‘Husavik’ saved me during a breakup last summer. Why the parody ballad from ‘Eurovision’ deserves an Oscar

If you’d told me a year ago that a song from a goofy comedy featuring Will Ferrell would get me through the most painful summer of my life, I would have laughed. What other reaction would be appropriate?

It turns out the answer to that question is tears. Many of them.

The number in question is “Husavik (My Hometown),” nominated for best original song at this year’s Academy Awards. Its performance is the climax of Netflix’s “Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga,” which arrived late last June … 19 days after I loaded my belongings into a U-Haul and left behind my partner, my dog and the apartment we’d lived in together for nearly two years. The details of the breakup are not terribly important. A series of successive hurts that never quite healed pushed an otherwise good relationship between two fundamentally decent humans to an end. To quote poet Richard Siken, “This is a very old story.”

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I moved in with a former college roommate and close friend. In the immediate shock that followed, still locked down in the throes of a pandemic, I watched him play through both “Banjo-Kazooie” and “Banjo-Tooie” on the N64. In many ways my life seemed to move backwards through time in those days, back to sleeping in a twin bed in a closet of a room, back to playdates spent watching friends play video games on consoles I never owned.

And then we watched “Eurovision.” It was July 2 and we gathered around the TV in our homey Bushwick living room (walls recently repainted by someone who, ladderless, opted to just get to as much as they could reach) to take a much-needed break from reality.

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The movie follows Lars (Will Ferrell) and Sigrit (Rachel McAdams) as a platonic musical power couple from the tiny Icelandic town of Husavik. By a stroke of luck and, later, a bit of villainy, the two end up representing Iceland in the Eurovision Song Contest. They are drawn into a glitzy world of talent from across the continent, riding high on their unexpected success and joining their fellow contestants in a truly joyful “Song-A-Long” mashup (one of the highlights of the film).

Creative differences, compounded by Sigrit’s unrequited feelings for Lars, drive them to a dark night of the soul. Lars leaves the contest. He tries to become a fisherman (like his dad). But realizing how important Sigrit is to him, he swims (yes) back to the mainland just in time to join Sigrit in performing the Oscar-nominated and real-life chart-topping hit, “Husavik.”

And raw and vulnerable as I was, something about it struck me to my core.

The song, written by Fat Max Gsus, Rickard Göransson, and Savan Kotecha, is a powerful expression of a simple idea: that sometimes we need to venture away from the familiar to appreciate what we left behind (see where this is going?). The lyrics are sincere and expressive, rejecting equivocation. Performed by Swedish pop singer My Marianne (with backup by Ferrell), they positively soar.

Actress in a comedy or musical: Rachel McAdams, "Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga" (Photo: John Wilson, Netflix)

“Husavik” is my most listened to song of 2020 on Spotify. I played it alone in my room, tears of joy rolling down my cheeks and longing to be “in my hometown / my hometown…” I wept openly on the subway platform after my first ill-fated attempt at reopening a line of communication with my ex, mouthing the words: “I’ve tried and tried again / to let you know just where my heart is / to tell the truth and not pretend.” I played it while throwing open my arms and lip-syncing with total abandon; I played it while dissociating into a tomato bisque and weighing a full pivot of my personal brand to “soup influencer.”

A parting gift to my Bushwick roommates after I got my own place. (Photo: Thomas Constantine Moore)

It’s not that the song exactly mirrors my experience. Sometimes people draw apart before pulling back together. But returning to a relationship after a major trauma, even a good relationship, takes effort, a willingness to engage in conflict, and not everyone wants to do that work… especially when the outcome may be just as uncertain. Some relationships stop making sense, and they don’t make sense again.

Yet most of us know the feeling of looking back and thinking you would do almost anything, change almost everything, to have a simple, happy life again. In Icelandic, they sing, “Það eina sem ég þrái er, að vera með þér Í heimabærinn minn”—”All I want is to be with you in my hometown.” The trick with moving on is to look forward, instead of back.

No matter the silliness of the film surrounding it, “Husavik” should win the Oscar. It’s rare for a single track to touch on so many notes of emotion in just three minutes and 22 seconds; it carried me from my immediate post-breakup dissociation through all five stages of grief, and beyond to a kind of ecstatic reminiscence.

For don’t we also mythologize people, the same way we mythologize places?

And no matter how far we get from Husavik, there was a time when it was home.

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Thomas Constantine Moore is a writer living in Brooklyn. Follow him on Twitter at @thomascmost.

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