When I was 9 years old, it was 1998 and Eurovision that year was held in Birmingham. One could say that that edition spawned my childhood anthem – in form of “Diva” by Dana International and I got to listen to the artist, whose music somehow stayed with me for a while. That artist was Danijela (Martinović) and she represented Croatia that year and finished on a very respectable fifth place with her song “Neka mi ne svane”.
I had known about her before as she had been performing on TV shows I used to watch, but when she appeared in ESC, my father bought her latest album at the time, “To malo ljubavi” (roughly translated as “A little bit of love”), the one with her ESC entry on it. And my father put the album on – and I loved it. It turned out I wasn’t the only one, as some of my classmates (I went to 2nd and 3rd grade during that time) loved her music as well, also brought that same album to class sometimes. As Croatian music has always been loved among listeners in Slovenia and as Dora was a very prestigious event in Slovenian media and among Slovenian audience, of course the eventual ESC entrant would get exposure and a career even here, and Danijela was no exception. She performed in several big TV productions here and her popularity in here became even bigger. So it was somehow natural that she would reach out to me as well. I’ve been listening to her Zlatna kolekcija (Greatest Hits) for the past day or so and when I came to the tracks from that album, so many memories came back, the lyrics I couldn’t believe I still knew some of them, the melody lines came back, it was both surreal and completely amazing. I could also remember some of the tracks from her album she released after ESC, because it was a popular pick on the road trips I did with my family as a child. I wasn’t a super-fan of Danijela, one couldn’t put it like this. It was also in the era before internet was mainstream and long before the social media as we know it today was established. I only found out about Danijela’s age 2 days ago e.g. But I loved her songs back then, they were a good combination of tradition and being contemporary and her voice has been quite distinctive all this time.
When Danijela made a comeback in Dora in 2005 I was on board immediately. Her song at the time “Za tebe rođena” (Born for you) was a nice hybrid between her 1998 entry and New Age, the song I still love nowadays. But her music afterwards has been quite….not up to scratch to her early work. Now, her recent material has been quite soulless and generic, which is a shame and a waste of her talent, but I do hope she gets a proper comeback with another big ballad soon.
“Neka mi ne svane” is still my favourite Croatian entry ever though. It’s a great song, sung by a great singer and it brings loads of memories in me. It should have finished even higher in the contest as well.