MGP winners deny they’re copycats

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They’re bound for the Eurovision Song Contest, while fending off charges that their winning number in Norway’s Eurovison preliminary Melodi Grand Prix (MGP) sounded similar to other songs. The three members of the Norwegian-Sami group KEiiNO deny any plagiarism, and have won support in high places.

KEiiNO is a Norwegian-Sami musical group consisting of (left to right) Tom Hugo from Kristiansand, Alexandra Rotan from Eidsvoll and Fred Buljo from Kautokeino. They won the right to represent Norway at the Eurovision Song Contest later this spring. PHOTO: NRK

“There are a lot of pop songs that have elements that are similar,” said Tom Hugo, a member of KEiiNO who helped write the winning song Spirit in the Sky, itself a title that’s not exactly new. “So I’m relaxed about these claims (against the song).” He noted that the rhythm and tones in the song are their own, but can also be found in other songs.

Stig Karlsen, chief of Norway’s MGP that selects Norway’s entry in Eurovision later this spring, told newspaper Aftenposten this week that it’s “almost impossible to make pop music without brushing up against something that’s similar to something made before.” His comments came after social media debate flew both before and after Saturday night’s MGP show on NRK, suggesting Spirit in the Sky was suspiciously similar to last year’s Eurovision entry from Finland, Monsters, and Alan Walker’s big hit Faded.

The manager for Walker himself, Gunnar Greve, strongly denied he had fueled any plagiarism charges again KEiiNO. “I’ve heard the song (Spirit in the Sky) and it’s nowhere near any plagiarism,” Greve told Aftenposten, suggesting that some of Walker’s fans may have gone overboard in their criticism on social media.

The head of Norway’s MGP Fan Club, Morten Thomassen, also forgives KEiiNO for any unintentional similarities: “I’ve often heard MGP songs that sound like others. This year’s winning song lies within the rules.”

It had been strongly favoured before the final and won the most votes from judges and viewers, nearly a million of whom watched NRK’s MGP final Saturday night. “This song has everything,” exclaimed one enthusiastic KEiiNO fan, including the first Sami joik to be included in a Eurovision entry since 1980. That seems to ride a wave of Sami popularity of late, as KEiiNO member Fred Buljo, a Sami from Kautokeino in Finnmark, performed his first joik in public.

The other members of KEiiNO include Hugo and singer Alexandra Rotan from Eidsvoll who also performed in last year’s MGP with former winner Stella Mwangi. The three form a Norwegian-Sami “musical project,” as NRK described them, that will now perform at Eurovision in Tel Aviv on May 18.

Click to nrk.no to see and hear KEiiNO’s winning song here (external link to NRK, in Norwegian).

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund