Beovizija 2020 takes place across this weekend, with Serbia’s entrant for Rotterdam being decided through the annual Serbian song competition. The proud tradition of the competition is plain to see, but will this year’s acts live up to the hype?

To find out, our team took on all 24 acts and shared their thoughts. First up, it’s semi-final one, with Daniel, James, Melanie, Roy and Sean.

EJO – Trag

Daniel – 8 – “What a mystical song that literally transports you from the forest ambience to the disco dance floor. It is not the most contemporary thing in the world but it has an incredible vibe and the instrumental is killer. I feel like it is a beautiful confluence of two different songs that play off each other to give an even fuller musical feeling. Despite it being shorter on average, it managed to feel like an immersive feeling.”

James – 7 – “Did not expect it to kick on to disco from new age. With a flute solo nonetheless and strings to pick it up. It’s as if 10,000 Maniacs mucked about with disco and Serbian woodwind instruments. The two weaknesses to this song’s chances are the “everything but the kitchen sink” editorial decisions, making this a busy song to listen to, and that it is retro like a lot of “ethno-jazz” groups that were pottering around Canada and Europe in the ‘90s. Give the song and a dancing partner a whirl on Friday, though I’d be highly surprised to see this move on to Rotterdam.”

Melanie – 4 – “The beginning reminds me of the dutch song “Vlieg Met Me Mee” of the one and only Trijntje Oosterhuis. But then the chorus kicks in and it becomes a family party song with some flute elements. It’s cute, but not my cup of tea.”

Roy – 3 – “This song starts off very slow and just when you are about to check out because you are getting bored a sudden beat kicks in. You get excited, but then you hear the payoff of the beat after the build has eclipsed. That really isn’t good though… It is very much on the old and dated side of things. The “flute” adds a cool element to the song, but it doesn’t safe it unfortunately.”

Sean – 8 – “Wow, that beat comes out of nowhere! This has a nice blend of mystique and fun, the western sounds and the Balkan influence, and keeps the Serbian feel flowing throughout the track. It may be a little lightweight to go all the way if chosen for Rotterdam but this is a toe-tapping fun little song!”

Total = 30 (avg. 6)

Milica Mišić – Kiša

Daniel – 7 – “This is one of those nice pop ballads that is jammed-pack with emotion. It has the feeling of a Balkan ballad without being extremely in your face about it (if that makes sense). The piano leading the majority of the song is wonderful, but the introduction of the strings got me really excited. While the end sequence of the song is not that exciting, it still had personality.”

James – 6 – “Okay, it’s Beovizija, and here we go with the ballads. This one is written by Serbian song machine and regular backing Eurovision backing vocalist Saška Janković, who we’ve heard at this national selection before. Mišić delivers this sad break-up ballad with weather metaphors well, but the composition is no more or less interesting than any we’ve heard at Beovizija before. Two better ballads from Eastern Europe have already made it to Rotterdam, so I feel “fine” would not cut it against Poland and Slovenia’s efforts.”

Melanie – 4 – “Promising piano ballad with a serene voice. But I got easily bored. There isn’t something that makes this stand out with the other ballads in the competition.”

Roy – 7 – “Her voice is absolutely angelic. This piano ballad is on the soft side, but it somehow keeps me hooked throughout. Would this stand out at Eurovision? Probably not! Am I enjoying it nonetheless? You could say so! The final 30 seconds are a bit questionable with a totally new sound added kind of as an afterthought. This could really capture the hearts of people!”

Sean – 6 – “Balkan ballads always have an extra level of intrigue compared to ballads from elsewhere in Europe, so I appreciate this a bit more. It’s nothing special in this unique category though, and the delicate piano plinks and soothing vocals do little to mask the issue that this isn’t a stand-out entry.”

Total = 30 (avg. 6)

Ivan Kurtić & Mistik Cello – Sabajle

Daniel – 8 – “Here comes the Balkan ballads, and I am ok with that because I love that genre. Oh and they give it a twist with a more modern composition and a cool back beat. I really like what I am hearing. It really grows into epic proportions. There is like a mystique to it similar to Bosnia and Herzegovina 2006 where it totally is modern but also still so traditional and refined. I was not expecting to like this song so much.”

