When Bojana Stamenov steps on stage at the Eurovision Song Contest, she will realise a childhood dream.
What she would not have seen coming is that she would make Eurovision history as the first artist to represent Serbia by singing in English.
The Belgrade-based singer won a public TV vote for her performance of a rousing ballad, Ceo Svet je Moj.
But a decision has been made that official Eurovision expert John Kennedy O’Connor believes could boost Serbia’s chances in the contest.
At the same time, it is a decision that could upset some people: Bojana is likely to sing in English.
Serbian national broadcaster RTS has previously toyed with a similar idea, releasing English promotional versions in advance of the contest.
RTS will decide if Beauty Never Lies for Serbia
For the first time, public reaction came out so much in favour the English-language version Beauty Never Lies that RTS bosses chose to bow to the increased chance of a Eurovision win by singing in English
“I still don’t know which version I will sing,’ Bojana told Wild Rooster, just days before RTS announced its decision (Monday). “Both versions are good. Each is special in some way.”
“Serbia are the only nation since the language rule was abolished in 1999 to win with a non-English song,’ said John.
“The mood and drama of Molitva suited the Serbian language perfectly, but clearly, if you want to have a better chance of winning, English is the stronger option.
“In fact, going back a quarter of a century since 1991, only Molitva was truly a non-English winner. Norway’s and Israel’s wins in that period had very limited language included. They’re the only other two non-English winners in 25 years. Singing in English clearly pays off.”
For John, the decision facing RTS was a simple one. “Beauty Never Lies works for me better than Ceo Svet Je Moj and it will help it for sure,’ he said.
“However, there is a part of me that regrets the loss of all the European tongues in the contest, yet it does create a more even playing field.”
Serbia’s song has strong Eurovision credentials in any language
Even before such a decision was made, Bojana was seen as a strong contender for Vienna due, in large part, to the enviable credentials of her song: Ceo Svet je Moj was co-written by Vladimir Graić, who penned the lyric for Serbia’s 2007 Eurovision winner, Molitva.
As if that were not enough Eurovision pedigree, lyrics for the well-received English version Beauty Never Lies, were written by celebrated American lyricist Charlie Mason, who wrote Rise Like A Phoenix, which took Conchita Wurst to victory at last year’s contest.
“Charlie Mason has done a wonderful job keeping the emotion, love, the same in Serbian and English,’ said Bojana.
“I wasn’t sure what to expect when I first saw Bojana,’ said John. “From her styling, I was expecting her song to be something very ethnic, perhaps gypsy influenced.
“When I heard the song, I rather liked it – eventually! It seems to be two songs merged together and the first half is somewhat misleading. When the dance rhythm finally kicks in, it really does come alive. The problem with a song structured like that is sometimes the audience won’t stick around to realise it’s building to something else.”
A childhood dream comes true for Bojana Stamenov
Opportunities to perform at the Eurovision Song Contest with a song of such credentials do not come along every day.
“Ever since I was a little girl I loved to sing and I have been a fan of Eurovision since childhood,’ said Bojana, aged 28, who studied classical guitar, renaissance lute and renaissance singing in Belgrade. “I’m very positive and happy about the opportunity. It’ s good to be part of 60th anniversary of Eurovision song contest.”
So when she took a phone call one day last year, Bojana, who came fourth in Serbian TV talent contest Ja imam talenat (‘I Have Talent’), in 2012, could not believe her luck.
“One day in September, Vladimir Graic, who composed our winning song Molitva, called and asked me would I consider taking part in our national election to represent Serbia in Vienna,’ she said. “Of course, I said yes, without even thinking.”
The result was Ceo svet je moj. “This is the first time that somebody wrote a song especially for me.”
“The title means the whole world is mine,’ said Bojana. “It tells a story about love and how liberating it is to let someone special love you, no matter what your ‘faults’ are. That appealed to me deeply, so I really sang it from the heart.
“Actually it is very easy for me to relate to the message of the lyric. Love is the main emotion in the song, and love makes the world better place.”
Eurovision is about more than a strong song
Whether the English or Serbian lyric is chosen for Vienna, the song is only one part of the recipe for Eurovision success, as Bojana has come to realise since winning the TV selection.
“Everything needs to fit together if you are to be in with a chance of winning,’ she said. “Firstly, you have to have a good song. But after that there is so much more that you cannot fully control: a good voice, strong performance, the support of the people and, of course, the power of positive thinking.”
