Croatia – My Friend by Jacques Houdek
Jacques Houdek has been within grasp of the Eurovision stage once before, competing for the opportunity to represent Croatia in 2011, where he lost to Daria Kinzer. It’s a shame he didn’t make it first time round, as I’d have enjoyed seeing him tackle some of the quick-change routines Daria managed to pull off. When an artist with a Eurovision connection is trailed before their song anticipation mounts as to what they might bring, but even Houdek’s decade-old flirtations with homophobia took a back seat in the headlines once this song was finally revealed. It’s not overstating it to say that nobody, in a hundred million years, would have expected Houdek to bring this.
Classic strings open the song, before the first of several jarring moments occurs with a spoken introduction. Following this Houdek settles into a pop voice in English setting up what seems to be a bit of a cheesy ballad. Before you’ve had a moment to savour the vintage of that cheese Houdek catches you off guard as he switches mid-verse into Italian operatic. Then back. Then back again, this time mid-line! And so, the song ensues, back and forth between language and style, as Houdek effectively duets with himself – or possibly his imaginary titular Friend. It’s quite the most unlikely three minutes on show this year.
Aside from the unexpectedness of it all it beggars the question, how the heck is he going to do this live on stage? At times the voices almost overlap, and barely provide the space to shift from one voice to the other. Even if he sorts the timing out you would think that two vastly different vocal techniques would require different settings on his microphone to showcase each to their maximum potential. Is he going to swap mid-song? What if he sings into the wrong one? Will he be dressed in one of those half-and-half costumes we’ve seen in comedy routines? Which half of him is Victor, and which Victoria? Day four of rehearsals is going to be the one to watch as we get our first glimpse of Houdek’s plans, and wherever you are you don’t want to miss the Thursday semi-final in case it’s the only look at this we get. It has all the hallmarks of must-see television in the making, even if it’s just to see whether it’s the glorious car crash this promises to be.
My marks – 5 points