Friday, October 21, 2005

The Sequinned Afterlife Of Gia

The Gazette reports with some sadness that Romanian gymnast Catalina Ponor has ditched her floor music based on Greek singer Despina Vandi's mega-hit from 2001, Gia, in favour of a nondescript instrumental in a bombastic Pirates of the Caribbean sort of vein.

However, Ponor still has the virtue of not performing her floor routine as if it was a cheerleading tryout, and the even greater virtue of not being called Courtney Kupets, Shavahn Church, or London (yes, London) Phillips.

You'll know Ponor's floor music as Gia if you're not Serbian or Romanian. If you're Romanian, maybe you know Gia as Ponor's floor music. And if you're Serbian, you might know them both as Samo za tvoje oči (For your eyes only), recorded by the unsubtle and extremely blonde turbofolk star Jelena Karleuša. Where Gia is concerned, JK and Vandi have a complicated relationship, which at some point really ought to have included an exchange along the lines of Yeah but, no but... : Karleuša was under the impression that Gia had been meant for her as the breakout hit to kickstart her international pop career, and . Karleuša had, in fact, signed with Greek record company Heaven Music and linked up with Vandi's composer Phoebus, and seemed to be in the frame for Gia at one point when Heaven and Universal got the jitters about Despina's plans to become a footballer's wife.

Despina released Gia anyway, sent it to the top of the Billboard dance charts in America, and left Heaven with a big blonde silicone problem. JK's self-titled CD in question, released in 2002, also contains a cover of Vandi's biggest hit which isn't called Gia, the five-minute Faithless-style Ipofero, renamed with startling originality Još te volim (I still love you).

This would be more remarkable were it not that a fair few turbofolk songs started their life as Greek or even Turkish hits - and in fact, cynics might say that it was quicker to ask how many didn't. The Gazette would get further into this, but doesn't still want to be at the keyboard in three hours' time. It happens far less on the Croatian scene, although Alka Vuica seems more than ready to compensate for all her colleagues in the Balkan-covers respect.

Ponor notwithstanding, things aren't all so gloomy for south-east European pop and its transnational, sequinned afterlife, as the world champion figure skater Irina Slutskaya is still haring around the ice rink to the tinkly sound of Maksim Mrvica's Croatian Rhapsody. Silver-highlighted Maksim comes from Split, and his original pieces are composed by Tonči Huljić, keyboardist, manager, and all-round impresario of the two-decades-old Croatian band Magazin. They've outlasted their rivals by periodically trading in one blonde lead singer for another (current incumbent Jelena Rozga's nine years have set the record by some way) and by snapping up new sources of exoticism wherever they can find them.

Since attending Eurovision in 1998 and encountering British crossover-classical promoter Mel Bush (the man responsible for Vanessa Mae), Huljić has kept up a profitable sideline of composing instrumentals for Mrvica, Anglo-Aussie string quartet/girlband Bond, and Anglo-Serbian string quintet/girlband Wild. Oddly enough, a fair few of these started their life as songs by Magazin: Briga me became Dalalai, Ko me zove became Gypsy rhapsody, and Magazin's big 2004 hit, Ne tiče me se, had already been Bond's Explosive. Croatian Rhapsody is no exception, and as Hrvatska rapsodija, came within four places of sending Magazin to represent Croatia at Eurovision 2000.

A saga which leaves the Gazette with little to do but look at its watch and wonder when the next round of Who's Going To Be The Next Magazin Lead Singer, And When? is going to get under way...


At 3:45 pm, October 25, 2005, Anonymous Keith said...

It's so bizarre seing her described as Ponor, and not Countess Pornula/Queen Vomitrocia/PORNO/The Undead, etc...

At Romanian Nationals she was no closer to actually doing the triple-twist with straight legs, but Am I Bothered :)


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