“Grab the moment”
Norway’s JOWST wins Melodi Grand Prix and makes it to 10th place in Eurovision
Linn Chloe Hagstrøm
The Norwegian American
On March 11, the 55th edition of Melodi Grand Prix (MGP) took place in Oslo Spektrum, where 10 artists competed to represent Norway in the Eurovision Song Contest 2017. JOWST won this year’s competition with the song “Grab the moment.” The song was written by Joakim With Steen together with Jonas McDonnell and vocal performance by Aleksander Walmann. On May 13, JOWST competed in the Eurovision Song Contest (ESC) in Kiev, Ukraine.
Joakim With Steen is the real name behind JOWST. At 15 years old, he took an interest in punk rock and songwriting. After finishing his education, he went on to work as a teacher and later he started Red Line Studio where he has worked as a sound engineer and producer since 2011. The vocals in the song are performed by Aleksander Walmann. He participated in the Norwegian song competition The Voice in 2012, where he was among the top 10 finalists.
The Melodi Grand Prix is a Norwegian songwriter competition organized annually by NRK with the purpose of selecting Norway’s contribution to the Eurovision Song Contest. The first competition was held in 1960 and is still popular to this day. The conditions for approval are that the song must be an original composition and three minutes long. In the earlier years, MGP songs could only be written and performed in the official language of the country of representation, thus all Norwegian song submissions prior to 1998 were in either Norwegian or Sámi. In 1999, this restriction was lifted and there are currently no language restrictions in MGP or ESC. One person stands out in the MGP history, namely Jahn Teigen, a beloved Norwegian artist who competed in 13 MGP finals. Teigen has represented Norway in Eurovision three times. In 1978, Teigen made headlines for receiving a total score of zero in ESC with the song “Mil etter mil,” yet this song became one of MGP’s biggest Norwegian best sellers through time.
The first Eurovision Song Contest took place in 1956. Norway joined the competition in 1960 with Nora Brockstedt performing the song “Voi Voi,” written by Georg Elgaaens. Norway has won the ESC three times, first in 1985 with the song “La det swinge” by Bobbysocks, second in 1995 with Nocturne’s “Secret garden,” and lastly in 2009 with Alexander Rybak and his “Fairytale.” Last year, the Sámi artist Agnete and her song “Icebreaker” did not make it to the Eurovision final.
The competition has known controversy through the years, both related to political and musical content. For example, in 2014, the Russian Tolmachevy twin sisters were booed when they qualified for the ESC finals in Copenhagen although they received a warm welcome during the semi-final, according to the BBC. Russia suffered at Eurovision over their stance on gay rights and the crisis in Ukraine. Last year, the Ukrainian artist Jamala won the ESC with the song “1944.” Although the text is not directly related to the Russian annexation of the Crimea from Ukraine in 2014, it could be interpreted as such. Russian politicians were furious about the victory and, as reported in VG, understood both the song and victory as political. More controversy ensued in this year’s competition. Russian TV would not air the popular song contest, as Ukraine denied the Russian participant entry to their country. Thus, Russia was not allowed to join this year, the European Broadcasting Union reported.
There has always been a love/hate relationship between the Melodi Grand Prix and the Eurovision Song Contest. Eurovision is known for its glamor, kitschy costumes, show dance, original performances (watch at www.youtube.com/watch?v=MVR2o4iffKs), musical modulations, and wide variety of genres—even being its own genre. This year’s winner, Salvador Sobral of Portugal, announced that, “Music is not just fireworks, it is content and feelings. This is a victory for anyone who makes music that has an opinion,” before he performed the winning song “Amar Pelos Dois” again with his sister who wrote the composition.
More than 1.3 million Norwegians watched the ESC finals, according to NRK. In Eurovision this year, Norway’s JOWST took 10th place, while the Swedish contestant Robin Bengtsson with “I can’t go on” received fifth, and Anja and her song “Where I am” representing Denmark got 20th place out of 26 finalists. In the past, MGP has been criticized as too quiet, too wild, too far back, too kitschy, and this year the program was thought to be too young and trendy. Following their victory, Portugal’s artist called for an emphasis on content rather than glamor. This may turn out to be a historic crossroad for this competition.
You can watch the performance by JOWST at eurovisionworld.com/?eurovision=2017norway.
Linn Chloe Hagstrøm is a Bergen-based editor, barista, and alumna from Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, Wash. She is passionate about social science, feminism, volleyball, and her mini schnoodle.
This article originally appeared in the June 16, 2017, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.