In 2018, she crashed out in the Selecția Națională semi-finals. But two years, on, Romania’s Serena is enjoying a second wave of popularity for her song “Safari”, after the steamy dance track went viral on the popular social media app TikTok.
“Safari” was one of the 60 semi-finalists in the mammoth expanded edition of Selecția Națională 2018. Serena — real name Diana Șerban placed ninth in her semi, missing out on making the grand final.
But since then, “Safari” used been used in over 134,400 videos on the popular social media video platform TikTok. For contrast, Eurovision 2021 hits such as Daði Freyr’s “Think About Things” has only been used 16,600 times, while The Roop’s “On Fire” has 6704 videos. However, Little Big’s “Uno” has been used in 829,600 videos.
It’s the chorus of “Safari” that is used in all those TikTok videos, where Serena sensually murmurs:
Come on, boy, move that body
‘Cause tonight I’m naughty, naughty
Dance with me like it’s my party
We go wild, we’re in safari
But while it’s an evocative dance song, it isn’t just used for sexy TikTok moments. A quick browse shows that “Safari” has been used as the soundtrack for computer gameplay, a fancam tribute to K-pop giants BTS, a celebration of great cricketing moments, and a number of original skits.
The international flavour of the song has seen its appeal extend far beyond Romania. “Safari” seems especially popular with fans in India, with one fan asking “Who thought this song is an Indian song when you listened to it for the first time?”
The TikTok popularity has extended to YouTube. The song’s music video has clocked up over 111.48 million views, while other versions — lyrics, remixes — have taken in a few more million.
It’s even more popular than two recent national final hits: Poland’s Margaret with “Cool Me Down” (26.5 million views) and Spain’s 2018 runner-up “Lo malo” from Aitana & Ana Guerra (93.3 million views).
“Safari” isn’t the first national final song to find another audience online. Jordan Clarke‘s UK national final entry “Freaks” picked up a new audience who connected with its message of unity for teenage misfits.
Serena’s “Safari” at Selecția Națională 2018
Going into Romania’s national selection for Eurovision 2018, “Safari” was a huge fan favourite. In a wiwibloggs readers poll taken ahead of the second semi-final, the song was the big winner. 41% of wiwibloggs readers picked Serena’s entry as their favourite.
Sadly, this popularity didn’t carry into the semi-final. Serena’s live performance of the song didn’t quite capture the magic of the studio version. The semi-final qualifiers were decided by jury votes alone.
Serena placed ninth overall — out of 12 acts in that semi-final. The jury favoured Jukebox feat. Bella Santiago with the electronic anthem “Auzi cum bate”, Rafael & Friends with the folk-rock anthem “We Are One” and Eurovision 2006 star M I H A I with his power ballad “Heaven”.
The national final was eventually won by The Humans with “Goodbye”, which failed to make the grand final at Eurovision 2020 in Lisbon.
But two years after all that, it’s “Safari” that has proven to be the enduring mega hit. The question is now, will the TikTok virality translate into a career boost for Serena?
What do you think? Should Romania have sent “Safari” to Eurovision 2018? Should Serena represent her country at Eurovision 2022? Tell us your thoughts below!