My oh my what a roller-coaster ride we’ve been having in Bulgaria this year.
In the aftermath of the 2012 contest, Bulgarian organizers conducted a survey to the Eurovision-viewing public in an effort to improve their results. An unconventional move, but it’s nice to know they care. Bulgaria’s best Eurovision result was back in 2007, when the fab “Water” from Elitsa Todorova and Stoyan Yankoulov reached #5. Since then, Bulgaria has struggled to even make the finals.
Their solution? Go back to what worked in the past. So Bulgarian organizers recruited Elitsa and Stoyan for another go in 2013. Here’s the song they are taking to Malmö, “Samo Shampioni” (Only Champions):
Elitsa and Stoyan have a distinctive musical style that fuses flat vocals and vocal dissonance with strong percussion, bagpipes, and tribal rhythms. Their sound is essentially unchanged from 2007.
“Samo Shampioni” replaces “Kismet,” which was the winning song at the Bulgarian national selection. Bulgarian broadcaster BNT explained they had to pull “Kismet” because they could not come to a copyright agreement with the song’s co-writer and that the co-writer was requiring substantial changes that would have taken so much time to implement that BNT would miss the filing deadline with the EBU.
Well, that’s their story and they’re sticking to it. But word on the street was that Elitsa was unhappy that “Kismet” was selected over “Samo Shampioni,” to the point where she refused to give interviews after the show. It seems “Samo Shampioni” had been their preferred choice from the beginning, but BNT required a set of songs so they could hold a selection show. The vote between the two songs was close, decided only by a tiebreak that favored the public vote. So replacing “Kismet” is, how shall we say? Convenient.
The irony is that “Samo Shampioni” is the better choice. The song stands on its own and is a better use of their three minutes. Elitsa and Stoyan have lots of drums and do some theatrics with their drumsticks that they can easily bring to Malmö. It’s fine. “Kismet,” on the other hand, had a cool trance vibe, but it started strangely, took too long to get going, and lacked a musical payoff. Every time I heard “Kismet,” I would sing Lady’s Gaga’s “Telephone” because the line “Stop calling stop calling, I don’t wanna talk anymore” provided the musical hook that “Kismet” needed.
At the end of the day, I think Elitsa and Stoyan are unlikely to repeat or improve on their 2007 finish. “Water” had an energy that they are unable to replicate here, regardless of which song they picked.