- Craig Land
Romania: Six iconic 'Selecţia Naţională' performances
Today, December 1, is Great Union Day in Romania, which celebrates the unification of Transylvania, Bessarabia and Bukovina into the Kingdom of Romania in 1918.
After not making the Eurovision Grand Final for three Contests running, Romania will be returning to their traditional national final format, 'Selecţia Naţională', for 2022.
A mammoth 45 songs will battle it out in a two-stage semi-final and then a Grand Final to represent Romania in Turin.
'Selecţia Naţională' has traditionally been one of the most reliable (and dramatic) events on the national final calendar. Held every year since Romania’s Eurovision debut in 1994 – with the exception of this year, when Roxen was preselected to represent Romania in Rotterdam after the cancellation of Eurovision 2020 – it has generated thrills, spills and numerous angry Twitter threads in its nearly 30-year history. Aside from anything else, the sheer number of songs from the show has produced many fan favourites over the years!
To celebrate Romania’s national day, we have selected six iconic entries from 'Selecţia Naţională'.
6. Xonia - 'Discrete' (2019)
'Discrete' has an Australian connection: Xonia was born in Melbourne, Australia, and has previously represented Australia at the Golden Stag Festival, which takes place in Romania every year.
Born to two Romanian parents, Xonia relocated permanently to Romania after the festival, and has grown a successful career producing music. 'Discrete' is a lovely chilled track, which gives Xonia an opportunity to show off her unique voice on its distinct melodies – even if, technically speaking, the song should probably be called “Discreet” instead!
The live performance of this song at 'Selecţia Naţională' perhaps became iconic for the wrong reasons. Xonia spends a large portion of the song sitting on the floor, demonstrating her ballet training through an elaborate interpretive dance routine. Her outfit, too, is memorable – a catsuit patterned to look like snakeskin, and a pair of pointe shoes with heels. Regrettably, Xonia didn’t make it through the semi-finals of 'Selecţia Naţională' 2019.
5. Roxen - 'Cherry Red' (2020)
A red-hot fan favourite prior to the 2020 national final (pun intended), the studio version of 'Cherry Red' is a sleek, well-produced dance track with a pumping beat. Unfortunately, it appears that Roxen didn’t agree, with the live performance of the song at the national final going down as an infamous flop.
Roxen appeared to stand on the stage motionless and emotionless, prompting fan comparisons to Dua Lipa’s 2018 BRIT Awards performance which launched a thousand memes. Go girl, give us nothing!
'Cherry Red' perhaps demonstrates the downsides of national finals which asks viewers to choose between multiple songs from the one artist. If the artist doesn’t like a song, there’s nothing you can do to make them work up enthusiasm for it. Still, this is a fantastic studio track, and deserved the praise it received from fans prior to the national final.
4. M I H A I – 'I Won’t Surrender' (2017)
You can’t do a 'Selecţia Naţională' countdown without mentioning Mihai! Mihai Trăistariu is a 'Selecţia Naţională' legend, having competed at the national selection nine times since 2000, and winning the opportunity to represent Romania in 2006, where he placed fourth with 'Tornero'.
'I Won’t Surrender' is his most successful recent entry, placing second in 'Selecţia Naţională' 2017. A dramatic power ballad, the song demonstrates Mihai’s ability to deliver some big notes and riffs while dressed in a very glittery jacket. Sadly, nothing could topple the iconic 'Yodel It' in Selecţia Naţională 2017, and Mihai was forced to try to return to Eurovision again (and again) in subsequent years.
3. Ovidiu Anton – 'Moment of Silence' (2016)
This song, which was due to represent Romania at the 2016 Eurovision Song Contest, is an epic rock ballad led by Ovidiu’s soaring vocals. The aesthetic feels like a cross between Game of Thrones and a glam rock band, and it resonated well with Romanian audiences.
Indeed,' Moment of Silence' is technically a Eurovision act – it conclusively won 'Selecţia Naţională' 2016, receiving 2,000 more votes than the next best-placed act, and it appears on the official Eurovision 2016 album.
Unfortunately, though, Ovidiu’s Eurovision moment never arrived. In April 2016, the EBU announced that Romania had been disqualified from Eurovision 2016 due to repeated non-payment of debts. By 2017, this issue had been resolved and Romania returned to the Contest. This was little consolation to Ovidiu, who missed out on his chance to represent his country on the Eurovision stage.
2. Feli - 'Bună de iubit (Royalty)' (2018)
Feli’s 'Bună de iubit' is a beach holiday compressed into audio form and projected into your ears for three minutes. Combining Afrobeat rhythms in the verses with a crowd-pleasing poppy chorus, this was another wild fan favourite prior to the final of 'Selecţia Naţională' 2018 and would have paired nicely with Eleni Foureira’s 'Fuego' and Netta’s 'Toy' in Lisbon.
Feli is an alumni of 'The Voice Romania' 2012, and has built a solid music career since, releasing dozens of singles and an album in 2017.
Unfortunately, Feli ultimately finished third behind The Humans with 'Goodbye' and Alexei & Matei with 'Walking on Water'. Due to relatively small viewing figures for 'Selecţia Naţională' in Romania, the ultimate margin was just 300-400 votes.
1. Bella Santiago - 'Army of Love' (2019)
While 'Army of Love' was one of several songs seeking to replicate the success of Cyprus’ Eleni Foureira during the 2019 national final season, it rose above its competitors due to a seriously impressive performer.
Bella Santiago is a Filipino singer who came to prominence after winning 'The X Factor Romania' in 2018. 'Amy of Love' was her second attempt to represent Romania at Eurovision, after placing fourth in 2018 with 'Auzi cum bate', her collaboration with the band Jukebox.
'Army of Love' is a powerful up-tempo number which pays tribute to Bella’s Filipino heritage, particularly in a rap verse performed in Tagalog. It further shows off her dancing prowess, with Bella not hesitating to introduce some high-energy dance moves in the final performance. Although 'Selecţia Naţională' 2019 was massively competitive, with Bella competing against a massive ballad from Lauran Breton and the eventual winner, Ester Peony, we would have loved to have seen this bop make it to Eurovision.
A very happy Great Union Day to our Romanian fans, and we can’t wait to see what you bring to Eurovision 2022!
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