What if… Macedonia sent “Imperija”?

What if I could change the path of time, what if I had the power to decide… what if Macedonia sent “Imperija” to Eurovision?! Yeah, we’ve decided to trial a series of articles where we explore what could have come to pass in Malmö if certain things had been different in the run-up to the contest. In the first of these articles, I’m going to discuss the debacle that was the Macedonian selection for 2013…

"Imperija" was the song originally selected for Macedonia in late February
“Imperija” was the song originally selected for Macedonia in late February

It’s fair to say that the prevailing attitude among ESC fans after MKTV’s artist announcement was one of intrigue. Simply put, the unlikely pairing of 69-year-old Gypsy queen Esma Redžepova and 27-year-old pop singer Vlatko Lozanoski would either work or it wouldn’t. Whilst Esma’s extensive back-catalogue allowed us to pretty much predict exactly what part she would play in the song, I personally always saw the success or failure of the entry as dependent on what style the songwriters chose to match to Vlatko. Esma could *wail* along to whatever-the-hell-she-liked – and that’s not meant to be as derogatory as it sounds; for me, her style of singing is just epic and the power in her voice is unbelievable. I would love to have heard what a pop-folk Esma solo number would have sounded like in all honesty.

What we eventually got, however, was pretty close to that:

Ladies and gentlemen: the sublime “Imperija”.

Three bars in and I loved it. It seemed like they had just got it right. Lozano carried the majority of the melody, yet Esma was allowed her extraordinary vocal gymnastics and they didn’t impede the song in any way. The instrumentation was a hybrid of folk and early electro-pop with an insane brass solo in the middle 8. Macedonia appeared to be sailing into their second consecutive final.

But it was of course, short-lived.

Days after the announcement, the news broke that in light of online criticism from Macedonian nationals, and tensions with Greece over some scenes from the official video, the song was to be withdrawn and replaced. Oh. Well that was disappointing. All we could hope was that they would strike gold a second time…

And, well… by May, this is what they ended up with:

*sighs*. Whilst 16th place in the semi is definitely not what this deserved, and this song will remain a personal favourite of mine regardless of the barrage of criticism it has received… for a Eurovision entry, “Pred Da Se Razdeni” just didn’t work.

As many have pointed out before me, the key problem here is the lack of interaction. The two singers appear mismatched as anything, and their respective parts of the song fit together about as well as Lys Assia singing “Satellite” (oh if only…) Vlatko’s opening verse is just fine, but then Esma struts out on the stage robed in her shower curtain of choice, and things only go further downhill when she opens her mouth to sing. The only saving grace perhaps is the fact that she did at least get the timing right for the live performance at Eurovision… but the sheer fact that I’m pointing that out as a positive only serves to show the comparative weakness of the entry as a whole.

“Pred Da Se Razdeni” wasn’t a great move for Macedonia. But, to return to the original question: would “Imperija” have been a better one?

Being a fan of both songs, I would objectively say yes, it would. Whilst the song itself is largely more accessible, I’d also argue that the fact that something as simple as having both singers partake in the chorus, or having sections of unison between the two make it function better as a duet – which is essentially what they were going for, right? Coming from semi-final 2, I reckon it would have received heavy comparison to the Bulgarian entry, but would have been more likely to score with both juries and televoters owing to its more conventional structure and superior vocal prowess. It may have been the one to beat Georgia to 10th place, you never know. And once in the final – bearing in mind it would have benefitted from being the only Balkan song on Saturday night – maaaan that’s dangerous!

Your views:

What do you think?
What do you think?

Haris Karas from Greece: The reason it failed was Esma’s performance not the song. and their entry is much better than this banal ethno schlager anyway.

Richard West-Soley from United Kingdom: Convinced this would have been in the final if they’d sent it! They must be kicking themselves!

Michael Romano from Australia: Abandoning Imperija was a mistake. Pred Da Se Razdeni didn’t gain the same amount of support as Imperija got from the fans and it wasn’t really a duet, it looked a bit weird.

Keith Mills from Ireland: It would have qualified but not Top 10 in the final.

So, to answer today’s “what if…”, I think we can conclude that “Imperija” had more potential for Eurovision success had they stuck to their initial decision. The problems of presentation and cohesion may have still been present, but the overall view appears to be that it was indeed a better song for the contest.

But what do you think? Feel free to leave comments below!!

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