Reigning Eurovision queen tips Norway

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Carl Espen, Norway’s contender for the 2014 Eurovision Song Contest crown, joined sparkling divas, dapper gents and a bearded lady on the red carpet at the event’s official launch in Copenhagen on Sunday night. While the bookies don’t tip him to win, Espen is still an outside chance according to one long-time British commentator, and is the favourite of the reigning Eurovision queen.

Singer Carl Espen and his songwriter cousin, Josefine Winther, flanked by the rest of the Norwegian delegation at the launch of the 2014 European Song Contest in Copenhagen. Espen performs in the second semi-final on Thursday. Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) will broadcast the final on Saturday. PHOTO: Rikke Askersrud/NRK

Singer Carl Espen and his songwriter cousin, Josefine Winther, flanked by the rest of the Norwegian delegation at the launch of the 2014 European Song Contest in Copenhagen. Espen performs in the second semi-final on Thursday. Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) will broadcast the final on Saturday. PHOTO: Rikke Askersrud/NRK

Espen is likely to finish in sixth place according to the website Oddschecker, which monitors the international bookkeepers taking bets on Eurovision. The bookies have Armenia as the favourite, reported newspaper Aftenposten. British commentator Robin Scott has covered Eurovision for 20 years, and said Espen could still bring home an upset win with Silent Storm, written by Espen’s cousin, Josefine Winther.

“I am convinced that the Norwegian contender has a bigger chance than the odds suggest,” said Scott. “Remember that many fans go with the obvious favourite, but I think Silent Storm is a song that goes much deeper. The connection between the songwriter and he who performs it is magic. You feel that it is a very personal song, and I think many will fall for it.”

Morten Thomassen is the head of the Melodi Grand Prix club, the group which organises the heats to determine who will be Norway’s Eurovision entrant. He said no one song stands out as a clear favourite, and the competition has not been so even for many years. “Everyone says that it is totally open,” Thomassen said. “Normally there is always some songs that stand out, which we can say are going to win. That is not so this year. It can make a very exciting vote.”

Thomassen said Eurovision 2014 would have its fair share of the quirky songs and entrants audiences have come to love. Standouts include Austrian transvestite Conchita Wurst, who performs as a woman but still has a beard, and the Georgian entry. “It is an exceptionally weird song,” said Thomassen. “It begins with a little yoiking, then it becomes a bit grunge, and then develops into a variety of other genres. It does not seem that they have completely decided which song they would make.”

Espen’s biggest fan
Last year’s winner, Denmark’s Emmelie De Forest, sought out Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) from the media pack on the red carpet in Copenhagen. “Carl Espen is my big favourite,” she said. “I liked the song the first time I heard it.” She said she had cheered him on throughout the Norwegian finals, and hoped he could win the contest with Silent Storm.

Espen will face stiff competition from De Forest’s countryman, this year’s Danish entrant Basim. He’s one of the bookie’s favourites to bring the event back to Copenhagen for a fourth time with his tune, Cliché Love Song. “Who knows?” Basim told NRK. “Will we? There are so many good songs this year, but things went very well at the sound checks today and it would be unbelievably fun if I won here with all my friends and family in the audience.”

For his part, Espen soaked up the experience of mingling with the fans and signing autographs, and said he was surprised by the amount of international attention he’d gotten. “It is very easy to enjoy yourself here,” Espen said. “It is a lot of fun. All the questions and attention, it’s totally unbelievable. You notice that this is something which means a lot to many people, and that’s great to see. I’m becoming less and less nervous. I’m really looking forward to it now.”

The first semifinal will be held on Tuesday. Espen is performing in the second semifinal on Thursday, before 26 contenders do battle in Saturday’s final.

newsinenglish.no/Emily Woodgate