I visited Oslo last week to research a story for Gadling. I had a great time despite the sticker shock that unavoidably accompanies any stay in Norway. I left Oslo full of thoughts about contemporary Norway, about the fortress-like feel of central Oslo, the cultural milieu of various immigrant neighborhoods, and the relative difficulty involved in tracking down local contemporary design.
I also left Norway completely convinced that Stella Mwangi will win Eurovision outright. Mwangi won the Norwegian national final on February 12 with a song called "Haba haba." The robust local reception of "Haba haba," its familiarity as a pop tune, the attractiveness of the live performance, Mwangi's charisma, and what has thus far been poor competition all work in her favor.
1. “Haba haba” is simple, apparently heartfelt, and very catchy. In Norway, the song is an enormous hit. I heard it on the radio on the order of once an hour. That sort of saturation suggests deep popular affection for the song. Another index of its local popularity: "Haba haba" managed to keep Lady Gaga's "Born this way" off the top spot on the Norwegian iTunes singles chart. I believe that Norway was the only country monitored by iTunes that denied Gaga the top iTunes singles position two weeks ago.
2. "Haba haba" calls to mind several different musical genres: disco; children's rhyme; Boney M (is this a genre?); even gospel. (For the uninitiated, Boney M were responsible for a gold mine of golden pop songs in the 1970s and 1980s. Many of these were reworked traditional songs.)
3. The dance is also very catchy. Lionel Richie once said that the sign of a good pop song was not the artist’s ability to sing it but rather its audience’s ability to sing along to it. This principle can be extended to a dance routine. If a dance routine makes ordinary people not particularly blessed with an ability to dance want to try their hand at the moves, that suggests potential for a massive hit. (That said, the choreography needs to be reworked a bit. The routine needs to be tighter and there are several moments where the backing singers appear to be scurrying all over the stage without direction.)
4. Mwangi possesses great charisma, both on stage and off, and is receiving heaps of media attention. Last Thursday, she was on the cover of the mass daily tabloid VG after the vice-mayor of a small town posted some rather unfunny jokes about Mwangi on Facebook. Mwangi was also on the cover of leading gossip magazine Se og Hør last week. Inside, a feature included many pages of photographs of Mwangi with her family and boyfriend. In short, she's a very appealing readymade media figure.
5. Her competition thus far isn't very good. As of Wednesday night, 18 (of 43) participating countries have released their selections for Eurovision to the public. Few of these songs possess any sort of spark that might in turn inspire excitement across national borders.