Maja Keuc – "Vanilija" for Slovenia
I had the pleasure of watching Slovenia’s preselection show yesterday (again, thank you to www.eurovision.tv for providing live links and on-demand replays to so many of the National Finals!), and, to tell you the truth, my expectations were somewhat low. The Slovenes, while known for their beautiful mountains and the stunning Lake Bled, aren’t quite as renowned for their Eurovision selections. They used to make a fair bit of impact on the scoreboard, but they haven’t cracked the Top Ten in a decade, and they’ve only made it to the Finals once since the Semifinals were established. Their song last year, the clumsily-titled “Narodnozabavni Rock”, was one of my least favorite songs in Oslo. I grit my teeth and braced myself for a repeat of last year’s EMA winner, a glass of wine and a pint of ice cream at my side, ready to console me if needed.
I am thrilled to say that my expectations were not only surpassed, but absolutely shattered! (Granted, I needed the wine and ice cream later that evening to get through the Macedonian selection, but that’s a story for another time.) Ljubljana really stepped up its game, and gave a great variety of ballads, pop, rock, and comedy, many of which could have been successful Eurovision entries. In the end, it came down to two superfinalists: the Lady Gaga-inspired April with “Ladadidej” and the eventual winner, Maja Keuc’s power ballad “Vanilija (Vanilla)”.
This might be not only the best Slovenian submission in recent memory (beating even 2007’s epic “Cvet z Juga“), but, in my eyes, it’s the best of 2011’s ballads so far. Maja’s voice brings just enough of an R&B influence to keep the song fresh and modern, and the arrangement is very dramatic, which I personally like. Supposedly, Maja and her team are planning to perform “Vanilija” in English in Düsseldorf, which I’m somewhat wary of. If he translation is good and her English sounds fluent enough, it could work well…otherwise, we might be in for a bit of a letdown. But this song has the potential to make people sit up and take notice, especially after a few listens.
Slovenia, as far as I’m concerned, you’ve more than redeemed yourself.