Montenegro has participated in the Eurovision Song Contest 10 times, but they’ve only made it to the Grand Prix Final twice. Their output has run the gamut from pop rock to metal to rap to Balkan ballads to performance art to Slavko realness. Generally, they have been interesting and often memorable. But they haven’t really been successful yet.
Can D mol take Montenegro to Eurovision heaven? Or will their country remain in Song Contest purgatory?
D mol are a Montenegrin singing group so obscure the official Eurovision website said, “Little background details were revealed about the group, but as they only got elevated to the international stage tonight, we will surely get to know them better in the days and weeks to come.” We’d love it if they just never provide the EBU with a bio and if anyone asks the members personal questions, they’d coyly reply, “Mum’s the word.”
Montenegro has already announced that “Heaven” is getting a revamp for Eurovision. Fair enough, because the arrangement was a bit dated. Even so, we enjoyed “Heaven.” It’s chock full of major chords and catchy, sunny melodies. Of course, a pleasant, cheerful pop ballad is not exactly set up to be a world-beater, so that revamp is going to need to do some heavy lifting to change Montenegro’s fortunes.
The presentation at Montevizija 2019 was cute, but D mol was confined to the stage prop. We’d want Montenegro to expand on the original idea and figure out how to make it more dynamic. Also, they need to changing D mol’s styling because for some reason the one of the singers was dressed up like Emily Dickinson.
There’s old fashioned and then there is 1800s old fashioned.
UPDATED 3/9/2019: Here’s D mol’s revamp. And they’ve changed their name from D-Moll or D Moll to D mol. The main change is the addition of folk instrumentation and given how insane that first Semi has shaped up, we’re pretty sure that’s not going to be enough.
Winter is coming to Lisbon. (See, because “Inje” translates as “Hoarfrost.”)
Vanja Radovanović is a singer-songwriter who has released a number of albums both as a solo artist and as a member of the band VIII2. He won an award for best debut at the 2004 Music Festivalu Budva, and his album Pričaj Dodirom is one of the biggest selling albums in Montenegro’s history. He seems very serious, but when he mentions his love of “Pokusaj” and lists Charles Bukowski as one of his interests on his Facebook page, we suddenly find him quite endearing.
On paper, Montenegro’s entry has potential. Vanja is a charismatic singer and “Inje” is a more grounded, solid entry than this year’s other Balkan ballad, Serbia’s meandering entry “Nova deca.” And it feels as grand in scope as any of the Balkan ballads that have previously graced the Eurovision stage.
Yet, we have trouble generating a lot of enthusiasm for it. We don’t seem to be alone on this either: Montenegro sits at the bottom of the betting odds as of this writing. Why is that? Maybe because it is merely a solid example of its genre. It’s not exciting to us. Perhaps, like the dying relationship Vanja sings about, we have been made numb by “worn routine.”
As they think about staging, Montenegro should take a close look at Knez’s performance and staging at the 2015 Song Contest. We had similar feelings about “Adio” when it first came out, but Knez brought the drama and qualified for the Grand Final. For this to similarly succeed, Vanja needs to make us feel something.
If Jacques Houdek could be this year’s Cezar, then Slavko Kalezić could be this year’s Scooch.
Slavko Kalezić competed on the first series of X Factor Adria, where he was mentored by none other than Željko Joksimović. But “Space” is about as far away from one of Joksimović’s classic Balkan ballads as cocaine is from Nutella.
The video for “Space” looks like a cross between a RuPaul’s Drag Race performance challenge and a Kids In the Hall sketch. In other words, Slavko is not going to spread for no roses.
It’s Teacher’s Day in Albania, and what better way to celebrate than by doing an educational post about the latest news from the Eurovision Song Contest?
Armenia: Iveta Mukuchyan – “LoveWave”
Here is a question we like to ask: what’s worse – being memorably bad or just being unmemorable? Last year’s Eurovision entry from Armenia was terrible, but this year’s entry is mediocre at best. Unless there is a staging miracle in Stockholm, we will remember “Face the Shadow” long after our memories of “LoveWave” have faded.
The Netherlands: Douwe Bob – “Slow Down”
Who would have expected that the best tribute to the late Glenn Frey comes in the form of the Netherlands’ Eurovision entry? “Slow Down” dips into a well of country-inspired mellow gold, but we don’t think it will reach the heights Netherlands achieved the last time they went down the road to Nashville.
