NF Review: There’s a “Silent Storm” in Norway!

The 2014 edition of Melodi Grand Prix concluded a couple of hours ago, and after fighting off strong competition from Linnea Dale and Knut Kippersund Nesdal, it was the much-fanwanked ballad “Silent Storm” performed by Carl Espen which finally emerged victorious. Read on to find out what we think!

Carl Espen will fly the Norwegian flag in Copenhagen!
Carl Espen will fly the Norwegian flag in Copenhagen!

In what transpired to be a much more hotly-contested final than previously predicted, Norway’s selection for Copenhagen has surprised nobody. “Silent Storm” has been touted as a potential victor pretty much from the moment the fifteen songs for MGP were announced, and tonight, the Norwegian votes finally confirmed the result. Carl Espen will therefore be singing this song in May –

The song:

Let me start by saying that regardless of your opinion on it, this song WILL stand out this year. A quiet yet dramatically powerful male ballad is not only a rarity in 2014, but it’s not the most common occurrence within Eurovision at all, as a general rule. Finland ALMOST did it last year (remember Mikael Saari, anyone? Same kind of idea) but Norway have gone one better in actually selecting this little-exploited genre for the pan-European event. The very reason “Kuula” did so well back in 2012 was the sheer fact that we don’t hear that kind of thing very often in the contest.

Of course, with Ott Lepland, his face (and his *ahem* trousers) were also extremely helpful in endearing his contribution to voters. The same cannot be said for Mr. Carl Espen, whose outward appearance bears more resemblance to one of the “Ice Road Truckers” than the face you’d match to the voice behind this tender song. Not that he can help it of course, but I find that with “Silent Storm”, it’s best enjoyed with one’s eyes closed.

His appearance really is of subsidiary importance, however, when considered in conjunction with his impressive vocals, and the stunning song he lends them to. As I repeatedly state, Eurovision is first and foremost an opportunity to be introduced to new songs for me. It’s about the music. And the music we have here from Norway is quite simply stunning.  Its sparse, spine-tingling piano arrangement reminds me of Isak Danielsson’s “Long Live This Love” from last year, and whilst I think in a direct comparison of the two I would still opt to listen to Isak’s song, I got a similar “wow” feeling when listening to both for the first time.

My music taste is extremely random, and often where ballads are concerned, it’s these especially quiet, lyrically profound numbers which touch me most. (think of Lena’s “To The Moon” as another example to substantiate this!) I mean, of course, a good old “Molitva”-esque belter is always going to be a mahoosive tick in my book too, but there is most definitely a place in my heart for the “Silent Storm”s of this world too. It wasn’t my favourite in the national final by a long stretch, but I do enjoy it immensely, and it’s among my top fifteen selected entries for 2014 so far.

The show:

Melodi Grand Prix is another one of the more widely-watched national finals which I had never personally seen. Needless to say I was looking forward to the experience immensely, and – once the problems with the sound on the livestream had been navigated around, anyway – the entire show really did live up to  my expectations.

Here are my main observations:

  • Having missed the opening sequence, it took a little while for me to accustom myself to proceedings. The hosts – Jenny and Erik (him of Oslo 2010 fame, whose hairline has receded somewhat in the intervening four years since that international hosting role) – were more than personable enough to settle in any viewer, regardless of the fact that they conducted the lion’s share of the dialogue in Norwegian. Which, by the way, is a fascinating language to listen to.
  • A few points about Knut: A) he was adorable. B) that trick with the lights was absolutely fabulous. C) his 80s-inspired entry was by far my favourite from the nine songs. D) I imagine that mashing Danny Saucedo and Nathan Sykes together in a blender would produce something like Knut. E) he wore a TRACKSUIT. On national TV. No, baby, no. F) He has the word “Kipper” in his name – which, obviously reminds me of this bad boy.
  • Both Mo and Stella Mwangi bore a scary resemblance to Sonique. If you remember who she is, then I SALUTE YOU, FELLOW NINETIES KID *fist pump*
  • Linnea Dale was very very good; everything from her quirky vocals to her kickass song and her fantabulous hairdo.
  • Hearing that “hashtaggen” is a legit word in Norwegian literally made my night.
  • Charlie = Norway’s answer to Zara Larsson. Except with crappier vocals. MUCH crappier vocals.
  • I preferred the black and gold graphics of yesteryear, I must admit. The new logo and branding of the contest isn’t exactly working as well for me.
  • We were treated to some priceless footage from previous editions of MGP from as far back as the 1960s, where the instructions for postcard voting had been captured on screen. It was incredibly endearing to look back into the heritage of a national television event which is so much more than a selection show for Eurovision. All that would have topped it off would be a live appearance from Nora Brockstedt (who is still going strong at 91, may I add!)
  • HELENE BØKSLE ANNOUNCED SOME OF THE VOTES ❤

The most unexpected, hilarious, and downright GENIUS aspect to the show, however, was the fact that it came in two bits. Shortly after the performances had concluded and the voting lines had been opened, the end credits rolled, and I was supremely confused for all of thirty seconds, before the realisation dawned that MGP follows the format that UK X Factor used to employ *back in the day*. As in, the performances take place, the lines open, the show ends, and the results are announced in a separate show around an hour later; with a completely unrelated TV show being shoehorned into the gap.

NRK, hats off to you guys. Whereas other broadcasters seem to favour an endless stream of performances from special guests whose prestige falls flat, they kept the focus on the matter in hand, by eliminating the need to “fill in” any of their airtime. Every moment of MGP felt like it was planned and purposeful, and it was all the more entertaining for it.

And, I had the pleasure of tuning into what felt like Norway’s answer to “Have I Got News For You” for forty minutes. Random as anything, but strangely gripping stuff!

Context:

We’re now left with the rather problematic task of hypothesising the eventual fate of a fanwank song, ladies and gentlemen. As we have previously explored, the fanwank tag can lead to utter disaster, or it can be a precursor to immense success: but into which category is Norway’s 2014 entry most likely to fall into?

Let me start by saying that I don’t see this as a challenger for the overall victory, unlike many have so bravely asserted in the last few hours. It’s a lovely song, yes, but there are too many stumbling blocks in the way of the instant appeal needed to mop up votes from all over Europe.

I do however think that Carl Epsen will be left hand side on the Saturday night. Juries are going to adore this one, something which will compensate for any potential shortcomings where the televote is concerned. One only has to examine the previous few years’ winning entries to realise that this kind of song will often turn in a strong showing, but will never quite get within stalking distance of the title – see UK 2009, Ukraine 2010 and the aforementioned Estonia 2012 for exemplification.

Qualification is already in the bag, I’d say. My estimate is anywhere between 5th and 15th in the final.

Your views:

What do you think of 'Moj Svijet'?
Did Norway make the right choice?

Ingeborg Nakkeid from Norway: Boring song, and he is just standing there like a man, doing nothing.

Paul Barrett from the United Kingdom: I think it could be this years flop entry, the song that everyone thinks will do well and ends up tanking. It’s just too introverted and he badly needs a stylist.

Luke Malam from the United Kingdom: Shouldn’t be bothering the left side of the leaderboard… It reminds me of Ég Á Lif, only much less powerful….

The three opinions featured above all seem to contradict the general adoration that “Silent Storm” has received thus far – possibly owing to the fact that it’s just won a unanimous victory and has therefore set itself up for attack. The majority of comments I’ve read about this song have been extremely positive, however, and regardless of its eventual result in the contest, it has already cemented itself as a firm fan favourite.

Do you agree, or are you one of those who isn’t so keen on it? Feel free to leave us a comment below with your thoughts!

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