Norway chooses Stella Mwangi for Düsseldorf

The past week has seen preparations for the Norwegian Melodi Grand Prix gather pace as the press have whipped themselves into a frenzy over this year’s participants. Gossip, intrigue, drama and the all important publicity make this one of the most anticipated finals in years.

Stella Mwangi has remained out of the spotlight for much of the week, getting som much needed rest and perhaps dealing with the pressure of being branded as the favourite to win the whole show. With her single Haba Haba topping the charts, she’s already a winner, but a number of voices are making themselves heard, saying that her victory is not the far gone conclusion everyone makes it out to be. Eurovision veteran and president of OGAE Norway Morten Thommassen certainly doesn’t seem to think so, saying he hopes that she will win, but has experienced far too many surprises in the voting previously to be entirely convinced. There are certainly enough heavyweight names such as Babel Fish, Hanne Sørvaag and Helene Bøksle in the final tonight to give Stella a run for her money.

Poor Åste (of Åste & Rikke) has also had a tough time of it lately, being knocked for six by some viral infection, leaving her partner Rikke no other choice than to sing alone at the rehearsals. Hopefully Åste will have recovered enough to give us the stellar performance we’re used to seeing her give but you never know. It also remains to be seen as to whether this week’s heavy partying has taken its toll on The Lucky Bullets who have partied the night away on more than one occassion. In a matter of hours we’ll know the answer to this and all our other questions. Regardless of the outcome, one thing is for certain and that is that we are guaranteed an amazing show tonight with an electric atmosphere and some extremely varied performances. All we have to do it so sit back and enjoy the show!

The songs:

Song 1: Helene BøksleVardlokk (Cecilie Larsen/Helene Bøksle/Sindre Hotvedt/Knut Avenstroup Haugen) 
A vision of Nordic elegance, youthful Helene’s crystal clear vocals and her humbling stage presence make for a magical interpretation of this more traditional number. She wears the same outfit as in her previous appearances, the long, flowing white gown with embroidery with a simple blue slik belt. The stage is set in dark blues, which paired with dry ice across the stage makes for a very atmopsheric opening. The screens gradually change into a lighter tone of blue as the song progresses. Helene holds the camera captive with long, intense looks and her vocal performance was every bit as good as in the dress rehearsal. She should at least make it to the super final.

Song 2: Sie GubbaAlt Du Vil Ha (Magne Almås/Petter Øien)
Many love this group and equally as many hate them, which is why their song shouldn’t fail to get some reaction. Although not exactly high calibre music, Sie Gubba are great at what they do, namely making accessible, catchy music in the danceband vein. The group certainly scrub up well, ditching denim and leather jackets for simple black outfits much better suited to this evening. The screens vary in colour behind the group, with the same tiger effect using black and orange hues as seen previously. A great opening smacking of country with both guitar and fiddle gets the second number started. Definitely Hillbilly, a musical genre which has a huge fanbase in Norway, so Sie Gubba can’t be ruled out entirely either, especially niot after such a solid performance. This song went down a storm with the audience, obviously many of their fans in the arena tonight!

Song 3: Babel FishDepend On Me (Tarjei Van Ravens/Halvor Holter)
Babel Fish have nothing to lose and everything to gain from tonight’s performance, and when hearing their song, you can hear distant echoes of what made them so popular in the ninteies. An elegantly crafted, anthemic song which pays tribute to the sons of the band members. The crowds were going wild even before Babel Fish entered the stage. Use of the xylophone enforces the lullaby feel of their number. Dapperly dressed in blue blazers and black shirts, the group certainly look the part. Blue screens again are the main colour for their backdrop and dry ice is used once more to great effect. The singer appears so au fait with singing in front of such a huge audience. The song itself came across as anthemic and sincere with a beautful message which also deserves to do well tonight.

Song 4: The Lucky Bullets –  Fire Below (Knud Kleppe)
The Lucky Bullets are seen by many as outsiders in tonight’s contest – they’ve certainly made their mark on Oslo this week, partying hard like only they can! Their authentic, honest rockabilly sound may not be to everyone’s taste but they certainly shouldn’t be
underestimated. Starting with very apt black and white filming only to suddenly burst into vibrant colours was a stroke of genius. They kept the female dancer with saxophone from the rehearsals, which was a good decision. They definitely seem the real deal, with the main vocalists energy leaping out off the stage (he has ADHD, actually) and their authentic retro outfits suited the number perfectly. Fantastic, lively performance and great camera work made for possibly the best staged act of the night.

Song 5: The BlacksheepsDance Tonight (Agnete Johnsen/Emelie Nilsen)
Young, dynamic, energetic…these are all qualities that will appeal no doubt to the tweenie market en masse and have many kids jumping up and down around the living room. Not sure whether or not their previous success will translate into a great result tonight, but fair play to them for trying. Not as instantly catchy as Oro Jaska Beana, still the young musicians are impressive nonetheless. Lead singer Agnethe seems to struggle woth the lower tones to begin with but quickly saves herself. Blood red screens are the main colour during their act and the group’s choice of outfit complements perfectly the youthful feel of the song. Agnethe in a studded
leather jacket over a thigh high punkish dress – she even sings a few words of Sami during the song! They can be really proud of this competent performance.

Song 6: Stella Mwangi –  Haba Haba (Stella Mwangi/Beyond51/Big City)
If you haven’t heard of Stella Mwangi these past few weeks, then where on esarth have you been hiding? Riding high at the top of the Norwegian charts, Stella is definitely the one to watch with Haba Haba and her own brand of sunny african rhythms. Can’t see how anyone can fail to fall for the charms of this entry with its positive vibe and Lion King feel. She enters the stage to tribal beats, asking Oslo Spektrum if they were ready to dance. She was at such ease in front of the camrea in a figure hugging red silk hot pants and bustier creation. Interacted great with her two backing singers, The Haba Haba dance is a great gimmick, which will help the song stick in the minds of the voters (not that Stella needs any help). Oranges and purples are her main background colours, and her  performance went like a dream, with Stella having the audience in the palm of her hand. A deafening applause when the song came to a close. This is the one to beat.

Song 7: Åste & RikkeNot That Easy (Ah-Åh Ah-Åh)  (Rikke Normann)
Two divas that look good together an not least sing great together make for an irresistible combination that will have you reaching for superlatives when describing their performance. Confident, sassy and quite contemporary, this could have what it takes to make them a serious challenger. Before they took to the stage they came with a musical plea to the voters to send them to Düsseldorf. Moody blacks and blues created the right ambience for this funky number, with Rikke’s white dress making a great contrast to Åste’s black frock. Every bit as convincing as in their qualifying heat and the dress rehearsal, the ladies owned the stage and sang their socks with this song. Åste has certainly made an amazing recovery . A burst of pyrotechnics before the final chorus was a brilliant effect. Very strong as a challenger indeed.

Song 8: Hanne SørvaagYou’re Like A Melody (Hanne Sørvaag)
Hanne has the best starting position tonight and is something of a fan favourite. It’s easily hummable, with an acoustic guitar accompaniment and you instantly get that feeling of having heard it somewhere before but not quite able to place it, which could be an advantage for Hanne, if the tune already seems familiar to many. The ever charming Hanne also with the same creation as in her heat, the barbie pink thigh high dress in the style of Marilyn Monroe. Some of the camerawork made her look distant, and for the first time tonight there was the slightest glimt of a wind machine before she ditched her guitar. Hanne managed fine vocally, perhaps being shadowed by coming directly after Åste & Rikke and seeming a tad shaky in parts. A good all round performance though, although she was very static, merely standing in the middle of the stage.

