Pop

How Oscar-Nominated 'Eurovision: The Story of Fire Saga' Songwriting Team Paid Tribute to Music Competition

Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga
John Wilson / © Netflix / Courtesy Everett Collection

Will Ferrell (left) and Rachel McAdams in 'Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga.'

Of the five contenders for the best original song Oscar, three feature in poignantly timed dramas delving into America's troubled political past, while one comes from a moving Italian film starring Sophia Loren as an aging Holocaust survivor. The other, however, is the climactic final pop song from a Netflix comedy about arguably the kitschiest music competition on the planet, includes lyrics about whales and is co-performed onscreen by Will Ferrell dressed as a fisherman.

"Husavik," from Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga and named after the tiny Icelandic town where much of the film is set, is quite possibly the wildest of all the wild-card Oscar nominees, a euphoric power ballad that defies the Academy's usually highly sensible musical norms. Its Swedish-and-American songwriting team — Savan Kotecha, Rickard Göransson and Fat Max Gsus — are no strangers to success, having penned hits for the likes of Ariana Grande, The Weeknd and One Direction.

But they say nothing has come close to the reaction they've had to this track (which also happens to be Ferrell's first brush with the Oscars), despite their somewhat unorthodox use of Google Translate.

Firstly, are you all fans of the rather unique spectacle that is the Eurovision Song Contest?

Rickard Göransson: Oh yeah. It's been a part of our lives growing up in Sweden. It's always been here.

Fat Max Gsus: I'm a really big fan, it being such a huge event, comparable to the Super Bowl basically, and one that has so much focus on inclusiveness and acceptance.

Savan Kotecha: I actually lived in Sweden for 15 years, but when I was first introduced to it, I was like, "What the hell is this?" I was coming from America and being pretty snobby. But like Max said, there's this sort of inclusiveness and over-the-top campiness that you just can't resist. It's so charming.

How did the three of you team up to write "Husavik"?

Kotecha: Rickard I've known for years and we've had a couple of hits together, like "Bang Bang" and "God Is a Woman." We're all part of a Swedish songwriting collective — me being the only non-Swede — and Max is a younger, newer member who was in L.A. at the time.

Göransson: I actually remember when you called me. We were talking about something else and you were like, "Oh, I might do this movie with Will Ferrell about Eurovision." When Savan calls, he's always got good things going on, and I'm happy to jump in. But especially when it's with Will Ferrell.

Kotecha: It was such an exciting day when Will first came into the studio. The whole place was buzzing. Ariana Grande was going to show up. The Weeknd, who was working with Max at the time, was super excited to meet Will.

Göransson: That's the thing, working in music, we all sometimes get a little jaded seeing celebrities. But when it's a movie star… that's something else.

Of the songs in Eurovision, "Husavik" is the least ridiculous and actually kind of a serious pop ballad. Were you tempted to up the insanity and throw in a few kazoos or keytars?

Göransson: I think Will does a good job making it funny.

Kotecha: Yeah, he adds some fun in. That's even his character — he's giving Sigrit [Rachel McAdams] her moment to shine, but even those times that he comes in, he just can't help himself. But also we were walking down the line of wanting to pay tribute to Eurovision rather than mock it.

How did you decide to use actual Icelandic in the lyrics?

Gsus: At one point I think we actually had the whole song in Icelandic! And I was like, is it funnier if only Icelandic people understand it? Basically the Icelandic bit is, "You and me in Husavik," but the full name of Husavik, which is much, much longer.

How is your Icelandic?

Gsus: Thank you, Google Translate! I remember just copy-pasting the entire lyrics into Google and seeing what it ended up with. Some lines sang better than others.

Göransson: I spoke to one Icelandic guy who said, "You know it's not exactly right?"

Kotecha: We even got some help to pronounce the full name of Husavik properly, and still managed to get it wrong. I feel like people in Iceland think it's a really cute try.

What's the response been like? Have you had this before with anything else you've written?

Kotecha: Personally, with all the luck I've had with hits, I've never had a reaction like this before, just from the incredible amount of emails, texts and phone calls. Even "Can't Feel My Face" was nothing like this.

Göransson: I was a little surprised in the beginning when people started reaching out and saying, "Oh my God, your song, I'm crying." But like Savan said, we've had success with other songs, but nothing has compared to this reaction.

And I understand "Husavik" reached No. 2 on the Icelandic charts.

Kotecha: Oh yeah! There was a number of top-five placements on Spotify and iTunes around the world. It's been pretty wild watching all that happen.

Interview edited for length and clarity.

This article originally appeared on The Hollywood Reporter.

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