Bulgaria has decided: it’s Sofi Marinova!
Bulgaria hosted their National Final in a midweek program, and a dozen songs competed for the right to represent the country in Baku. The nation has only passed through the semifinals once (with 2007’s “Voda“), and only missed out on last year’s Final by a slim, six-point margin. Who would succeed the fantastic Poli Genova in Bulgaria?
Through a split jury/televote (and, technically, a tie!), the winner is Sofi Marinova, singing “Love Unlimited”:
Sofi received maximum points from the public televote, but only came in third with the in-house jury. The inverse was true for eventual runner-up “Chance for better life” by the group New Five, but as the public’s pick took precedence, we’ll be seeing the 36-year old Roma chalga singer in Baku. She has tried in the past to be her nation’s flag-bearer on the international stage; she was the runner up in Bulgaria’s first National Selection, with 2005’s “Edinstveni“. Two years later, she came in third place with “Ya tvoya“.
I’m personally a bit ambivalent about this entry. Maybe I’m just a little sore over “Na Inat”‘s failure to qualify last year (it’s still one of the 2011 entries I listen to most often, which really isn’t very fair to Sofi, since you can’t really compare chalga to pop-rock. “Love Unlimited” uses the hook/gimmick of throwing every possible language into the chorus (as far as I can tell, I see Turkish, Greek, Spanish, Bosnian-Serbo-Croat, French, Italian, Arabic, and host language Azeri, alongside Bulgarian). I really disliked that tactic in Romania’s 2007 entry “Liubi, Liubi, I Love You“, but somehow it seems to work better with a piercing female voice and pounding chalga beat behind it. There really haven’t been a ton of uptempo, female-led ethnic songs this year (Can Bonomo and Tooji have the men covered, and Ivi Adamou and Anggun are uptempo, but not really ethnic), so this might stand out, but knowing Bulgaria’s track record, it might be a tough sell to the Final.
(Bonus trivia fact: Considering that Azerbaijan will only be performing in the Finals, this song will include the first lyrics in Azeri ever heard on a Eurovision stage!)