It’s almost two weeks since I wrote my last article, ouch! Going back to college has been pretty stressful, but I’ve finally made time to reconnect with the world of Eurovision, in the form of our latest Possible Artists article. Today, I will be focusing on one of my favourite musical countries, and probably the most successful Balkan nation in ESC to date: Serbia!
As a nation, they have a pretty formidable record over the last seven years, with five qualifications, three top-ten showings and, of course, that unforgettable victory on their 2007 début by Marija Serifovic. Much as I have loved the majority of their Eurovision songs, however, I do listen to a lot of Serbian popular music in my own time, and I feel they have sooooo much more to offer to the contest in the future. There are scores of fantastic artists I could introduce to you, and I would gladly sit here all day and do so, however I am limited to two for this article, so I have had to be ruthless!
The first suggestion I would make for Serbia is one of genre. Similar to the Bulgarian chalga scene, Serbia can boast a similar niche of pop-folk known in the region as “turbofolk”. It’s a pretty similar entity to chalga, and as a result, I am equally enamoured with it. The genre was made famous by artists such as Lepa Brena and Ceca (more of her later), but in the last decade or so, the number of contemporary artists releasing this type of music has skyrocketed, as its popularity continues to increase.
Therefore, the artist who I think has just the right balance of experience and relevance for the contest is the absolute QUEEN that is Seka Aleksic:
This song was featured on her second studio album “Balkan” from 2003 – and whilst the video in particular hasn’t aged well (Windows Movie Maker transitions people. Ouch.) this song is the catalyst for so many of the musical habits I have today. So picture the scene: I’m 13, watching the second semi-final of the 2008 contest, and the BBC fill in one of the ad breaks with a cultural skit on Serbia. They mention turbofolk, painting it as a glitzy, sleazy world of partying, violins and manic dance music, giving us a short clip of “Crno I Zlatno” as an example. That first line of the first verse “Ne moras da budes lep, da bi za mene bio pravi”. That was it. I was hooked.
This being the BBC of course, they hadn’t the foggiest idea of how to pronounce the title, and they named the artist only as “Seka”. HELPFUL. It took me MONTHS, but I was determined to find that enchanting melody again, and eventually I discovered Ms. Aleksic and not only this record, but her entire back catalogue too. All of a sudden, I was her biggest fan this side of the English Channel, and the discovery of her music led me to other similar artists from Serbia, which eventually in turn led to the chalga stars I love today.
But enough about me. That song, or rather, a song like it, would be ideal for Eurovision for a number of reasons. Firstly – as I pointed out in the Bulgaria article – Serbia simply haven’t tried it yet. Zeljko has provided them with a number of folk ballads, but the up-tempo modern approach to folk music hasn’t been covered by them yet. That is, of course, no guarantee of success, however the popularity of the genre in neighbouring countries would perhaps indicate that there would be a voting base for this kind of song. Secondly, the umbrella term “turbofolk” covers a number of different sub-genres. Take a listen to one of Seka’s more recent offerings…
The above single “Soba 22” (Room 22) was released in 2011, and showcases Seka’s voice at its most breathtakingly authentic, whilst managing to present a very up-to-date track in the process. Something like this – a fusion of dance and the traditional instrumental and vocal techniques synonymous with the genre – wouldn’t sound out of place in the charts (if we overlook the language) and would thus be particularly suited to participation in Eurovision.
I would recommend having a listen to her hit singles “Dodji I Uzmi Me“, “Bas Mi Se Svidja Tvoja Devojka“, “Tamo Gde Si Ti” [THE BOYS IN THIS VIDEO, WOW] and “Aspirin“, if you like what you’ve heard so far, and want to enjoy more of her music. Whilst she is singing a very contrived style of music in a very expected way, she is doing it very well, and at the end of the day, the end result is catchy as hell, and well worth a listen!
However, whilst I adore her music, it is her personality as much as anything which would leave its mark on the contest. She is one hell of a controversial figure, and she’s not afraid to show it. Her antics are often featured in Serbian tabloids, whether the reports are centred on her relationships, her fashion sense, her figure, her public appearances – or even sometimes her music – the point is that she is pretty much a constant in the Serbian conscious. An artist of such a reputation would no doubt come to ESC with a lot of baggage, and would attract as much publicity as possible to their contest bid. Good or bad, I’m still not sure. But one thing is certain, Seka would certainly make the contest her own, and with a decent song behind her, she would deserve all that attention, as well as a realistic shot at the win. YOU GO GURL.
Failing that, I would turn to a more contemporary Serbian diva, former talent show winner Natasa Bekvalac, with something like her sublime 2012 summer hit “Pozitivna”:
There’s no doubt that this kind of song would bring a much-needed energy to the contest, and after the disappointing result for the ex-Yugoslav nations in 2013, Natasa is exactly the type of artist who I believe could be relied upon to deliver a confident and engaging performance and prove beyond all doubt that Serbia are most definitely back! The hook is catchy, the beat is infectious, the vocal style is less folksy than Seka, so there isn’t even the possibility of scaring off international viewers in that respect. “Pozitivna” would doubtless be accompanied by a polished stage production of the Ani Lorak/Sirusho style, and things like this have been proven to resonate with viewers.
To the majority of Europeans, Natasa would be “just another blonde Eastern European girl” being propelled into Eurovision stardom for her fifteen minutes of fame, but her preceding decade of domestic success would stand her in good stead to give a bloody good show in Copenhagen, and would ensure that Serbia wouldn’t be left in the semis for a second consecutive year.
Alongside these two highlighted artists, I have shortlisted a few other artists whose music I think would be particularly suited to Eurovision too, have a listen!
Aleksandra Radovic – “U Inat Proslosti”
Ceca – “Idealno Losa”
In-Vivo feat. Boyan-T – “Moje Leto”
Jelena Karleusa – “Muskarac Koji Mrzi Zene”
MC Stojan – “U Srce Pucaj Mi”
Dragana Mirkovic – “Pecat Na Usnama”
Svana Lístí Agnarsdottir from Iceland: Seka would be a fantastic singer for Serbia! I don’t know many from the country and I can add another one now! And maybe if those men (from the “Tamo Gde Si Ti” video) are brought along too, they could be getting my vote!
Philippe Canty from France: Natasa Bekvalac wasn’t the best choice. But they can’t send Zeljko every year, can they? 😀
Nathan Stella from The Netherlands: Yes!!!! ❤ Your suggestions are always so flawless 😀
A shortage of views on this one, it has to be said, however, there seems to be general assent for Seka, with maybe a little less confidence in Natasa. In all likelihood, both of these artists are too high profile in Serbia to ever consider a bid at Eurovision, however if they gain a couple of new fans from publication of this article, then my work here is done. RTS, please consider? Thanks. xoxo