Russia: Sergey Lazarev – “You Are the Only One”
Listening to “You Are the Only One” feels like stepping into a time machine set to 2006. If Croatia or Slovenia sent this, you’d pay it no mind, but because it’s Russia we guess we have to take it seriously. The song sounds like a brainstorming session on a corporate retreat: everyone’s throwing ideas against the wall and none of them are sticking or holding together. On the bright side, at least it’s not another pandering plea for peace, love and unicorns.
Estonia: Jüri Pootsmann – “Play”
Stig Rästa has finally found the ticket to success at Eesti Laul: mod pastiches of ’60s pop. He followed up last year’s duet with Elina Born by penning “Play” for Estonian dreamboat Jüri Pootsmann. Jüri may look like Anthony Edwards’ hot son, but he also possesses a rich baritone that infuses “Play” with smoldering soul.
Montenegro: Highway – “The Real Thing”
Oh man, in a rock heavy year, Highway reigns supreme with a sweet Soundgarden-influenced riff. If Georgia’s rock act is a bit too impenetrable, Romania’s rock act is a bit too pretentious, and Cyprus’ rock act is a bit too slick, then Montenegro’s rock act is the total package. This is Chris’ favorite song of the competition so far.
Israel: Hovi Star – “Made of Stars”
Hovi Star won Israel’s Rising Star competition, but Israel’s delegation is apparently planning to rework the song. We’re going to hold off commenting on it until the official version is ready.
Macedonia: Kaliopi – “Dona”
Kaliopi returns to Eurovision to represent Macedonia with the big ballad “Dona.” It’s a better song than her previous effort “Crno i Belo,” although it lacks a certain something to make it memorable. Still, we’re happy she’s back, if only because she’s entertaining in the press center.
Poland: Michał Szpak – “Color of Your Life”
Everyone on the internet expected Margaret to win Poland’s Eurovision selection show with “Cool Me Down.” That was before Margaret gave an indifferent performance of her Rihanna knock-off on Krajowe Eliminacje do Eurowizji 2016. That was also before Michał Szpak stared straight into our eyes and peered deep into our soul. “Color of Your Life” is a forgettable show tune, but Michał sold it to the voting public, forcing thousands of Eurovision fans to tear up their Warsaw 2017 travel plans.
Romania: Ovidiu Anton – “Moment of Silence”
Sadly, Ovidiu’s chance to rock Stockholm was taken away from him when the EBU booted Romania from the Eurovision Song Contest because of unpaid debts.
The most epic result of the weekend had to be Ovidiu Anton’s triumph at Selecţia Naţionala. Neither Ovidiu or the presenters could stress enough how much he liked to rock, and boy does he, in the most prog-heavy way possible. “Moment of Silence” is utterly ridiculous and ridiculously entertaining.
For further reading, see Trans-Siberian Orchestra, Savatage, and Tenacious D. See also: Ovidiu’s entry from 2015, which made our annual WTF post.
Knez has been chosen to represent Montenegro in Vienna with the song “Adio”:
Knez is an established Balkan singer who had his first hit in 1992 with “Da l’ si ikada mene voljela.” Since then he’s released 10 albums, including a greatest hits album. Of interest, he collaborated with Montenegro’s 2012 Eurovision representative Rambo Amadeus and also competed on the Serbian version of Survivor.
Željko Joksimović contributes his fifth Eurovision entry as a songwriter with “Adio.” While I have generally liked the songs he’s brought to Eurovision, I have to admit this year’s offering leaves me a bit cold. “Adio” sounds like an uptempo retread of “Lejla,” the entry he wrote for Bosnia and Herzegovina’s Hari Mata Hari in 2006. Moreover, Knez doesn’t really bring much personality to “Adio.” He is singing it, not interpreting it.
Granted, I am only judging the recorded track here. But “Adio” and its official video have raised a concern in my mind. Take a look back at the previous Željko-penned entries. In addition to a certain similar sound they also have a certain style of staging. People playing instruments are strategically placed around the stage and, as the song crescendos, the musicians all dramatically line up. Look at the Eurovision performances of “Lejla,” Jelena Tomašević’s “Oro,” and Željko’s own “Lane moje” and “Nije ljubav stvar.” They are all staged the exact same way.
Now watch Knez’s video for “Adio” again. Tell me they are not going to stage it the exact same way in Vienna.
I realize this may not be a quibble that the general audience watching Eurovision will have. But I am quite desperate for Montenegro to break from this template. Their stagings in 2013 and 2014 were creative. But frankly, creativity seems to be in short supply in Montenegro this year.
