Eurovision 2003: Russia’s t.A.T.u in focus

Already notably famous across Europe, t.A.T.u represented Russia at the 2003 Eurovision Song Contest. They caused – and created controversy, and finished third in a very tight voting, where only United Kingdom and Ireland didn’t award them any points.

In January 2001 the Russian broadcaster asked for artists and song writers to submit their proposals. Proposals were submitted from Smash!! (male pop duo made up of Sergey Lazarev and Vlad Topolov), Kristina Orbakaite,and Avraam Russo amongst others. The proposals were reviewed by a jury panel with the announcement being made in March that t.A.T.u had been internally selected to represent Russia with the song Ne Ver’, Ne Boisia. The title of the song is based on a Russian saying used in prison ‘Don’t believe, don’t fear and don’t ask’.

At the Eurovision Song Contest the girls caused the chaos that was expected; they showed up late to rehearsals and complained about the poor lighting and stage during a press conference which resulted in the duo being booed by some of the journalists in attendance.

There were also some concerns that the duo would try to make a lesbian publicity stunt on stage. It looked like this might happen when the girls ran in different directions and up the bridge at the back of the stage, meeting in the middle as they knelt opposite each other. But fortunately for the EBU that was as far as it went.

Ne Ver’ Ne Boisia – Opinions from fans

In order to find out what Eurovision fans today think of this Russian entry from 2003, we asked our Eurovision Fan Panel. It includes team members as well as fans from all over the world.

Wouter V. – Back in 2003, the threat of t.A.T.u. including a “lesbian kiss” in their performance caused quite a stir. I remember sifting through the rules that year, and there was nothing written against any kind of kissing on stage so I don’t know what that fuss was about. But Skontohallen was buzzing the latest t.A.T.u. gossip at all times. Whether it was about them showing up at a press conference, or not showing up, boycotting or sabotaging a rehearsal, or suddenly being very cooperative, being hospitalised but then again maybe not, they were a constant focus of attention. And I was enjoying it, for a large part because their song was actually quite good. Some friends explained the symbolism in the song, making me only more positive about it.
Unfortunately all of this commotion didn’t help them focus on their performance, which didn’t turn out all that great. And with that tiny margin between Russia, Belgium and Turkey they probably threw away the victory that way.

Ashleigh K. – Ne Ver’ Ne Boisia is one of my favourite songs from Russia at Eurovision. It’s not your typical Eurovision song, it has bite and I love that it was sang completely in Russian. The girls really butchered the live performance, the vocals were shaky and out of tune which I fear is the only thing that will be remembered from this great song. That being said it’s still one of my favourites so long as I’m listening to the pre-recorded track and not the live performance.

🇫🇮 🇨🇴 Álvaro S. – My first reaction to t.A.T.u’s entry is nostalgia. Nostalgia because they bring me back to the early 00s when I was still in high school and also because it sounds incredible to think there was a big scandal about the possibility that the girls would kiss on stage.How times change! Even if this act was just exploiting the sexuality of the two members of t.A.T.u. they had a huge cultural impact that went beyond this publicity stunt. Now talking about the act, I don’t like their vocals. It was an interesting show but my ears still bleed every time I listen to Ne Ver Ne Boysia Ne Prosi.

🇩🇰 Charlotte J. – I’m sorry, but this song really annoys me. Their voices, the music… It’s all noise to me, and I try to block it out. I do see why it might appeal to others, but it’s just not for me. This was the first Eurovision I went to as press, and the girls’ attitude of course doesn’t help on my impression of them personally either.

🇬🇧 Michael O. – I expected something outrageous from them after all the pre contest hype but this was a let down and a half. The singing is terrible and the song only got points through the perceived hype. Absolutely dreadful and the beginning of the end for t.a.t.u.

Christopher D. – I never understood the hype around this girl duet and the song. They did an awful presentation on stage but still managed to place an undeserved third, in my opinion. I really do look forward for Russian acts in Eurovision as they do send some amazing songs, but although these girls were quite popular at that time, they totally did not leave an impact on me.