Curiously, Bojana did not go into the process as a favourite to represent Serbia in Vienna. That all changed once she had chance to present her impressive voice and ample charms in the live TV vote.
“For that kind of competition it is very important to have public support,’ she said. “Their vote is crucial to win. In the selection show I tried to impress people with my voice and performance. Thankfully, it worked. I did it and here I am.”
Now that she has that public endorsement, the pressure is on for Bojana to deliver in Vienna. Not that she is letting the pressure get to her. “I’m very excited and can’t wait to get to Vienna,’ she said.
“I will give my best to justify all the support the people are giving me. I can feel only positive pressure and encouragement from such support.
“Of course, with that chance there comes big responsibility. I am very proud to be selected to represent my country and I know what that responsibility that carries. But I will try to clear my mind and not think about that too much.
“It is going to be difficult because expectations are very high, but I have to try. I believe that my smile and positive energy are my best weapons for stressful situations.”
Marija Serifović is Bojana’s Eurovision favourite
Bojana grew up watching the Eurovision Song Contest, as her home country took to the stage as Yugoslavia, Serbia and Montenegro, and now Serbia.
“I have been a big fan of Eurovision since I was a child,’ said Bojana. “Ever since I can remember the Eurovision Song Contest was a special event in my house. My whole family watched it.
“To represent my country in the contest was my childhood dream and I really can say that I saw that dream coming true when I won the chance to take part in the contest. To win for Serbia in Vienna would be my biggest dream, but we’ll have to wait and see about that.”
As a fan of the contest, Bojana has a number of strong songs and powerful performances to call upon for her own outing on the Eurovision stage. “There have been quite a few legendary songs through the years,’ she said. “A few that caught my attention and which I still love to sing are Where are you (Imaani), Waterloo (ABBA) and Euphoria (Loren).
“But my favourite has to be Molitva. The singing of Marija Serifović is number one ahead of all the rest. When I watched Marija and her brilliant performance in 2007, I couldn’t imagine that in a few years I would be in her shoes.”
So, has Bojana received any words of advice from previous entrants, such as Željko Joksimović or Marija Serifović? “The positive comments and support have been coming not only from them but from many others,’ she said.
“I have had a lot of support. People recognise me on the street, congratulate me and offer their support. It is surprising how social networks can help, too. Social media has good and bad sides. But let`s keep hold of the good ones.”
To win through to the Final on 23 May, Bojana will have to first convince voters in the first semi final on 19 May, as she could benefit from that social media support.
As is common practice, too, plans are being drawn up for Bojana to promote the song abroad, with one country firm in her sights: the UK.
“I have traveled and preformed outside of Serbia, and I even visited Vienna a couple of times,’ she said. “But I have never been to the UK. I hope to have the opportunity to visit and enjoy London soon.”
As well as raising the profile of the song, such a promotional tour also allows Bojana and her dancers a chance to hone their performance before arriving in Vienna. “We are planning a full stage performance, but I can’t say much about that at this time. It’s going to be a surprise.
“We didn’t even decide yet what my outfit for the stage is going to be. But I do know that it is going to be unique, I’m sure.
“In some ways fashion is a passion of mine. I design all of my clothes, and my mum sews them. That way, I’m trying to be original and follow trends at the same time.”
Fans can follow Bojana’s progress as she prepares for Vienna via her official Facebook and Twitter accounts. Whatever the result in Vienna, Bojana hopes to record her debut album in the near future.
In the meantime, she has just one message for the people who hold the key to her chances of success: “Stay tuned and vote for love!”Beauty Never Lies In a shadowy world lived a dazzling girl, Unaware of the light she’d imprisoned inside. Took a million mistakes to lead her to daybreak, But she made it through, now I know the truth! Beauty never lies, never hides, never gives a damn! Beauty never lies, no, it cries “Here I am!” Finally I can say: yes, I’m different, and it’s okay! Here I am! Had to shatter the fears laughing in the mirror Undermining me, now at last I see! Beauty never lies, never hides, never gives a damn! Beauty never lies, no, it cries ‘Here I am!’ Finally I can say: yes, I’m different, and it’s okay! Here I am! Beneath the veil of skin the heart’s entangled in, Beauty’s embodied! Beneath the mask of shame, my soul is set aflame! Beauty never lies, never hides, never gives a damn! Beauty never lies, no, it cries ‘Here I am!’ Finally I can say: yes, I’m different, and it’s okay! Here I am! Here I am!