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Throwback Thursday: Doris is the devotion

Once again, it is time for a Throwback Thursday! And this week, it is Croatia’s turn to be remembered (or thrown back at?). With that in mind, I chose to talk about the best Croatian attemp so far, “Marija Magdalena”, from 1999.

My choice

I was born in 1999, a few months before Eurovision. Maybe I even watched it as a baby, who knows. At any rate, about a year ago, I thought about watching an ESC from “a long time ago”, and chose this one: the first one I could have watched.

I was pleasantly surprised by the contest itself: I liked the hosts (especially Dafna Dekel), the stage, the postcards, the interval act, the winner, and more acts than I would have thought. Among my favourites was of course Doris Dragović and her superb “Marija Magdalena” (ah-ah-ah-ah-ah-aaaaaaaah).

The haunting music and performance

Obviously, the first thing that struck me was the music! The chorus is much loved by the fans, and was much loved by Europe on Eurovision night. Not only is it “pleasing” to the hear on the night, it actually haunts you. I still find myself singing “ah-ah-ah-ah-ah-aaaah” – or humming it – in the middle of the day, sometimes.

Not only is the music good, it works live, and it works better live. Now, obviously, as you might know, Doris had a bit of “help”, and I’ll get back to that later. What makes everything better is also the performance, the staging: from the low-angle shots to the wide ones on this glittering stage, and Doris’s charisma… She was more charismatic in Dora, I think, but she still rocked the stage in Jerusalem.

The divine passion?

I always care for the lyrics of a song. In Marija Magdalena’s case, it seems the lyrics are… not making much sense? There is the barrier of languages, of course, but even then, I feel like they could be improved.

The idea in itself (from what I get) is actually beautiful: a love song using biblical references to define the singer’s feelings. It is actually very rare, especially using a character like Mary Magdalene. And it gives a depth to the song. Mary Magdalene was one of the most devoted followers of Jesus, and some even argued that she might have been his wife.  At any rate, her love is a “pure love”, unrequited but which doesn’t need to be returned (it’s hard to idolize someone who idolizes you).

The controversy

“Marija Magdalena” is also known for making history with its synthesized male choirs. When it was revealed that the famous “ah-ah-ah-[…]” was made so strong by the use of synthesized male voices, it was seen as a breach of the Eurovision rules, and the EBU reduced Croatia’s score by 33% a-posteriori. This reduction did not affect the actual results: Croatia is still officially fourth, and not seventh (with 79 points), but was applied to the calculations made to decide which countries were relegated each year (at the time, it was the average score of the previous 5 years which decided who was relegated).

“Marija Magdalena” was thus the first of several songs to challenge or flirt with the “only live voices” rule. Symbolically, it was also the first year without any orchestra: we were almost in the modern setting of “voices 100% live, music 100% not live”.

What do the others think?

Luke

Anybody who says that this isn’t a Eurovision classic is lying. The “Dun-dun-dun-dun!” before the chorus is just iconic, and the chorus itself is just beyond haunting (in a good way, of course).Either this, or Severina’s Moja štikla from 2006 would be my favourite Croatian entry of all time. It’s a real shame that Croatia have gone so downhill since then. They had to be one of my favourite countries of that period, but last year in Kyiv they delivered what to me is the worst song to have ever been anywhere even near Eurovision. I’ll never forgive them for that..but hopefully, in Tel Aviv, they’ll manage to at least partially redeem themselves!

Dominik

This is a song I basically only know from Eurovision parties. For me this is that kinda of song, that is nice to hear at the party. You don’t run to the dance floor for it, but it kinda has to be there. I also wouldn’t listen to it privately. Maybe this is, because the song was before I got into the whole Eurovision world. Nevertheless, I would say it’s a must for every party even though 90% of the people (including me) can only sing the chorus. So yeah, it’s perfect for Eurovision parties in the past and the future, but that’s it for me.

Sami

I really enjoy this song a lot, but I just can’t understand why they were going against Eurovision rules. I am sure they would have made it work without that too. Doris is a great singer and the song is very catchy, even the chorus is quite repetitive. The performance works well and it definitely received the top 10 placement.

Matt

If we had a ‘National Lampoon’s Festive’ Eurovision staging, this would be it. Lights, lights, and more lights. In fact, the whole look and feel on stage is like one big sugar rush that makes your face go fuzzy. And because of this, the Croatian entry was a bit jarring to watch. It needed moodier staging with cold lighting. Doris is giving us real Cher vibes but, for me, the performance doesn’t translate well. Luckily for Doris, the voting public disagreed with me!

==> A few weeks ago, our weekly feature also featured Doris, for her participation under the Yugoslav flag in 1986 <==

What do you think? Do you like “Marija Magdalena”? Is it only for parties or do you listen to it all by yourself? Would it have scored as much had it respected the rules? Tell us more in the comments below or on social media at @escxtra !

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