39 songs have been selected to represent 39 countries, the majority of which are at least outwardly hoping to claim victory in Malmö next month, as Sweden hosts its fifth Eurovision Song Contest. Loreen won last year’s contest in Azerbaijan with a landslide of points, but it feels things are a little less clear-cut this year.
There are many candidates who seem to be in the running, with Denmark the current bookies’ favourite. But 2011 showed us that the odds can be way off, so it’s far from a foregone conclusion. Tonight I’ll start with another of the frontrunners in the bookies’ odds, the all-or-nothing nation of Norway.
Norway make their 52nd appearance at Eurovision this year, and bring with them the dubious honour of having the most last-place finishes of any nation – nine, including four dreaded ‘nul points’ – with a less than spectacular finish last year in Baku. Tooji qualified on a 10th place tie-break from the semis, and finished at the bottom of the grand final table.
However, they have won the contest three times, putting them joint seventh on the all-time table. Most recently Alexander Rybak won in 2009’s Moscow contest, bringing the show back to Oslo where I attended the show for the first time. Part of me hopes they make it again, as they really got things right with that contest, and I’d love to experience that atmosphere again. Perhaps in Bergen.
Fortunately, things look quite hopeful this year with Margaret Berger at the helm of one of the more striking entries. Margaret is a former Norwegian Idol contestant with two albums to her name, the last of which – 2006’s “Pretty Scary Silver Fairy” – spawning “Samantha”, a gorgeous electropop track in the same vein as Robyn’s latest stuff. That was the only track I knew of hers, so I was interested to see what she was up to now. But she emerged the clear winner of Norsk Melodi Grand Prix and looks set to do well.
I LOVE the hardness of the intro, a harsh thundering attack of bass on a black stage. Margaret was a striking figure in white, putting on a great character; the Nordic ice queen not to be trifled with. Lots of poetic language, simple choreography that loosens up halfway through to show how much of an arena-pleaser it could be.
The drum beat is heavy, her delivery is precise but passionate, it really just works as a great package. The ‘alternative’ vote is a difficult one to harness, but the last decade has shown that there is a place at the Eurovision table outside the traditional genres of full-on pop, Disney ballads, Balkan ballads and ethnic trainwrecks. As one of the less-popular genres, only one of two usually make it through the semi-finals, but then suddenly they stand out from the pack and hit above their weight in the final.
Traditionally this alternative vote has been courted by Eastern Europe, but I think Norway could get a big payoff this year. Can it win? I’d certainly not rule it out. Do I hope it wins? You bet I do.