Norway eighth in 2015 Eurovision Song Contest
More known for losing than winning this popular contest, Norway made a good showing this year
M. Michael Brady
The Eurovision Song Contest has been held each year since 1956, making it the longest-running televised song completion. Today it is among the world’s most-viewed non-sport programs, with viewer figures ranging from 100 to 600 million a round the world. Since 2000, the contest also has been net broadcast from the Eurovision website at: www.eurovision.tv/page/timeline.
The first contest was held in 1956 in Lugano, Switzerland, under the auspices of the European Broadcasting Union (EBU). There were seven participating countries: Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, and Switzerland. Four years later, in 1960, Norway became the 13th country to join in the Eurovision Song Contest, then named Melodi Grand Prix. Save for two years, 1970 and 2002, Norway has entered every contest since then. The country has won the contest three times, in 1985, 1995, and 2009, which is no record, not even in Scandinavia, as neighboring Sweden has won six times. But Norway does hold two records of the contrary sort: it has finished last 11 times, more than any other country, and it has attained a score of zero four times, in 1963, 1978, 1981, and 1997.
In the 1966 contest, Åse Kleveland, then 17, represented Norway and placed third with the song “Intet er nytt under solen” (“There’s Nothing New Under the Sun”), despite having broken with the female performer dress code of the time by wearing a pant suit, not a dress. Her life after Eurovision has been equally original. She went on to study law and enter politics as a member of the Labor Party. She was appointed Minister of Culture in 1990 and served until 1996, a tenure that earned her the distinction of being the only Eurovision performer ever to go on to hold a Ministerial post.
In 2011, the Norwegian entry, “Haba Haba” was in English and Swahili, the first in the history of the contest to be sung in an African language, aside from Arabic. Also in 2011, Jon Ola Sand, a Norwegian TV (NRK) television executive, was appointed the EBU Executive Supervisor of the Eurovision Song Contest, a post he still holds.
In 2015, the Norwegian entry was sung by two singers who had not known each other before preparing for the contest: Kjetil Mørland and Deborah Scarlett. Their song, “A Monster Like Me,” is a dark love ballad about controlling an unresolved past incident and having to let go of a cherished love; lyrics on the Eurovision website at: www.eurovision.tv/page/history/year/participant-profile/?song=33133. It placed eighth, behind first-place Sweden.
Aside from presenting the many facets of European song, the Eurovision Contests have become venues for moods. The 2014 contest was won by Austrian cross-dressing diva Conchita Wurst, who since has gained fame as a long-haired, full-bearded lady singer. According to Eurovision tradition, Conchita was one of the hosts of the 2015 contest.
The Eurovision Song Contest, or Melodi Grand Prix as it still is called in everyday Norwegian, is a reliably surprising, consistent hit, year after year in Norway. It’s one of the two fixed get-togethers of our family of four, this writer, his wife, and our two now-adult sons. The other is juleaften (“Christmas Eve”).
This article originally appeared in the June 5, 2015, issue of the Norwegian American Weekly. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.