Category Archives: Norway

Eurovision 2011: The Best of the Rest (Part 6)

The Netherlands: When the 3Js revealed the quintet of songs that would be vying for the ticket to Düsseldorf, in my mind there was no question that “Je Vecht Nooit Alleen/Never Alone” would take the title.  (The Dutch audience seemed to feel the same way; the song won with over 63% of the public televote!)  If there had to be a substitution, however, my vote would have gone to the upbeat “De Stroom (The Stream)”, which was a more than worthy runner-up:

“De Stroom” is no slouch in itself; while “Je Vecht Nooit Alleen” topped the Dutch charts, “De Stroom” charted at a respectable #12 when it was released as a single in June, six months after the National Song Selection.

Norway: Melodi Grand Prix 2011 was a pretty big affair, with 21 songs split up into three semifinals.  As we all know, Stella Mwangi’s bouncy “Haba Haba” eventually took the crown, only to shockingly crash and burn out of the Semifinals.  (Subpar performance or technical errors?  You be the judge!)  Everyone seemed to have their favorites: fans of traditional Nordic sounds pulled for Helene Bølske’s beautiful “Vardlokk“, the sentimental among us loved Babel Fish’s “Depend on Me“, and fans of sweet pop sent their votes to Hanne Sørvaag’s “Like a Melody“.  As for me, my heart is divided in two.  The not-so-little part of me that loves danceable pop-rock fell in love with The BlackSheeps’ “Dance Tonight”…:

…while the other half of me still sings along to The Lucky Bullets and their rockabilly throwback “Fire Below”:

A tough decision, I know.  What were your favorites?

Poland: Much like the Dutch National Final, once the Polish candidates were revealed, there was definitely a runaway favorite.  Magdalena Tul’s “Jestem” might have come in last place during its Eurovision Semifinal, but it won its National Final with 44% of the public televote (which is pretty impressive, considering it beat nine other songs to grab the title).  With 22% of the public vote, runner-up Anna Gogola served up the fun, quirky “Ktoś taki jak ty (Someone Like You)”:  

And if you’re looking for something with a little bit more of an edge, there was 8th-place finisher Roan with “Maybe”:

Portugal: Homens da Luta’s unforgettable 70’s-era protest song “A Luta é Alegria” stormed to victory in this year’s Festival da Cancão on a wave of public support, getting 12 points from the national televote while the juries only gave them 6.  Inversely, runner-up Nuno Norte got the full 12 from the juries, but fell short when the public televote only gave him 5 points, missing out on the tie by the slimmest of margins.  (Granted, in the case of a tie, the public vote normally determines the winner, so Homens da Luta still would have gone!)  Nuno, the winner of the first season of the Portuguese edition of “Idol”, performed “São os barcos de Lisboa (They’re the Boats of Lisbon)”, a modernized fado:

Grabbing this year’s Portuguese bronze medal (and quite a few hearts) was Rui Andrade’s dramatic ballad “Em Nome do Amor (In the Name of Love)”, which got only five points from the jury, but ten from the televote:

(An interesting point of trivia: if Nuno or Rui had won the ticket to Düsseldorf, they would have been the first male soloists to carry the Portuguese flag since Rui Bandeira in 1999!)

In our next chapter, we’ll look at also-rans from Romania, Serbia, Slovenia, and Spain!

Follow Up Single Time, Part 2

As the weeks progress, more of Eurovision’s Class of 2011 are continuing on with their careers and releasing their next singles.

Bosnia and Herzegovina’s Dino Merlin has followed up his 6th-place finish in Germany with his new single, “Undo”.  Despite the title, the song is in Bosnian, unlike his ESC-entry “Love in Rewind”.  Dino is actively touring this summer, and will likely release his next album in early 2012.

