Dora (Croatia) 2022 Reviews: All Finalists

This is the first time I’ve looked closely at the whole of Dora — in the past I have done little more than note the winner and act sent to OGAE Second Chance, so I’m keen to see what Croatia has to offer and whether there’s something here which can break their non-qualification streak.

Mila Elegović — “Ljubav”
It remains refreshing to hear a song full of analogue instruments in these national selections, and this has an upbeat interplay between the piano and acoustic guitar. However, that’s about as good as it gets. The vocals are good without being particularly engaging, and the song quickly slides into a campfire sing-along that feels rather bland and repetitive.

Mia Negovetić — “Forgive Me (Oprosti)”
Ticks all the boxes of a power ballad, but does it well. Negovetić’s vocals keep pace with the music and there’s some more interplay, this time between her voice and the piano. It’s not the most original take on this kind of song, but if you like entries (and many do) where the camera circles around the singer in a big dress, this looks like a good candidate for that sort of thing. I like the way she occasionally drops a bit of Croatian into the lyrics, just to mix it up without seeming to switch languages at all.

Marko Bošnjak — “Moli za nas”
I’ll categorise this as moody minimalist synth-pop in order to maximise the impact of the vocals. And while Bošnjak definitely has some power to his singing, I think the one-dimensional nature of his backing track doesn’t get the most out of his vocal performance. Too often he’s left to carry the song by himself, which explains why the ending seems sudden: we’re expecting a big musical lift that never comes.

Jessa — “My Next Mistake”
Decent if not hugely memorable dance pop which I’d actually expect to hear from a girl group rather than a solo artists. The vocals sound like they’re meant to be shared around, and the chorus relies heavily upon backing vocals to work, giving it an R&B flavour. This is pleasant without really being anything you’d keep hitting repeat for — “competence” is the word that comes to mind, which I know sounds like faint praise but I think they’ve managed to get about as much as they could out of the track.

Zdenka Kovačiček — “Stay on the Bright Side”
I’m always pleased to see a national selection that encourages people of all ages to enter, and in this case the most striking part of this song is Kovačiček’s experienced voice, which may have weathered over the years but still sounds pretty good. The rest is unfortunately too chirpy and old-fashioned for Eurovision I fear. It doesn’t feel like the right year for this kind of relentless optimism.

Tina Vukov — “Hideout”
This song has the kind of simple start (piano plus vocals, a bit of acoustic guitar) which can be a thrilling to thing to witness on a Eurovision stage if it can backed up by the vocals and rest of the track. Vukov holds her up end with a confident voice, but musically there just isn’t any noticeable progression at all, just a couple of layers which don’t change the overall picture. The song feels like an interlude, an introduction to something bigger. This is a shame, because there were some really good elements here if the writers had aimed a little higher.

Roko Vušković — “Malo kasnije”
Vušković has a warm, captivating voice which gives this song a bit of a glow — something it needs, because we have the problem of a song which sounds like it was written to be performed in a pub on a winter’s night. There’s nothing wrong with that per se, and I shouldn’t make the assumption that artists enter Dora solely to audition for Eurovision, but this needs to be scaled up if it’s going anywhere beyond this national selection.

Bernarda — “Here for Love”
An attempt at an anthemic entry about love is something we see at the contest every few years, but this time we’ve got some pretty hard-edged synth drops which still feel out of place after several listens. I’m hoping this makes more sense on stage, as I get the sense of two competing entries: a big empowering vocal performance by Bernarda and her backing singers versus a rave track which is all about the big drops and deep beats. I’m not sure they’ve found the glue to stick them together.

Eric Vidović — “I Found You”
Overly cheesy synth-pop which I’m afraid I just can’t get on board with. The whistling doesn’t help either — long-time readers here will know that it’s a pet peeve of mine and it’s very rare that I tolerate any song which includes it. This one certainly isn’t an exception.

ToMa — “In the Darkness”
I’m afraid we have another entry I don’t see much in. Let me be clear: I don’t think this is a bad song as such, I just don’t think it’s fully-formed or knows what it wants to be. If I heard this song without the context of it being in Dora, I would have guessed it was from a musical: something a minor character would sing in between major scenes. It doesn’t have enough substance in its current form to be much more than that.

Elis Lovrić — “No War”
Okay, so let’s address the elephant in the room immediately: the use of the f-bomb right near the end of the song. That’s not going to fly at the contest, and I can’t see Lovrić omitting the word like the Latvian entry are doing with their expletive. So that will have to be rewritten. For an anti-war song, it takes a while before Lovrić sounds anything but ominous and threatening. I get that she’s directing her anger at warmongers, but if you were looking for an anti-war song to sing at protests, this certainly isn’t it. Nothing wrong with that on the face of it, but my goodness this is dark. Musically the danger and drama is expressed in some creative percussion, and thankfully there is about a minute in the middle of the song where there’s a bit of melody and movement, but the menace returns at the end.

Ella Orešković — “If You Walk Away”
Of all the songs in this selection, this is one of the most Eurovision-friendly. That doesn’t mean Croatia should necessarily send it, because sometimes these kind of songs get lost in a field of less formulaic entries. But this does a few things really well: there’s a solid synth-pop beat with a decent amount of musical variation, Orešković’s vocals are reliably up to the task, and there’s even a key change at the end, something I’m not hugely excited about but I know a good portion of the fandom will be. My favourite part is the little synth instrumental that starts just before the the last minute kicks in, because it was a surprising departure from what I expected to come next.

Tia — “Voli me do neba”
There’s something about this song that’s mysterious: Tia’s rich, textured vocals paired with the simple but heavy 1980s-inspired synth beats create an atmosphere akin to a city in the middle of the night. I would have liked to see a bit more variation in the last minute of the song, because Tia’s vocals can only do so much. The track runs the risk of wearing off fairly quickly: after a few listens I didn’t have a particular moment in mind that I looked forward to each time.

Mia Dimšić — “Guilty Pleasure”
First things first: this has some cutesy lyrics, and usually that puts me off, but they work surprisingly well this time because they are about the complicated feeling of fantasising about someone else whilst being in a relationship. Dimšić vocals are clear and she has a good understanding of how to deliver the song on an emotional level. Musically the cheery instrumentation serves as a way to couch the lyrics. I’m unsure how this would do if it was selected, but I think it’s among the three or so songs worth sending.