Artists tune up for song contest final

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Ticket sales hit a new record, organizers were expecting a packed arena and black metal fans were unusually jubilant as they all warmed up for the finals of Melodi Grand Prix, Norway’s version of the Eurovision Song Contest. The show was due to go on in Oslo Saturday evening.

Black metal band "Keep of Kalessin" won a spot in the Melodi Grand Prix final during the first round of semi-finals last month. PHOTO: NRK

This weekend’s Melodi Grand Prix in the Oslo Spektrum arena was shaping up to be the biggest ever. Ticket sales were so brisk that organizers boosted capacity inside the arena to nearly 6,000 seats, up from around 4,000 last year.

Public interest in the event has never been so strong among Norwegians, thanks largely to Alexander Rybak’s victory for Norway at the Eurovision final last spring. The winner of Saturday’s Melodi Grand Prix final will go on to represent Norway at the Eurovision final in May, which, because of Rybak’s victory, will be held in Norway.

Nor has the variety of music at a Melodi Grand Prix been so wide. Artists participating have a limited time to perform what must be a completely new song, and then viewers vote. This year, for the first time ever, a black metal band will take part after winning the first semi-final in early January. Their offering is, to put it mildly, quite different from the ballads and pop tunes belted out by their rivals.

Norway is internationally known for its black metal music and some thought characteristically tough black metal fans would oppose the participation by the band “Keep of Kalessin.” Not so – the editor of website heavymetal.no, Yngve M Jacobsen, thinks the band’s presence in Melodi Grand Prix will break down stereotypes and introduce more people to black metal music.

“The band was able to show the average Norwegian that even though they sing rather roughly, it’s possible to present a captivating metal song that folks can objectively like,” Jacobsen told newspaper Aftenposten.

He admits some black metal fans were skeptical, and may still be, “but many have changed their minds after the band actually won. This can only be positive, because more mainstream music festivals and media will embrace Keep of Kalessin and check out other bands within heavy metal.”

Most of the other performers Saturday night are more in line with the pop music traditions of Melodi Grand Prix and Eurovision. Included among them are Maria Haukaas Storeng, who won Melodi Grand Prix two years ago, the boy band A1 and Maria Arredondo, who will sing the latest song by Norwegian songwriter and former winner Rolf Løvland to reach the finals. A few well-known artists failed to reach the finals, like Mira Craig, the daughter of a-ha star Morten Harket and the sister of football star John Carew.

Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) will air the song contest spectacle live from Oslo on Saturday night.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
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