Hei fran Oslo, OnEuropeans! I’ve ditched that little old Swedish competition, because, you know, who really cares what wins it this year, and I’ve popped over to Oslo instead to get me some Scandilove. At least I hope that’s what I’ll end up with by the end of the night.
It’s a brisk, chilly day and I’ve enjoyed a stroll around the city, reminiscing about my time here in 2010 for Eurovision, and finding out who will try to bring us back again next year. I’ve been allowed into the rehearsal, my first time in the venue that hosted Eurovision so memorably in 1996, and I’m about to get a sneak preview of the show.
There’s a group of teenagers in the mosh pit at the front, being ordered to spread out rather than bunch up by an officious looking Norwegian stagehand. I wouldn’t be arguing with her. Jan Ola Sand is here, and wishes us a good show, but tells us he can’t stay for the evening as he’s headed to Lisbon for Monday’s Heads of Delegation Meeting. He’s lucky; we may have an exciting gig ahead but it’s a heck of a lot warmer there.
We kick off with a light-hearted medley of Norwegian entries; it’s a nice tone for the show ahead, which opens with the duet by Alexandra & Stella Mwangi. Their VT reminds us of her Habba Habba, but this song’s a departure. It’s a big production with 7 dancers in tuxedos backing the pair. They’re followed by the vocalist of last year’s winning act, Alexander Walman, who this time round is backed by a small Big Band set up and joined by dancers.
My own highlight runs third; Ida Maria’s Scandilove. I just love this - so much so it was the inspiration for my recent piece for ESCInsight, exploring why some songs that have great Eurovision potential get stuck in their national final. It’s a fate I fear for Ida, but she gives everything she can to create a memorable show. This has it all: beach ball bouncing across the crowd, cheerleaders, a troupe of 16 acrobats who create human pyramids on stage. And a slightly dodgy vocal. I think this won’t make it but, my goodness, does Ida make the most of her three minutes.
Such a large cast on stage is something that marks MGP out. They don’t follow the usual Eurovision rules limiting just 6 people, and whilst this might require a radical rethink for Eurovision it makes for some great impact for the Norwegian audience. With 9 of these songs not getting the ticket to Lisbon, why not make the most of it here?
NICOLINE, however, does not opt to do this. She has a more traditional ESC style show, backed with 4 dancers in matching white split-leg track suits and a rainbow trim. Tom Hugo, after her, pulls several more dancers with him. Among them are some hackneyed representations of various aspects of LGBT culture; drag queens, a twink, a leather man. I hadn’t expected this, and whilst it’s great to see visible representations of my culture, they seem to cut a motley crew for a night out.
The next two acts come and go quite quickly for me. Charla K and Alejandro Fuentes make less of an impact, making way for the Norwegian language song by Vidar Villa. I hadn’t given its lyrics much thought but last night we realised it’s all one big Your Mum joke, as the singer tells his friend he fancies his mother. Well.
Perhaps the two big favourites are saved for last; Rebecca, singing a song written by Monster Like Me’s Kjetil Mørland, and one of Eurovision’s most recognisable faces Alexander Rybak. I don’t really like either. Rebecca’s song just doesn’t resonate with me at all, and Rybak’s look at me I’m a proper musician schtick just doesn’t wash. Both are competent performers; in fact, watching Rybak you remember his effortless charm that made Fairytale such a runaway smash. I hope it’s neither of these, but I suspect I will be one of them.
A couple of treats for the interval acts; a duet of For Vår Jordand by Karoline Krüger and Anita Skorgen, and a terrific version of Jowst’s 2017entry. This is a real highlight for me.
On the night, having seen the show, I can just sit back and relax, and prepare for what I hope will be a good result. It turns out that I’m to be more enthused by the show than its outcome. As 10 become 4, then these 4 – with no prior indication of how they’ll be matched in a head to head – become 2 my earlier suspicion proves right; it’s down to Rybak and Rebecca.
As I’m now back home, you’ll know the result, and you’ll not be surprised to know I’m nonplused. There’s no denying Alexander Rybak can perform the pants off this song, and his charm has indeed sold this to the Norwegian voters at a scale, it later transpires, of almost 3 to 1. But behind its fur coat of presentation, the song, for me, is wearing no knickers. In fact, I think it’s awful. The lyrics coat it in a self-conscious triteness that ticks precisely none of my boxes.
Ah well. We head onto the stage (the actual stage!) as the press interviews the artists, then skulk off for a drink in my hotel, where the after party is taking place upstairs. Being me, I somehow end up in there, just in time to see Ida Maria shrugging off her loss and giving it all she has on the party stage. Things are fine again. I watch the rest of the artists perform, and almost see the chap who earlier confessed in song his lust for his friend’s mother get his wish as a middle-aged woman, possibly a mum, jumps up on stage and whips her knockers out beside him. The Norwegians in the audience raise only a minor cheer, suggesting that once everyone’s about five £10-a-pop beers in at the bar streaking is a regular occurrence. It’s a good job she’s in the warmth and not swinging them around at minus 3 outside.
By now it’s futile trying to be outraged at the drink prices so I go all-in and head to one of Oslo’s finest homosexualist establishments for a final couple of scoops. I’m glad I make the effort as the Scandilove that Ida Maria couldn’t deliver me earlier is found there after another pint and a half in fine Nordic ursine form.
This little trip was just what I needed, having missed a great chunk of the national finals season by going on holiday. I’m reminded of how much I like Oslo, but I’m still hoping we’re not heading back there next May. I’ve slipped a little flutter on the Rybak boy though just in case; I might as well make it worth my while. It’s a distinct possibility.