This classic musical theater style ballad is taking Slovenia back two decades to a kinder, more vocally focused Eurovision. But is this a modern winner?
These are my own PERSONAL rankings of what I think of 2017’s Eurovision songs but I’m also going to make some bold predictions about the eventual fate of the song. These will probably be very wrong for a variety of reasons including I have no idea what almost half the artists sound like live or what type of staging and song changes could be made. There’s plenty of songs that have been let down by their staging (2016 Spain for example) so in the end they’re just guesses in the dark.
Artist: Omar Naber
Song Title: On My Way
My Ranking: 37th (out of 43)
Semi Final: 1st Semi Final
Final placement prediction: NQ
Slovenia doesn’t have a history of doing particularly well at Eurovision. Despite a fairly good finals season this year they managed not to pick any of the five songs I thought might have had really good chances at Eurovision. Slovenia’s best placement so far as been their 7th place in 2001 and they’ve been stalled a bit by not being able to commit to a modern sound. In 2015 their entry “Here for You” struck a good chord with jury and audience, scoring them a few 12 pointers in the final so let’s see how this year’s contest is shaping up.
Omar Naber is 35 years old, he is a classical vocalist and he’s a repeat visitor to Eurovision, having stumped for Slovenia back in 2005 when curiously enough, Eurovision was also held in Kiyv, Ukraine. Omar has been trying to recreate his Eurovision moment and has entered the Slovene national final four times – each one with a song not that far off his current entry. You may be wondering, how did Omar do in 2005? Well, he failed to qualify. 23 year old Omar sang “Stop” which was unremarkable enough for me not to remember it and have to go back and listen to it.
The 12 years since Kiyv have seen Omar switch from Slovene to English, level up his singing a little but not his song style. “On My Way” is a low energy soloist song that resembles the mid point of a lot of music theater. Part of what gives songs like “Defying Gravity” or “I Dreamed a Dream” or “Corner of the Sky” so much impact is they just had a production drumming up the song for an hour and the song has a story line that connects with the listener. Sadly “On My Way” doesn’t have either.
Listening to this song reminds me so strongly of the remixes from Glee. Sure, the singers are actually pretty good most of the time but the songs having been remixed and the singer not connecting with the song (or worse, it being shoehorned in to stories that muddle the meaning to the point of nonsense) mean that all the soul has been ripped out and the music is in the end, kind of boring. With such a powerful voice I was surprised to find myself easily zoning out of this song.
Omar’s staging at the national final sees him wearing exactly what he wore in Ukraine all those years ago and the camera spins in mostly the same shots as well. He’s very obviously trying to recreate his moment. The only novelty in the performance is occasional desaturation and then resaturation of the shot at moments which don’t give a lot of impact. It makes the song feel as outdated as it clearly is. The black and white giving way to an old feeling instead of one being used for style reasons.
Omar has a crystal clear voice but it always feels like he’s either holding back during the song and the “eh yeah yeah” [which again, I don’t love sections with more than a line of non-verbals] part of the song feels somehow strained instead even though he immediately nails the next note. His high notes could use a little work that no doubt he is more capable of but I worry that the pressure could cause him to choke on the actual stage. The lyrics are a kind of mixed bag, there’s a little pronoun confusion but we generally get the gist of him getting on his way and having his big moment. A little self-referential but not awful.
With the lackluster staging I just don’t think this will be enough to qualify. In the semi final, if he’s entry is before or after Australia, Albania, or Portugal especially he’s going to be completely squashed by what pitch perfect vocals sound like on more difficult to sing songs and if he’s after some of the more fun songs like Moldova, Sweden, or Montenegro, he risks a ballad getting lost in the shuffle. This song has some merits but for me, it’s just not enough.
So be on your way Slovenia.