I’m not sure I have the energy for this … along with Latvia, I often struggle to quite ‘get’ the entries the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (or FYROM between us) send to Eurovision. But at least they are rarely boring. That doesn’t stop them being punished by the contest, and FYROM has suffered more than most.
Debuting in 1998 after being held back from its first appearance by a pair of qualifying systems in 1996 & 1997, FYROM had a patchy start, only performing in alternate years because of its poor results in the contest. Unexpectedly they benefitted from the semi-final system once it was introduced in 2004, and have finished in the top 10 of a semi-final 7 times out of 9.
Cruelly though this only resulted in 5 appearances in the grand final, thanks to another rule that rescued the highest-ranked song in the jury’s top 10 that didn’t qualify. Their 10th place semi-final result meant nothing in 2008 and 2009, as Sweden and Finland got the green light to finish poorly in the grand final instead. Harsh. A lesser country might have quite reasonably thrown in the towel, but not FYROM.
Although they’ve never finished in the top 10, they have always made the top 20 if they qualified, culminating last year in the first performance in a final for 5 years, and a respectable 12th place finish for a vengeful Kaliopi who was due to sing FYROM’s debut song back in 1996.
I have no idea how this year will pan out, as MRT selected young singer Vlatko Lozanoski and gypsy princess and humanitarian Esma Redzepova to perform in Malmö. The song “Imperija” was selected but at the last minute pulled for the altogether more bewildering “Pred da se razdeni”. I think I prefer it, despite the hype about “Imperija”, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a titanic carcrash of a song.
Lozano has a nice tone to his voice, even if his soulful straining it’s quite to my taste. But it’s got a reasonable tune. Enter Esma, an vast shrieking hallucination of a woman, vocals fading into the foreground with some Romany chanting and yelling. It’s certainly memorable, particularly as I’ve yet to see a live performance where she managed to sing at the right time.
There’s something grippingly strange about it, that fade-in effect gives me goosebumps. She continues to shriek for the remainder of the song, while Lozano tries to hold things together. It’s just so odd, I can’t see people really understanding it, nor really liking that cold chilling feeling the sombre backing track adds to the show.
I don’t have confidence that FYROM will qualify this year, but at least they will have empowered themselves enough to fail on their own terms, rather than at the cruel hands of the EBU rule-makers.
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