JOWST heads for a troubled Eurovision

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A tattooed singer with masked and hooded back-up musicians was vowing this week to “make Norway proud” at the upcoming Eurovision Song Contest in Kiev. Called JOWST, they won Norway’s Eurovision qualifier last weekend and now just have to hope that the huge show itself will go on in May, despite myriad problems with its production.

Vocalist Aleksander Walmann (right) with Joakim With Steen, who created this year’s winning song at Melodi Grand Prix with Jonas McDonell. PHOTO: Melodi Grand Prix/NRK

Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) has dramatically slimmed down the preliminaries for its own Eurovision qualifier to just one competition among 10 contenders this year. The winner was chosen Saturday night by both votes from the public and an international jury. They settled on JOWST, which is an acronym for musician Joakim With Steen, who created the winning “Grab The Moment” along with Jonas McDonell.

They in turn had settled on Aleksander Walmann, formerly of The Voice, to sing it and he thanked the jury and fans from the stage “for having faith in us. We’ll make you proud in Kiev.” Steen was glad his song won the Eurovision qualifier, known as Melodi Grand Prix in Norway. “This song is made for the world, not for Norway, even though we’ll represent Norway and are very happy about that,” Steen told news bureau NTB.

Eurovision is due to be broadcast from Kiev in May, since Ukrainian singer Jamala won last year’s contest. Jon Ola Sand, the Norwegian who has headed the Eurovision production for years, recently confirmed to NRK , however, that there have been “enormous problems” in planning this year’s contest: Ticket sales have been delayed, neither the sound-, stage or lighting systems were in place as of late February and 21 key staff members including the Ukrainian broadcaster’s security chief resigned in protest because of personnel conflicts tied to a top management change, according to the European Broadcasting Union.

“It’s been a very demanding year with many challenges,” Sand told NRK. Major differences in organizational culture in Kiev “have made it all more complicated, and with the personnel conflicts, I’ve never seen anything like it,” said the Eurovision veteran. It all led to a two-month standstill in preparations for the major show that’s now broadcast worldwide.

Sand was confident the show would go on, though. “They have missed all the deadlines and we’re following this hour by hour, to be sure that we go on the air with three shows (two semi-finals and the final) in May,” he told NRK. “And that we must manage.” Berglund