James – 7 – “The crooning bad boy ballad, another staple of Beovizija, comes in the form of Ivan Kurtić, though it takes a while for Mistik Cello to kick in. It does not sound like their contributions are any more noticeable than strings in any other ballad. They’re clearly banking on some local cachet for Mistik Cello, but if a string quartet is a named artist, I expect an entry like Quartissimo’s “Love Symphony.” It’s a decent ballad, but this is more Kurtić’s starring show and Mistik Cello performing the rhythm part of the composition.”

Melanie – 3 – “Ivan has a great voice. The song has a good build, but is very outdated. They try to make it sound current with some builts, but they just don’t justify this song. It just sounds like a complete mess.”

Roy – 2 – “This man has that very nice Balkan-voice. The payoff to a minute of singing over little to no orchestration is very lacklustre. Disappointed you wait for what the song has left waiting for you. Out of nowhere it builds to something that you think will be epic, but once the voice kicks in it is really not that interesting at all.”

Sean – 6 – “The final minute of this entry is certainly the best, but it is a little laboured getting to this point. The first part of the song is plodding and doesn’t really showcase much local flavour, despite this type of song being geared towards it. Weirdly, the last minute ramps up both the Balkan feel and the modern elements. I just wish this was more like that the whole way through.”

Total = 26 (avg. 5.2)

Thea Devy – Sudnji dan

Daniel – 6 – “Another day, another power ballad, but at least this one is pretty good. It has some interesting elements and her voice is pretty good. I think it is more structured and organized than some of the other ballads, but it still lacking a bit in the excitement domain. Still, I cannot deny that, mechanically, this is a pretty pristine song and therefore I commend its construction and delivery.”

James – 6 – “Doomsday is coming, apparently. It comes off as an eco-pop song with lyrics just generic enough to not roll your eyes at. Devy’s got a great voice, and she brought in some heavy hitters like Ashley Hicklin to give the track some polish and modernity. In a way, it’s an adult counterpart to Serbia’s Junior Eurovision 2019 entry “Podigni glas,” which does not have the same writers but has the same raise hell on behalf of Mother Earth sentiment.”

Melanie – 5 – “Sounds sassy and Thea has a strong vocal. I love the instrumental parts of this song, but missing some kind of oomph. I just have the feeling that it buiding too much and it never satisfy me.”

Roy – 6 – “You can most certainly hear that her vocals will be great live. The issue for me is that there isn’t much happening in the first half of the song. The second half chorus is quite good and the way the song ends is also quite cool. If performed correctly, this could end up doing quite well.”

Sean – 7 – “I love Thea’s voice, there’s a slight raspiness in parts and a real colour to it in others. The song itself isn’t bad either, giving us a mixture of RnB and power pop that peaks and troughs in the right areas. With a powerful performance this could be a bit of a dark horse.”

Total = 30 (avg. 6)

Karizma – Ona me zna

Daniel – 4 – “Balkan and folk, a cute combination. I think that is all I really have to say about it. It has a sweet melody similar to a Beatles era tune. The singing is good, the backing choruses seem excessive for the more toned-down rhythm. I think this song misses a few marks here and there, it is not bad, but it certainly is not the best at this year’s national selection.”

James – 7 – “Kicks off similar to Extreme’s “More than words,” an acoustic jam by a rock band known for a much more different sound. I don’t know what Rotterdam’s ordinance on holding up cigarette lighters and / or lighting up at a concert venue is (though I’m sure a few will try), but this is a song to do it to. Now this a not a “sensitive” guy with acoustic guy ballad, but rather a bunch of leather-clad middle-aged rockers who will openly admit they play it to get the women. I am not so sure how well a song like this will go down with fans under 50 though, as the last time this sound was popular the Berlin Wall was still up and everyone wanted to be behind the wheel of a black Pontiac Firebird.”

Melanie – 4 – “I love myself a good guitar song, but I just don’t like the vocals of the singer. It’s a kind of clapalong song that isn’t my cup of tea.”

Roy – 2 – “The voice is good, the song is not. It is really boring and not much is happening melodically. It is a bit of a vocal showcase, so maybe the live performance will lift things up. Doesn’t neglect the fact that there is nothing really happening besides that.”

Sean – 5 – “From the photo on the video on YouTube, I was hoping for some epic Balkan rock. This pales in comparison to my expectations, and instead we have an acoustic crooner of a track. I mean, it’s not bad, but you can tell these guys have much more in their locker than they are letting on here. It feels like a Guns n Roses album track from the 90s.”

