Imagine you come from a country in Eurovision, which is underrated all the time. A country so small, that is often ignored by its own neighbours, let alone the rest of Europe. A country only a handful of fans genuinely love. That’s my country, Slovenia. The first time we appeared in Eurovision, was in 1966, when Berta Ambrož, then representing Yugoslavia, finished 7th with “Brez besed” (a song, which many think is the original song to Spain’s legendary “Eres tu” from 1973) and a year later Lado Leskovar finished a position lower. In 1975 Yugoslavia was represented by the group Pepel in kri and a song “Dan ljubezni” (Day of Love), which is now a true evergreen in Slovenia.
Our first entry as an independent country however happened in 1993, when 1x Band and “Tih deževen dan” finished on a disappointing 22nd place and we were forced to relegation the following year. So far we’ve had only three top 10 results – 7th place in 1995 and 2001 and 10th place in 1997. And don’t get me wrong, we LOVE ESC. Both ESC and EMA (our national final) are among the most watched TV programmes of the year and we’re also among the countries where many ESC songs actually become decent radio hits.
However, this year with the duo Maraaya and the song “Here For You”, the hype for our entry has reached dimensions never seen before. We’re the highest with the odds since Nuša Derenda’s “Energy” in 2001 (which was in top 3 for the actual win) and many ESC fans and experts are predicting our best result to date. And call me negative and naysayer, but this hype actually scares me. I mean, the song’s good and it’s a massive radio hit in the country, which is already a massive plus, as it shows we’re sending something musically relevant to Vienna. Maraaya (it’s a duo made of both Vovk couple’s names/pseudonyms – Raay and Marjetka) are experienced and well known singer-songwriters, having written for and coached several young talents in the country, which shows their routine. But – the odds position and the fan hype/expectations are putting lots of pressure on both of them. Usually it’s the other way round – the others are favourites and we lurk in the back, aiming to surprise.
With quite bad statistics of Slovenia’s results in the past I really do hope both Marjetka and Raay are working hard on the performance and are trying to ignore all the hype going on. I mean, the Feminnem flop that our neighbours Croatia experienced in 2010, has shown that odds/fan hype don’t mean much in the actual contest. Last year, both acts in top 2 – Austria and The Netherlands, were complete outsiders (Austria somewhere on 9th-10th place and Netherlands somewhere around 25th place with the bookies) and yet managed to win over the big favourites from Sweden and Armenia, so I guess similar surprises can happen this year too.
I hope Maraaya keep their focus and work with right people for the performance in Vienna, I hope their performance blows people away and I hope they manage to fulfill the expectations put on their shoulders. As I do feel their result can be a make or break point for the whole Ex Yu region. We (the Ex Yu) have been in a decline, result-wise in recent years and considering the decline in results and economical problems some of the broadcasters in the region are struggling with, some countries (Croatia and Bosnia the past 2 years, Serbia last year) have already pulled out of the contest. I do think with a possible good result from us (being among the favourites with the bookies/fans), that the region can get the confidence boost, with the missing neighbours coming back next year. But if we don’t do as well as expected, then I’m worried for the whole region’s future in this contest. Perhaps it’s a bit exaggerating to say so now, but I do think some of it may be totally true. I really hope we deliver and score a post-ESC hit with “Here For You” and do well, but right now – I wouldn’t bet my house for it to happen just yet. It’s sad, but that’s how it is, when one’s country flops year after year. Here’s hope for this negative trend to finally turn in our direction.