with raw energy and near-tribal rhythms, complete with a drumming section from the lady herself. Factor in an ear-pricking attention-grabbing horn intro, skimpy leather costumes complete with bits of animal hanging off them and a tune so feral it demands to be stomped along to, it’s a unique hunk of Ukranian pop greatness. And frankly, you can’t argue with lyrics like ‘Day-na-day-na wanna be loved’, can you?

This was one of the first Eurovision winners to be sung partly in the country’s own language, which makes it even better for someone listening with an English-only ear. The best way to whip yourself into a Ruslana-shaped frenzy is to grunt suitably primal noises along to the Ukranian lyrics, making you really believe you’re participating in some sort of ritualistic chant. I also can’t resist beating something along with the rhythm – be it my seat, my chest or my flabby thighs – which has drawn a few strange looks on public transport. I believe that when most critics describe a song as air-punching, they mean it in a purely figurative sense; nevertheless, I find it becomes a fist-clenching reality as the shouting ‘Hey!’s of Wild Dances always propel me to aim my best right hooks skywards.

At the end of the day though, Wild Dances does exactly what it says on the tin. If it came along sounding all meek and mild, or even if it socked it to you with an immaculately-produced Dr Luke/Max Martin hook, it just wouldn’t feel right. As it is, Ruslana’s throaty efforts ensure that it’s three minutes of stomping staggering and downright bonkers pop dynamite. And it’s badass enough to be featured on Grand Theft Auto IV. Go! Go! Go! Wild dancers!

UK Chart Peak: 47
Key lyric: ‘Go! Go! Go! Wild dancers!’
Get more bonkers Slavic pop: I really don’t know anymore. Just stick Ruslana on repeat. It works for me.

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