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Norway: Alexander Rybak – That’s How You Write a Song

Tonight's Melodi Grand Prix final, compete with two super finals has finally yielded a result. Alexander Rybak returns to Eurovision with the song That's How You Write a Song. Rybak will perform in the first half of semi-2. Let's be honest here: Rybak won with that song because he was Rybak. Had he been performing a Rybak-ified version of Who We Are or Scandilove, he would have still won by the reported 2:1 margin. The 31-year old was playing to a fervent home crowd, and along with runner up, Rebecca, canned-cheering and applause was deployed by the broadcaster to quite…
Song Appeal
Vocal Strength
Staging Potential
Likely Televote Appeal
Likely Jury Appeal

Bak Off!

The whole package has the confidence of Laura Tessero's What's the Pressure. 

User Rating: 2.17 ( 62 votes)

Tonight’s Melodi Grand Prix final, compete with two super finals has finally yielded a result. Alexander Rybak returns to Eurovision with the song That’s How You Write a Song.

Rybak will perform in the first half of semi-2.

Let’s be honest here: Rybak won with that song because he was Rybak. Had he been performing a Rybak-ified version of Who We Are or Scandilove, he would have still won by the reported 2:1 margin. The 31-year old was playing to a fervent home crowd, and along with runner up, Rebecca, canned-cheering and applause was deployed by the broadcaster to quite blatant levels to influence viewers at home. I feel Eurovision will be a more tricky affair despite the fan-dominated audience.

On its release, That’s How You Write a Song was widely derided, and given the lack a Eurovision contender in the lineup, Norway’s outright price drifted like a barge and was matched as high as 190.0 on the exchanges. Fans are not always the best judge, but the reaction was largely unified. The song is cheesy, dated and would be considered a non-qualifier had it been not been performed by Rybak.

Nevertheless, the song’s main strength is Rybak’s effortless charisma, mixing Love Love Peace Peace fromage with Gianluca Bezzina’s charm. Even I have to concede he’s done a great job at staging the song, complete with the Fairytale flashback when  reunited with his violin.  The whole package has the confidence of Laura Tessero’s What’s the Pressure

The song is probably a little to dated to perform strongly with Eurovision’s juries, but I sense name recognition could play a significant part. Likewise, the same trend may emerge on the televote. With other more modern upbeat songs in the Contest, Rybak may find himself lower down the pecking order once other nations show their hand. I have Norway floating around 6th-13th at the moment.

  • Name recognition
  • Will be the big PR story of the Contest
  • Distinctive, fun and well staged
  • Dated melody
  • Easy to mark down for juries wanting modern music
  • Won’t suit everyone’s taste

Can Norway match last year’s top-10?

About Gavster

ESCtips Owner   I’m a qualified designer and dedicate a lot of my free time to keeping the ESCtips show on the road. My family routes allow me to support the UK, Ireland and Italy.


  1. It is quite uncomfortable seeing a 30 year old man with the mannerisms of a 9 year old.

  2. There are eight people on the stage and yet it looks empty for most of the time. And he won’t have seven dancers in Lisbon…

  3. That’s how you write a song apparently: putting all your energies into the staging and performance to distract attention from the mediocrity of what you’ve written.

    I’m not sure this strategy will work for Alexander. I think juries will see through it. The fun element of his performance (he can at least sell a song, if not pen one) and the staging mean it may fare better with the televote. Like Moldova, a similarly mediocre song, it stands out from the pack in this respect.

    I’ve got this as borderline for qualification.

  4. And the Cringe Award goes to…

  5. Okay, now my remark about Norway. I like it! It’s a rather unique, happy-go-lucky, too-tapping entry that works because of a great stage performance. It’s perhaps the most authentic entries from the happier songs in the field. Alexander still didn’t loose his charisma, the dance choreography adds to the happiness, vocally it’s superb. In a way it reminds me a bit of Latvia 2002: OK song, but the stage performance truly elevated it to much higher levels. Fine entry from Norway. From Scandinavia I think it’s now a fight between Norway and Sweden I guess. At least Norway feels more natural, more charming and more authentic than the über-polished Sweden.

  6. I like Rybak, he seems like a nice guy but this isn’t great. Ralph Siegel could easily have wrote this for San Marino not great.
    It feels like a song just meant to take part in MGP, rather than win it, but since Norway didn’t turn up with much better, here we are. Being Rybak seemed to help with the juries so maybe that will carry over to eurovision a bit. As for the televote, it’s fun I guess so might do alright but Moldova could have that covered a little.
    In semi one, this would be dead but the second semi has some other random entries that are struggling putting this borderline. I’m leaning towards it getting through for now.

  7. Utter rubbish.I hope it doesnt make the final to save his reputation.Id say this was the worst song this year from a decent sized country.

  8. So I was listening to Ewan Spence from ESC Insight and his juke box edition one included an overview of Moldova. As a gentle reminder this is the Ewan who went on record in a podcast with Gavin last year by suggesting that Salvador has a potential to win especially if he does not show up for rehearsals in person. And this was at the peak of Gabbani’s frenzy and long before the decision was taken that Louise will stand by instead before the main shows.

