Eurovision · Music

Eurovision 2017 In-Depth: My Friend Omar (Slovenia & Croatia)

Straight from two slow female songs in Poland and Czech Republic, I’m going over to two kinda slow male songs in Slovenia and Croatia. One of these however is a very unique entry…

Slovenia – Omar Naber – On My Way

Starting with the less unique one, I have to say, this is a rare disappointment from Slovenia. While not as atrocious as their 2013 entry, Straight Into Love, which was an entry that went from mild dislike to outright hate by the time it showed up in the semis, it’s still comfortably their second-worst entry in this decade. And they’ve really been exceptional and, because of their small size and general awkward position sitting between the West and the East as a country, lots of their entries have been very underrated. Slovenia are a high-quality country and I’ve come to know them as the fan-favourite underdog. I’m always looking forward to what they have for us this year, whether that’s a cute couple duo with an air violinist like Maraaya’s Here For You, or a folk-rock stomper like Narodnozabavni Rock. Or even, and this one of the most awesome songs to ever finish second-last in a Eurovision semi, the operatic near symphonic Verjamem from 2012.

To its credit, On My Way, sung by Omar Naber, responsible for a fairly decent Slovenian entry from the mid-00s, does put forward the Slovenian quality as this does sound better than I’d imagine the average Eurovision male ballad to sound, there’s a few light and airy instrumental touches that elevate it above the average trash, so I don’t rank this quite as low as Ireland or Austria. Yet despite that, it’s still not very exciting. There’s an attempt to make it exciting with an instrumental roll into the final chorus, but the fact is, Omar’s voice doesn’t carry well to make a straight out ballad worthwhile or interesting to listen to. His previous entry had him singing in Slovenian as well, where he had a much more interesting tone, and he seemed able to enunciate more.  On My Way is not really for me. If it were in Slovenian, maybe it might be better but on a straight comparison, Stop is so much more giving as a song, and it’s not even that high in my Slovenian canon. Down with ballads, please, especially ballads like these.

Slovenia are often a country it’s easy to count out unless they’ve sent an absolutely stunning musical piece so I would have felt rather safe in predicting Omar out were he not coming towards the end of the semi. And he’s coming with a ballad that, for all that I personally find it boring, does come across as fairly dramatic. It’s followed only by the much more subtle Latvia so this may as well be the big semi 1 finisher to the audience. And that could be enough to see it through. I don’t think it’d be a very worthwhile addition to the final, nor do I think it’s nailed on by any means, but this one could cause a surprise.

Croatia – Jacques Houdek – My Friend

‘There are only two ways to live your life, one is as though nothing is a miracle, the other is as though everything is a miracle’

So spoke Jacques Houdek, the foremost philosopher of our time, ripping off what was allegedly an Einstein quote. That opening brings us to what I can quite easily and without hyperbole say is the best Croatian entry… ever. In the 21st century.

That is rather easy as Croatia haven’t often been an essential country for me before. Absent during most of my years when I was first becoming a fan of the contest, previous entries rarely stood out to me, with the exception of Marija Magdalena from 1999 which was really quite brilliant and is the only thing stopping me from going all out with My Friend on that first claim. But I never felt a connection quite like this with Marija Magdalena, at least. My Friend is my favourite Eurovision entry this year going into the semis, and it seems I’m one of the few to be feeling this way, many of the polls and fan rankings I’ve seen place it rather low and I can’t figure out why. If anything, it embodies what Eurovision should be, a track you wouldn’t get anywhere else, that would be a spectacle on stage and will be something people will be talking about. They’ll be talking about the guy who can switch flawlessly between a pop voiced Disney ballad and a Pavarotti sound effect, and it will be glorious.

For me, more than anything, this keeps demanding that I come back to it, it’s inspiring, it’s interesting, as you wonder at the ‘singular duet’, you have all the strength of contrasting voices that is normally the strength of a duet, the guy can sing, he can really sing, and I love opera as a rule in Eurovision entries anyway. It builds to a beautiful climax, it has inspiring lyrics, the instrumental lines are classical and momentous, I’m struggling to think of anything that I don’t like about it. Perhaps the way he says the title line but even that’s quite okay.

This will certainly stand out but will it be enough to qualify, I don’t know. I want to say that of course it will, people will see its genius, they’ll remember it and they’ll send it through. It strikes me as a very easy performance to fluff though, I hope Jacques is practising very hard for this. The juries may mark it down because they hate joy (in reality it’ll probably be because it’s not so on-trend and it’s so unusual a song and the juries aren’t so keen on that at the best of times. And there’s the fact it hasn’t been well-received by the fans. Again, I am still unsure why, it sounds a pretty great epic song and overall like it should be wide-appealing to me, while something as unexciting and dull as Sweden gets major love for whatever reason. But maybe My Friend will regardless get enough televotes to make it through – operatic songs are often a favourite of the televotes and if Italian is as on-trend this year as it appears to be, this will be helped by that, although there is no Italy voting in this semi to help it. My love of this song is probably clouding my ability to properly predict it but I do think it has at least a chance.

 

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