Throwback Thursday: Željko Joksimović brought Serbia back to the top

Serbia started their Eurovision journey extremely well, when they won the contest in 2007, when taking part for the first time as an independent country. After that they reached the final three times and failed to qualify once, before Željko Joksimović returned to the contest to represent Serbia in 2012. Today on Throwback Thursday we take a look on “Nije ljubav stvar”.

A strong comeback

We all knew Željko Joksimović prior his Eurovision comeback. Together with Ad Hoc Orchestra Željko finished second behind Ukraine and Ruslana in 2004. “Lane moje” became one of the most loved songs in the contest. In 2011 Eurovision fans voted the song as the best Eurovision song ever on the annual Eurovision Top 250.
Željko Joksimović was selected as Serbia’s representative internally and his song “Nije ljubav stvar” was presented in March together with its English version “Synonym”. Serbia opened the second semifinal of Eurovision Song Contest 2012 and finished second behind Sweden.
In the final Serbia got their best result since their victory, when Željko and “Nije ljubav stvar” got the third place. Serbia didn’t get only points from the Balkan region, but all over the Europe. For example, Austria, Switzerland, Netherlands, Sweden, Norway and Germany all awarded them their ten points.

A perfect Balkan ballad

For me, “Nije ljubav stvar” is a perfect Balkan ballad. It has a beautiful, but exceptionally long intro. Željko’s vocals are great and especially the live version with the backing vocalists sounds amazing. The performance works well without gimmicks as Željko’s charisma fills the stage.
“Nije ljubav stvar” is also my favourite song from the whole contest in 2012. While I am happy that “Euphoria” won and become a huge worldwide hit, my personal winner is “Nije ljubav stvar”. Even I like the entries Željko has written, “Nije ljubav stvar” has a special place in my heart.

This week’s guest star(s)

Sometimes you just have to. And this is one of those times. We have TWO guest stars this week.
Our first Serbian guest star is none other than Slobodan Todorović, founder of and Editor-in-chief at ESC Serbia, the largest and best Eurovision site in the Balkans! He is a walking encyclopedia when it comes to all kinds of knowledge about Eurovision, both in his region but also everywhere else! He’s happy the Serbian entry will be selected in a national final again, but not too impressed with what’s on offer. “Nije ljubav stvar”, on the other hand…
Our second guest star needs no further introduction, I guess. He’s one of the founding fathers of escXtra, and even if he’s not really Serbian, he’s got opinions! He’s also the founder and Editor-in-chief over at ESCBubble, and in recent years he’s also been part of the Montenegrin delegation. We give you the one, the only; Ervin Juhász!

Slobodan Todorović  – on “Nije ljubav stvar”, Željko, Serbia in Eurovision and his favourite!

The internal choice of Željko Joksimović was a surprise because in previous years RTS held some kind of open national selection process. So, for the first time RTS went internal and the public was a bit angry. Everyone wondered how it is possible to choose Eurovision representative anonymously, with no voice of public ..
The second thing which caused dissatisfaction was – Željko Joksimović, actually! “Why him again?”, “Don’t we have others?” etc. It was the fourth time Željko was involved in Eurovision. Anyway, he promised another amazing song and – triumph in Baku. After a “disappointing” 6th place in Belgrade, he really wanted to win.
RTS hosted a special TV show to present the entry. First, Željko sang the English version, and at the end – Serbian. I was really amazed, and I strongly believed in success, but I doubted triumph. Yes, it was another Balkan ballad, something that we all expected, but it was totally different from his previous works and that was something special.
But, unfortunately, right after the show, Eurovision fans found similarities with Coldplay’s “Paradise”. The balloon blew out! We all knew that we had to go through the same issue, just like in 2004 with “Lane moje”. I met Željko a couple of days after and he was in a really bad mood. It was like the whole world was against him. He was disappointed with the reaction of the public because he believed in support that time.
Anyway, somehow he passed through that difficult situation. He continued to promote the entry, RTS and his team gave a lot of energy to reach to the top.
Eventually, we achieved third place in Baku, Serbia’s second best result. Maybe it was the wrong year for him with that song… Loreen was invincible, but I honestly felt proud. Somehow I knew that it is going to be our last huge success. Please, don’t ask me how but I knew it. I gave an interview to RTS after Eurovision and I said: “Željko’s result is a great success. Time will show.” So, you decide if I was right…
When it comes to Serbia in the Eurovision, I think we were brave. What do I mean? For a very short period, we presented ourselves in many ways, not only as a country of the “Balkan ballads”. We showed different styles, we showed that we are a talented and creative nation who doesn’t follow blindly popular (read American and British) trends. I think we have built a Eurovision identity, which is very important.
My favourite Serbian Eurovision song is “Oro” sang by Jelena Tomašević and written by Željko Joksimović. That song has very deep and touching emotion with beautiful lyrics based on tradition and forgotten customs.
I’m afraid the we have lost our Eurovision way. We need to find it again.

