Pesma za Evroviziju (Serbia) 2022 Reviews: Semi-Final 2

On to the second half of the Serbian entries! Same deal, reviewed in the order they appear on the YouTube playlist. I’m not sure who I think will win, probably because I’m not familiar with the Serbian music scene at all.

Srđan Lazić — “Tražim te”
I’m pleasantly surprised by the way this song ramps up from its ballad beginnings to frantic dance beats and loud piano chords. In among it all, Lazić’s voice is the constant which serves as the anchoring point for the song. He provides the emotions the music sometimes lacks in its clinical arrangement. The violin solo in the last minute is a nice touch in combining the traditional and the modern.

Julijana Vincan — “Istina i laži”
The initial bit of lush guitar work makes way for the electric version of the instrument in promising start to the song. Unfortunately, this was just the take-off: the song settles into a fairly straightforward pop beat and doesn’t go anywhere near the musical tension of that opening part. The electric guitar take a backseat, and the synths end up being overused. The vocal performance is appropriately dramatic, but the whole package fails to come together in the end in my opinion.

Marko Nikolić — “Dođi da te volim”
A piano and violin ballad from yesteryear. I have to give credit to Nikolić for not submitting to the widespread urge to bring in the drum machine or cutting edge beats. Instead he speeds up the violins to mark a build in the song, and indulges in a couple of what sound like cymbal crashes in the last half a minute. I don’t think this is headed to Turin, but it has a bit of old-world charm.

Zoe Kida — “Bejbi”
As I listened to the slightly ominous, low-key instrumentation of this song’s opening minute, I certainly didn’t expect brass instruments to be the first musical shift. It felt very classy, but then they never came back! Instead, the song went along at a similar pace before a final 45 seconds where Kida sings her heart out. This was mysterious and confusing. Perhaps the performance will enlighten me here.

Orkestar Aleksandra Sofronijevića — “Anđele moj”
When I saw “orkestar” and suspected “orchestra”, I might have expected some of the folk aspects of the track, like the prominence of the accordion, but I wasn’t entirely ready for the metal elements (albeit subdued) — I guess this is folk metal, then? The singer sounds like she could deliver a vocal storm if required to do so. I’m surprised by how much I like this, but what worries me is how sparse the song sounds: a guitar to accompany the drums without impinging on the accordion would have given this a fuller sound.

CHEGI & Braća Bluz Bend — “Devojko sa plamenom u očima”
It sounds like we’ve got ourselves a suave bunch of gents with some well-rehearsed harmonies who just want to play you some funky jazz. The drum machine is a disappointment as jazz drums can be really impressive, but I’m suspecting there’s enough stage presence here to overcome any uncertainty about the music.

Euterpa — “Nedostaješ”
The two modes of this song are interesting: eerie atmospherics with haunting vocals for the verses, building up to a relatively subdued bit of EDM for the chorus. This is an understated track in the way it glides along without doing anything remarkably unexpected, and yet it works. The general sound is different from the others in this line-up, and while it doesn’t have anything particularly dramatic to it, some solid staging might turn it into a quiet achiever.

Dušan Svilar — “Samo ne reci da voliš”
From the start, Svilar isn’t messing around: you know his vocals are going to have some big moments — and even though the song is low-key for almost the full three minutes, he is capable of keeping things going by himself. The use of a saxophone feels retro in a good way, like meeting an old friend for long overdue catch-up. Nostalgia permeates a lot of this track, and I’m all here for it.

Ivana Vladović i Jovana Stanimirović — “Prijaće ti”
This takes an awfully long time to get started, but when the first verse starts it’s with a very catchy collection of beats and sounds backed up by the two women singing in unison. And then suddenly, trumpets! Is this a Serbian thing I don’t know about? The voices diverge for the chorus, and sing almost in opposition to each other rather than together — the song transforms into more of a rock track in response. This is impressive: I hope the staging lives up to the potential of the song.

Gift — “Haos”
I didn’t even need to see the band photo to know that the singer is one of those characters who will deliver a performance of his own. You can hear it in the confident tone of his voice (but the photo certainly confirmed this). Around him, the band give us a electro-rock track which is primarily there to hold the song together so the singer can do what he needs to do. I’m sure this will be a fun to watch live.

Zejna Murkić — “Nema te”
Back to a more traditional power ballad structure, with Murkić demonstrating her impressive range and vocal strength throughout. The first verse with its piano and string arrangement is just a warm-up and some evidence that Murkić can provide a delicate vocal as well. Once the drums kick in there’s no looking back. Even though its all about the voice, I think the instruments could have been a bit warmer.

Sara Jo — “Muškarčina”
Straight into a modern sound and vocals that appear to be sung directly over your shoulder from behind you. Sara Jo has a particular menace in her vocal delivery which exempts her from needing to hit a big note to prove her worth. There’s something discomforting in the glitchy synths that prowl around this track, but it’s in a good way. I think there could be a bit more progression, because there doesn’t feel like the song has enough to do in its last minute, despite that last ten second flurry.

Marija Mirković — “Požuri, požuri”
Not sure if it’s a good idea to start with music that overshadows the vocals with its eerie overtones. However, once we move past that this is a mid-tempo pop song which is all about atmosphere. Mirković’s vocals sound hemmed in by the instruments, with their strange bursts — this not a criticism. A saxophone pops up in the last minute, perhaps to brighten the atmosphere a bit. I’m not sure I entirely understand the rhythm of the song, but it has a number of nice components to it.

Rocher Etno Band — “Hajde sad nek’ svak’ peva”
This band combines various traditional instruments to create a soundscape at once expansive and intimate in its scope. The vocal arrangement works very well, as as the backing vocalist becomes like an echo of the main singer. I feel like they could have gone on for another couple of minutes and I would have been happy to continue listening just to try and understand how it all works together so seamlessly.

Vasco — “Znaš li”
I was wondering whether we were going to get a hip-hop song in this selection, and this isn’t it, despite the solid beats. Instead, Vasco is keen to show us that he can sing in lower and higher registers, all backed by a big distorted wave of sound that sweeps through the song like a giant spotlight. Even though the keyboards sound a bit too much like a hotel lounge at times, there’s certainly a lot here which makes it memorable.

Tijana Dapčević — “Ljubi, ljubi doveka”
Perky, jumpy, uplifting dance pop which probably needed some more build between verse and chorus. Dapčević’s voice guides us through the song expertly, although some of those big notes sounded like a stretch. The main refrain of the chorus is catchy enough for non-Serbian speakers to latch on to, but I’m not sure there’s enough aside from that for a broader audience.

Gramophonedzie — “Počinjem da ludim”
This is a more successful mixture of elements from other tracks in this selection: a basic piano and vocals beginning which then builds to some frantic drumming and blasts of brass instruments. This does it better because you can follow the progression and it is consistent. The vocals are more or less on the same level as the instruments in the sense that they’re another instrument rather than being given particular preference. My only concern is that there isn’t really a strong vocal hook or refrain they can return to.

Naiva — “Skidam”
Boasting one of the more striking voices in the entire selection, Naiva fronts an instrumental arrangement which is built around elements of R&B and soul. There’s a richness to her delivery which allows her to outshine even the louder parts of the song like the “skidam, skidam, skidam” of the chorus. When the song enters the last minute you’re expecting a build up to a big finish, but this disappoints somewhat, with the song falling away after a repeat of the chorus with just the drums to back the vocals.