Norway chooses Vidar Busk, Datarock and Gromth and Emil Solli-Tangen as their first finalists tonight

Melodi Grand Prix season finally got underway tonight, with the first seven hopefuls taking to the stage in Steinkjer. The line up featured everything from rockabilly and electronica through to folk pop and metal opera. But who would take Norway’s fancy and bag the first three spots in the final?

NRK promised us a varied line up, and that they most certainly did deliver. With everything represented here, both old and new artists, big names and even Didrik Solli-Tangen’s little brother thrown in for good measure, there were no real clear favourites. Each song had its own redeeming qualities and fan base so it was anybody’s guess tonight as to which three artists would go on the the final in Oslo Spektrum on the 9th of February. A wildcard will be selected to take part in the final ny NRK from those artists unlucky enough not to advance from their heat.

The songs: (You can read more about these participants in our Get To Know article)

Song number 1: Vidar BuskPaid My Way

The show got off to a lively opening with the experienced artist and biggest name in the line up Vidar Busk, performing an unapologetic rockabilly number. A throwback to the fifties always runs the gauntlet of not appealing to the younger generation. Busk was sporting an electric blue jacket and black shirt for the occasion. He was joined by a drummer and a contrabassist, along with three girls pretending to play the saxophone and two backing singers in similar retro garb. Quite a dark stage setting, pierced with blue rays and interrupted by the alternating blue and yellow light coming from LED screens behind him. Overall a very safe performance, with plenty to see and even two keychanges, but somehow it all seemed just a bit calculated and static. The opening act was very well received though.

Song number 2: Carina Dahl – Sleepwalking

And so we see Ms Dahl take to the stage for the second time, with a much improved number. A very contemporary, mid tempo number which you could easily envisage Katy Perry or Rihanna performing. Perhaps a bit lightweight melody wise in parts, but the hook is decent enough.Lilac curtains part to revea a stage bathed in matching lighting effects. Dahl was wearing a considerably toned down effort compared to her last appearance, a simple white dress, flanked by four dancers in matching white. The delivery of her number was sufficient, if a little flat and raspy in places. There was good camera work during the bridge, with an aerial view of the stage, showing the dancers’ moves against the black floor. A brief flash of pyrotechnics erupted towards the end of the number, which worked very nicely.

Song number 3: Tom HugoDet er Du /It’s You

And so it’s time for the heat’s only Norwegian language entry. Sung with a soft southern Norwegian accent, it’s such a sweet, honest little ditty that, should there be justice will get through. Whistling never goes down well at Eurovision though, so it’s a tough call to say how the song will do. Tom Hugo took to the stage wearing a western inspired dark grey tuxedo with a lighter grey shirt and a black ribbon instead of a necktie. The staging was simple, to match the simplicity of the song, with simple neutral coloured rays agains a black and blue backdrop. He gave a very intense performance, despite it being an understated ballad with plenty of eye contact with the camera. Luckily his whistling was in tune! Vocally, he gave a faultless performance that was met with a fantastic reception in the hall.

Song number 4:  Gromth feat. Emil Solli TangenAlone 

Metal meets opera is a risky genre to try to pull off. It can, if done correctly, prove to be sheer brilliance, something of epic proportions. Alone dishes out drama a plenty in the contrast between the hoarse screeching and the silky vocals of Mr Solli-Tangen and a hefty string arrangement, but with no real melody to speak up just ends up sounding like a deranged rambling. A blue chandelier was the focus of the camera as Emil Solli-Tangen opened with the vaguely operatic introduction, dressed in tails, before the billowing dry ice and the screeching of the other vocalist kicked in. They stood back to back as the metal vs opera duel was fought out.  Vocally, Solli-Tangen was on form, but it has to be said the remaining vocals, suspectedly meant to be sung in the style of Evanescence just came across contrived and a complete mismatch of vocal styles. The stage was used well, and the show was visually provocative, with flashing lights everywhere, all in all a passable performance minus most of the screeched vocals. Hard to see the mainstream going for this, but the audience were practically ecstatic, so you never know what can happen in the country of Black Metal.

