I have always enjoyed the Serbian entrants to ESC so I was excited to get the chance to review their National Finals this year. Beovizija 2018 was held this week and each entrant was requested to submit their song in the Serbian national language or one of the recognised minor languages of the country. There were 75 submissions ( submitted anonymously to a jury for selection) and the final came down to 17 songs.
The winning entry on the night "Nova deca" , "Our children", was performed by Sanja Illic and Balkanika.
This song has a familiar Balkan sound ( pop music and traditional Balkan instruments) and is introduced by a long period of " ethno moaning". Lots of drums and high quality vocals. I felt it was one of 2 standout entries of the night and with good staging and some fine tuning (less moaning) it will improve greatly. The song really didn't build to its ending and it seemed abrupt and unfinished. The composer is Akelsander Sanja Ilic and he is also the bandleader. Interestingly, he composed the 1982 Yugoslavian ESC entry, "Halo, halo". Perhaps his song will,have wider appeal in 2018?
Let's hope "Nova deca" can improve on his 1982, 14th place finish.
2. Saska Janks -"Pesma za tebe" - Song for you
A bit of a surprise with Saska in flowing bright pink hair and Aqua trousers and jacket ensemble. The start of this song reminded me of a Christmas Carol and it built well to what felt like an Anthem and then slid into a gospel feel at the end. Many of the lyrics seemed spoken ( almost a constricted voice at times) but when she reached the chorus she belted out the lyrics. I was surprised that it placed second on the night, narrowing missing a win by only 4 points! Clearly a Serbian favourite, what can I say?
3. Dusan Svilar - " Pod krosnjom bagrema" - Under the locust tree
Derserving of 3rd place, this was a big love song performed by big voice. Dusan seemed charismatic on stage and I could feel the emotion in this song. What stood out tho, was an extremely awkward, what can only be described as "panting" interjection by the female backing singers. Very distracting!
4. Lord- " Samo neck se okrece" - Just let it turn
Probably my favourite song of the night. A cabaret type number, upbeat and catchy with relevant modern dancers. Described as folk - electro and a polished performance by lead and ensemble but perhaps little room for improvement or development for Lisbon. I felt it would have been a worthy winner.
5. Ivan Turkic- "Ni sunca ni meseca" - Neither sun nor moon
I can only describe it as a "tortured with love" song, with heavy ethnic influences and some very handy dance moves. Just when the performance is getting better and going along well, Ivan misses his big notes at the end. Thanks again to the dedicated dancers, who saved this song from total disaster!
Now a quick summary of those performances that finished 6 th - 10 th place because some of them deserve an honourable/dishonourable mention.
6. Boris Rezak - "Vila" Fairy
A Charleston ragtime number with risqué dance moves to keep up the interest. Boris is out of breath for most of the performance- needs to go the 1920's equivalent of a gym more often.
7. Danijel Pavlovic- "Reza sudbine" Rose of destiny
This Composer and performer is also the half-brother of ESC winner Marija Serifovic(Molitva, Serbia 2007)
A military inspired ballad, with a romantic feel, strong vocals and a child in the ensemble. Good vocals must be in the DNA.
8. Rambo Amadeus and Beti Dordevic "Nema te" You're Gone
The much hyped return of Rambo(ESC Montenegro 2012 entrant). This is a jazz number with Beti providing interesting and sensitive vocals but turns to farce when Rambo interjects and talks over her. Rambo - I wish you WERE GONE! You should have stayed in Montenegro. Song never recovers.
9 Maja Nickolic - "Zemlja cuda" Wonderland
A favourite going into the final, it disappointed me. It seems it is a genre called " Turbo folk" that is growing in popularity in Serbia and this performer is a specialist in her craft. Maja ( a Famous Serbian Popstar last century) dressed in a Dracula cape performs this high energy number in a circus like arena. To me it sounded off key and just a inferior rehash of last year's Moldovan entry by Sunstroke Project. She even repeats their chorus in her performance. Ummmm...
10 Koktel Balkan- "Zato" Because
Modern number by pop rock band. The female lead singer got off to a nervous start but built to a modest chorus with some appeal. Lost its way at the end. Showed promise tho.
Best wishes Serbia. I will be keeping an eye on your performance in Lisbon.