Albania’s preeminent diva, Aurela Gaçe, has collaborated with local rapper MC Kresha to bring the world their new single, “Cash”.   It might not harness Aurela’s epic vocal prowess in the same way that “Kënga Ime/Feel the Passion” did in Düsseldorf, but it’s still a fun listen, and any video that has echoes of “Tron” gets a thumbs-up in my book:

Norway’s Stella Mwangi, who shockingly missed out on this year’s Final with the peppy, Afro-inspired “Haba Haba”, has picked herself up, dusted herself off, and is continuing on with her career.   She released her new album, “Kinanda”, on June 10th, and has already released the video of “Haba Haba”‘s follow-up, “Lookie Lookie”:

Finally (for now, at least), 2011’s Dutch representatives 3Js have also released a new single in the past few days (although sharp-eared Eurofans will recognize “De Stroom” as the runner-up in this year’s National Selection). 

New Videos from Norway and Finland

Norway’s Stella Mwangi has just released the preview video for “Haba Haba” and, as expected, the fun, bouncy atmosphere in the song carries over perfectly to the parade-meets-beach-party setting in the clip:

Also in Nordic Eurovision news, Finland’s Paradise Oskar has released a second video for “Da Da Dam” (granted, the first version wasn’t bad!).

It’s Stella Mwangi for Norway!

The last of our swing through the North this weekend comes courtesy of our friends up in Norway, who, as usual, pulled out all the stops for the Finale of their Melodi Grand Prix.  There were eight songs in this final round of competition, with two from each of the three semifinal heats and two songs from the Siste Sjansen (Last Chance) round.  From those eight performances, four would be selected to move on to a so-called “Golden Final”, where jury and audience votes would determine the ultimate winner.

Making it to the Golden Final, ironically, were both of the two songs from the Siste Sjansen round, along with the two qualifiers from the third semifinal.  And the final tally, after all of the votes had been counted…

4th) Sie Gubba – “Alt Du Vil Ha (Everything You Want)
3rd) The Lucky Bullets – “Fire Below”
2nd) The BlackSheeps – “Dance Tonight”
1st) Stella Mwangi – “Haba Haba (Little by Little)”

Despite her young age, this Kenyan-Norwegian performer has had experience and chart success performing all over Scandinavia and Africa.  In fact, only one day after “Haba Haba” took the MGP victory, it knocked Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way” off of the top spot on the Norwegian iTunes chart.  Stella’s high-energy performance and easy-to-remember hook made this song a no-brainer for the victory.  If she can keep this momentum up, she might end up as a front-runner for this year’s ESC title…

And, as a point of trivia, “Haba Haba” will be the first time that Swahili will be heard on the Eurovision stage!  “Haba haba hujaza kibaba” is a proverb meaning “little by little fills up the measure”.  According to Wikipedia, this will be the 53rd language heard at the ESC (52nd if you don’t count imaginary languages).  Needless to say, this makes the linguistics nerd in me very happy…

The Weekend Preview, 2/10

We’ve got another busy weekend ahead of us, so let’s dive right into what we can expect from all over the Eurovision world over the next few days!

On Friday, Azerbaijan will finally make their decision on who they’ll send to Germany this year.  Their preselection process started back in mid-November with 77 candidates, and they’ve finally been narrowed down to five final performers: Aynishan Qulieva, Ilgara Ibrahimova, Eldar Gasimov, Ilhama Gasimova, and Nigar Camal.  It’s still a bit unclear how the song will be selected; last year, the top three candidates sang three different songs, and while the winning performer was selected the night of the finals, the winning song wasn’t confirmed until over two weeks later.  Considering Azerbaijan’s penchant for flexibility on their preselection processes (their dates have been moved around many times, for example), who knows what answers we may find tomorrow night, or what questions will remain!

Also on Friday, Ireland will pick the artist and song that they hope will bring the nation to the top of the Eurovision heap for an eight year.  Brief snippets of the songs were released last week, but they were heard in their entirety for the first time just today.

