The Nordic countries have been quite busy! Over the past eight days, we learned the representatives of Finland, Denmark, Norway, and Iceland, and Sweden held its first semi-finals.
Finland – Representing the Finnish will be Kuunkuiskaajat, a lady, folk duo, with the song Työlki Ellää. I would put their music as a tame cross between polka and zydeco (notice that both styles rely heavily on the accordion). Actually, I really like the songs that I found by them on YouTube, so I have high hopes for what their song for Bærum will be. I will also say that they beat out some strong contenders as well. Several tangos, including the reigning King of Tango Amadeus (Lundberg) whose song Anastacia is probably my favorite from all of the losers. Also losing out were a few dance numbers, some ballads, and a big band number. The biggest surprise would be the lack of rock entries that seemed to have dominated Finnish selection since Lordi’s victory in 2006.
In predicting Kuunkuiskaajat’s success, one must remember several things. Europe tends to like folk, especially in Central Europe and the Balkans; however, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Austria, San Marino, and Montenegro are all not competing, and thus, will not be casting votes. I would undoubtedly put them through to the Final under the two previous year’s voting rules, because I think they will woo the jury, but now that the Semis have the 50/50 voting, too, the duo will have a harder time getting in. If they do make it (which I think they will), Finland will have the help of the other four Nordic countries and the Estonia and Latvia in the Final to finish in the middle of the pack.
Norway – Being the artist of a title defense effort is always a guarantee to be the most stressed artist competing. Taking on this monumental task (with the blessing of reigning Norsk Melodi Grand Prix & Eurovision Champion, Alexander Rybak) is Didrik Solli-Tangen, an up and coming tenor. The only song I have been able to find is an operatic aria performed with Rybak on first violin. It was well sung and I am excited about the prospect of an popera song (for those who are unfamiliar with this genre, think of SLV2007, BUL2009, SWE2009) or even a pure opera song (LAT2007). However, commentary online seems to compare the song to You Raise Me Up a song by Norwegian band Secret Garden (NOR1995 – winners!) and made famous by Josh Groban. So I am assuming that My Heart is Yours is similar sounding to Groban’s work.
I predict a strong finish for Norway, a top ten placing. Host countries tend to perform well and I think Norway still has some popularity leftover from last year. Not only that, he beat out a lot of quality songs to win NMGP, so his song must be great. And if Rybak joins him on stage to “play” (we know that all music is provided via backing track), then this will be top three for sure. Oh, and it doesn’t hurt that he is another cute boy joining the ranks of Israel, Belgium, and Bosnia & Herzegovina this year.
Iceland – The tiny island nation has chosen Hera Bjork (runner-up in Dansk MGP and backing vocal to Yohanna (ICE), both in 2009) with her song Je Ne Sais Quoi. The prospect of a song partially in French from Iceland is kind of cool, though I am sure that only the title and its appearance in the song will be in French. This was a big favorite to win, and she did. The songs she beat were of varying quality, and almost all of them were ballads.
Prediction – Having seen Hera Bjork compete in DMGP last year, I know that she is a talented performer. I think she has the potential to make some moves in the Contest, but I don’t know if she can win. Just thinking back to last year, her success will depend as much on her own performance (which must be stellar) as it does on other acts (particularly those performing close to her in the running order) not performing at their best. She will easily make the Final, but will have a tough time making an impact there due to a lot of strong acts that are due to perform this year (already we have a strong contender from Israel (and he doesn’t even have a song yet!), a strong contender from Norway, and a lot of potential from Belgium and Bosnia & Herzegovina). I predict a respectable top-15 finish for Iceland.