After taking a brief break from participation, Montenegro came back to the Eurovision Song Contest in 2012 with Rambo Amadeus’ “Euro neuro,” a gutsy, if bizarre selection. It kind of felt like Montenegro’s organizers thought, “We never qualify, so let’s just have some fun with it.” Montenegro followed that up in 2013 with Who See’s “Igranka,” which I wasn’t a big fan of initially. That was before (a) my son Kieran became a bit obsessed with it and (b) I witnessed their glorious staging at Eurovision. Montenegrin astronauts, people! A pop-up Nina Žižić! I’m still bummed that it didn’t make the Final.
So I was kind of looking forward to seeing who Montenegro would offer up as their representative this year. When it announced that pop balladeer Sergej Ćetković would be heading to Copenhagen, I was a bit disappointed. Where is the WTF-ery? But then Ćetković presented “Moj Svijet” and everything worked out in the end:
First, this has no bearing on how Ćetković will fare at Eurovision, but how gorgeous is that video? I’m just about ready to book my Montenegrin holiday.
Anyway, Jennifer assigned me to write up “Moj Svijet” because I am a big old fan of Željko Joksimović and this is right out of Željko’s playbook of grand ballads. It starts off a little bit too much like “My Heart Will Go On” with the flute and the fiddle. But once Ćetković’s vocal kicks in, I’m sold. And how about that beautiful instrumental bridge? Suddenly I don’t hate flutes and fiddles anymore.
The only real complaint I have about “Moj Svijet” is the ending. After all the build-up over the course of the song, it just STOPS. Ćetković hits a big note and then there is a limp flourish on the strings to finish. It’s like he realized he was getting too close to the three minute mark and rushed to end the song. Hopefully, Montenegro can tweak that before the first Semi on May 6.
“Igranka” is a dance-oriented hip hop number, performed by Who See, a hip-hop duo who have been joined in their effort by diva vocalist Nina Žižić. Who See’s part of the song “Igranka” sounds a bit like “Feuer” (particular in the second verse that Marteria leads on). Žižić’s part of the sounds like a deep track on a late 90s Viva Hits compilation, on disc 2 between Bomfunk MCs and Paffendorf. Together it’s, you know, okay. Nothing brilliant, but who doesn’t love a little danceable hip hop?
Aside from Eurovision audiences, I mean. Hip hop tends to flop at Eurovision. Consider acts that operate in similar spaces as Who See: neither Deep Zone and Balthazar (Bulgaria 2008) or Trackshittaz (Austria 2012) made it out of their respective Semis, and Waldo’s People (Finland 2009) made the Final as the jury wild card, then finished in last place. At best, these acts struggled to replicate the energy from their recorded track in the live performance.
“Igranka” is slightly more accessible than Montenegro’s 2012 entry, “Euro Neuro.” Is this the song that finally gets Montenegro to a Eurovision Final? No. The better question is, based on their official video, can they can out-tacky Trackshittaz in their staging?
After a 3-year absence, Montenegro has returned to the Eurovision Song Contest. They announced ages ago they interally selected Rambo Amadeus with “Euro Neuro.” After a long anticipated wait (not really), they have released the song. So, here it is.
First reaction: WTF? Ok, it feels good to get that out of the way.
Rambo Amadeus’s music might be described as prog meets hip hop meets Frank Zappa. Dissecting this number feels like sitting down to a dinner with a gigantic lamb chop. It’s very meaty, takes a lot of time to get through, and it’s not to everyone’s taste. The orchestration with its atonal guitar riffs reminds us of Primus. The verses are in an jazzy time signature–definitely not your usual 4/4–leaving the listener off kilter and struggling to follow it. Hard to tell what he’s like as a performer from this promotional video, but Amadeus would not be described as telegenic. He will be hard pressed to have much of an impact because this song is just too weird.
ADDENDUM FROM CHRIS: The opening of the “Euro Neuro” video reminds me of this scene from The Young Ones.
Montenegro is sending Andrea Demirović to Moscow with “Just Get Out of My Life.” It’s pure disco. I like it, and it’ll get stuck in your head if you don’t watch out. On the other hand, I don’t know if having it stuck in your head will be particularly pleasurable after an hour or so. We’ll see how this one wears on me.
While we wait to see what kind of songs Kosovo will enter into Eurovision, let’s take a look at what another former part of Serbia is doing. Montenegro is sending Justin Long-lookalike Stefan Filipović and his song “Zauvijek volim te” to its former nation-mates in May. This sounds like a song you would hear during a beach party montage scene in a Montenegrin teen comedy.