Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Magazin's Next Episode

Extra episodes may be forthcoming in the Magazin soap opera, judging by an interview with Tonči Huljić, the Croatian pop composer and Magazin's manager, in Sunday's 24 sata. (The Gazette uses the 'soap opera' metaphor advisedly; among Huljić's 2005 projects was the footballing soap Ljubav u zaleđu.) More concretely, Jelena Rozga's solo album need not mean that she would leave the band, according to Huljić's logic that 'even Freddie Mercury had his own album, and he still sang with Queen.'

Nonetheless, at least a dozen girls have reportedly come forward to replace Jelena, and Novi list suggests that the public will have some involvement in the selection, possibly through a radio or television contest. (So it's come to this: Huljić Idol.) The selection is expected to take at least a month, conveniently seeing Jelena through Dora and letting her assess what her solo chances are.

Huljić also gives tentative suggestions that Huljić might contribute to Severina's next album, or rather, 'we'll probably do something together, but that doesn't mean it will be music.' (For the sake of his wife's nerves, somebody might like to rephrase that.)

Asked to comment on the 'flood' of folk-pop songs or narodnjaci into Croatia (for which critics often hold him responsible), Huljić replies:

'I'd say that the whole of showbusiness has been going in cycles for generations and that the cycle of narodnjaci has come round again. In 2000 there were social changes which influenced a change of musical route as well. We need to be aware that our entire showbusiness industry is based on pop [zabavna] music. When that disappeared from the radio and television airspace because certain people wanted to forcefully create, shall we say, civil society, they induced people to listen to narodnjaci and now they're paying the price for that. The way I stood with pop production, an invasion of narodnjaci happened because you don't allow people any alternative in pop music. I'm convinced that in five years at the latest, the state of pop music in Croatia will return to the level of the late 1990s.'

Good news for some, less so for others, perhaps.

Sve Je Isto, Samo Miše Nema

So much for a Slovenian turbo-duel at last weekend's EMA, where it turned out that 22-year-old Anžej 'Plan B' Dežan walked the whole thing while Natalija, Saša, Rebeka Dremelj and the Atomik Harmonik girls all, presumably, stood around in the green room and glared at each other.

The Glory of Carniola couldn't face it, possibly due to a premonition that Natalija Verboten - despite the aforementioned Swedish schlager connection - would turn up surrounded by rollerbladers and wearing a leprechaun's hat, or that Lendero would appear out of a giant mandolin.

In the past, when the show was directed by RTVSLO's head of entertainment Miša Molk, EMA wouldn't have been EMA without a voting scandal (notably the 2002 version, when the telephone system collapsed and Molk awarded the contest to the transsexual trio Sestre). Molk left her job several months ago, but some things seem not to change: the public favourites, Saša Lendero and Atomik Harmonik, were awarded no points by the expert jury. As Tijana Dapčević (herself on the shortlist to represent Serbia-Montenegro at Eurovision this year) might say: sve je isto, samo Miše nema.

The Gazette's Eurovision attention now turns to Croatia, where - if rumours are to be believed - a constellation of late-90s pop fixtures such as Jelena Rozga, Danijela Martinović and Doris Dragović may all compete in the Dora festival, Croatia's version of EMA (or vice versa).

No official list of Dora participants - let alone their songs - has been officially released, but the tabloid 24 sata is already doing its best to stir up accusations of plagiarism against what would be the early favourite, a duet between Severina and last year's Croatian representative Boris Novković.

On the other hand, the supposed original is allegedly Wild dances by the Ukrainian singer Ruslana, the model for the essentialised-folkloric choreography suddenly characteristic of noughties Eurovision. Short of Severina coming on stage in a Xena-esque leather bra and brandishing a whip and trembitas (after all, she's almost been there, done that), it's going to be hard to know what's officially a Wild dances copy and what's, well, as near as makes no difference.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Turbo-Duelling The Slovenian Way

In the absence of a proper Gazette post this week, a brief reminder that the impending Slovenian turbo-duel between Atomik Harmonik and Natalija Verboten will be resolved on Sunday when RTV Slovenija holds its pre-selection for the Eurovision Song Contest.

All fourteen competing songs received their first public airing last night, and this lunchtime they are ironically enough distracting the Gazette from completing a paper it promised to a Slovenian last month.

If you're last year's runner-up in Slovenia, Saša Lendero, your strategy is apparently to keep exactly the same backing vocals you had in 2005 and add the percussion and strings from last year's runner-up in Croatia (Magazin's biblically histrionic Nazaret), not to mention the stamping and the Hey!ing from last year's runner-up in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Now that's regional co-operation for you.

If you're Anžej Dežan, ex-Yugoslav showbusiness can only handle one song called Plan B every twelve months, and a certain Ceca Ražnatović has already accounted for that.

If you're Natalija Verboten, the Gazette has already heard all the verses to your entry SOS when it was watching Linda Bengtzing singing something called Alla flickor on the Swedish version of this show last year, and is now trying to remember whether it noticed a tabloid-friendly brunette in the audience taking extensive notes.

