Norway - Cindy Zh

Another year, another Melodi Grand Prix. The Norwegian broadcaster Norsk rikskringkasting (NRK) has organized the national final Melodi Grand Prix, for the 56th time running in order to select Norway’s entry to Eurovision 2018 in Lisbon.

From a pool of around 1,200 entries, ten songs were internally selected to participate in the final, and they are (in broadcast running order):

1.     Stella & Alexandra - "You Got Me"    

To start out the evening, we have the bright, energetic, song and rap duo Stella & Alexandra with a powerful opener that definitely gets the party going with style. They are fun and engaging with on-point vocals, and while the song itself can be a bit of a bland mismatch and probably won’t place too high if sent to Eurovision, they sell the performance so well that you hardly notice.

2.     Aleksander Walmann - "Talk to the Hand"

Next up we have Aleksander Walmann, whom you might remember from Eurovision 2017 for his collaboration with JOWST, with another modern upbeat song. The title and lyrics for the chorus are a bit dated and cringy, but they’re nothing if not catchy. Personally, I still prefer “Grab the Moment,” but he definitely makes a strong showing for himself here with the performance.

3.     Ida Maria - "Scandilove"

Going in having listened to the studio version, I thought this was a quirky tune that will be a bit of a Marmite (or should I say Lutefisk, since we’re in Norway?) with the audience and will depend on the right staging and performance to shine. Well, the long and short of it was the the performance didn’t exactly deliver. The vocals were questionable at best, the costume and colors of the staging an eyesore, and the whole package was a hot mess. I do feel bad for her for that fall, though (if it’s not actually a part of the choreography).

4.     Nicoline - "Light Me Up"

This was a good, but generic uptempo pop song that gets a little too repetitive for my liking. I appreciated the modern look they had that was minimalistic and bright with just the right pops of color, but thought it was a bit too good for the song.

5.     Tom Hugo        "I Like I Like I Like"

This is another good, but average uptempo pop entry. In a weaker field, this might gain more attention, but as it is no amounts of good delivery and men in suits can save it from being relegated to the middling filler entry.

6.     Charla K          "Stop the Music"

This is a cosy power ballad that I was curious to see performed on stage because with those, it’s always the vocals that makes or breaks it in my opinion. After seeing the performance though, I can safely say that it’s out of the contention without having seen the voting. The vocals were one-tone and shouty throughout, with no variation or dynamics to give the song a direction. And in an already competitive final with better vocalists, this just doesn’t cut it.

7.     Alejandro Fuentes - "Tengo Otra" (I have another)

This is a fun song from our Chilean alumni of Norwegian Idol. I was worried about how the Spanish will go over with the Norwegian audience, but he seemed to deliver it well and proved himself engaging.

8.     Vidar Villa - "Moren din" (Your mother)

A super catchy song with a fun tune, sung in Norwegian, which only adds to the song’s charm. I have to admit, I was borderline rooting for the song--that is, until I actually paid attention to the lyrics and realized to my horror that it was singing about being attracted to a friend’s hot mom. Still, they delivered it with style on stage to an absolutely engaged audience, and even knowing the actual theme of the song a small part of me really wanted it to do well, if only to hear a song in Norwegian on the Eurovision stage again.

9.     Rebecca - "Who We Are"

Moving on to the penultimate entry, we have Rebecca with a song penned by Eurovision alumni Kjetil Mørland from 2015 (and the song I’ve been rooting for, just so my biases are clear). She has, without question, the best vocals out of tonight’s selection and arguably one of the best of the whole national finals season. This is a great contemporary power ballad that falls on the right side of athemic, and boy does that girl sell it. The staging, with the display of singers’ faces on LED, gave me pause as it reminded of my Eurovison nightmares from 2017, but with that said, it was just the type of simple but complementing staging the song needed. Her voice, really, was the only thing really needed to absolutely fill that stage. Not only were they clear, well-sustained, and powerful; they also told the story of the song expertly.

10.  Alexander Rybak - "That's How You Write a Song"

And to close off, we have the winning entry from beloved Eurovison winner Alexander Rybak. Again, just so my biases are clear, I didn’t think much of the song at all, and thought it was a far cry from the beloved “Fairytale” that he won Eurovision with. It’s average, repetitive, and reminiscent of soundtracks of Disney channel made-for-TV movies in the worst ways possible. But, with that said: it’s official, Alexander Rybak’s definitely still got it. The staging, with the drawn-in instruments and dance moves imitating musical instruments being played, was absolutely on-point, and the moment when he finally whips out a real violin was, simply put, magical.

For voting, the first round was a combination of audience televoting and international jury voting, each contributing to 50% of the score.  The top four acts from this round were selected to go on to the Golden Final, which consisted of (in drawing order for Golden Final):

1.     Rebecca - “Who We Are”

2.     Stella & Alexandra - “You Got Me”

3.     Aleksander Walmann - “Talk to the Hand”

4.     Alexander Rybak - "That's How You Write a Song"

These acts were then subjected to another round of televoting, and the two acts that came out on top for the final face-off were Rebecca and Alexander Rybak. The songs are performed for a second time before a final round of televoting decided the winner.

Interval Acts:

1.     “For vår jord” - Karoline Krüger (Eurovision 1988)

A great call-back to Eurovision’s past. This was a nice enviromentally-themed ballad describing a woman “standing guard for our earth.” This was performed as a duet with songwriter Anita Skorgan, with both singers on piano.

2.     “Grab the Moment” - JOWST with Aleksander Walmann

One of my favorite performances the whole night. This was performed with an orchestra, choir, and drumline. Too bad you can’t have live instruments on stage Eurovision, nor send the same exact song twice in the same number of years.