Norwegians love their heroes. The folklore is full of stories about the little guy who sets out on a quest and, armed only with wits and personality, shows up his mighty competitors and conquers the kingdom. These «little man» heroes are the essence of the Norwegian personality. They are the challengers of authority, the breakers of conventions, the David versus Goliath. They are the definition of success. Over the past weekend, Norway gained a new hero.
The finals of the highly prestigious Eurovision Song Contest was hosted in Moscow, Russia last Saturday. I’m not going to go into too much detail about the contest, other than it is bigger than World Idol, Britain’s Got Talent and Scrapheap Challenge put together. The contest has been running for over 50 years and was viewed this year by an estimated 1 billion people. Even Andrew Lloyd-Webber competed and performed for the UK this year – and he didn’t even make the top three.
Norway’s contribution this year was the song «Fairytale», written and performed by 23-year old Alexander Rybak. The song was a fusion of traditional Norwegian folk music and modern pop, and Alexander even played the lead fiddle between phrases.
Alexander’s song has been a success story ever since it was first performed in the Norwegian preliminary rounds back in February. The simple story of the song, combined with Alexander’s great charisma and performance, sent him straight to the top of the national finals. The song got plenty of air time on radio, and every newspaper and magazine in the country joined forces to try and find this mysterious girl he was singing about. (When they finally tracked her down, it turned out she was now happily married). Alexander, who moved to Norway from Belarus with his parents during the Soviet regime, became an icon overnight. Everyone named him the favorite for the international finals in Moscow.
Alexander did not disappoint. His performance, backed by the Norwegian folk dancing troupe Frikar and backup singers dressed up as hulder (beautiful magical temptresses from Norwegian folklore), turned the stage into a fairytale land. The group’s energy, dancing leaps, kicks and «hallingkast» (kicking hats off poles) and camera flirting completely outshone the competition.
As the points were given from each of the participating countries, it became clear that Alexander had not only conquered the hearts of Norwegians, but of all of Europe. Spain started off by giving Norway the top score of twelve points, and the double digits just kept on coming. «Fairytale» broke every Eurovision record there was. The grand total of 387 points was the highest score ever reached in the contest. The average score of 9,44 points from each country is the highest average on record. And the 169 point gap down to runner-up Iceland was the most superior victory to date.
After the competition, Alexander was of course interviewed by Norwegian TV. When asked why he think he won, his reply was simply “I won because I had a story to tell”. During the interview he also made a joking comment to the camera, saying that if anyone wanted to meet and greet him on his return to Norway, he would be landing at Oslo Gardermoen Airport at 11pm the next night. Little did he know the implications of that comment…
Upon landing in Oslo, Alexander’s plane was received with an enormous spray from the water cannons of the airport firefighters – a token of honour usually reserved for retiring pilots on their last flight. And while he thought only 20-30 people would catch on to his joke, Alexander got the shock of his lifetime when a crowd of 5 000 people had rocked up to welcome their national hero! Tha fact that this was the 17 th of May did not help, as the crowd was already in party mode. Gobsmacked and touched to tears, the Eurovision winner had to be escorted out to a waiting limo by his bodyguards and taken to safety, pursued by cheering fans.
Not bad for a young man who only wrote a song about his ex-girlfriend…