Denmark’s Emmelie de Forest is no longer the early favourite for Eurovision success. Building up a powerful Scandi presence in neighbouring Sweden, Norway threw its hat into the ring last night when Margaret Berger triumphed with ‘I Feed You My Love’, now a top-priced 13/2 with bookmakers. Watch it here.
I’ve been watching the Norwegian contest, semis and final, online since 2008 and it’s interesting to compare Norwegian televote percentages of the winners since then (which given how ratings have changed, may be more of an indicator than voting totals). Margaret Berger won with a televote of 44.1% in the superfinal of four, which compares with the following winning percentages under the same format: Tooji 42.0% in 2012; Stella Mwangi 44.6% in 2011; Didrik Solli-Tangen 38.5% in 2010; Alexander Rybak 77.1% in 2009; and Maria Haukaas-Storeng 35.8% in 2008.
Of course, much depends on the quality of the opposition. The strongest field in a Norwegian superfinal was arguably Rybak’s year, which signalled the strength of ‘Fairytale’ before its runaway Eurovision success. Otherwise, Didrik and Maria may have got the lowest percentages but I think they faced a better set of opponents than any of the winners for the most recent three years. Thus if the historical precedent in the Norwegian televote is taken into account, ‘I Feed You My Love’ wasn’t a noticeably superior winner to most of its predecessors.
Nonetheless, there is now significant hype surrounding its chances. Is this justified?
‘I Feed You My Love’ announces its intentions immediately with a dark electroclash riff that contrasts nicely with Margaret’s glacial presence and vocals. The introduction of drums halfway through the first verse and a string-like synth sound in the chorus helps provide build, and the overall effect is rather epic.
This is a well-produced track the singer has every confidence in, hence her strong presence and minimalist performance. In her very different way, she is every bit as striking as her Danish rival in Malmo. ‘I Feed You My Love’ is a more contemporary entry than ‘Only Teardrops’. Groping for a non-Eurovision equivalent, I compared the latter to 90s Irish band The Cranberries, but the Norwegian entry brings to my mind Swedish songstress Robyn.
Actually, this kind of electro-pop sound has been popular for most of this century – it’s a decade since Benny Benassi’s ‘Satisfaction’ – and Margaret Berger has been working this kind of stuff for a good while now. But unlike ‘Only Teardrops’, you can imagine ‘I Feed You My Love’ in a playlist of current music. It would have more of a life outside Eurovision.
I like the track a great deal and believe that it will easily be one of the better songs in this year’s contest. What are the concerns for punters looking to get involved at current prices?
My main worry would be the danger that ‘I Feed You My Love’ fails to connect with the wider Eurovision audience on the Saturday night in question. They may feel it lacks a sufficient hook, lacks a sense of light and shade (it’s all shade) and lacks warmth. ‘I Feed You My Love’ is not desperate to please; it may just be too cool for school.
It’s hard to find a comparable song in recent Eurovision history. Germany’s 2011 effort ‘Taken By A Stranger’, by previous winner Lena, is much lighter and jazzier in feel, but it too could be considered admirably aloof, going for overall atmosphere and production over easy hooks. That managed a decent enough tenth place, though it was possibly helped by Lena’s fame in the contest.
It was also very cleverly staged. As it stands, what we saw in the Norwegian contest is rather static and minimalist – just the singer and a drummer. Perhaps viewers will appreciate that this works in the overall context of the song and that Margaret’s commanding presence is enough. I just worry that if it stays as it is, which it may well do, many of those looking to be entertained by a couple of hours of musical stage shows will find it uninteresting. I’ll be looking for something more in Malmo to counter this fear, though with a song of this kind that’s easier said than done.
One would hope that juries will appreciate the song, although it’s not guaranteed. Margaret’s vocals appear resilient enough, though it’s good to be wary of what we hear in the Norwegian competition. Pre-recorded vocals are allowed for this but not on the Eurovision stage. You could hear them in all but the first verse and the first half of the second verse for ‘I Feed You My Love’. Margaret won’t have them in Malmo, though the addition of backing singers will help mitigate this.
They weren’t used effectively enough for Norway’s entry ‘Stay’ at Eurovision last year, but then the focus seemed to be on the dance routine. Tooji’s last place was the third year in a row that an initially-fancied Norwegian act had disappointed.
It’s worth bearing in mind three things here: the timing of the Norwegian semis and final allows their entry plenty of early hype; the slick production and growing pan-European popularity of their contest among fans helps feed it; and bookmakers have treated the country with plenty of respect since Rybak’s landslide victory in 2009. How else can one explain the very short early price for ‘Haba Haba’ in 2011?
Those punters looking for early value will find that Norway doesn’t fall under the radar. Quite the opposite: bookmakers and eager fans have it right in their targets. The last three Norwegian entries have all drifted significantly in the market long after their victory in the national final. That should give those looking to take the current odds of 7.4 on Betfair pause to consider. However, ‘I Feed You My Love’ does seem likely to remain a fan favourite.
Overall, I’m happy to see songs of this quality participating at Eurovision. Quite what that will translate to on the scoreboard in Malmo will be another thing altogether. In the second semi-final with some rather dated stuff already selected by Switzerland, Iceland and Finland – and with Albania sent to Sweden to be reworked (where I hope they discover a melody for ‘Identitet’) – it shouldn’t have too much trouble qualifying.
But I’m not yet prepared to commit to ‘I Feed You My Love’ finishing as high on the scoreboard as many fans and punters think it should. What do you think? Do let us know in the comments section below.