Past Master

Feb 25, 2019 by

Past Master

The glory days of Marija Serifovic winning in 2007 with ‘Molitva’ and Zeljko finishing 3rd in 2012 are starting to feel like a bygone era. Can Serbia rekindle past glories this year?

Beovizija (which can be translated as ‘Beovision’) is back with 24 hopefuls gunning for selection as Serbia’s entry for ESC 2019. Unlike last year, there will be two semi-finals on Wednesday and Thursday this week with the final of Beovizija taking place on Sunday evening.

We have 12 songs per semi with 6 qualifying from each via a combination of televoting and the jury panel’s ranking. The same voting structure is expected in the final (but not yet confirmed) with ESC-like scoring (12,10,8…). The running order for the 2 semi-finals is as follows:

Semi 1 – February 27

1 Funked Up – ‘Zašto da se ne desi’
2 Aleksandra Sekulić – ‘Tugo’
3 Osvajači – ‘Voda i plamen’
4 Dunja Vujadinović – ‘7’
5 Mr. Doo – ‘Do 100’
6 Saška Janks – ‘Da li čuješ moj glas’
7 Ivan Kurtić – ‘Bela’
8 Sofija Perić – ‘Aritmija’
9 Extra Nena – ‘Još ti čujem glas’
10 Eleonora – ‘Samo lagano’
11 Wonder Strings & Ivana Vladović – ‘Moja bol’
12 Nataša & Una – ‘Samo bez straha’

Semi 2 – February 28

1 Sanja Rio – ‘Ljubimo se’
2 Majdan – ‘Budim te’
3 Goga Stanić – ‘Čudo’
4 Ana Popović – ‘Lutaš’
5 Lord – ‘Radnički sin’
6 Nevena Božović – ‘Kruna’
7 Gipsykord – ‘Boje’
8 Jana Šušteršić – ‘Viktorija’
9 Lana & Aldo – ‘Pogledaj u nebo’
10 Dženan Lončarević – ‘Nema suza’
11 Tina i Lola Amvon – ‘Tvoje oči’
12 Tamara Milanović – ‘Reči nisu dovoljne’

This year’s line-up doesn’t feature any really big current names (as usual) so there is a combination of young artists along with several seasoned ones trying to make a career step. The competition feels more open than last year when Balkanika band was a heavy favourite. So who are the most likely candidates for the final?

Saška Janks is an accomplished vocalist, finished 2nd in Beovizija last year and looks a potential contender with one of the stronger tunes among the field

Aleksandra Sekulic is known for her X Factor participation a few years back. She’s a theatre actress, singer/dancer but her song is rather average.

Osvajači is a known heavy-rock band; they had a few popular songs 20 years ago you can still hear at retro parties while newer albums are not widely recognised. They can get some votes for nostalgic reasons but they belong to the past.

Mr. Doo was rumoured to be someone of importance since Sanja Ilic from last year’s Balkanika composed his song. In the end some unknown guy popped up singing ‘Na na na’ in a rather poor entry.

Saška Janks is an accomplished vocalist who took part in Eurovision 3 times in the past as a backing vocalist/dancer (2010, 2011, 2015). She finished 2nd in Beovizija last year and looks a potential contender with one of the stronger tunes among the field.

Ivan Kurtic is an interesting one with a song that could became a local hit in Serbia outside of this competition. A few years back he was crowned winner of a ‘Pink star’ folk competition (Pink is a TV station) and his singing style is close to traditional Serbian folk music. Last year in Beovizija he surprisingly didn’t resonate with the televoters. Maybe this is his year.

Extra Nena (real name Snežana Berić) is the most famous name from the old days who represented Yugoslavia at ESC in 1992. Her song is unconventional by Serbian standards and you can hear it’s one of the few with a foreign composer (Ivan Akulov from Moldova, author of ‘Wild Soul’ from ESC 2014). It remains to be seen how almost 60-year-old Nena copes with a demanding live vocal performance.

Ivana Vladović, backing vocalist in 2015 and 2018, is accompanied by Wonder Strings quartet and performs a strong Balkan ballad, or at least strong in studio form. It doesn’t take ages to get going like some other attempts and has a delightful arrangement. It’s easy to imagine a classy staging for this and it should do very well.

Majdan is a young alt-rock band which offers something different from the usual stuff which makes it stand out. However, the song is not strong enough to make serious in-roads.

Goga Stanić has an ambitious tune, seeking to be modern and written by a foreign writing team (Dimitri Stasos, Spain 2009 and Greece 2012). Sadly, it still sounds dated but we can expect some kind of stage show at least.

If Dženan performs well live he shouldn’t be punished by the juries but his lyrics are dealing with still sensitive war subject matter so it might polarize some members

Lord (real name Vladimir Preradović) took 4th place last year and comes back with an ‘energetic’ song with ‘funny’ lyrics as a main selling point. This can go well with the televoters, much less with juries.

Nevena Božović represented Serbia at Junior ESC in 2007 and the real one in 2013 with the group ‘Moje 3’ who failed to qualify from semi-final 1 despite the pimp slot. This year she offers something different – a self-written, competent ballad. It’s not bad at all, a possible contender but still lacking something extra (e.g. a string quartet). Adding a few lines in English was also unnecessary.

Jana Šušteršić is known as a vocalist in the band Neverne Bebe, and also won the Slovenia’s Got Talent competition in 2014. She is a great live vocalist, and her song is by Vladimir Graić who wrote ‘Molitva’. What can go wrong? Well, it suffers from a dated, formulaic slow start with a late culmination, so while probably making the final do not expect a top placement.

Dženan Lončarević has had a reasonable pop career in the last decade and is the biggest name in the line-up. His song is a folksy ballad which resembles the traditional Sevdah Bosnian music. Lyrically it is the most emotional song and a contender.

A surprisingly good performance in the semi-final could push anyone to the final of course but what’s going to happen there? RTS’ YouTube channel is the place to go to assess televote metrics on the released songs (audio only).

At time of writing, Saška leads with 349k views followed by Ivan (250K), Lord (247k) and Dženan (233k). Saška is a bit of a surprise. It appears she has a solid following and since she can do well with the juries maybe she can ‘do a Jamala’ finishing high enough on both sides to win overall. The other 3 are expected to be televote magnets.

Lord will certainly be dismissed by the juries. The same fate could await Ivan due to some questionable lyrics and tougher competition than last year. Dženan is a big question mark. If he performs well live he shouldn’t be punished by the juries but his lyrics are dealing with still sensitive war subject matter so it might polarize some members.

A cover of ‘Lane moje’ intrigued fans by bringing attention to Ivana and some see it as a sign of producer favour and the possibility she will be the jurors’ preferred candidate

Nevena has a disappointing 107k views, and more worrying for Wonder Strings & Ivana fans, ‘Moja bol’ has only mustered 62k views. This track is perceived as one of the best songs in studio form, but as always it will come down to the live performance. However, conspiracy theorists point to the fact this clip surfaced 2 weeks before the songs presentation.

This cover of ‘Lane moje’ intrigued fans by bringing attention to Ivana and while it hasn’t triggered massive YT views some see it as a sign of producer favour and the possibility she will be the jurors’ preferred candidate.

So while some appear to have more chance than others, it looks wide open. We will obviously learn more after the semi-finals. Serbia’s Outright odds shortened on Betfair in anticipation (or maybe false hope) of another ‘Molitva’ turning up among this year’s field. After hearing the songs the market was unimpressed and Serbia is available to back at time of writing at 300.

The country’s wait for another ESC winner looks like being delayed by at least one more year but there could be something lurking of enough quality to progress to the grand final from semi 1.

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