Don Mescall – Talking with Jennifer (written by Ronan Hardiman, Don Mescall)
Nikki Kavanaugh – Falling (written by Christina Schilling, Camilla Gottschalck, Jonas Gladnikoff, and Hanif Sabzevari)
Bling – Shine On (written by Patrick Mahoney)
The Vard Sisters – Send Me an Angel (written by Liam Lawton)
Jedward – Lipstick (written by Dan Priddy, Lars Jensen, and Martin Larson)

Ironically, “Lipstick” is the only song that has been removed from YouTube for copyright reasons.  Why ironically?  Well, first, as its considered the frontrunner in tomorrow’s competition, and second, as a portion of the song was “accidentally” released on too early, prompting RTÉ to make the decision only one third in the hands of the audience’s vote, rather than fifty percent.  The remaining part of the decision will be in the hands of regional juries throughout Ireland.

Malta will hold their semifinal on Friday and their final on Saturday.  On Friday, the 24 candidate songs will be trimmed down to 16 by a 75/25 jury/audience vote decision.  On Saturday, those remaining songs will compete, and the winner will be decided by a 60/40 jury/audience split.  All the songs can be previewed, in their entirety, here.  For Malta fans, there are many familiar faces competing this weekend: Fabrizio Faniello made it to Eurovision in 2001 and 2006, and his younger sister Claudia has tried many times to make it to the event, but often falling just short of the ESC goal.  We also see the return of Wayne Micallef, who presented one of my favorite preselection songs from last year, “Save a Life“.  In fact, out of the twenty-three singers in this weekend’s competition, eighteen have attempted, at some point, to represent Malta in either Eurovision or Junior Eurovision in past years!  Will the victory go to a veteran, or to a new talent?  We shall see…

On Saturday, we’ll see what Belgium has to offer the growing Eurovision field.  In light of the difficult economic times, Walloon broadcaster RTBF came up with an interesting twist on an open call for songs.  Belgians were allowed to submit their songs (in French or English), and the public would be able to pledge money to the entries of their choice.  When a song received €20,000, they would be qualified to go on to the next round (all money donated to non-qualifying songs would be reimbursed).  That money would then go to the further production and refinement of their entry.  Thirty songs ended up making the monetary benchmark, and that was later pared down to fourteen final entries.  A 50/50 jury/televote split will decide the eventual winner.

We will also see Finals in Iceland, Norway, and Finland, continued semifinals in Spain, Lithuania, Latvia, Croatia, and Sweden, and the first semifinal in Estonia‘s Eestilaul.  Of course, I’ll try to bring you updates as often as I can!

Have a great weekend, Eurofans!

The Weekend Update, 2/6

Another weekend has come and gone, with tons of Eurovision news to report!

The Second Chance round, or “Siste Sjansen”, has wrapped up, with eight songs battling against each other in a series of tournament-style knockout rounds.  After all of the carnage subsided, we were left with two songs standing, and going to the finals next week.  And they are…
Sie Gubba – “Alt Du Vil Ha” and
The Lucky Bullets – “Fire Below”
Next week is the Norwegian Final…who are your favorites?

Yesterday, the top twelve contestants (including Daria Kinzer, selected as last week’s Wild Card) returned to the stage, fighting for six places in the next round.  Five of those placements were decided last night, while the sixth will be announced on next week’s show. Daria Kinzer, Mirko Švenda, Jacques Houdek, Katica Marinović, and Ana Eškinja.  Next week, those Top 6 performers will try to make it to the Top 4.

The first round of Eurovizija 2011 kicked off this weekend in Lithuania.  A total of fourteen songs vied for only three spots in the final, and here are the victors:
Monika – Days go By
The Independent – 7th Bus
Sasha Song – The Slogan of Our Nation  (Eurofans might recognize Sasha from his beautiful, yet undervalued 2009 ESC entry, “Love“)

The past few years have not been easy for Latvia in Eurovision…they came in last place in their semifinal in 2009 and 2010, and haven’t made it into the Top Ten since 2005.  Let’s hope that Eirodziesma 2011 puts them back on the right track.  Out of ten contestants last night three were voted through to the finals by the television audience, while two others made it through with the jury’s blessing.
The audience’s picks:
Evija Sloka – Don’t Stop The Dance
Pieneņu vīns (Dandelion Wine) – You Are
Blitze – Hop

