15 March 2015
Also a wrap of Sweden’s Melodifestivalen
After an amazing Melodi Grand Prix, Mørland & Debrah Scarlett and “A Monster Like Me” (with orchestra!) won their way for Norway to the Eurovision Song Contest in Vienna. They beat off Erlend Bratland and “Thunderstruck” (also with orchestra!) in a seemingly confounding vote. The voting actually proved a simple by the end, being a tally of televotes. The confusion was that five regions were asked separately for their votes, rather than just providing the national total in one hit. It made it nervous as hell when Kindergarten, oops, Bratland “won” 2 of the first 3 regions, and then unpredictable as hell because margins within the voting tally were unknown until they hit the board. That made it possible for huge place changes, especially as the regions with the highest populations (Bergen and Oslo) were read last. Once the final score hit, you could see Debrah needing reassurance that they actually won.
Yes, one of the drawcards of this year’s Melodi Grand Prix was the return of the orchestra as part of the 60th anniversary celebrations of Eurovision, and it was really appreciated. Orchestras disappeared at Eurovision in 1999 and subsequently rarely seen at national finals ever since. It’s especially sad that Vienna will not have an orchestra as a one-off affair, given its rich history in classical music. The other big drawcard at MGP was the return of one half of the famed Bobbysocks, who won Eurovision for Norway in 1985 – the country’s first ever. Elisabeth Andreassen joined Tor Endresen (Norway’s representative in 1997) as Tor and Betten.
The Final (with scores out of 10)
01 Erlend Bratland – Thunderstruck (with orchestra)
Adam Lambert with a beard? It’s a solid energetic song without reaching any great heights. Bratland. 6
02 Raylee – Louder
It’s a bit Britney, which is not always bad, depending on her mental state and drug dependence of the time. This sits at semi-detox post-newborn baby glow. 5
03 Tor & Bettan – All Over The World (with orchestra)
Very traditional Eurovision. You don’t see these types of songs often anymore, even in national finals. Middle-aged women in bodysuits is also dying out – a great shame. Betten certainly puts the Fabulous Moolah to shame. It’s a highly enjoyable, harmless frolic, made more interesting by Betten’s involvement. 7
04 Jenny Langlo – Next To You
I expected more from this after hearing the audio. The presentation is awful, with a bizarre outfit, a giant aqua glow stick as a microphone stand and 4 pointless drummers. Tall thin women with short, slicked-back black hair also frighten me. The song is reminiscent of something in the 80s I just can’t place. Still enjoyable. 6
05 Ira Konstantinidis – We Don’t Worry
This sounds like that “oops upside your head” song of the 90s. Pleasant enough and memorable only thanks to that silly melody. 5
06 Contrazt – Heaven
Another nostalgia hit. Wonderful! A simple, catchy and humble pop song in that classic “schlager” style. 7
07 Marie Klåpbakken – Ta meg tilbake (with orchestra)
A really beautiful song, presented simply and stylishly. Marie seems a bit starstruck at times, so is she an amateur? Either way, along with the native language and the orchestra, it makes it all the more engaging. 8
08 Staysman & Lazz – En godt stekt pizza (with orchestra)
One of those silly joke songs. Some are ok, this one isn’t. The crowd is going bonkers. That’s a worry. 4
09 Mørland & Debrah Scarlett – A Monster Like Me (with orchestra)
A quite beautiful song. The duo didn’t quite deliver the emotional connection I hoped. Maybe there’s just too much brown, and what’s with Debrah’s crazy hair style? Vocals not quite strong enough either, acknowledging that it is a tough song to sing. 8
10 Alexandra Joner – Cinderella (with orchestra)
Best up-tempo song so far and presented really well, with the orchestra really filling it out. The question with these themed songs is whether the theme is a help or a hindrance. Given its nature, it was mature enough and professional. 8
11 Karin Park – Human Beings
One of those women with short black hair? Hmm. She could have changed from her dominatrix gear. This is a family show. It’s still very good without ever coming close to blowing your mind, like “I Feed You My Love” did for Margaret Berger two years ago. Park wrote that. 7
The Gold Final
Tor & Betten, that’s ok. Staysman & Lazz – arghh! Morland & Debrah, obviously. Erland and Thunderstruck – wow, that’s a shock. Based on audience cheers, I expected Alexandra to make it, or maybe Karin. It’s great to see all the gold finalists perform again. I whacked the headphones on and it made a huge difference, especially for Morland and Debrah. Interesting that all the gold finalists had used the orchestra.
Norway will certainly head to Vienna as one of the favourites. It jumps into my top echelon with Slovenia, Estonia and Netherlands. The performance will really matter. It can’t afford to have any detachment with the audience. The “monster like me” theme didn’t resonate. I really don’t know the message of the song. It was the music and vocals that made it compelling.
While Norway ditched the semi final format and went for a one night affair and delivered a dazzling show of interesting and diverse songs of a good quality, across the border in Sweden it was a case of homogenised drivel from a very stale MF format. Måns Zelmerlöw won with “Heroes”. That was rightfully so after blitzing the field – and being screwed in 2009 with Sweden’s flawed voting process. He won both the jury and the televote, amassing a total of 288 points – more than double the next best. Again it wasn’t 50/50 voting because the jury awarded a total of 122 points whereas the televote awarded 166. At least it didn’t matter this year.
“Heroes” stood out from the start thanks to the fancy, interactive graphics. The song is no where near as good as it portends, being derivative Swede-pop and quite repetitive. It’s those graphics that keep drawing focus. Whether they can make a similar impact at Eurovision, that’s debatable. For starters, there won’t be the insipid competition faced at MF. Second was Jon Henrik Fjällgren’s glorified airline jingle of “Jag är fri (Manne Leam Frijje)” on 139 points while third was Mariette’s “Don’t Stop Believing” – the only song of reasonable interest – on 102. It tanked on the public vote, which only served to highlight the huge momentum the MZ machine had.
Comparing Norway’s Melodi Grand Prix with Sweden’s Melodifestivalen, there’s no comparison. Norway killed Sweden. On song ratings, Norway rated an average of 6.5 while Sweden was 4.9 (based on semi final performances). If any show gets near 7 they are doing exceedingly well. Denmark’s single night show was also really good. Sweden have lived on borrow time for some years now. MF lasts way too long. There’s too much focus on the artists and cheer-leading, and too few songs are taken directly from the semi finals into the final. Cut it back to 3 semi finals of 8 songs and take the top 4 through to a final. That’s a good intermediate step and we might start to get interesting MF finals again. Read more about Sweden’s sad decline here.