She sang and danced her heart out, but Norway’s entry in the annual Eurovision Song Contest failed to win the hearts of European voters watching the first of two semi-finals broadcast from Dusseldorf Tuesday night. Stella Mwangi of Lillestrøm, northeast of Oslo, didn’t qualify for the final on Saturday, meaning Norway is out of the competition.
Nineteen countries were competing in the first semi-final this year, including several that traditionally make it to the final round, like Azerbaijan, Russia, Serbia and Greece. Included in the group were Kati Wolf of Hungary and Ell & Nikki of Azerbaijan, both favoured to win Eurovision this year.
Stella Mwangi, who came to Norway as a five-year-old immigrant from Kenya, had been favoured as well. Her infectious Afro-pop song “Haba haba,” which told her story of being inspired by a Kenyan grandmother, was expected to win broad appeal with its joyful dancing and catchy lyrics.
See a video of Stella Mwangi’s song here. (external link) Filmed on the streets of Oslo, it ends at the beach on the Bygdøy peninsula.
Instead it didn’t win enough votes to make the cut from 19 countries to the 10 that will go on to Saturday’s final: Serbia, Lithuania, Greece, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Switzerland, Hungary, Finland, Russia and Iceland. Another 19 countries will compete in the second semi-final on Thursday, while Europe’s biggest countries (France, the UK, Spain, Italy and host country Germany, which won in Oslo last year) are automatically qualified for the final.
It was the second year in a row that Norway performed poorly, a big let-down after the country’s victory with the most votes ever two years ago. That’s when Alexander Rybak, another child of immigrants to Norway, captivated the crowd with his song Fairytale and was described as “the cutest guy in the contest.”
Mwangi, known for her positive outlook and brilliant smile, had said earlier in the week that “it wouldn’t be the end of the world” if she didn’t make it into the finals. “I’ve done what I can, I have been around here (in host city Dusseldorf) with the Norwegian flag and representing my country,” she told newspaper Aftenposten. “If Europe doesn’t like my song I’ll have to accept that.”
Sjalg Solstad, leader of the Norwegian delegation in Dusseldorf, said he didn’t think exclusion from the final would damage what he called Norway’s “Eurovision pride.” Norway has, after all, both won the contest and placed an impressive fifth during the past three years.
“I know that everyone here has done a good job,” Solstad told Aftenposten. “And we feel that Stella Mwangi has the Norwegian people behind her.” She had won twice the number of votes accumulated by the second-place winner at Norway’s run-up to Eurovision, called Melodi Grand Prix.