September 8th is North Macedonia's Independence Day or known in Macedonian as 'Den na nezavisnosta'. This holiday marks the date of the 1991 Referendum for Independence from the now defunct Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. Over 95.5% of voters in the referendum voted in favour of independence and the 'Republic of Macedonia' was declared on 25 September 1991.
However due to an objection by Greece to use of the name Macedonia, the nation was internationally known as the 'Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia'. Then in June 2018, Macedonia and Greece finally resolved the conflict with an agreement that the nation should rename itself the 'Republic of North Macedonia'. This renaming officially came into effect in February 2019.
As part of Yugoslavia, Macedonian artists and songwriters had taken part in many of the Yugoslav pre-selections for the Eurovision Song Contest. However the Macedonian entries never managed to win selection, leaving it the only federal state never to send a Yugoslav entry to the competition The only exception occurred in 1979 when Macedonian artist Maja Odžaklievska won the Yugoslav pre-selection competition, but she did not perform at the Eurovision Song Contest due to the Yugoslavian decision not to participate that year. So close, yet so far!
As an independent nation, Macedonia submitted its first Eurovision entry for the 1996 edition - Samo ti sung by Kaliopi. Their efforts to finally take to the Eurovision stage would once again be thwarted, as the song failed to qualify through the non-broadcast pre-selection round. The country would have to wait another 2 years to officially make their Eurovision debut when Vlado Janevski took to the stage in Birmingham to perform Ne Zori, Zoro finishing in 19th place in the final.
When it comes to Macedonia's Eurovision history the words "mixed success" do come to mind. A combination of questionable choices and just plain bad luck has seen the country failing to make it out of the Semi Finals more times than not. But success is not always measured purely on the scoreboard and they have produced some truly iconic performances that will be enjoyed for years to come!
In celebration of North Macedonia's Independence Day let's have a look at 5 I picked out -
Jana Burčeska - Dance Alone (Semi Final 15th place - 2017)
Jana Burčeska's dance banger was wildly received by critics and the fandom when it was released prior to the 2017 contest. With a strong songwriting and production team behind her and a brilliant music video to accompany it, big things were expected in Kyiv. Then came the live performance... Jana did indeed 'dance alone', well it was more like 'writhed alone', on a very empty stage. The vocal performance matched the staging, too sparse and a little underwhelming. Hearts were broken and Jana failed to qualify for the Grand Final. It wasn't all bad for Jana, she revealed she was pregnant in her postcard and she received a very public marriage proposal from her fiance on the night. At least someone walked away from that happy!
Elena Risteska - Ninanajna (Grand Final 12th place - 2006)
For 13 years after its performance, Elena's 12th place finish at the very competitive 2006 competition was Macedonia's highest ever finish at the Eurovision Song Contest. Elena and her eclectic bunch of dancers and backup singers capture the zeitgeist of the contest in the mid-2000s. I'll be honest and admit I have no idea what the song is about, as I'm distracted and aghast at the dreadful fashions of the day on display. The fact the Elena doesn't fall over and break an ankle in those heels is some kind of miracle that needs to be applauded. The performance also ends in some mystifying piece of human furniture! Who thought that was a good idea?
Eye Cue - Lost and Found (Semi Final 18th place - 2018)
To some the Macedonian entry for 2018 will go down as one the greatest dumpster fires in Eurovision history, to others this is a multi-genre work of art that maybe just didn't quite hit the mark. Either way it kind of sums up Macedonia's Eurovision entries perfectly. A bit all over the shop! I personally found the studio cut of this track very catchy and interesting, but then we got to the live performance. Hooo Boy! The live version never really gelled as well as the studio and left juries and audiences probably bewildered. Then we get to the staging and costuming choices. An analysis of these would be an entire separate article.
They went too far, and there was no way back....
Kaliopi - Crno I Belo (Grand Final 13th - 2012)
No Macedonian list would be complete without the Macedonian Queen of Eurovision herself Kaliopi. A legend of the Balkan music scene for decades, it is only fitting her stunning vocals have graced the Eurovision stage on 2 occasions so far. Either of her performances could have made this list but it's her rock-infused 2012 entry that I've gone with. A fan favourite and rightly so, Kaliopi effortlessly belts out this track while emoting a performance worthy of an Emmy. It also features 'that note' which has gone down in Eurovision history.
All hail the Queen!
Tamara Todevska - Proud (Grand Final 7th - 2019)
Well it just had to be! Tamara's brilliant 7th place finish in Tel Aviv is Macedonia's best ever result at the contest and it would've been remiss of me to not honour her achievement with top billing on this list. Her powerhouse vocal performance wowed the National Juries and delivered a stunning win in the jury vote, setting her up for the nation's first ever Top 10 finish. Simple but effective staging allowed Tamara to showcase her amazing vocal talent. A triumphant return for the singer who had graced the Eurovision stage previously on 2 occasions. Keep it simple Macedonia and this can be the result!
Happy Independence Day North Macedonia!
We're looking forward to see what you have for us next year - Mike