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Feature – Eurovision 2024 – The Nordic countries’ entries

It’s a funny old thing, Eurovision. I remember when I first used to watch it, on a crackling, tinny-sounding fuzzy black and white TV set on which the singers and bands would perform in a small venue before a few hundred people and coverage of the vote would be interrupted frequently by a telephone line failure. “Hello, London calling, hello…are you there? Ja, heir ist Berlin, danke. Ve can only just hear you. Please copy. Hallo? Hallo?”

Back in the day you were hearing the (mainly ‘Boom-banga-bang’ type) songs for the very first time and they were new and fresh. When ABBA bounced on stage to deliver ‘Waterloo’ it was like something from another world.

In 2024 it’s a different world again but not one that I feel comfortable with. With a few clicks of my mouse I can watch, today, exactly one month before the 68th edition of Eurovision starts, snippets of every single one of the entries, complete with ready-made and usually well over the top videos, right there on my screen in a single You Tube video and that’s been the case for a while already.

Moreover, I can watch almost every single one of them as individual videos as well. Some of the songs are already in the charts of competing countries.

That element of surprise has gone forever and you have to wonder why they bother putting on a hugely costly live show at all. They could hold the entire shebang online, with both jury and public voting spread over weeks.

But to get into the subject matter here. Last year was a good one for the Nordic countries, what with Loreen winning it for Sweden for the second time with ‘Tattoo’, the only woman to do so.

Let’s face it, she was always going to, wasn’t she, and I reckon that if they’d allowed her to compete again and she’d been selected, she would probably also win this year as well. She has the quality needed to do that.

Finland also finished very highly last year, in second place, Käärijä’s ‘Cha Cha Cha’ doing particularly well in the public vote. I have to say I was surprised, I didn’t rate the quirky song highly at all and to be honest I thought it demeaned some of the excellent songwriters in Finland who would probably never even get a shot at competing.

Norway’s entry finished fifth and I thought it could have done better still (its public vote was on the low side). I’ve heard next to nothing about Alessandra sinceand I’m wondering if she is still in the business. I hope so, her ‘Queen of Kings’ was powerfully performed and very catchy in the chorus.

The two other Nordic countries did not fare so well, neither Iceland nor Denmark getting through to the Grand Final although Iceland was the highest scoring non-qualifier from the semi-finals.

And so to 2024, where the finals are being held in Malmö, Sweden, on account of Loreen’s victory. Let’s look at the entries alphabetically by country, starting with Denmark.

Denmark – Saba (artist) – Sand (song)

Saba won the Dansk Melodi Grand Prix 2024, the qualifying event, with the song ‘Sand’, gaining 37 points, and granting her the right to represent Denmark at the Eurovision Song Contest 2024.

Anna Saba Lykke Oehlenschlæger, to give her full name, was born in 1997 in Ethiopia. She was adopted together with her twin sister Andrea when they were eight months old, and they were raised in Ringkøbing, Jutland, Denmark.

Her musical career began quite recently, in 2023, but she is also an actress, model, entrepreneur, freelancer, and ambassador for the Danish Depression Association. A busy lady.

I’ll be honest, I’m always a little suspicious when I read that someone is a ‘singer/dancer/actress/model’ or similar which to me equates to ‘utility player’ in football or ‘Jack of all trades’, meaning they are moderately good at a number of things but nothing special individually. In her case she has taken the lead role in a local production of the musical ‘Hair’ so I guess she is now specialising in musical activities.

On the surface it seems lyrically to be a standard break-up song, the idea being that he (more likely she in Saba’s case as she is openly ‘queer’) is slipping through Saba’s hands like grains of sand, and she can’t do anything to stop it.

I note that she works on behalf of the national (anti-) depression association. Denmark is said to be the happiest country on Earth but mental problems exist everywhere. Is there an element of that in the lyrics (she is bipolar herself)? Possibly, but apart from the opening line, “yesterday is eating up my mind”, you’ll have to dig deep to find them.

‘Sand’ is a good, solid middle of the road pop song, with a memorable if not indelible melody. Vocally, she stays within a tight range but definitely has a powerful set of pipes on her. Visually, I see she’s adopted Weyes Blood’s flashing, pulsating heart symbolism. I wondered how long it would be before someone did that.

But I won’t hold it against her, if you’ll pardon the pun. Denmark should score much higher this year with this song, and I’ll predict a #15 – #10 placing.

I don’t know if she’ll perform at Eurovision stood on a coffee table. That would be different, for sure.

Finland – Windows95man (artist) – No Rules! (song)

This is getting silly now. I recall Arcade Fire’s Win Butler playing DJ shows as ‘DJ Windows 98’ but 95 is even more ancient. Who’s next ‘MS –DOS’?

Windows95man was selected in Tampere on 10th February at the Nokia Arena to represent Finland, one of seven songs, each of them having already made an impact on the charts in Finland. Windows95man won with 313 points over runner-up Paskana by Sara Siipola (273 points).

Windows95man is a caricature, an embodiment of the ’90s, who frees a once timid family man from his everyday life. It all started when Teemu Keisteri’s home videos on YouTube began to circulate all over the world.

He subsequently brought the character known as Windows95man to life, performing at Helsinki’s New Year’s celebration in 2022, as an opening act for Käärijä.

This is his very first single, ‘No Rules’. The song title refers to the artist’s motto. Henri Piispanen is the singer in ‘No Rules’. Mr Keisteri says the chorus of the song was so challenging that he had trouble finding a singer with enough technical skill to pull it off. Piispanen was the only one whose voice could go high enough.

The key to all this is Käärijä. This effort simply follows on from where last year’s ended. It’s a frenetic, tuneless pile of garbage. Mr Piispanen (is that a play on words, piss-pants?) doesn’t even have to reach a note I couldn’t manage.

It’s like a Brian Rix theatrical farce from the 1960s.

By way of excuse, Mr Keisteri, who appears in the video apparently naked from the waist down as he searches out his misplaced pants which are stuck on a washing line, says “In my opinion, all Finns are a bit looney-tunes deep inside, and I wanted to bring that out more.”

If that is true I suggest they keep it in-house instead. If I were Finnish I’d find this embarrassing. If I were a Finnish musician I’d be cringing. If I were the Prime Minister I’d be demanding a written explanation on my desk by first thing tomorrow morning.

And you know what? It will probably finish second again. 23 places above where it should be.

Iceland – Hera Björk (artist) – Scared of Heights (song)

As far as I know Hera is no relation to her pixie-like namesake but she has represented Iceland previously, in 2010, with the oddly titled ‘Je ne sais quoi’, comme si elle était française.

She certainly looks the part, like a sturdy operatic soprano, a Joan Sutherland or Montserrat Caballé and she has a huge vocal range to go with it.

She triumphed in the Final of Finals, beating Bashar Murad’s ‘Wild West’ on a public vote. Last year’s effort from Iceland wasn’t bad, something to do with how the singer, who is an athlete of some sort or other, keeps herself fit, but lacking in the spontaneity you expect out of that country where so many really are looney tunes and enjoy that status.

Hera certainly brings gravitas to the proceedings, being something of an icon in her country.

That she can sing is of no doubt whatsoever. The material they gave her to work with doesn’t really match the ability of the performer though. It’s a little bland and surely more could have been made of the chorus.

Its biggest problem is that it is perhaps too middle of the road, and dated. It belongs in a previous era although it’s hard to say exactly which one. It isn’t the sort of cutting edge thing you expect out of Iceland. But who could provide that anyway? The namesake? Sigur Rós? Of Monsters & Men? After those, you’re running out of options.

Prediction: #20 – #15 placing.

Norway – Gåte (artist) – Ulveham

I have to admit I hadn’t heard of Gåte but in my defence they were around well in advance of my interest in Nordic music, taking a lengthy leave of absence for 12 years until 2017 and being somewhat below the radar by comparison with the early days since then.

Prior to that they had sold 100,000 albums (that’s a lot in a country of five million souls) and had won the Spellemann Award for Best Newcomer back in 2002.

But that’s over two decades now so how do they match up to today’s demands? The aforementioned Alessandra, as young and tender as she is, is a hard act to follow from last year.

Well they’re well set up to win the Battle of the Bands, that’s for sure. They’d swamp the opposition with their power and blow them away with the light show. They’re part hard rock, part metal, part prog, with some psych thrown in for good measure.

They write folk songs too but there’s none of that here; they just rock.

They make one hell of a racket but it’s very pleasing on the ear. I thought they were singing about my home town, Oldham – bless them – but the subject is ‘Ulveham’ (‘Wolf Man’) and is based on a medieval balled, like other historical legends carrying a moral with it.

The song is a story of young maiden who undergoes a series of injustices, but by upholding justice and goodness, even in the toughest trials, she triumphs over evil forces and breaks the curse placed upon her.

The singer, Gunnhild Sundli, has the perfect voice for this kind of song and sounds like a siren in parts.

I reckon it isn’t that far removed from last year’s Norwegian entry, is even more powerful and the fact that they perform it in Norwegian will go down well with many.

In fact I’d bet on it as an outsider to win. Otherwise, Top 5 at least.

Sweden – Marcus & Martinus (artist) – Unforgettable (song)

And so to the host nation, where a pair of unfortunates are lumbered with the daunting task of having to follow Loreen. Not only that, just like Abba’s Frida, they are actually Norwegian.

Marcus & Martinus are the fall guys.

The twins (that immediately makes me think of the dreadful Irish duo Jedward) have been around for quite a while despite their disarmingly youthful visage and won the Junior Melodifestivalen in 2012, becoming one of Scandinavia’s biggest pop sensations. They even had Top 10 hits at the age of nine and one song stayed in the charts for 66 weeks. They’ve racked up 1.5 billion streams and have had hits in other Nordic countries too, and not only Norway.

It’s a bog standard disco banger, not particularly tuneful, unencumbered with taxing lyrics but its offered by a couple of still young lads who have that timbre in their voice that turns on young girls who are convinced they are singling them out when they sing “she’s unforgettable.”

That won’t do them any harm.

Neither will the staging, which is all-important at Eurovision, and which undeniably helped Loreen over the finishing line last year. Marcus & Martinus aren’t Loreen, who is a 40-year old Olympic athlete, but there’s enough energy in this act to convince the girls they have staying power if you see what I mean.

I can’t see it winning but all those factors added together plus a home crowd behind then will surely put them at least somewhere between #10 and #5.

So, who is going to win it?

Any of these five could do of course. I think Norway has the best chance.

But realistically, and bearing in mind I haven’t heard all of the entries in full, I have to go for Israel. That is the one which stood out for me.

Some people will be angry about that but there are no political considerations involved. Plenty of folk want them removed from the competition but they have re-written the song – everyone knows what it (the ‘Hurricane’) is about – to take out any words that could be construed as aggressive.

It now comes across as a lovely, almost anthemic, ballad and one which merely asks for the end of conflict, not any desire to start or perpetuate it.

And the singer, Eden Golan, is the new Irene Cara.

As for the UK, well, what can I say? We seem to have lost our way long ago. This year’s effort is certainly better than last year’s and starts off quite well with some interesting instrumentation. Moreover, it develops a distinct Pet Shop Boys rhythm to it as it progresses and their record speaks for itself. But the chorus doesn’t live up to expectations and at the end it dies a death.

Kudos to Olly Alexander for standing up to the bully boys who pressured him to step back from performing it, for the reasons mentioned above.

We won’t get nul points this time but #15 is the best we can really aspire to. Go prove me wrong, son.

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