Ervin Juhász – being his lovely self; happy with everything — except “Nije ljubav stvar”

OMG, of all the songs Serbia sent, why “Nije ljubav stvar”? Everyone who knows me even a little bit knows that I’m really not a Zeljko fan, and that I disagree with this way of making 17 versions of the same song and try to sell them out all as a ‘unique one’, “Nije ljubav stvar” being a great example of this. But I’ll stick to the good old saying – if you have nothing nice to say, don’t say anything at all.. Cos I could go on 🙂
I have to say that I enjoy the fact that Serbia sent different stuff to Eurovision, and that the artists are nowadays more free to choose the language they want to sing in. And I’m really happy they are bringing Beovizija back this year, and that there are so many familiar faces and quite a few really good songs which will definitely stand a big chance at Eurovision.
My favorite Serbian entry … Well, there are a few – “Beauty Never Lies” gives me goosebumps even today when I watch the live version of it, “Molitva” was my favourite in 2007, and I’d also like to mention “Caroban” by Nina, who’s song was very nice and suited her perfectly, and even though most of people in Serbia wrote her off the moment she won, she went to Düsseldorf and got her place in the final. And deservedly so!

What the others had to say


First of all, that instrumental start is stunning. And a bold choice not to jump straight into the vocal. I like the simplicity of the staging. No gimmicks required; let the song speak for itself. Balkan ballads rarely get my attention, especially when sharing the same arena as two of my favourite modern-day Eurovision songs. In case you’re interested: Loreen’s “Euphoria” and Pastora Soler’s “Quedate Conmigo”. Željko is a Balkan great, so this always stood a good chance of breaking through that cultural boundary and grabbing my attention. A well-deserved third place! Thanks for reminding me to add this to my current playlist.


“Nije ljubav stvar” got a well-deserved third place and although we have had several Balkan ballads being performed during those years, I never got tired of them. The song is captivating and the instrumental part is simply magical and the whole song very beautiful and well performed. Simple staging with no gimmicks required  – it stands out on it’s own in a sea of strong entries in the line-up of that year, in my opinion.
It’s also worth to mention that 6 entries out of the top-10, Serbia included, were performed in their national languages.
Well done Serbia!


As many of you will already be aware; I loooooove a good Balkan ballad! There are sooooo many of them out there, but none of them even come close to this masterpiece! I already loved Željko massively after “Lane moje” and “Lejla”, and also many of the songs he’s composed and performed outside of Eurovision. I don’t understand much Serbian, but “Nije ljubav stvar” spoke directly to my heart from the first time I heard it. Željko’s voice gets me every time, the simplicity and ease with which he does .. well, anything. Add the no-nonsense performance, and to me, we have a winner. And when, on top of everything else, he gives us that music video… well, there you have it. #my2012winner


I was so happy when he was given a shot to do it all over again.. It has the known Balkan vibe along with a violin, so you’ll know it will be awesome. Had the songs not been so strong, this could have easily won. I hope he comes back soon, but who knows third time might be a charm.

What is your favorite Zeljko Joksimovic entry at Eurovision?

2004 – Lane Moje (Serbia and Montenegro)
2006 – Lejla (Bosnia and Herzegovina)
2008 – Oro (Serbia)
2012 – Nije Ljubav Stvar (Serbia)
2015 – Adio (Montenegro)
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Sami Luukela

I started watching Eurovision back in 2006, when I was only 10 and couldn't stay up to see Lordi winning. I attended my first contest in 2013 in Malmö. I'm studying journalism and I love music — you will probably never see me without my headphones on.

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