Total = 22 (avg. 4.4)

Andrija Jo – Oči Meduze

Daniel – 9 – “We are now progressing into more R’n’B and pop territory. I think that it is super modern having sounds that remind me of Alan Walker. This is a fun duet song whose structured is built on contrasts which gives the beat of the song this up down feeling and thus makes it more interesting. I think all around a great entry to represent Serbia.”

James – 5 – “This is really let down by some cheesy synthesizers and naff electronic drum fills. The two vocalists seem to play off each other very well, but the production really makes this feel dated, like I’m in a club in Volgograd in 2007. And then they synthesized the female singer’s vocals towards the end of the song. Again, vocals are top notch but the production choices are baffling. This definitely needs a good revamp should this move on. By the way, another mark against Jimmy Jansson in his quest to set some sort of national selection entry record this year as he let some quality slip in pursuit of quantity.”

Melanie – 5 – “The verses sounds very current, but they go back to the old school Eurovision pop in the chorus. That’s too bad, because I really loved the verses and the bridge. It’s sounds like Serbia is trying to send a Swedish pop song – please don’t do that Serbia.”

Roy – 5 – “This song sounds fine as a studio track, but I fear that this will struggle live. The beat is kind of cool and could have been from the repertoire of Alan Walker. If that is a good or a bad thing, that is up to you. I am not the biggest fan of this entire package. It is fine, but it isn’t really an attention-grabber.”

Sean – 8 – “I was shocked to see this already had 1.4 million views(!) on YouTube. I guess this is already a hit in the Balkans, huh? Perhaps this makes it a foregone conclusion then. I can see why it’s popular, this feels like a typical summer hit that does the rounds across Southern Europe each year, but if Andrija can bring us a star performance we could be looking at a brilliant result for Serbia in Rotterdam if chosen.”

Total = 32 (avg. 6.4)

Sanja Bogosavljević – Ne puštam

Daniel – 4 – “I think the thing with a lot of these songs is that they are great sounding songs, like they are designed in a way that I cannot possibly be repulsed. The unfortunate side is that they really do not excite me and can sound quite derivative, and I think this song falls in this category. The voice is perfectly nice and the instruments are good but I never felt that moment which I hope to feel with great entries. It is simply a fine entry.”

James – 8 – “Sanja brings us a romantic rock ballad more of the sensual and mature nature than the princesses and unicorns variety we’re used to hearing from younger artists. Assuming Google translated the lyrics right. If it’s about something darker, though the tone of the song suggests not, let me know. Sanja was one of Marija Šerifović’s backing singers, and it’s taken a while, but she is starting to shine on her own. I don’t think this will get much traction outside of the Balkans, but this is a solid ballad with a great vocal performance, and I hope it gets Sanja more attention at home.”

Melanie – 3 – “Sanja has a solid voice but the song isn’t memorable at all. It just sounds like an album filler instead of a winner song. Too bad, because Sanja can sing.”

Roy – 2 – “This is slow, plotting and uninteresting. I struggle to find words for it, she doesn’t sing bad, the song is produced well, it is just boring and slow…”

Sean – 4 – “Pretty ordinary. It’s a nice enough song to listen to but there’s not really anything here that would drive me to come back to it. Sorry.”

Total = 21 (avg. 4.2)

Marko Marković – Kolači

Daniel – 7 – “You know I love me some horns and that intro was horns galore. I like this genre of music, the fun fiesta Balkan vibe. It is a hoot and something that Serbia does not send often enough. There is an inherent interesting feature to this song since it is so unique and different from the other more serious sounding songs. I cannot wait to see the staging and see all of Belgrade dancing. I think this song should be commended on originality, I do not foresee it winning but it definitely adds flavor to this year’s national selection.”

James – 8 – “A fun up tempo blend of Serbian music and ska from trumpeter Marko Marković. This would have been a sure-fire qualifier ten years ago, but the kids just want their sad bastards sulking on a piano or acoustic guitar, so not much hope for the fun time that this song provides. I suspect the “cakes” in the title are a euphemism for something not to do with desserts other than finishing off the evening? As a scholar of Cazwell’s “Ice Cream Truck,” I certainly hope so and that the staging will be about as subtle as a Cazwell video.”

