Normally two of my favourite Eurovision countries for consistently sending high-quality pop, but neither of them qualified last year in what was a bit of a Nordic wipeout. I’m going to go over the entries that Norway and Iceland have decided to send in this year. That’s half the Nordics, so don’t worry Sweden & Denmark, you’re up next. Finland can share space with Estonia.
Norway – JOWST – Grab The Moment
Norway have been particularly splendid a lot of the time in the 20th century, and happily, fairly successful for that. For me, the golden Norwegian era starts in 2005, when glam metal act Wig Wam delivered one of the best rock anthems Eurovision has ever seen (although 10 years before that they had one of the best winners of the contest ever in Nocturne’s near instrumental beauty). Competent entries, particularly the elven choral Alvedansen and of course, the winner, Fairytale, which isn’t their best but certainly enraptured the Eurovision audience into voting for something. Even when they went into adult contemporary ballad for their host entry, My Heart Is Yours managed to make me feel something. From 2013-2015, after a couple of average years, they set up a pleasingly very successful run of interesting alt-pop songs and I count I Feed You My Love, Silent Storm and A Monster Like Me among the very best of their respective years. Icebreaker was a little average but mostly, I am very positively disposed towards Norway as a Eurovision country. They’re good.
So it’s unfortunate that JOWST hasn’t really grabbed me (no, really, I just haven’t paid attention to it) in the way he so clearly wants to grab the moment. It seems to be very trend-chasing and honestly at this point I just want to strangle anything that has a tropical house backing if the singer doesn’t hugely make up for it by being interesting with their vocals. You know why, because at this point, all but the most exceptional tropical house beats make a track instantly sound background. And Jowst neither makes his vocals or his backing stand out. It’s completely and utterly forgettable. The song has little to offer in the way of lyrics either. A little harder and he could perhaps be an somewhat interesting Plan B lite. He doesn’t go that far. It is trying to be way too many things and it doesn’t do any of them particularly well. Even Icebreaker sounded less generic, this could be filling time on a Spotify playlist. Any Spotify playlist. I suppose it’s fitting for the home of Kygo. And I admit it could grow on me by the time of the contest but I’m not interested in it enough to give it much of a chance.
Now that’s not to say it’s out. Now, I have the running order out, I can make better predictions for these sorts of things. See, that tropical house sound is certainly popular and Grab The Moment does make it apparent that that’s what it’s using, so it could get points from the jury for being ‘modern’ and ‘in touch with the music industry’ despite that just meaning that it’s a shameless copycat, and points from the public who like that sort of thing. But do they? Tropical house originally rose in popularity, and I know I used to do this when the genre was still in its infancy, from people putting it on in the background where no one will complain about it because it adds a cool vibe to the atmosphere. That’s lovely and all but will that translate into votes in Eurovision. If Eurovision had introduced app voting (and I pray it never does, EUROVISION ORGANISERS, if you ever read this, learn from Melodifestivalen that it absolutely kills the excitement of your show and awards victory to the blandest song, I’ll have more to say on that when I do Sweden in a few days) then I might be more certain that this one will qualify, because it means more people will think that this might be nice and award it a vote but I don’t think this will be many people’s favourite and it’s right in between a notable entry in Croatia and a strong pop song in Switzerland, I think Norway will have another year in the semis.
Iceland – Svala – Paper
Now here is an interesting proposition. Iceland have also been mostly quality in recent years, and they actually had a good qualification streak going from 2008 to 2014, all of their entries, boisterous pop-rock bands with a message, beautiful songstresses like Yohanna and their dark duet beauty Never Forget, all made it through to the final. And I liked all of them, but particularly the ones mentioned. Then, in 2015, they had a little mess-up. Unbroken was a certainly passable entry but it was effectively Iceland’s Icebreaker except a year earlier and stopped the Icelandic momentum stone cold dead. Now, even while their football team is making headlines, the once strong Icelandic Eurovision movement has ground to a halt. Greta Salome’s Hear Them Calling, something even better than her half of Never Forget, at least in my opinion, sometimes, fell at the semi stage despite being universally predicted to go through and from all accounts, really deserved to go through on quality. That song was amazing. But that failure and Unbroken’s failure means that with Iceland not necessarily having the support base that other countries enjoy with a diaspora, it feels like their momentum has been broken and little, even the good pop songs, can make it through.
Because that’s what Paper is. While not so immediately standout to be one of the best of the year to me as Hear Them Calling was, it’s a very great pop song from Svala and definitely more of the sort of stuff I look to the Nordic nations for so often, almost like a spiritual successor to Margaret Berger, and we know what a showstopper that was. She’s the lead singer of Steed Lord, who impressed me with Curtain Call a couple of years ago. It feels airy and cool, the sort of indie-pop I want to get from the northern European nations, using distortions in production to create an atmosphere of sound. Anyway she has experience singing, but the worry I’ve seen is that she can be a bit too flamboyant (not always a problem as far as Eurovision is concerned) and mess it up for Iceland. I really hope that I’ve been reading things wrong because otherwise, and also if Iceland were any other nation right now, I would be predicting this through for semi 1, it has some other northern European nations and nations that will appreciate good strong pop in there, it just depends if that is what they’re looking for over plain ballads. I really hope it is but I’m currently preparing to be disappointed, if only because of Iceland’s poor situation with the contest at the moment.