🇳🇴 Steinar M. – This is maybe my 2nd favourite song from Russia, after Lady Alpine Blue. Recent Russian entries have been too generic for my taste. But in the years 2000-10 they had many good songs. This is a strong, powerful energetic song. Kind of mix of dance/indierock. And great to see such a famous act take part. Thankfully, no “scandals” on stage which they said they would bring.

🇪🇸 Alexander S. – In 2003 Russia sent a famous duet to Riga with a big hype that worked very well as T.AT.U got number 3 ……they created some fuzz and some headlines which were enough to have a good result. The song even entered Danish and Belgium charts apart from the local ones …..As for the song , It is an average one, not my cup of tea, but, at least It is in Russian .Furthermore, they did not have the best performance of the night…out of tune.

Kat H. – With their reputation for the controversial and after failing to turn up for their first rehearsal (not to mention insulting the German delegation), Tatu were always going to be notorious. They were almost guaranteed a degree of success due to their hugely successful singles the year before. This is one of those songs where listening to the recorded version is fine, but the live version is like scratching fingernails over a chalk board. How this entry finished 3rd is beyond me – even Jemini were more in tune than them and that’s a very bold statement! (Well not really!)

🇦🇺 Vivienne F. – Ah the last Eurovision my dear Mother RIP watched with me before she died. I liked this song, it had a great beat but they stuffed it up on stage. Secretly I was glad because I heard they had been rude with Lou from Germany about her age, and I think they were trying to be controversial with their lesbianism, I am glad the Irish jury had some technical problems. My favourites that year were the winner Turkey, Belgium, Portugal, Croatia, Poland, Romania and my guilty pleasure France’s Louisa.

Paul K. – I might seem way too harsh but i did not like this! I get why people like it, i mean, it is a song you’d expect from eurovision in the noughties! But something about this song puts me off; and i think it’s their voices. I’m not a fan of their style, and after listening to it all the way through the first time, i cant get past the first chorus without not liking it. It’s not my piece of cake, so i give this a 2/10 because their voices bring the song down so much. The melody had promise but they executed it horribly and that’s why i don’t like it unfortunately.

🇨🇿 Josef Š. – t.A.T.u were really famous back then and so it was an obvious choice to send them to Eurovision. As much as I like almost all their songs, their Eurovision song is not my cup of tea. I don’t like the song at all and poor live vocals did not help. Here I believe that most of their points were either because of it being Russia or because of their huge popularity.

Theo V. – One of the first things that comes to mind is all the (staged ?) controversy surrounding t.A.T.u – would they kiss onstage, would they not, would it matter? The duo, then fresh from international hits like All The Things She Said, ought to have instead concentrated more on their live performance, which looks ill-rehearsed, loose and amateurish. Shame because Ne Ver’, Ne Boysia is a rather good track. Still, the 2003 Russian entry remains iconic as an emblem of tolerance from the country at the time.

Enjoy t.A.T.u’s performance from the 2003 Eurovision Song Contest in this embedded video. Below the video, you can read more about the duo.

A Mini Biography of t.A.T.u

t.A.T.u are a music duo made up of Lena Katina and Yulia Volkova. Their first Russian single was released in 2001 which was re-written in English with the help of Trevor Horn (The Buggles) and became All The Things She Said. The song is about two girls developing feelings for each other but not being approved of by those around them. The controversial video, which showed the duo dressed as school girls french kissing in the rain became an instant hit across Europe with the song going platinum in many countries.

The duo released several singles and albums after coming third at Eurovision in 2003, but were unable to emulate the success of their debut.

In 2011, The duo disbanded to continue their careers as solo artists but briefly reunited for a special performance in the pre-opening of the Winter Olympics in Sochi. Yulia tried to enter Eurovision again with Dima Bilan. Their song Back To Her Future finished in second place in the national selection behind Party For Everybody by Buranoskyie Babushki.

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