Melanie – 8 – “This sounds like a fresh breath of air and what Serbia should send instead of a generic pop song/ballad. It sounds like an authenthic Serbian song that can start a party in Rotterdam. And those trumpets are amazing! Please Serbia send this masterpiece!”

Roy – 6 – “The song starts and you immediately feel the energy. When his voice kicks in, you get excited for what’s to come next. Some lovely Balkan sounds to an up-tempo beat. In general this is just really fun and it has a lot of room for a good staging too. I wouldn’t want this song winning, but it is fun!”

Sean – 8 – “F*** it, let’s have a party in Rotterdam! Marko is bringing the brass and the bravado with “Kolači”, and I can already see this being a vibrant, colourful party on stage. Some may not take this seriously but this is the type of song that really adds to the flavour of Eurovision. There are a lot of ballads so far this year, so this could be a decent stand-out if it made it to Rotterdam. If not, I hope we can dance to this at Euroclub all the same.”

Total = 37 (avg. 7.4)

Srđan Lazić – Duša i telo

Daniel – 7 – “This song is definitely appealing to the more modern taste. It has a super cool beat and instrumentation, similar to some of the more modern stuff that Zeljko has been doing. It has an upbeat chorus and really builds on contrasts. It has some very interesting elements and if the staging is on point then this song should not have issues qualifying from the semi-final. It is not my personal favorite but he should be proud.”

James – 6 – “Another bad boy balladeer, but this fellow kicks off his entry with a prolonged intro by vocals so synthesized they sound Cylon. I guess he’s trying to harmonize the ballads he sings at weddings with modern pop, but the track misses the mark in a few ways. The bass drop at the bridge is unnecessary and kills the momentum, light he’s stopped the song to light up a cigarette in mid-performance. All told it’s catchy, but this needs some serious revamping.”

Melanie – 4 – “Srdan Lazic bring us outer space with his song “Dusa i Telo”. Sadly, this sounds like a pop song we heard before. Like he copy-pasted a pop song from recent years and gave it some Serbian lyrics. We heard it all before and this isn’t enought to win this national final.”

Roy – 4 – “A bit of a weird way to start the song if you ask me. Especially when you switch to a slow build with his deep voice. The beat fading in is kind of a twist I did not expect. I am a bit unsure whether it is fitting or not, but I do think it makes this somewhat interesting. The final switch-up is unexpected again and a bit unnecessary. Not all that bad.”

Sean – 7 – “I was rooting for this one after the excellent vocoded intro. And there are some nice aspects to this song; I appreciate the 90s pop-retro feel to the synths. It is a little weak and dated for the contest and I feel may be deeply unpopular with some Eurovision fans, but I’ll give this one a positive rating because I enjoyed those three minutes!”

Total = 28 (avg. 5.6)

Neda Ukraden – Bomba

Daniel – 6 – “This is a cool song that, again, intertwines the modern with the traditional. It exhibits its own point of view (very instrumental and very produced). Her voice is not as epic, which might be a factor of the genre of music, but at times I feel that it is too synthesized? I do feel like this song will have a cool staging. I do really appreciate how this song references the Balkan love for reggaeton style music and we appreciate musical variety.”

James – 7 – “Like Sanremo, Beovizija does also seem to facilitate one last swan song for an old artist. This time Neda Ukraden blends biker granny with Cardi B’s hair and you can’t deny this is fun, for all this song’s faults. Yes, it does come off as a Cher-esque attempt to sound modern, but if there is one venue that is kind to that, it is Eurovision (or Russia’s ageing pop aristocracy currently engaged in a death dance with dignity). And Ukraden does not embarrass herself here with a pop song with latin touches, and like David Hasselhoff is clearly in on the joke.”

Melanie – 4 – “So this reminds me of On My Mind from Ellie Goulding, but then with some Serbian elements. That comparison ruins the whole song for me. Please try something more original the next time Neda.”

Roy – 2 – “Old people discovering autotune is really cute in my opinion. It doesn’t really result in a good song though. They just didn’t find a way to make it an enhancement in this. Autotune can be a lovely instrument, but not here. Also, this beat is sooo odd with this song too…”

Sean – 4 – “Not for me, I’m afraid. Fair play to Neda Ukraden for still performing and working at 69(!) and her career speaks for itself, but this isn’t the type of song I’m interested in seeing for Serbia in 2020. I am curious to see the live performance though, as it could add an X Factor to this otherwise ordinary pop entry.”

