ESC 2010 Reviews: Serbia
Next up on our list is Serbia. One could argue when Serbia’s actual debut in Eurovision was. Some might say it was 1961, when the entry from Yugoslavia was from the ethnically-Serbian part of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and the song was sung in Serbian. It could have been 1962, when the Yugoslavian singer was from Belgrade. It might have been 1992, when the newly redrawn borders of Yugoslavia coincided with what is Serbia today. It could have been 2004, when the first entry from a then-unified Serbia and Montenegro took to the Eurovision stage. Or it might have been 2007, when an independent Serbia debuted and ended up taking the whole contest home. Confused yet? I know I was…Anyway, for the sake of argument, I’m going to be focusing mostly on more recent entries here (frankly, because they’re generally better and more memorable than their early pieces).
Serbia (and Montenegro) had their first official entry in 2004 with Željko Joksimović and the Ad Hoc Orchestra’s “Lane Moje (My Dear)“. This stunning Balkan ballad combined a stirring melody, a great vocal performance, and a touch of ethnic flavor. It won its semifinal, but ended up taking a close second place to the Ukraine. This, however, would not be the last we would hear from Željko, who would compose 2008’s entry, as well as 2006’s song from Bosnia and Herzegovina, “Lejla”.
As the union between Serbia and Montenegro dissolved in 2006, both nations started to enter Eurovision independently starting in 2007. Montenegro (who has decided to skip the 2010 Eurovision contest) has never been able to get out of the semifinals, but Serbia was a different story. In their debut as an independent nation, Serbia’s song “Molitva (Prayer)” by Marija Šerifović took home the victory, scoring over thirty points more than the runner up, Ukraine. Not only was “Molitva” a beautiful song, but it was a bit of a record-breaker, as well. With the exception of the first running of the contest, no debuting nation had ever won the grand prize. Furthermore, it was the first winner since 1998 to not be sung in English (before 1998, nations had to sing in their native language; afterwards, any language could be used). The song used no pyrotechnics, no flashy choreography, no costume changes…it stood on its own merits, and garnered a well-deserved win. The next year’s entry, Jelena Tomašević’s “Oro“, was a return to Željko Joksimović’s wheelhouse of ethnically-inspired ballads. In a competitive year, it scored in 6th place.
Last year, Serbia decided to get a bit wacky, sending Marko Kon and accordion player Milaan with “Cipela (Shoe)“. Although it placed 10th in its semifinal, the 13th-placed entry from Croatia that year was given the ticket to the finals, as it was the jury’s choice. Despite the disappointment, “Cipela” was a fun little diversion, with manic choreography and even more manic hair on Marko.
Keeping things upbeat for the second year in a row, this year brings us Milan Stanković with “Ovo Je Balkan (“This is Balkan)”, composed by local musical hero Goran Bregović.
The song definitely brings in some of the the ethnic qualities that “Lane Moje” and “Oro” displayed, but injected with taurine and speed. The focus on the number three in the song is also significant among Serbians; a three-fingered salute (check out about :52 seconds into the song for Milan’s) is seen as a national marker of cultural identity. Will it make it into the finals? Well, if bloc voting has anything to say about it, Serbia already has a leg up on the competition. Bosnia & Herzegovina and Macedonia are also in the first semifinal, so that might help a bit. I wouldn’t be shocked if this made it through to the next level, but if it scored higher than tenth place in the finals, I’d be taken a bit aback. Regardless, it’s a fun song with a surprising amount below the surface, and I’m looking forward to how it’s presented on the stage in Oslo.