If you're Maja Slatinšek, Andraž Hribar, or anybody else not covered here, there's every chance that you'll walk the whole thing, while Natalija, Saša, Rebeka 'Slovenski superboy' Dremelj and the Atomik Harmonik girls all stand around in the green room and glare at each other.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Magazin: Fourth Time Luckier?

After nine years as lead singer of the Croatian pop band Magazin, lead singer Jelena Rozga is now starting a solo career, according to Jutarnji list, and plans to launch it by appearing in the Croatian pre-selection for Eurovision in March.

Rozga joined the band in 1996 after impressing the band's manager-producer-keyboardist Tonči Huljić just as her predecessor, Danijela Martinović, was set to go solo herself and embark on an unhappy marriage. Danijela had spent six years in the band, following Ljiljana Nikolovska's seven, so it's no wonder that the when-will-Jelena-leave-Magazin story has been ticking over for at least two years, probably since the first time anybody did the maths.

In fact, ex-ballerina Jelena has been supposed to be on her way out since July 2005, when the director of the Zvijezdice girls' choir was apparently suggesting replacements. Zvijezdice are where thirtysomething diva Nina Badrić first caught the music bug; today's line-up may not be of the same vintage.

Talking to Radio Dalmatia, Huljić has announced auditions for 'all interested girls from the Split-Dalmatia county', and stated that Jelena will stay in the band until a new singer has been finalised. On the off-chance that you're an interested girl from the Split-Dalmatia county, it's worth remembering that Magazin lead singers tend not to look unlike.

Indeed, Jelena might have started looking over her shoulder two years ago when Huljić presented a new teenage blonde discovery, Andrea Šušnjara, at that year's Dora festival, giving her an audition piece a song full of Jelena's trademark vocal acrobatics. Dora presenter and well-known radio DJ Zlatko Turkalj came to the same conclusion as many, and irritated Huljić no end by asking him when Andrea was going to become the next lead singer of Magazin.

(This may or may not be the same Andrea Šušnjara whose school essay for Europe Day 2002 is still hanging around. Working this out is made more complicated since she has simultaneously been 17 in 2004 and born in 1978.)

Whether Split is currently overcome with Magazin fever is another matter. Today's edition of the Split daily Slobodna Dalmacija shows teenage girls queueing in their hundreds to audition.

In London, that is, for the role of Luna Lovegood in the next Harry Potter film.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Showbusiness Ethnopolitics: Lepi Mića

The Belgrade tabloid Kurir recently occupied a slow news day by 'revealing' how many Croatian pop singers - among them Oliver Dragojević, Severina, and Nina Badrić - were afraid to perform in Serbia due to their 'Serb' origins while 'pure-blooded' Croats were happy to appear 'before a "Četnik" audience'.

Presumably that must have been the same Severina who, Kurir itself announced in July, wanted to play Belgrade's Marakana stadium with Haris Džinović, and who was perfectly happy to appear on stage at the Sava Centar with Ceca and Lepa Brena at the TV Pink awards three years ago.

Never liking to let a fake scandal rest, and clearly not getting as much mileage as they expected from the photos of Jelena Karleuša up to mischief on a cross, Kurir then contacted the Serbian patriotic folk singer Lepi Mića. Mića was somewhat more talkative than the Thompsons of this world, and gladly filled up Kurir's stars page for another day with his thoughts on Severina's 'fascist videos' (in other words, Hrvatica) and her Tudjman T-shirt:

'They are committing musical genocide and deliberately dragging our people from their roots, giving them quality-less music which has nothing to do with Serbdom. They are never off TV screens the length of Serbia [...] while over there they arrest our students, they stop our top sportsmen coming into the country because they're bothered by a picture of Draža Mihailović...'

Here he means the Serbian basketballer Milan Gurović, who was refused entry to Croatia in November 2004 on the grounds that his tattoo of the WW2 Četnik leader Draža Mihailović violated Croatian laws on 'totalitarian propaganda'.

Another duet, then, that won't be happening any time soon...

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Polkaholiks Anonymous

Sretna nova godina to Gazette readers, and an apology for there being so few posts lately: the Gazette has actually been supposed to do some proper, although not unrelated, work.

The Glory of Carniola, meanwhile, has wished us all a srečno novo leto with this fetching picture of Natalija Verboten seeing in the New Year dressed as an emu, alongside the ominous news that Slovenian turbo-foursome Atomik Harmonik (yes, them) made it on to the German channel ZDF's New Year's Eve show.

Thanks to some detective work from Ed at Hej, Pane Diskžokej, it seems that Špega, Špelca, and the two guys whose names escape the Gazette touched down in Austria in April 2005 and made, errrr, number 64 with Turbo polka. Between then and now, one Mallorca summer season and one Oktoberfest has made them worthy of sharing conceptual space with DJ 'Hey, baby' Otzi and Global Kryner, and of working with the Italian team behind Eiffel 'Blue dabadidabadaj' 65.

Not afraid yet? Two words: Vanilla Ninja.

Remember, too, the spectacle of these four representing Slovenia at Eurovision with Polkaholik is only one national final away.