Croatia - Kyle Woods

After what seemed like an eternal dormancy, the world again turned its eyes to beautiful Opatija, Croatia on February 16, 2019 to view the well-loved Croatian national selection competition “Dora.”

This year saw 16 hopefuls take the stage.  The following are my thoughts on each:

§  Bojan Jambrošić & Danijela Pintarić – “Vrijeme Predaje”  – For those who do not regularly listen to Croatian music, this is a fairly typical example.  The title means “time of submission.”  The performance felt uninspired and boring, and Bojan and Danijela had really no chemistry – they could have been in two separate recording booths and it would have had the same effect.  Definitely not a winner, so good job Croatia on not submitting to this one.

§  Jelena Bosančić – “Tell Me” – While “Vrijeme predaje” was uninspired, “Tell Me” was comically bad.  Jelena took to the stage in a hideous black dress with a team of backup singers in coats and tails (with very red socks) who essentially snapped their fingers and did jazz hands.  The highlight was when one held a newspaper and Jelena stroked it for a moment.  I was about a minute into the song before I realized it was in English.  

§  Kim Verson – “Nisam to što žele” –  They seem to be getting worst.  Kim seems to have been directed to scream into the microphone and breathe heavily.  While that certainly allows her to be heard, this does not an amazing performance make.  The song is quite repetitive, and the title (“I am not what they want”) is unfortunately prophetic.

§  Jure Brkljača – “Ne postojim kad nisi tu” – Finally we get something decent.  Jure looks a bit nervous on stage, clutching his microphone stand and closing his eyes – he almost looks like he is praying.  However, his voice is good and he comes off sincere.  The song feels like it would feel at home with any number of Dalmatian ballads.  Although Jure sings about how he “does not exist when you’re not here,” the song is a decent, if unoriginal, entry.

§  Beta Sudar – “Don’t Give Up” – Beta has vibes of XXL’s “100% te Ljubam” from 2000 (Macedonia).  Her accent is kind of comical (she says “You got a life you gotta leave” for example) and her dress kind of looks like it was made from a plastic trash bag.  While the song is kind of trashy, it’s at least upbeat and fun.

§  Lea Mijatović – “Tebi Pripadam”  – This is a decent song and is enjoyable to me as a Croatian speaker – there is lot of good internal rhyme and interesting use of Croatian sounds.  However, it probably wouldn’t resonate with a Eurovision audience.  The title means “I belong to you” – I actually enjoy this song, and Lea looks gorgeous.  However, the backup singers are a bit too loud, and the on-stage performance is fairly dull to watch.

§  Gelato Sisters – “Back to the Swing” – this one is the guilty pleasure of this year’s Dora.  This seems like Croatia’s answer to the Andrews Sisters.  You also get to watch a couple sitting at a table on stage get up and spontaneously start to dance.  Although I don’t think it’s an amazing song, it’s at least memorable and the performance is coherent.   As a bonus, the red-headed “sister” is a dead ringer for Jinkx Monsoon. 

§  Luka Nižetić – “Brutalero” – I don’t really know what to say about this one.  The first minute or so is just a bunch of LED screens with eyes and mouths.  Eventually Luka comes out wearing his lemoncello fantasy and proceeds to lie down on an LED screen while images of pineapples and soup cans flash by.  It’s certainly entertaining, but the song itself is pure trash.    Also, I am not sure what’s going on in his groin region – is his fly down?  I didn’t dare to zoom in for fear of what I might find.

§  Ećlis Lovri – “All I Really Want” – this one would be my pick for the year.  Ećlis kind of feels like she might have been a hippie back in the day.  She comes on stage armed with her guitar and wearing way too much red.  I am not quite sure why a bunch of random words appear behind her, but I do feel like she sold her song!  Her voice is unique – it’s both shrill and charming at the same time – she called back memories of Eva Maria Marold’s Schwartze Königin, and I loved it.

§  Domenica – “Indigo” – This is unfortunately quite catchy, and the ladies look like they’re having fun.  It feels more like something you would see at the Moonlight Lounge rather than the Eurovision stage, though, and the lyrics are not exactly inspiring. At least it’s enjoyable.   

§  Roko Blažević – “The Dream”  – Roko is not a bad performer, but the song kind of feels like he is channeling his inner Dima Bilan.  I can’t say I love this one – the lyrics are quite sappy.  I guess we all dream of love, though!  I wish he had just stuck with Croatian all the way through.  Ultimately it feels like a fairly typical Eurovision non-winner, but who doesn’t love a leather jacketed angel, right?  There is a great moment about halfway through the song (right before he switches to Croatian) where makes eyes with the camera and kind of tips his head up – this had me laughing to no end. 

§  Ema Gagro – “Redemption” – It looks like Ema is going for the Celine Dion 1988 look – seriously, look at that hairdo!  Her dress would win the award for ugliest outfit had Lidija Bačić not shown up 3 minutes later.  The song itself isn’t bad, and she isn’t a bad singer either, but the performance comes off more comical than sincere. 

§  Lidija Bačić  – “Tek je počelo” – the title means “It’s just begun” and the whistling at the start is ironically the best part.  The song itself is fun but trashy, so good job Croatia on passing this one up.  So now let’s talk about these outfits!  Lidja is wearing full-body pantyhose over her black undies, and her backup dancers are wearing shredded plastic masks and “dresses” that look like they were made from blinds.  She would be in the running for Barbara Dex if she had been selected. 

§  Lorena Bućan – “Tower of Babylon” – I think this was supposed to be “Tower of Babel” but sure, why not Babylon?!  Lorena is channeling her inner Ruslana here.  She looks good, and the song is fun.  However, I was halfway through the chorus before I realized it was in English, so there’s some irony in that title!  Even though I don’t love the song, it would have fit well into the fun of Eurovision!

§  Bernarda Bruno – “I Believe in True Love” – I am not familiar with Bernarda, but I am going to give her the benefit of the doubt and assume she is wearing the dark glasses because of being vision impaired.  She has an amazing Voice (with a capital V) and she looks fantastic on stage.  I find the song to be uninspired, but I sure love to listen to her sing it.  Certainly the best singer of this year’s Dora.

§  Manntra – “In the Shadows” – Another…memorable song.  This feels like it would have been more appropriate from Finland or Hungary than from Croatia.  There were definitely some sound problems here – the background music is a bit too loud to allow the lead singer to be heard at some points.  I am not really into this kind of music anyway, but this one didn’t even feel like it was done very well.

When the dust settled, it looks like Croatia was unable to resist Roko Blažević’s angelic presentation, and “The Dream” was selected to represent Croatia this year.  Not my pick, but the pickings were sadly kind of slim.     

On the whole, this year’s Dora was kind of disappointing personally – Croatia has some amazing musicians, but none of them really showed up this time.  However, I am glad Dora is back in any case.  Croatia has had a good showing in recent years, so hopefully Dora’s return will help them someday pick a winner.