Song number 5: Julie BerganGive A Little Something Back

Next up was the youngest artist of the evening, Julie Bergan, one of this evening’s newcomers, singing a fresh, radio friendly r’n’b song. The song builds nicely, a modern, intricate arrangement with a chorus that packs some punch. Yet, the only gripe with this one are the angst ridden lyrics of a relationship breaking down sung by an 18 year old – it just doesn’t come across as credible. She began her number by sitting on a white bench in a burgundy off the shoulder, floor length, flowing dress. She was accompanied by two dancers. The angst theme of the song was reflected in the stark staging, with simple black and white contrasting shapes and lights as a backdrop. She used the stage to her advantage, making lots of contact with the camera. A rain of sparks fell upon her at the end of the number, reminiscent of Ell & Nikki. The vocals were steady, you hear she has still a lot to learn, as she was quite strained in places, but for such a young performer, she seemed to keep her nerves impressively in check.

Song number 6: Mimi BlixCatch Me

Fresh faced, pouting Mimi Blix takes us to clubland for the penultimate entry this evening. It’s a heady mix of thumping beats over a sparse house sound, which during the course of three minutes verges on the tedious and becomes extremely repetetive. Following her outing to Siste Sjansen two years ago, the artist was hungry for success, but would she be able to overcome her nerves? Mimi was every bit the glamour puss, as she took to the stage wearing a sprakly red dress revealing a sober amount of midriff and cleavage. Backed by no fewer than six male dancers in black, this was a heavily stylized number with sparse vocals. Standing atop her raised platform on stage, her outfit contrasted well against the red and black backdrop. A puff of smoke followed as she took to the floor to shake and shimmy with her entourage at the end of the number. Vocally somewhat thin and very flimsy in places spoilt by her nervosity, but it’s a simple enough tune to stick in the memory and the younger audience could very easily go for this. 

Song number 7: DatarockUnderground

The final entry tonight sees one of the biggest names and also one of the favourites take to the stage in the form of Datarock, purveyors of disco funk and Underground is no exception. A seductive, good time vibe takes over and makes you want to abandon all inhibitions and to party. Three hot pat clad dancers kicked off the number against  boards covered in flashing lamps behind the group. The group were wearing their trademark red tracksuits and you could see the confidence ooze from them as they performed. There was great interaction between the dancers and the band members, with the bass guitarist leaping and bounding around the stage. Theirs was a genuinely fun, joyous performance with good, solid vocals and a number which also went down extremely well with the crowd in Steinkjer. 

The show:

The hosts of tonight’s show, Jenny Skavlan and Erik Solbakken take to the stage in the cavernous Campus Steinkjer to rapturous applause. Solbakken will be familiar to many of you from his job as one of three hosts of the Eurovision Song Contest, 2010. Skavlan is something of an it-girl. She looked stunning in a black knee length evening gown with beadwork around the collar and a plunging cleavage, Solbakken looking ever so dapper in a grey tuxedo and burgundy shirt. Plus points for the glitter trim!

All acts were introduced to an enthusiastic applause from the packed venue. Each artist was introduced by a brief postcard where they shared their experiences of the weekas well as their expectations for the show. Following each performance, the artists are interviewed briefly by the hosts about how they thought their experience was. Once all the numbers had been performed, we were treated to a brief recap while votes poured in. As part of the light entertainment, NRK rigged up a table in outside a shopping centre with a sign in front of it sayig "Become the next big thing in Steinkjer" with a telephone on top. The phone started ringing, and the first one to take it was greeted by the mayor (!) of all people and congratulated by a brass band playing the Cliff Richard classic Congratulations. He was chosen to deliver the votes to the hosts, once they had been counted.

The voting/result

Lines were opened at the very beginning of the show following the presentation of all taking part. It seemed to take an eternity for the envelope to make its way in the hands of the talent they’d discovered on the street up to the hosts. The three acts would be announced in order of the numbner of votes received, with the lowest first. The atmosphere was electric, with all participants lined up on stage. Vidar Busk was the first name to be pulled out of the envelope. He was clearly overjoyed at the support of the viewers and beamed as he performed his reprise.He had problems finding his guitar before taking the stage again, which led to a short delay for the hosts which they had to fill as best they good, Solbakke later explained.The second name to be drawn out of the envelope was Datarock, who were visibly thrilled and gave a spirited reprise, as were the audience, whose applause almost brought down the house! And so, the point had come to the final name of the night, the act that had gained the most votes. Pulses were undoubtedly racing as the suspense built, and the act that had received the most votes of the evening was….Gromth and Emil solli-Tangen!

The three qualifiers from this first heat are:

– Vidar Busk

– Datarock

– Gromth feat. Emil Solli-Tangen

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