From their debut in 1993, Croatia had a pretty strong run of results through to the millennium, but a string of non-qualifiers led to them withdrawing from the contest in 2014. The country returned in 2016, and the following year saw their best result since 2006, but sadly, last year they again failed to make it past the semi-finals again. As a result the national broadcaster, HRT, decided to revive their national selection show DORA for the first time since 2011.
The contest featured 16 songs and aimed to show “the style and elegance of Eurovision”. The winning song won maximum points from both the public televote and the regional juries. Aptly, in the year when we are all encouraged to Dare to Dream, the song is called The Dream, sung by 18 year old Roko Blažević. Roko comes from Split, the second largest city in Croatia, and has won a Serbian singing talent show, and recently came runner-up in the Croatian X Factor-style show, Zvijezde.
The Dream has a great pedigree, with the three-person songwriting team of Jacques Houdek, the "duet soloist" from 2017; Charlie Mason, who has had 4 previous Eurovision entries including Rise Like a Phoenix; and Andrea Ćurić, a four-time DORA finalist. Jacques was Roko’s mentor during Zvijezde and Charlie has never failed to make a Eurovision final with his compositions.
As the performance begins, you cannot help but notice that Roko is wearing angel wings, and why wouldn’t he? Interesting little known fact alert: his whole costume was designed by Marco Falconi, head designer at Hugo Boss, no less! The Dream starts with minimal backing but highlights the four-note riff that forms the basis of the melody and is repeated with great effect throughout the song. This showcases Roko’s great vocal, which he delivers initially in English, but switches to Croatian after the chorus, as the song builds to a powerful crescendo allowing him to finish in traditional Eurovision pose - one arm held aloft. Best lyric is “turn this war into a hopeful work of art”, although the Croatian section does include the favourite standby of "ljubav" with a couple of "molitvas" thrown in for good measure.
Is it slightly dated? Yes. Is the staging slightly bizarre? Of course. Are the lyrics of "dreaming to love" cheesy? As cheddar. Does it work? Abso-blooming-lutely!
Young singer, stunning vocals, dramatic ballad, great hook….this song will appeal to all ages, and I’ll definitely be packing my Croatian flag for Tel Aviv!!!