There was once a time when America was almost involved in a Eurovision-like contest of international melodic proportions. I say almost, though, because once the US lost it, it somehow never managed to return to television.
The contest, for those of you who remember, was called “World Idol” and featured representatives from 11 countries who had won their own country’s version of “American Idol”, which (in the spirit of full disclosure) officially began in the UK. Kelly Clarkson represented the US, sang as almost all her contemporaries, of course, in English, and after being accused by the Canadian judge of yelling rather than belting, lost out to “dark horse” Kurt Nilsen of Norway. The US got tired of losing to Norway in the international arena, and the World Idol competition was not to be seen nor heard of again. In fact, depending on the results of 2014’s final medal count, it remains to be seen whether the next Winter Olympics may in fact be our last. Uff da!
But enough about Kurt Nilsen. What does any of this have to do with Eurovision? Well, besides the mirrored voting systems, World Idol does help me, as a grudge-holding American, to discuss the particularities of the Norwegian brand of singing-contest success: they are either very good at it or very, very bad.
In fact, Norway holds the Eurovision distinction as the most frequent recipient of the dreaded “nul points” – exactly four times since the contest first began, with the additionally-dubious record of coming in dead last in ‘63, ‘69, ‘74, ‘76, ‘78, ‘81, ‘90, ‘97, ‘01 and ‘04. Simultaneously, they also hold the record for the most number of points achieved in a single contest, with the largest gap ever between first place and second. In light of this intriguing dichotomy, let’s revisit two of Norway’s shining and, um, not-so-shining Eurovision moments:
1) Last year at Moscow, a humble Alexander Rybak thanking the audience in Russian (or Belorussian?), Norwegian, and English. He is currently preparing his 2010 thank-you’s in Welsh, Maltese, and Esperanto.
2) 1997’s Tor Endresen, singer of “San Francisco” and most recent Norwegian nul points recipient. With a song dedicated to 1960’s America, you would think other acts have since taken a cue from this performance. Guess not.
With that said, I think it’s time to introduce this year’s contestant from Norway. Classically-trained Didrik Solli-Tangen was selected from Melodi Grand Prix with a fairly cheesy ballad (comprising around 1/3 of the songs at Eurovision this year) entitled “My Heart Is Yours”. Though written by ESC vets Hanne Sørvaag and Fredrik Kempe, the song has fallen under some scrutiny of late, ranging from not-altogether-surprising allegations of plagiarism (though the breadth of accusations are truly remarkable: from a 2007 UK national final selection, to this year’s Irish song, to a random Polish one, to Michael Jackson’s “Will You Be There“) to the downright disturbing. Seriously though, let’s cut the kid some slack – here he is trying his hardest (no pun intended) with a familiar face on violin:
But, who is Didrik, does he have the fire in the belly, and, most importantly, what are his chances of beating the United States? I’d say the odds remain stacked in Norway’s favor, considering that the US is not competing in Eurovision this year (or ever). Nonetheless, don’t let that boyish charm and ability to hit the high C fool you – from the (ahem) insider knowledge I’ve received, Norway possesses a nefarious agenda bent on avenging its previous Eurovision faux pas and securing what may be the third-ever two-peat in ESC history (discounting Spain’s second consecutive win in 1969, which was apparently rigged by Franco). It seems that NRK producers have devised a sure-fire way of spicing up Didrik’s image and performance by making a few necessary changes.
Wearing nothing but Norwegian curling pants and a pair of “Solli-Tangens” (details have yet to be released, though we can safely assume they’re similar to Ray-Bans), I am informed by production officials that Didrik intends to hand out as many samples of akvavit and lutefisk as possible within the span of 3 minutes while accompanied by up to (though not exceeding) five assistants over 16 years of age.
Though admirable in its attempt to curry favor with the audience (though perhaps not with the Norwegian government), the proposal has come under fire recently – the main reason being the unfortunate realization that both akvavit and lutefisk are actually quite nasty.
As you can see, there’s (potentially) much to look forward to from this year’s Eurovision host nation. So, to wrap up: what lessons can we take from all this? Well, that from our transatlantic perspective, unless it’s Kurt Nilsen or curling, we can’t garner much hope of Norwegian success this year. But, best of luck, anyway! Heia Norge!!