And the Jury’s favorites:
Jānis Stībelis – Let It Be Me
D-Family – Daylight

For many people, Sweden’s Melodifestivalen is the absolute ultimate.  Some even feel that it’s become more stereotypically “Eurovision” than Eurovision itself has!  This is the country that’s brought us ABBA, Carola, the Herreys, and Charlotte Nilsson-Perrelli…schlager in all of its glory!  However, over the past few years, Sweden has fallen further and further down the rankings, and they even missed the final last year for the first time since the 1970s.  This year, I think viewers can expect a mix of the classic Swedish style (glitz, key changes, choreography and wind machines) and more current styles (rock, hip-hop, etc).  We’ll see what lands a spot in Stockholm’s Globen Theater, and eventually, what makes its way to Germany.

Unfortunately, due to the Swedish broadcaster’s rules, once a song has made it through to the next round (or to the Second Chance round, like what we’ve just seen in Norway), those semifinal videos are made unavailable to the public, in order to keep songs that qualified early from having a significant advantage over those songs selected in later rounds.  While irritating for bloggers like myself, I understand where SVT is coming from.  What I can tell you, however, is that the two songs that qualified directly to March’s final are:
Daniel Saucedo – “In the Club” and SwingFly – “Me and My Drum”.

Moving on to the Second Chance round (Andra Chansen, in Swedish) are:
Jenny Silver – “Something in your Eyes” and Pernilla Andersson – “Desperados”

I don’t know about you, but I think I need a weekend to recover from this weekend!

The (Nordic) Weekend Update, 1/30

We’ve had a lot happen this weekend from all over the Eurovision world, so I’m going to break my Weekend Update up into bite-sized regional chunks.  And away we go!

The last Finnish Semifinal was held on Friday evening, with three songs qualifying for the final via viewer votes, and one song saved by a jury wildcard.  (Makes me feel a bit sorry for the fifth performer that night, as he was the only one not to qualify!)

Voted into the Final: 

Saara Aalto – Blessed with Love (Remember what I said about Iceland’s Yohanna being the personification of a Disney Princess?  Forget it; this girl is so treacly-sweet that I became a diabetic just by watching her!)
Stala & So – Pamela (The lead singer, Sampsa Astala, is actually the former drummer for a certain well-known Finnish Eurovision legend…)
Image from
(Sampsa Astala as “Kita” from Lordi…ain’t he cute?)
Saved by the Jury’s Wildcard: 

The Finnish representative will be ultimately determined on February 12th.

As expected, the Icelandic semifinal on Saturday was not only full of talent, but also highly emotional.  After the sudden passing of Sigurjón Brink about two weeks ago, there was a bit of doubt whether or not his song Aftur Heim (Home Again)” would be performed.  Not only was it sung on Saturday night by a group of six of his personal friends, but it easily qualified for the final. 
Also qualifying:
Jógvan Hansen – Ég Lofa (I Promise) (This winner of Iceland’s version of the X Factor is actually a native of the Faroe Islands, a Danish territory.  This is his third attempt to represent his adopted homeland in Eurovision.)
Magni Ásgeirsson – Ég trúi á betra líf (I Believe in a Better Life) (This rock ballad, written by an Icelandic/Maltese team, really impressed me.)
As in Finland, the Icelandic final will be decided on February 12th.  There has been a lot of momentum behind Yohanna, but between Jógvan’s popularity and the sympathy vote behind Sigurjón’s final song, the field is more open than I think people give it credit for.  We’ll see in a few weeks!
The last of Norway’s semifinals happened this week, as well.  As per usual, two songs qualified directly to the final, and two will move on to next week’s Second Chance round.  And the winners are…

The Blacksheeps – Dance Tonight (This teen pop-rock group has quite a bit of experience on the song-competition front; they won the youth-based MGP Nordic competition back in 2008 with their song “Oro jaska, beana!“.  Agnete and Emelie come from the extreme north of the country, and often mix their Norwegian lyrics with both English and Sami.)

