Slovenia and Eurovision. Quite a complex relationship. For being a small and economically not a very powerful country, we (Slovenia) always had big dreams of someday winning this competition. We came close a couple of times with Nuša Derenda and Darja Švajger who share the highest ranking position with 7th place, but we can’t shake off the feeling that we could have done better and at the same time that we can’t compete with “bigger” countries. To understand the relationship between Slovenia and Eurovision song contest we have to understand the music scene in Slovenia.
In spite of not being a “musical giant” like Sweden, Slovenia always had great musicians and performers, so when it came to our Eurovision entries through the years, we tried almost everything. We gave Europe opera pop song with Alenka Gotar and the song Cvet z juga. We were inclusive way back in 2002 when drag queen trio Sestre successfully represented Slovenia with the song Samo ljubezen. We tried with a more classical instrumental song Love Symphony from Quartissimo in 2009 and we even combined rock music with folk music in 2010 with a song Narodnozabavni rock by Ansambel Roka Žlindre and Kalamari. Not all entries were the best idea, but we can say that we tried to be innovative. Some would even call it trying to be fresh.
With sending almost everybody, famous and talented from Slovenia to Eurovision stage we ask ourselves: “What is missing on Slovenian music scene that we can’t compete with other countries?”
It is quite common that we send the same people to Eurovision multiple times. The bigger issue is that it seems we also only have a selected group of Slovenian artists, which get a chance to play their music on the radio, appear on TV or compete at different music festivals in the country. “We are trying to get our songs to play on the radio for quite some time now, but we haven’t been successful. According to people on the radio we don’t have enough powerplay,”say Jakob and Iza, known as the duet Younite. They and 17 other entries are competing in this year’s Ema Freš competition.
What is Ema Freš you may ask? It is a competition for young and non-established Slovenian performers to win a chance to compete at next year’s Ema, which is a national selection for Eurovision. A young female artist Klarity (Klara Klasinc) who also competes in Ema Fresh this year had this to say about the struggle of young people to qualify for Ema: “Judges rather pick already known artists to compete for a spot at Eurovision, because they are already aware of their performance abilities and popularity with the crowd. Ema Freš however gives a chance to us young people to show our talent and also to grow the interest for Eurovision among the youth.”
Nowadays, where likes and followers rank everything a big issue for young artists in Slovenia also presents commercialisation. “I personally know a lot of singers who got too much commercialized and lost that unique and creative spark. I do not see my future like this. There are also those who stay true to themselves but their road to mainstream success is therefore longer and slower. If you do not have the Instagram following, people will not invest in you. Sadly, the talent, heart, soul and musicality come in second. It is a lottery. Nevertheless, I believe that if it is meant to be it will be,” says Veronika Steiner, lead singer from the band Parvani Violet, who also competes at this year’s Ema Freš.
So why Ema Freš appeared only now then? The concept is not new. RTV Slovenia tried something similar back in 2011 with singing TV reality show Misija Evrovizija (Mission Eurovision) instead of a regular Ema, where young singers competed for a chance to go to Eurovision. The winner Eva Boto didn’t get far at Eurovision but Slovenia got a chance to discover some young talented singers that are successful to this day. Ema Freš is however entirely an online contest and only the first stop at the journey to Eurovision. “I appreciate the thinking-outside-the-box approach. Perhaps the broadcaster took a page from Sanremo Giovanni (an Italian music competition for young artists competing for a chance to compete at the Italian national qualifications for a spot at Eurovision) with a more prolonged period of eliminations. If it worked for an outsider like Mahmud in Sanremo, (Mahmud represented Italy last year and was runer up), why not make it happen in Slovenia too? However, I wish there were more songs in the final so that the portion of the non-established acts will be greater than 20% of the total amount of songs. A final with 12 songs including eight established acts and four non-established acts could have been more advantageous to the selection process,” says Sam, one of the fans, who commented under the article that announced the news of Ema Freš at Wiwiblogs, the biggest media platform for Eurovision news.
“I think we can also thank Zala and Gašper who proved last year, that young artist can do it and they can do it very good,” says Maja Pinterič, a young Slovenian influencer and one of the five judges of Ema Freš. Let us remember, Zala and Gašper represented us at last year’s Eurovision, where they came in 15th. When they won Ema, nobody really knew who they were and there was a lot of skepticism, but in the end, they proved all of us wrong with a great song and performance. They really were fresh in their own way.
Ema Freš will last until the start of December, but there are already positive reactions from everybody involved. “We can already see that a lot of new people found out about us and our music,” says duet Younite. “I can’t say that all acts from Ema Fresh amazed me, but there are at least five good contestants that we wouldn’t have known about if it weren’t for Ema Fresh,” adds judge Pinterič.
Hopefully with Ema Freš we finally found a successful tool to fix the complex relationship between Slovenia and Eurovision and most importantly between Slovenians and music.