Back in the good old days, there were countries that always enjoyed some sort of success and other that seemed to be consistently destined to mediocre results – irrespective of the quality of their entry. Yugoslavia seemed to fall into the latter category, even if they did produce a fair amount of good old Eurovision classics (at least in my book).
One of those is Doris Dragovic’s ‘Zeljo Moja’. Everything about this performance is so gloriously 80s that it is impossible not to fall in love with it at first sight/listen. But taking a step back, let’s first have a look at who Doris Dragović is.
The road to Bergen: Eurostars of the past and the future
At the time of the contest, Dragović had enjoyed brief success as part of the band More, from whom she decided to part ways in 1986. That same year, she entered Jugovizija 1986, the national final to select the Yugoslavian entry, and won with a total of 57 points, thus earning the right to perform her Zeljo Moja on the stage at Bergen.
The 1986 edition of Jugovizija included a line-up packed with Eurovision stars of the past and the future. Seid Memić (12th) and Daniel (11th) had represented Yugoslavia in 1981 and 1983, respectively, and Novi Fosili (2nd), Hara Mata Hari (5th) and Dado Topić (4th) would go on to represent Yugoslavia, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Croatia in 1987, 2006 and 2007, respectively. This, of course, without counting the fact that Doris herself would come back to represent Croatia in 1999.
Vikings, ice, a cursed position and an underserved placing
The stage of Bergen was set up to a viking/icy theme, not unexpected from a host country like Norway. Unfortunately, Yugoslavia had the back luck of being second in the running order, which any Eurovision fan knows is the worst possible omen. And Doris seemed to want to blend with the ambiance with her ice-white dress.
Besides that, the performance was simply sublime. Dragović made clear her amazing vocal abilities and flare for drama with her rendition of Zeljo Moja. Every second of it is a plea for love, a desperate cry for the beloved one to come back. The whole ensemble is as beautifully embedded in the 80s as it could have been. Doris’ dress and hair, the transparent piano, the sound of the keyboard and the general vibe. This is, without a doubt, the best Yugoslavian entry of all time. Mind, it could be the best entry including all the nations Yugoslavia broke into. It is a fantastic piece of music, which was unfairly treated but that has survived the test of time.
Zeljo Moja remains one of my favourite entries in the history of the contest. I find a magic in the language and am envolved in the feeling by Dragović’s magic voice. Annoyingly, 10 songs inexplicably managed to beat it, including what’s in my eyes one of the worst winners of all time.
What our other editors had to say:
Don’t get me wrong, I love all things “retro” Eurovision, especially when they’re not in English. But Željo Moja doesn’t seem to grab my attention. While Doris’ vocals are very pleasant and stable, the overall package is nothing that blows me away. On the contrary, I find her later entry, Marija Magdalena to be much better and a lot more powerful.
With her voluminous barnet, mug beat for the Gods, shoulder pads as severe as her cheekbones; there’s something incredibly charming about just how 80s ‘Zeljo Moja’ is in every sense. This charm has enabled it to age like fine wine compared to many of the entries from the same era, much like ‘J’aime la vie’, the winning entry of that year. The twinkling, almost festive quality to the production evokes a weird sense of nostalgia…despite me being born over twelve years after the 1986 final. Although this doesn’t hold a candle to the banger that is ‘Marija Magdalena’, this more understated Doris entry also has a special place in the Eurovision archives for me.
Well hello there childhood! When I was about 10, my dad made a mixtape of some of his favourite ex Yu tunes and this one was on it. It’s just such a classic everywhere from Ljubljana to Skopje and Doris’ star status didn’t exactly hurt either. The hidden key change, the chorus, it all brings massive flashbacks. I prefer her 1999 entry, but this one is fabulous as well and should have ended higher.
Let’s be honest, here. If you ask a Eurovision fan about Doris Dragovic, they’re probably gonna talk more about her 1999 entry, “Marija Magdalena,” not this. This song seems to be fairly run-of-the-course for Eurovision in the 80s, and if it weren’t for being in Serbo-Croatian, it sounds like it could represent any country. That being said, Doris is a great vocalist, and in a year as “meh” as 1986, this deserved a top ten placing at least.
What is your opinion on “Zeljo Moja”? Next week we’ll be back with another Eurovision retro classic. Lisa is up with an entry from MOLDOVA!