Stella Mwangi – Haba Haba (Stella infuses this song with her Kenyan roots.  She’s been active in the music scene in both Scandinavia and West Africa for a while, but this is her first venture towards Eurovision.)
Going to the Second Chance round are:
More news to come, of course!

The Weekend Update, 1/23

Another day, another update…Semifinals have continued this weekend in Finland, Iceland, and Norway, and Croatia’s preselection has kicked off, as well.  There are also further updates from Azerbaijan, Portugal, Moldova, and Malta!  And away we go…

Three more acts have moved on to the Finnish Final after this Friday’s semi.  After a public vote, this week’s winners are:
Paradise Oskar – “Da Da Dam” (Reminds me a bit of Belgium’s Tom Dice from last year, don’t you think?  If Tom were a member of Greenpeace Suomi, this might have been the result.)
Milana Misic – “Sydämeni kaksi maata (Two Countries of my Heart)” (Milana is the daughter of a Croatian father and a Finnish mother who actually represented her nation fifty years ago in Finland’s debut ESC entry.)
Father McKenzie – “Good Enough” (Yes, they’re named for the character in “Eleanor Rigby”!)

Knocked out at this round of the competition were Jimi Constantine’s “Party to Party” and Soma Manuchar’s “Strong“.  An interesting point of trivia, courtesy of reader Stefanos in Finland: Soma’s outfit was designed by Mert Otsamo, a finalist on the first season of “Muodin huipulle”, the Finnish version of “Project Runway”.  According to Stefanos, “I liked his work on Muodin Huipulle more than I did Soma’s outfit.”  I haven’t seen any of Otsamo’s work, but after seeing Soma’s outfit, I’d be hard-pressed to imagine I’d disagree.

Next, we move on to Iceland:
It’s been a week of highs and lows for Iceland this week.  On Tuesday, we heard the sad and sudden news of the passing of Sigurjón Brink at the age of only 36.  He was supposed to sing in the third semifinal next week, and it has been decided by both the network and his family that his entry, “Aftur Heim (Back Home)” would be performed as a tribute by a group of his friends and fellow musicians, and will therefore remain in the competition.  Next week’s semifinal heat is sure to be an emotional one.

In the second semifinal, which aired last night, we had five songs competing for two slots in the final.  The victorious tunes were:
Yohanna – “Nótt (Night)” (As I mentioned last week, Yohanna came in second place back in the 2009 competition with “Is It True?”  I try to stay as neutral and impartial as I can, especially during the preselection phase of the Eurovision year, but I honestly think that Yohanna might, in fact, be the personification of a Disney princess.)
Matthías Matthíasson & Erla Björg Káradóttir – “Eldgos (Eruption) (I speak no Icelandic, but I’m pretty sure I recognized the word “Eyjafjallajökull” at the start of the song…is this a tribute to the epic volcano that covered half of Europe in ash last year?  Any Icelandic readers wish to comment?)

We’ve got more news after the break!

From Florø, the westernmost town in Scandinavia, we had this week’s semifinal for the Melodi Grand Prix.  Qualifying directly to the final are:
Babel Fish – “You Can Depend on Me” and
Hanne Sørvaag – “You’re Like a Melody” (Hanne is no stranger to Eurovision.  She’s composed three songs for the competition: “Disappear” for Germany in 2008, “My Heart is Yours” for Norway 2010, and “Shine” for Georgia, also in 2010)

Moving on to the Second Chance round will be:
Endre – “Oh, Oh (Puppy Love)” and
Mimi Blix – “Allergic”

The first round of this year’s Dora Festival happened this weekend, and unlike what we’ve seen in the Nordic countries I’ve just mentioned, singers in Dora do not sing their proposed Eurovision songs until the final round of competition.  Instead, they choose a song freely, and hope that televoters will look favorably on them.  (This is actually a similar format to what Germany did last year.  It worked for Lena Meyer-Landrut!)  Out of twelve singers in this heat, five have already been chosen to continue on.  The sixth will be announced next week.
Confirmed for the next round are: Miro Tomic, Jelena Vanjek, Dora Benc, Sabrina Hebiri, and Jacques Houdek (who was the evening’s ultimate winner).  We’ll see another round of twelve next week.

