This week on Balkan Express, we’ll be taking a look at the rarest of musical phenomena out there. Namely, Montenegrin pop-rock. True, this here show did feature the odd band from the small Adriatic country. But that was mostly on the outer edges of the auditory acceptable. Highway, however, are about as garden variety a pop-rock cast as they come. Which in itself is quote shocking.
A talent show product
As with so many other acts these days, Highway started out more like a project than a band with a future. Specifically, they began as contestants on the X Factor Adria, the regional edition of the famed talent show. But that was back in 2015 and they still haven’t gone away.
After a decent-but-not-stellar fourth place in the talent show, Highway were picked to represent Montenegro in the 2016 Eurovision song contest. And although this was probably the pinnacle of the “project” phase of their career, they never made it out of the semi-finals. In the end, they placed 15th out of 18 bands in the overall standing.
Highway started as a quartet but sometime after their Eurosong episode lost they keyboard-player-slash-vocalist. Since then, they go around as a three-guitars act consisting of Petar Tošić, Marko Pešić and Luka Vojvodić. It is fair to say, however, that evolution into a trio was good for Highway. They’ve dropped the faux-Weltschmertz act of their Eurovision gig and went for a much more middle-of-the road pop-rock sound. They augment this with uncharacteristically meticulous art direction of their videos. So much so that the video for their 2018 track Navika / Habit was recognised as one of the most beautiful Montenegrin music videos of all times.
Beyond radio format
One of the more curious aspects of Highway is the fact that even though they are about as inoffensive as a pop-rock act can get, they are not afraid to work outside the established radio-friendly norms. It is as if getting burned at the Eurovision taught them that not every tune needs to be crafted along the standard three-minute A-B-A format. Case in point this next track, which runs for a grand total of seven minutes and wouldn’t be out of place on a Dire Straits album.
Demonstrating that they have no intention of going anywhere, Highway released their debut album in 2021. And while a bit on the short side, the 10-track album is a very strong showing by a band that was meant to stick around only for a season or two.
Check out Highway on YouTube, Spotify, or wherever you get you music from. Balkan Express will be back next week.
Balkan Express takes weekly trips into contemporary musical production of, you guessed it, the Balkans. Forget gusle and tamburice, this show is about rock, pop and a sense of humour. Well, at least there’s guitars. On air most Tuesdays in a new-and-improved time-slot at 1100 hrs. Usually. Your train conductor is Aljaž (aka @pengovsky) who once did the world a solid and decided never to sing again in public. Which is why he ended up doing radio.
TuesdaysWith : Aljaž Every Tuesday at 10.00
Balkan Express takes weekly trips into contemporary musical production of the Balkans.