Total = 23 (avg. 4.6)

Bilja & Amvon – Raj

Daniel – 3 – “I think that this song is very similar to their entry in 2018 with a tad less ethnic sounds. I was not that big of fan of that entry so I do not think it is so much a complement as a “I have heard something like this before.” I think the song is produced well and has some interesting elements, but simultaneously, it has some elements that I feel are from ten years ago.”

James – 8 – “Judicious use of the violin on this pop song with a heavy touch of the traditional Serbian. Pleasant imagery evoked in the lyrics, and the song moves at a nice canter with some great violin flourishes. I hope they get creative with the staging as this is one that requires a lot of movement to pull off and the summer imagery and flowers that the lyrics mention are highlighted. If Serbia wants a showcase of Serbian music that non-Serbians can appreciate without some of the pandering some acts are guilty of, “Raj” is one of them.”

Melanie – 6 – “So I really like the voice and the playfulness in her voice. I really like the violin parts and I have the feeling that I’m listening to a story. Curious how they will stage this, but there’s potential.”

Roy – 2 – “This builds way too slow and is very unremarkable in the start. To be quite frank, it never really escapes this energy and the entire experience stays very linear. This is that type of song that you don’t necessarily mind, but forget the moment it ends.”

Sean – 7 – “I feel like this song tells more of a story than the others, but that is more from the pacing and structure of the track rather than reading anything into any lyrics. The vocals blend well and the stringwork on this track add an extra dimension. One of the more decent entries in this semi-final.”

Total = 26 (avg. 5.2)

Igor Simić – Ples za rastanak

Daniel – 5 – “I think this song gets closer at what I am hoping for a Serbian entry, but still slightly misses the mark. He has a great voice and the song is dynamic in its own special way. I do think it is pretty easy to forget the melody (or actually just confuse it with other similar songs). I think this is a good song to qualify but I do not see it making much of an impact in the final.”

James – 5 – “Great, a break-up song. At least at the end he kind of says goodbye to the woman he’s brooding over, so we get some closure rather than the stew in their own s%$& vibe of so many “nice guy” break up songs we’re hearing at other selections this year. The track is basic apart from a Serbian brass instrument flourish here and there, and though Simić does well to sell his heartache, it’s not really the mood I want at Rotterdam.”

Melanie – 5 – “So it starts really good, but is it just me and does the chorus sounds likes a male version of “In Too Deep?” Anyway it sounds familiar. Overall it’s a good pop song, but doesn’t really stand out of the bunch.”

Roy – 6 – “Serbia was one of the last countries where I would have expected a bit of an R&B beat. It is very low-fi and I am not necessarily the biggest fan of that, but it’s not bad at all. I find myself bopping to the track quite a lot and I enjoy the overall effort here. I am a bit uncertain if the sound of the lyrics are fitting for this type of music and this will probably not stand out at Eurovision. But this was a pleasant surprise!”

Sean – 6 – “This entry kinda passed me by, with a revamp this could be a really good track though. A little beefier on the bass, a little louder on the strings and we’re looking at a potentially good entry for Serbia. It’s a little undercooked at the minute though I’m afraid.”

Total = 27 (avg. 5.4)

What does this mean for our qualifiers? Let’s take a look…

  1. Marko Marković – Kolači – 37
  2. Andrija Jo – Oči Meduze – 32
  3. EJO – Trag – 30
  4. Milica Mišić – Kiša – 30
  5. Thea Devy – Sudnji dan – 30
  6. Srđan Lazić – Duša i telo – 28
  7. Igor Simić – Ples za rastanak – 27
  8. Ivan Kurtić & Mistik Cello – Sabajle – 26
  9. Bilja & Amvon – Raj – 26
  10. Neda Ukraden – Bomba – 23
  11. Karizma – Ona me zna – 22
  12. Sanja Bogosavljević – Ne puštam – 21

In bold, #YOU can see what our qualifiers would be in this semi-final. But have we made the right choices?

What do #YOU think of our thoughts on the Serbian hopefuls? Share your thoughts with us on our forum HERE or join the discussion below and on social media!

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