After seven weeks of preliminary heats and one semifinal, the top 5 singers in Azerbaijan’s preselection have been picked.  Like in Croatia, they have been singing covers, and we won’t hear their proposed entries until the final round (or, knowing Azerbaijan, possibly even after the winning singer has been selected).  They’ll go up against each other on February 2th.  And they are:
İlhamə Qasımova
Eldar Qasımov
Aynişan Quliyeva 
Nigar Jamal
İlqarə İbrahimova

(For the record, I had been rooting for Çingiz Mustafayev, a participant on Yeni Ulduz, the Azeri version of the “Idol” franchise.  Not only was he a strong singer and a confident performer, but he is also a trained classical Flamenco guitarist fluent in Azeri, Turkish, English, and Spanish.  Sadly, he was knocked out of competition in the semifinal round.  If he had been sent to Düsseldorf, and had his talents put to good use, Azerbaijan could have possibly gotten some valuable votes from Spain, who will be voting in their semifinal.  Çingiz, if you’re reading this, please keep trying!)

Finally, lists of competing songs have been released in Moldova (although out of the 92, songs listed on the official Moldovan broadcaster’s website, only these songs are continuing on to the next round) Portugal, and Malta.  Portugal will select their song on March 5th, Malta on February 12th, and Moldova on February 26th.

Phew!  After all of that, I don’t know about you, but I need a nap.  I’ll keep you all posted on more news as it comes in!

The Weekend Update

Well, another weekend has come and gone, and while we don’t have any new songs added to the roster of Official Eurovision entries, we had a lot of activity over the past few days in the realm of Preselections, especially from the Nordic region.  Here’s what went down up North!

This Friday marked the first Semifinal in the Suomen Karsinta (Finnish Qualifier), with five songs battling it out for three places in the Final.  And the winners are:
Johanna Iivanainen – Luojani Mun (My Lord)
Cardiant – Rapture in Time
Marko Maunuksela – Synkän Maan Tango (Troubled Country Tango)

So, in the three songs listed above,  we’ve got a ballad, metal, and tango, and the rejected songs were pop and rock…you can’t say that the Finns lack variety!  We’ll see five more songs next Friday.

We’ve got more after the break!
The first of three Icelandic Semifinals (or Söngvakeppni Sjónvarpsins…try saying that five times fast!) took place on Saturday evening, with two songs sailing through to the final out of five competing tunes.  Unlike the Finnish Preselection, local broadcaster RÚV has mandated that all songs must be sung in Icelandic (although I believe they retain the option to switch to English at a later point).  The two going on to the final are:
Haraldur Reynisson – Ef ég hefði vængi (If I Had Wings)
Erna Hrönn Ólafsdóttir – Ástin mín eina (My Loved One)  (I’m not quite sure if I’ve got the translation right on this one…any Icelandic speakers out there want to let me know?)

There are two more rounds of Icelandic semifinals to go.  Within those two semis are songs by 2009 Eurovision runner-up Yohanna (her song “Is it True?” was truly a stunner) and rocker Magni Ásgeirsson, who is actually better known to American audiences from his appearance on CBS’s 2006 series “Rock Star: Supernova”.  Magni came in 4th place, but his career has continued to flourish, especially in his native country.  Here’s Magni performing an original song on “Rock Star: Supernova”.
And finally, we have news from Norway:
This year’s Melodi Grand Prix started on Saturday night, with seven songs competing for the chance to continue.  The top two go directly on to the finals, but the songs that came in third and fourth place go on to a wildcard round, or Siste Sjansen.
Moving on to the finals:
Helena Bøksle – Vardlokk 
Åste & Rikke – Not That Easy (Ah-Åh-Ah-Åh)

And to the Second Chance Round:
Sie Gubba – Alt Du Vil Ha (Everything You Want)
Use Me – Daisy

So, what do you think of the songs that went through?  Who are you rooting for so far?  Drop me a line in the comments!

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’!)