Norway’s Melodi Grand Prix – the triumph of quality over quantity

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.

Mørland & Debrah Scarlett with the song A Monster Like Me

Mørland & Debrah Scarlett with the song A Monster Like Me – winners of Norway’s Melodi Grand Prix of 2015

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.

Watch all other songs from Melodi Grand Prix here

Sweden’s Melodifestivalen

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.

 

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3 responses to “Norway’s Melodi Grand Prix – the triumph of quality over quantity

  1. agree about Monster being great, but needing staging dynamism. I sent an email to Morland last night with some tips….no idea if my advice will be taken. He is vocally more secure than she is if you listen to her entry notes and the following passage she is close to be off key at times. Great song that demands near perfection.

  2. Melodifestivalen needs to take note of Melodi Grand Prix and adapt. MGP offered a rousing, energetic intro, deftly swept through their entries without too much fluff, had Carl perform a wonderful version of Silent Storm with the orchestra and songwriter, then wrapped up the voting concisely making one wonder how the time flew by. MF entered it’s sixth (marathon-like) week with a sigh. Conchita is a nice “wow” factor to open the final. After that it was quite predictable with Mans getting his all but guaranteed ticket to Eurovision. The most disappointing aspect of MF was Sanna not singing Undo. What?! Instead we were offered something called the Dirty Loops (I’m unclear if there is any connection to the song at all) and a guy’s high-pitched whining for three minutes. Sanna was an exquisite creature of a host: charming, funny, and made you wish she was your BFF. By the time the sixth week rolled around I would have watched Sanna describe grass growing. No Undo though….MF what were you thinking?

    As for the song quality, nothing screamed winner at me. Mariette was my personal favorite, not enough chops to the song though. Magnus is always there for a good show, just not enough this year. Dinah Nah had a better dance track than her last place finish indicated. Forgot the boys like Samir and Victor, JTR, and Eric Saade-we’ve seen all those acts before. I want to like Mans and “Heroes”; the imagery is too distracting and the cowboy twang at the beginning if off putting to this listener who does not like country music at all. Of the twelve finalists, I would put two on my playlist: Mariette and Dinah Nah.

    MGP was the best final I’ve seen this season. A diverse selection of songs encapsulated in one well-produced, planned and executed show. Going in I couldn’t choose a favorite and it still took until a few days after to make a firm decision.

    Thoughts on the contestants:
    Thunderstruck: stood out initially and faded to my 3-4 spot. Erlend has a booming, classical voice I don’t hear very much (by my choosing). You could say I was thunderstruck by that alone and with the uptempo chorus this is a track I’ll come back to listen to fairly often.

    Louder: a bottom dweller until Raylee put on a respectable performance. It’s a mash of so many pop tracks to be forgettable otherwise.

    All Over the World: first impression was they somehow put a xmas song in the final? It has that kind of ring to it. With more listens I respect it being a more traditional ESC entry. You might have a point there with the body suits…

    Next To You: my #1 after much consideration. My dark electro-pop preference does have a strong influence here, regardless, I love the lyrics and pleading tone of the track. Jenny may look intimidating or tough with the slicked back hair, but listen to the want in her voice. Put this in some forgettable 80s movie and you’d have a smash hit and people would remember said movie.

    We Don’t Worry: too saccharine for me. Belongs on a Saturday morning kids show. I’d still probably be caught humming it.

    Heaven: Hell

    Ta meg tilbake: with the violins and staying in Norsk, you got me there Marie. Lovely and flowing.

    En godt stekt pizza: no delivery, let me run out and get a pizza so I don’t have to listen to this number.

    A Monster Like Me: I’d be hard pressed not to vote for such a haunting song. It won’t get lost in the shuffle of the currently 734 ballads already in line for ESC 2015. It’ll certainly do better than their neighbors Sweden and Finland.

    Cinderella: a polished dance number, unlike Louder. Usually the kind of song I would dismiss after a couple of listens yet something about it kept calling me back. Alexandra had a fine performance, enough to warrant consideration for the final imo.

    Human Beings: this was up with Next To You for the my #1 spot. A touching back story (about her boyfriend who was diagnosed with cancer last year. Karin didn’t want anyone else to sing the song) and the quality production I’d expect from Park. When she performed at MGP last year with Margaret Berger I didn’t care for her voice. They didn’t hollow it out on this track and it was kinder on the ear this time. Nowhere near as sensational as I Feed You My Love and I don’t believe the audience had any intention of sending another electro-pop entry this year considering the four gold finalists.

    Playlist worthy: Thunderstruck, Next To You, Ta meg tilbake, A Monster Like Me, Cinderall, Human Beings

    I would have sent those six songs from Norway to ESC if possible! Whereas you, little MF, have a year to polish your act(s).

  3. Pingback: The songs that sadly never made it to Vienna | Mr Eurovision Australia·

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