First Listen Review attempts to capture my first impressions of the year’s Eurovision entries as and when they’re released. My opinion is liable to change as certain songs grow on me or get revamped, but based on the principle that most listeners will only hear each entry once (or twice) before voting, hopefully it’ll provide some insight.

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Montenegro: Knez – Adio

Knez - Adio | Eurovision 2015 Montenegro

A highly popular face on the Balkan music scene, Knez has over forty years of performing experience and has released a number of bestselling albums.

Like San Marino, Montenegro saw their first Eurovision finals as an independent nation in 2014, and to their credit they seem determined to prove that it wasn’t a fluke. Not only have they enlisted a seasoned Montenegrin performer – Nenad ‘Knez’ Knežević – to represent them, they’ve also drafted in arguably the biggest Balkan name of them all, Željko Joksimović, to compose their entry.

To date, Joksimović has written four Eurovision entries – three for Serbia, one for Bosnia & Herzegovina – and none of them have finished outside the top ten. That’s an intimidating record, and there will surely be high expectations that Montenegro not only qualify again, but best the 19th place Sergej Ćetković achieved with ‘Moj svijet‘ last year.

Adio‘ certainly bears all the hallmarks of a classic Joksimović composition. The brooding Balkan instrumentation, the quiet storm structure, the mournful, romantic lyrics. Knez has quite a similar voice too, which adds to the sense of familiarity.

Is familiarity necessarily a bad thing though? In this case I don’t think so. Ultimately, if you haven’t previously warmed to the Balkan ballad template, this song won’t do anything new and exciting to convert you. But in an increasingly anglicised, Western-looking contest, these flashes of ethnicity offer an all too rare change of pace.

In the past, Joksimović songs have demonstrated a pan-Yugoslav appeal that other Balkan ballads have struggled to match – hence the high placings. With that in mind, there’s good reason to feel confident about Adio’s chances. I do wonder if perhaps it lacks something of the poignancy that made Lane Moje, Lejla and Oro such standout performances in their respective years, but this is a strong, classy effort for Montenegro and with a suitably dramatic staging they should have a very decent chance of qualification.