ESC 2010 Reviews: Norway
After all of the entries I’ve written so far, we finally get to the reigning champions and current Host Nation, Norway. They’ve hit the highest of heights, true, but they’ve also bottomed out more than any other nation in Eurovision history. They’ve scored in last place a record ten times, with four “nul points”. Let’s check out some of their greatest hits and most epic face-plants, shall we?
One of their earliest “huh?” moments was their 1968 entry, “Stress” by Odd Børre. Yep, that’s right, the man’s name was Odd Børre. His stuttering delivery and strange lyrics (translated example: Have a nice day, don’t forget to take sleeping pills/Small doses are good, must relax a little/Turn on your radio, you have earplugs…”) have made “Stress” a bit of a legendary performance in the ESC archives.
The first “nul points” recipient since the current scoring system was enacted was another Norwegian entry, 1978’s “Mil Etter Mil (Mile After Mile)” by Jahn Tiegen. This may have been one of those cases when a song was just way ahead of its time. Tiegen’s wailing about a minute and a half into the song may have freaked out a few jurors who were expecting ABBA or Cliff Richard, but I feel that if this song had been performed sometime in the mid-to-late 1980s, it might have had a bit more of a fighting chance. Sad, really…
After twenty-five years, the Norwegians finally won their first ESC in 1985 with Bobbysocks’s 1950’s revival number, “La Det Swinge (Let It Swing)“. Their hair was epic, their outfits were epic, and their victory was epic: the seemingly impossible had been achieved, and Norway had gone from lovable loser to conquering hero.
Ten years later, they won their second gold with a song that was nearly wordless, Secret Garden’s “Nocturne”. Written by Rolf Løvland, who had also composed “La Det Swinge”, “Nocturne” was a new-age folk song with melancholy violins, a single sweet soprano voice, and traditional instruments (such as the Nyckelharpa, or keyed fiddle). Despite the fact that it had the shortest lyrics in the history of the ESC, the song’s mystic nature left an impact, and it won a resounding victory.
However, even more resounding than “Nocturne”‘s win fifteen years ago was the phenomenon that was “Fairytale”, last year’s record-breaking winning song performed by the Belarus-born singer/songwriter/violinist/all-around cutie Alexander Rybak.
Rybak won the Norwegian Preselection with the highest vote-tally ever in that nation’s history (over 715,000, beating the runner-up by over 616,000). Even more impressive, he won Eurovision with the highest score ever (387 points, beating the record held by Lordi, 292). Other records held by “Fairytale”:
– Largest margin between a winner and runner-up: 169 points separated Rybak from Iceland’s Yohanna.
– Most 12-point scores: 16 (Beating Greece’s Elena Paparizou’s 10)
– Points from the most nations: 41 (all nations competing that year, with the exception of Norway itself).
– Also, it is the first winner ever to have been in first place all the way through the scorekeeping (as the first nation to reveal their points gave Rybak the coveted Twelve, and no other song ever caught up to him).
Rybak had everything going for him with “Fairytale”. He wrote an instantly recognizable song with a great hook, a dynamic presentation, and “aw, shucks” good looks. His dancers, from the local troupe “Frikar”, are trained in traditional Norwegian folk dance “halling”, so it included a regional touch. Plus, Rybak was representing both the Scandinavian voting bloc as well as the Former Soviet bloc, as he was born in Belarus and speaks fluent Russian. As the contest last year was held in Moscow, he was able to publicize himself well to the press and public. It was universally adored, and Rybak skyrocketed to fame. The single hit the charts all over Europe (including a rare Top Ten placement in the UK…the first for a non-British winner since Johnny Logan in 1987) and made it to #1 in Flanders, Denmark, Finland, Greece, Norway, Russia, Sweden, and the Ukraine. Since last year, he’s released his first full-length album, and has had hits in both English and Russian. He even has a great cover of The Proclaimer’s “500 Miles“!
Ok, enough about Alexander. But who’s going to fill his shoes and compete on home soil?
This year, we’ve got Didrik Solli-Tangen singing “My Heart is Yours”. Interestingly, one of the composers of this song, Hanne Sørvaag, is also one of the co-writers of the Georgian entry, “Shine”. Even more interestingly, “My Heart is Yours” sounds oddly familiar…does anyone else hear this when listening to Didrik?
The song’s good, but it doesn’t have the same “oomph” that “Fairytale” had last year. (Then again, few songs do have it…) I can’t imagine this placing in the Top Five, but appreciation for a host nation often boosts a score a bit, and if Didrik’s voice is as strong in the Final (which he’s automatically qualified for) as it was in the Preview video, he might shock us all a bit.
(Oh, and just as a point of fact…the composer of “You Raise Me Up” was Rolf Løvland, who wrote Norway’s previous ESC winners “La Det Swinge” and “Nocturne”. Just sayin’!)