For the first time in five years, Norway’s representative in the Eurovision Song Contest failed to win a spot in the finals on Saturday. Agnete Johnsen from Finnmark and her song “Icebreaker” didn’t get enough votes to beat out her 17 rivals in Thursday’s semi-final broadcast live from Stockholm.
The Norwegian delegation was disappointed but put on a brave face, not least since Johnsen suffers from mental health problems and had refused to take part in any pre-Eurovision publicity events or be interviewed in the run-up to the contest. Questions rose as to whether staying out of the spotlight until she went on stage Thursday night hurt her chances, but those around her preferred to put the most positive spin possible on her defeat.
“Of course there’s always a bit of disappointment when you don’t go further,” delegation leader Stig Karslen told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK). “But I couldn’t have been more proud of this fantastic girl.”
A smiling Johnsen herself agreed to offer a few remarks to NRK when the show was over. She claimed she was satisfied with her performance, that she felt good and that just being on stage had been “therapy” for her. “It was the best thing I could have done,” she said. “It was a victory.” She thanked fans back home for their support and said she now just wanted to relax.
Morten Thomassen of the Norwegian Eurovision fans’ organization, Norwegian Grand Prix Club, speculated that her song “Icebreaker” was perhaps “a bit too special” for European listeners. He appeared to be on the verge of tears when NRK interviewed him outside the Globe arena in Stockholm where the huge annual song contest was held.
“It’s clearly very sad that Agnete didn’t go further in the contest, but (the song) was probably too unusual to qualify,” Thomassen told NRK.
Johnsen made headlines before the contest literally by not generating any in the weeks leading up to the contest. Norwegian media are usually full of stories about the country’s representative at Eurovision throughout the spring, but the silence from Johnsen was all but deafening. She had, however, spoken openly earlier this year about her bipolar affliction and bouts of depression. Even though she claims to love being on stage and singing, she simply couldn’t face media attention after winning Norway’s Eurovision qualifier in February. Nor would she contribute to the customary pre-Eurovision hype while in Stockholm, unusual in for performers who normally crave publicity.
Sweden, which won Eurovision last year, will be the only Nordic country participating in Saturday’s final since Finland, Denmark and Iceland failed to win spots as well. The 10 countries that qualified on Thursday included Latvia, Georgia, Bulgaria, Australia (new to the contest this year because of huge Australian interest), Ukraine, Serbia, Poland, Israel, Lithuania and Belgium. They’ll compete against the 10 finalists who won on Tuesday, plus the largest countries in Europe that automatically qualify, including the UK, Germany, France, Italy and Spain.