Norway (final) - Cindy Zhang

On March 2, the Norwegian entry for Eurovision 2019 was selected through the 57th edition of the Norwegian national final,  Melodi Grand Prix, which took place at Oslo Spektrum. Hosting the show were Kåre Magnus Bergh, a familiar face since the 2015 edition, and actress Heidi Ruud Ellingsen.

The show opens to Alexander Rybak on stage, who energized the audience with a mash-up performance of last year’s entry “That’s How You Write a Song” and his 2009 winning entry “Fairytale.”

The Songs:

Chris Medina - We Try

First up was Chicago-born Chris Medina, a former American Idol star who has since relocated to Oslo. We Try is a convincing pop song, though his vocals could have been better. The staging starts with a striking image of Medina at the piano, which reflected the sea of lights from the audience, but the accompanying dancer, who was positioned far from the main stage, felt out of place and made the performance feel disjointed.

D’Sound - Mr. Unicorn

Jonny Sjo and Kim Ofstad, who have been together as a group for 25 years, was joined by Mirjam Omdal to present us with Mr. Unicorn. Again, the vocals failed to impress, but the masterful staging certainly did. The three members, all in white, performed in metal cubes that visually interacted with images on the LED backdrop to make for a futuristic, sci-fi-esque spectacle.

Mørland - En Livredd Mann (A Terrified Man)

Kjetil Mørland of 2015’s “A Monster Like Me” returned this year with his self-composed “En Livredd Mann,” whose all-Norwegian lyrics was already a massive plus in my (albeit biased) books. The staging took inspirations from the music video and used it to great effects to complement the dark tones of the song, and Mørland’s effortless vocals were simply a treat to listen to.

Anna-Lisa Kumoji - Holla (Live video link not found)

The fourth entry brings a complete change of tone with its down and dirty hip-hop number, complete with a bold, energetic performance which was in-your-face in all the best ways possible. Kumoji certainly filled the stage with her powerful voice, and not to mention the eye-catching pink furry coat and the sleek black leather get-up underneath. I was at time baffled by the camerawork during this performance though, which seemed to have been making a valiant effort at losing her among the crowds at times.

Erland Bratland - Sing For You

Erland Bratland was another returnee from the 2015 edition of MGP. There wasn’t really any staging to speak of on this one, just the singer at the mic against a suitably atmospheric LED backdrop. Oh, and cello accompaniment that came in halfway. Bratland’s vocal performance, arguably the best of the night, was the only thing that needed to carry the song though.

Ingrid Berg Mehus - Feel

If Eurovision and MGP returnees weren’t enough, this year we also saw the participation of the girl Rybak’s winning entry was allegedly inspired by. And sure enough, there was violin-ing aplenty in this number. In all seriousness though, In all seriousness though, “Feel” was soft and elegant, but not without an underlying feeling of strength. The vocals were good too, even if the diction could have done with a bit more work.

Hank von Hell - Fake It

Who doesn’t love an entry that pulls off dramatically over-the-top with conviction? Also, props for trying to bring more rock entries to Eurovision. The song did get a bit repetitive after a while, but for the most part I was just enjoying the much welcomed change of pace.

Carina Dahl - Hold Me Down

In Carina Dahl we had yet another MGP veteran, whose song was frankly overshadowed by the overwhelming onslaught of  orange  (the color, not the fruit, thankfully) in her staging, imho. I also couldn’t help but to applaud the backing singer(s), who seemed to have done a lot of the heavy lifting in terms of the vocalsAdrian Jørgensen - The Bubble

A backing vocalist for JOWST and Aleksander Wallman in 2017, Jørgensen returns to take center stage this time around with a song co-written by Wallman and Mørland. Both the song and the staging seemed to have taken its cues from Michael Schulte’s successful entry from last year, but lacked the raw emotional sincerity that gave “You Let Me Walk Alone” soul (even though it did succeed in being a catchy pop number with an intimate performance). The addition of the female singer and the tambourine percussions did take the song to the next level though.

KEiiNO - Spirit in the Sky

Saving the best for last, we have the fan favorite “Spirit in the Sky.” The two main singers, Alexandra Rotan and Tom Hugo, both competed in MGP last year, and they were joined by Sami rapper Fred Bujlo. Despite this being my favorite across all of the national finals this season, I actually found myself a bit underwhelmed by the live performance tonight. The staging started off intimate and atmospheric with the trio in close formation and two dancers close behind them, but as the drummers moved in the stage got a bit busy. You can also literally hear their nerves creeping into their vocal performances and derailing them at times too.

After all the entries performed, Bratland performed his song again due to some technical issues during the initial performance, and then we were on to the voting. The first stage of voting consisted of a split 50/50 jury and televote system: in the jury voting, 580 points were distributed by ten international juries (Italy, Georgia, Spain, Denmark, Portugal, Switzerland, Macedonia, Ireland, Hungary, and Israel), who ranked each entry and awarded 12, 10, and 8-1 points; in the televoting, a same total of 580 points were given based on the percentage of televotes each entry received (e.g. the entry receiving 10% of televotes would get 58 points, and so on). The douze points given by each international juries were presented first, which concluded with “Mr. Unicorn” receiving four, “The Bubble” three, and “Holla,” “En Livredd Mann,” and “Spirit in the Sky” one each. The detailed breakdown of the jury points were not released during the live show (or yet at the time of writing).

After an interval act where host Heidi Ruud Ellingsen performed a medley of Eurovision songs, the four entries going on to the Gold Final were revealed to be: “The Bubble,” “Holla,” “Spirit in the Sky,” and “Mr. Unicorn.”

In the Gold Final,  KEiiNO  and  Adrian Jørgensen  both won the 100% televotes face-off and performed their songs again for the final Gold Duel. Jørgensen performed first and pulled off a good repeated performance, but as KEiiNO came on stage it was becoming clear that they would take home the win for the night, if the chanting crowd in the arena was any indication. They also seemed a lot more confident in their performance this time around, as their vocals were a lot more on point this time and the energy of the performance seemed to be on another level compared to the first showing.

The audience was treated to  a performance of last year’s winning song “Toy” by Netta  as the final voting was underway. Then, sure enough, the fan favorite  KEiiNO  with “Spirit in the Sky” was announced the Norwegian entrant for Tel Aviv in May.