MGP winner keeps her eye on the prize

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Amidst all the turmoil, anger and scandal following state broadcaster NRK’s voting system breakdown at the MGP national song contest Saturday night, Ulrikke Brandstorp claims she’s still thrilled that she was named as the winner. She thinks all the fuss will further motivate her when she represents Norway at the Eurovision Song Contest in May.

Ulrikke Brandstorp was intent on enjoying her victory in Norway’s qualifier for the Eurovision Song Contest, even though the public voting system broke down and four finalists were chosen by a jury, not the public at large. PHOTO: EBU/Stijn Smulders

“I think that when you’re facing opposition, there’s only one way but up,” Brandstorp told newspaper VG on Sunday. “Now I’m even more hungry to bring a Eurovision victory home and make Norway proud in Rotterdam.” Since a song and artist from the Netherlands won Eurovision last year, Rotterdam will be hosting the huge show this year.

Brandstorp’s controversial victory was largely overshadowed by all the trouble and protests that ensued after the TV viewers and other MGP fans were prevented from voting for their favourite song at MGP (Melodi Grand Prix, Norway’s qualifier for the Eurovision song contest). NRK’s online voting system broke down, and since it wasn’t possible to vote by phone or text message this year, MGP fans and artists were frustrated and furious.

NRK’s decision to revert to what it called a “30-member people’s jury” to select four finalists, instead of waiting until their crashed voting system came up again, sparked more fury. Several of the 10 artists competing Saturday night were further angered on Sunday after learning that the jury’s decision was based on earlier studio performances, not their live performances at Saturday’s nationally televised MGP final. While most didn’t want to spoil things for Brandstorp, several made it clear they were disappointed, saddened and felt NRK acted unfairly.

No new voting
Even though NRK’s producer in charge of the MGP show had told newspaper Aftenposten that “we are very concerned that this will be a fair competition,” Stig Karlsen made it clear on Sunday that there would be new voting. He defended the use of the jury as “a reserve solution” and claimed all artists participating in MGP were made aware of it in January.

“We therefore believe that all performances were evaluated on an equal basis,” Karlsen said.

Critics continued to rage, not least since Karlsen had also told Aftenposten that he personally has a record of knowing which songs “will go the whole way.” He seemed enormously confident in his own team, which also narrowed down the roughly 800 songs submitted by the public to the 25 that competed in the course of five qualifying rounds.

“MGP is a big TV show and then it’s extra important that we have the best people on the team … and we have,” he told Aftenposten. On Sunday that assertion was being widely debated, while NRK and Karlsen were viewed as arrogant and even pompous.

‘Feels so unfair!’
“I hope we at least get an apology,” one of the artists who’d been favoured ahead of the final, Magnus Bokn, told VG. Another artist, Tone Damli, wrote on social media Sunday that she just felt “empty” but also “steikandes forbanna” (loosely translated, in a red-hot rage). “This feels so unfair!” she wrote, while another top-rated artist who didn’t even make the cut into the four finalists, Rein Alexander, felt the chance to win had been taken from him.

Both Alexander and several others, however, claimed it was important to now support Brandstorp, a 24-year-old singer from Skjeberg near Norway’s southern border to Sweden who has earlier lost national talent contests and MGP in 2017.

“I’m so happy!” she exclaimed to VG on Sunday, even though there was no big victory party after the sho on Saturday night. “I have dreamed about this so much, and now it’s happened!”

No big victory party
She said she’d wanted to dance and party, but a post-show gathering ended quickly and she had to settle “for a little chocolate in the hotel lobby. Perhaps that was just as well.” She wasn’t spending much energy on NRK’s voting system collapse.

“I’m a singer and songwriter,” she told VG. “I sing my song and let NRK steer everything else. That’s not my area of expertise.” She had, meanwhile, done some advance planning for a victory, with sponsor agreements lined up to finance a tour around Europe to promote her song before the Eurovision show in Rotterdam in mid-May.

“I really look forward to travel around Europe and spread joy and music,” she said. She wants her song, called “Attention,” to grab exactly that.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund