In today’s “what if”, I am delving back into the 2013 National Final season to uncover one of the most hotly tipped yet divisive fan-favourites to emerge from Scandinavia in years: the cookie-cutter hot mess that was “Bombo”. We’re all aware of how well Margaret Berger managed to do in Malmö, however the phenomenal international success of the Norwegian runner-up prompts me to pose the following question – did Norway miss a trick by leaving “Bombo” at home?
A pretty generic “Eurovision by numbers” slice of latin-dancepop, “Bombo” was always the kind of song which would inevitably appeal to the stereotypical Eurovision fan. Similarly formulaic songs have been lauded by followers of the contest particularly in the last ten years, and in some cases have been accompanied with great results in the actual contest. So, it was always a pretty safe choice for NRK to include in MGP, and it proves they are adept at tailoring the show to pull in the most likely audience.
However, the creators of the track chose to give it to the 16-year-old Adelén Rusillo Steen, a Horten native with Spanish roots. On paper, she was the perfect candidate to front a latin-inspired dance number: she could trade on the authenticity, she could be tailored to whatever dance routine was required of her, she could always play the “only 16” card if nothing else worked. Unfortunately, the brains behind “Bombo” seemed to overlook one *slightly* important quality in a singer…
Alas, the poor girl couldn’t carry a tune in a Buranovskiye-Babushki-knitted bucket, no matter how valiantly hard she tried. With her woeful vocal performance at the above semi-final, her chances of being taken seriously from a musical point of view all but vanished. The performance came across as over-enthusiastic (to put it politely) with Adelén dropping notes here, there and everywhere, whilst simultaneously losing all semblance of breath control and culminating in what appeared to be a series of panicked improvisations which just once or twice were lucky enough to synchronise themselves with the backing performers – (can I draw your attention in particular to THAT screech/grunt thing just after the first chorus… WHAT WAS SHE THINKING!?)
And yet, she only went and won the semi didn’t she.
So, going into the final night of MGP, now backed by legions of Eurovision fans who had become sufficiently enamoured with the instantly catchy song to overlook the less-than-competent presentation, Adelén was looking to be one of the front-runners for victory in the competition. Now, with hindsight, we all know that she would eventually finish a distant second to Margaret Berger’s industrial pop track “I Feed You My Love”, however the prospect of Norway being represented by “Bombo” sparked a rift between fans of the contest. Put simply, “Bombo” is the definition of a marmite song. Many loved it, many others loathed it; and these heated debates would doubtless have intensified had the result of MGP tipped in Adelén’s favour.
However, similar things could be attributed to a number of failed NF entries. What sets this particular one apart – and justifies its use as the focus of an editorial – is its phenomenal success in the months that have followed it’s NF departure. Shortly after MGP finished, an official video appeared, the styling of which clearly highlighted what the producers were aiming for: an international summer smash hit. And bloody hell, have they got one alright! Reaching the official charts in Norway, Sweden, Finland and Poland, and achieving more latent cult success in a multitude of other locations, the song quite literally exploded onto the scene. Without the potentially hindering “Eurovision” tag, it has already become the most successful non-winning song from a national final since I begun following the contest back in 2007 – and this only looks set to continue, as the summer months stretch out before us, giving a song like “Bombo” plenty of chance to reach new audiences before the weather takes a turn for the worse.
During her promotional campaign too, this video surfaced, which hints that there may still be some hope of salvaging some genuine vocal talent from Miss Steen in the future… so all is not lost!
So, despite the success as a single, does this necessarily imply that it would have been a better choice for the contest?
In this instance, I’d say no. And I’d draw upon Miss Stella Mwangi to illustrate my point. Okay, so she was channelling African influences, while Adelén was more of a Spanish chick, but the principal is the same. Up-tempo, fun fan-fave, accompanied by unreliable vocals and ambitious dancing. Expected to just do well cos of what it is. But we all know what happened to “Haba Haba” in Düsseldorf, don’t we?
Now whilst I don’t think “Bombo” would have come out of 2013 quite that badly, I think the best it was ever going to achieve would be around 15th. It would look very similar to the Finnsih and Belarussian songs this year, and would end up splitting the potential vote from fans of the genre. I don’t see much in here for a jury, and if the televotes didn’t quite go her way, we could have seen a fourth consecutive embarrassing result for Norway in 2013.
So, whilst I personally hate “I Feed You My Love”, I have to stand here and reluctantly admit that it was, in fact, the *better* choice for Norway, and her eventual 4th place result is way more than they could possibly have hoped for with such an experimental and cold song. “Bombo” – whist it would certainly have brought the party to Malmö – has La La Love Syndrome written all over it. Been there, done that.
And after all, in the cold light of day, I’m sure Adelén ain’t complaining… Being signed by Simon Fuller is one hell of an achievement for a vocally-challenged Spanish-Norwegian student whose CV includes a failed Eurovision attempt and very little else. We haven’t heard the last of her!
Richard West-Soley from the United Kingdom: It’s a great Summer pop song, but I’m not sure it would have beaten the fourth place of the brilliant Margaret Berger.