The show:
Aerial shots of Oslo and the surrounding areas bring us the viewers in toward the venue for tonight’s contest, Oslo Spektrum, which is filled to capacity. A Godfather theme provides the opening credits, with Nora Brockstedt playing the part of a mafioso type figure, seen hassling host Per Sundnes. Alexander Rybak also plays a part in the brief introductory film of a deluded musician, spurned by Per. Shots of host Per Sundnes dancing in show style through corridors beneath the Oslo Spektrum complex together with many popular previous Norwegian Eurovision representatives is done very cleverly, looking as if they burst onto the stage, ready to perform the opening number. The opening number consists of a dance choreographed to Lena’s Sattelite, including Tor Endresen, Kate Gulbrandsen, Maria Haukaas Storeng, Guri Schanke, Sten Åge Nilsen, Benedikte Adrian, Nadia Hasanoui and Bjørn Johan Muri. The former participants are flanked by several dancers dressed in flowing knee-length purple gowns and sporting matching feather boas as headwear.

Host Anne Rimmen looks stunning in a floor length, backless purple sequinned gown which she wore for the first half of the show, before a swift costume change for the latter half with a mauve creation that was equally elegant. Per was also extremely humorous, spreading his own brand of charm among both the audience and participants alike. He has previously come in for severe criticism for his manner of speaking and use of language, but that’s something that just makes him seem that bit more approachable. All artists enter the arena from the very back through the crowd making for a very effective opening.

After the fourth act, Per had brief interviews with the performers who had been on stage, at one point referring to the size of Helene’s ample bosom! The Lucky Bullets treated us to a bit of gospel before we moved onto the fifth act of the evening. While the lines were open, we were treated to a review of the journey so far through the various heats. Then Per also treated us to an interview with the Schlagerboys! During the announcement of each act to proceed to the super final, Per also gave us some extremely humourous interviews with the artists waiting nervously in the green room.

Anne appeared again on stage, in a new frock, a shoulderless plum coloured silk dress with sequins over the one shoulder. Simply stunning.  A new reprise of the four qualified acts fighting for the honour to represent Norway in Düsseldorf and Per Sundnes being elected as Mr. Grand Prix 2011 led us into the interval act, which began with monks entering the stage and Greorian chant before it glided over into Didrik taking to the stage to give a reprise of his song My Heart Is Yours. The monks lost their black robes towards the end of the act and stood behind Didrik dressed in white.

The stage:
Is of a similar design as in previous years, with large LED screens which change in colour to suit the performer and song on stage. These screens are surrounded by blocks of floodlights whose bulbs light up giving a dripping effect. The stage consists of various platforms at the rear, with two flights of steps, one on either side leading down to the centre of the stage. The green room is directly to the right of the stage.

The voting:
First to be announced as winner of a place in the super final were The Blacksheeps, to a rapturous applause from the audience. The next act to be given a place in the final four was Sie Gubba, and honestly, it was as if noone was expecting that result. Just goes to show that you should never underestimate danceband music here in Norway! Stella was the next one to be called out, looking really nervous up until that point. The crowd were obviously ready to hear Haba Haba one more time, with it’s chorus as lethal as a black mamba bite! The final act to be announced as a finalist, and the evening’s biggest surprise is The Lucky Bullets, who had obviously had great success with their charm offensive this past week.

The suspense was palpable as the jury votes came in from the various regions, announced by former Norwegian representatives. It was a close race with constant knifing between The Blacksheeps and Stella Mwangi. Stella led by 3,000 votes until the televotes were added to the result, giving her an impressive lead. With a lead of over 130,000 votes, I guess you could say that Stella took an "Alexander Rybak"! The results were as follows:

1. Stella MwangiHaba Haba  280,217 votes
2. The Black SheepsDance Tonight  155,059 votes
3. The Lucky BulletsFire Below  115,793 votes
4. Sie GubbaAlt Du Vil Ha  94,884 votes

If you’d like to see more from the final at Oslo Spektrum, take a look at our photo album.

Source: Eurovisionary
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