After a week of teasing, the Montenegrin broadcaster announced that 35-year-old songstress Vladana Vučinić will represent the country at Eurovision this May with the song “Breathe”. As we wait to hear the song that Montenegro will be bringing to the contest after a two year absence, here are some facts about Vladana to whet your appetite.
Her Eurovision Dreams Started Early
Vladana grew up studying opera and music theory and competing in local music competitions. Her first taste of the national spotlight came in 2003, when she performed Eurovision champion Celine Dion’s “The Power of Love” on the singing competition show Intro Karaoke. (Trust me, very little video of that show’s history survives, at least that I could find.) A number of well-known Montenegrin pop acts got their start on that show, including past Eurovision artists Nina Žižić (ESC 2013) and Danijel Alibabić and Marko Prentić of the band No Name (ESC 2005).
Her success on Intro Karaoke got her noticed, and she was invited to perform her debut single, “Ostaces mi vjecna ljubav” or “You Will Remain My Eternal Love”, at the 2003 Budva Mediterranean Music Festival.
Vladana‘s Eurovision aspirations quickly followed. In both 2005 and 2006, she competed at Montevizija, the Montenegrin semi-final of Evropesma-Europjesma, the national selection show used to pick Serbia & Montenegro’s Eurovision act. Though she didn’t win either time, the dream of competing at Eurovision never left her.
In a 2013 interview with Dnevne Novine, she expressed her continued interest in representing her country at the contest, and praised recent entries by Rambo Amadeus and Who See. She did, however, claim that her days of competing at regional music festivals were over. And why might that be?
Well, one only has to read up on the ’05 and ’06 editions of Evropesma-Europjesma to find a possible explanation.
She Was an Eye Witness to ESC History
As Montenegro voted to become an independent state in 2006, the ’05 and ’06 editions of Evropesma-Europjesma. were the last. Both editions were fraught with controversy, and Vladana had a front row seat.
In 2005, she competed with the entry “Samo moj nikad njen”, ultimately only placing 18th out of 24 entries and failing to qualify for the final. The previously mentioned Montenegrin band No Name ended up winning that year’s contest, but the results were heavily contested. Officials from Serbia accused Montenegro of rigging it by offering free televoting to the Montenegrin public and directing its jurors to give every Serbian artist zero points. The EBU even had to investigate these claims.
Ultimately, No Name DID end up representing Serbia & Montenegro that year, placing a very respectable 7th.
The band returned to both Montevizija and Evropesma-Europjesma in 2006, as did Vladana. This time, she qualified out of the semi-final and made it to the big night as part of a duet with Bojana Nenezić. Their song, “Željna” finished in 15th place, losing once again to No Name.
That year’s result, however, was even more hotly contested than the last, and an investigation by the EBU wasn’t going to cut it. Because the Montenegrin jurors blanked every Serbian artist again, No Name won (for the second year in a row) after coming 3rd in the televote. The largely Serbian audience made its displeasure known by fleeing the theater in droves, leaving a smaller audience of outraged fans to boo and hurl bottles. No Name was eventually booed off the stage, and the show closed with the Serbian act who had placed 2nd performing a reprise of his song instead.
You can watch the debacle here:
Serbia & Montenegro ended up withdrawing from Eurovision 2006, as the EBU did not step in and local officials could not agree on which artist should be selected.
After witnessing all this drama firsthand, is it any wonder Vladana swore off regional music competitions?
She’s Been on a Music Hiatus
Vladana hasn’t released new music since her 2010 English-language debut album Sinner City. An animated music video for the album’s title track was especially popular in the Balkans, receiving acclaim and lots of airplay on MTV Aria.
Since then, her music career has been quiet.
“[I] will sing and record whenever [I’m] inspired,” she said in an interview in 2014. “I will not do anything by force.”
So what brought her back to music? What was her inspiration? As she stated in the Instagram post announcing her selection as Montenegro’s Eurovision act:
“A recent tragedy in my family devastated me … The song [‘Breathe’] miraculously just flew out of me, and I can freely say that this song is my heart broken into tiny little pieces, converted into music and words.”
That tragedy was the death of her 78-year-old mother, Dr. Zora Vučinić, in November.
Vladana‘s mother led an interesting life in her own right. Born in 1944 in the then-People’s Republic of Macedonia, she went on to receive a doctorate in plant pathology and became the first woman in Montenegro to work in the field of plant protection. She spent nearly 40 years researching plant diseases and expanding the field of agricultural science in the country.
But, hold up, let’s rewind. If Vladana wasn’t recording music for the past decade, what WAS she doing?
Globetrotting, for one. Scroll through the past 7 years of Instagram posts, and you will find images of Vladana in Berlin, Barcelona, Lillehammer, Paris, Budapest, and the list goes on. For another, she was starting a family. Her adorable son Petar was born circa-2012, and she’s spent the time since her last music release raising him.
But, that’s not all she’s been doing, In fact, that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
She’s Been Focused on Politics …
Throughout the last decade, Vladana has been a politically active booster of human rights and democracy.
“I have always been someone who wants to initiate changes and participate in them as a socially responsible citizen,” she said in a 2014 interview. “I would like these changes to start from my hometown, changes that could make [Montenegro known as] a European metropolis in a few years.”
In 2013, she attended the World Forum for Democracy, an annual convention in Strasbourg, France, where cultural and political leaders from around the EU gather and debate the issues facing European democracies today.
In 2014, she graduated from The School of Democratic Leadership, a training program for prominent Montenegrin figures in government, journalism, and media. The program aims to strengthen democracy in the country and create a more active and politically engaged society.
In 2015, she was part of a Balkan delegation that visited a humanist-leaning Norwegian folk high school in Lillehammer. While out at a night club on that visit, she performed an impromptu number with a local Norwegian jazz band.
Vladana was also an active member in the Social Democratic Party of Montenegro for many years, working on behalf of the party in marketing and press relations.
… and Fashion
Circa 2015, Vladana, who has a degree in journalism from Montenegro’s State Faculty of Political Science, launched an online fashion and lifestyle magazine called Chiwelook. The blog, for which she serves as editor-in-chief, is a mix of fashion commentary, art appreciation, health and wellness tips, and interviews with important figure in culture and government.
Vladana conducted many of the interviews herself, and the subjects of those interviews range from actors, models, and athletes to fashion designers, musicians, magazine editors, and even an MP in the Montenegrin Parliament.
“I decided to start it at the moment of my over saturation with other obligations, she said in a 2017 interview. “I found my fun and peace in it.”
Updates on the site have slowed down considerably in recent years, but its full archive still remains online.
Are #YOU excited about Montenegro’s return to the contest? Did #YOU watch Serbia & Montenegro’s 2006 final live? What was THAT like? Sound off in the comments below, in our forum, or on social media @ESCUnited.