    So, during the first podcast for this year, there was a unanimous opinion among Ewan and his guests that Moldova 2018 is a top 5 material. In fact Ewan was pushing an envelope by suggesting it might be a contender. And the reasons behind were a cheerful song, likable performers, staging potential and… fun factor. Norway 2018 is better than Moldova 2018 and I would expect Ewan to talk about top. 3 potential if not winning potential again. Just saying…

  9. This to me is a proper momentum type entry, it should qualify and once the Saturday night audience sees this it will get a lot of votes, how high it goes depends on the jurors and if they are marking on name or quality but it will be seen as the light hearted entry that could place high.

  10. I think this is going to have a much wider televote appeal that we all believe.

  11. This certainly does not have any chance with the jury, but televoting … I think it’s the top 5 televoting in the finals.

    By the way, the song seems awful when I listened to the audio. But on the stage in a live performance, it was very fun and very Eurovision-wise. Bit is very memorable. And Rybak’s personal fascination is in place.

    And I believed in Moldova, as a typical cheerful song from Eurovision. But Norway did it.

  12. This is a grower. I didn’t think much of it on first listen but Rybak’s performance is fantastic. I don’t see why juries will dislike it, they didn’t last night. It’s not going to win oc but it will surprise people by beating Benjamin Ingrosso’s vapid tedium.

    • Are you seriously comparing the juries from MGP with the juries in the ESC?

      • 3 of the 4 MGP jury spokesmen listed in Wiki are HoDs so there’s probably a similar criteria – role in the music/TV industry. It’s pretty casual how countries select their ESC juries although they all seem to have a music connection so that’s probably a requirement (it wasn’t in the past).

  13. when I first heard this, I didn’t even think it was gonna win Melodi Grand Prix. It struck me as really thin and repetitive. But I’m changing my mind and this this could be a bit of a Top Ten sleeper. It’s a foot tapper, makes few demands on you and could be visually very fun. His violin was a huge asset in 2009 and is again here. I don’t especially like it, but I think it’s going to do a lot better than some of the dismissive voices on here suggest.

    Looking forward to Gav’s take on Netta’s “TOY”…..!!!

  14. I’m getting Love Love Peace Peace vibes listetning to this. I don’t know if it’s a good or a bad sign.

  15. The criticism of this seems a bit cynical, in that its a bit cheesy and naff. Those are the negatives.

    The positives are that it is well sung, by a seasoned performer, ably handling up tempo vocals, and darn catchy. Even the violin melody is catchy.

    Definite top 10, and perhaps semi top 3, potential.

  16. its not as bad as some commentators are making out. the presentation will need to be better and tighter to make an impact but it is very competent and well sung. i think it will finish on the left side of the board.

  17. Kill me now, but I’ve had this in my head all day and boy can he sell it. I was too harsh before, this will do well, not because it’s a good song exactly, but because it’s just a load of fun, like Belgium 2016 or Moldova last year.

    • Likewise I was too pessimistic about its prospects. Moldova 2017 is the best parallel. Poor song on audio but completely lifted by staging. If I recall correctly Moldova came 8th with juries. This is what distinguished it from the other big televote songs from Croatia and Romania, which the juries shunned, and was the main reason it finished third overall.

      It is plausible that Rybak could do a Moldova – top 5 with televote and sneaking into the top 10 with the juries. – and that would give him a top 5 finish, but not the win.

      Top 5 is the best he can do. Gav’s predicted 6-13 may be more realistic in the end.

  18. Catriona Colville

    “Won’t be to everyone’s taste” is an odd negative to throw. First, because it feels like a very broad appeal type song, and secondly, what about Israel? A lot of people on the night(s) will hate it within 10 seconds. It’s a very “niche” type of song that will have a fervent fanbase, but almost zero appeal outside of the targeted demographic.

    With Bulgaria not being exactly what was hoped, I’d currently have Norway as slight favourites to win, but this year is so open, that any of about 12 songs can win.

  19. As much as it pains me, there is a reason I chucked a bundle of money on this at 75/1.

    I’m not saying this is a clear winner by any means – this year feels quite even in terms of song chances, but Rybak does have a fair few things going for him.

    Firstly, I believe the song is really simple, catchy and easy to remember in terms of lyrics and melody. For those who first language isn’t English, it will still be easy to pick up from first listen. And I think it can capture both East and West viewers.

    Rybak will get media attention aplenty in Lisbon on the basis of his history. He’s been there, he knows what to do, and he will use that knowledge both on and off stage to his advantage.

    The juries won’t be looking at this as a great song by any means, but his stage presence is charismatic and he is still a cute looking guy. Its not a ‘Fairytale’, but ultimately people will remember that win – particularly the East – and will award him on recognition. His jury votes at MGP seem to indicate that indeed, the Eastern juries favoured him on the night over more modern tunes and better singers.

    Other than the fact that it’s not as good as his previous entry, I find him hard to fault. He might be smarmy as all heck, and the diehard fans are over him, but you can’t deny the boy has a good chance amongst the field of much more divisive entries that are currently favourites.

    • You absolutely did the right thing, Sharon. I also bought Norway back onside at the odds available because of the likely PR. In fact, I’ll add that as a bullet point in the review.

  20. Mikey from Australia

    Like you said, he could sing the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse song and still have a chance at taking it out!

    This guy is the X factor in the contest… Don’t count him out…

  21. Sharleen you should bet on the Betfair Exchange. Huge odds were available there for reasonable amounts. I got some, laid off now, it is basically the least original tune in the competition, fun though it is. Chords we’ve heard 1000 times repeated throughout the song.

    I still like it due to the performance and I’m still thinking it could beat Sweden.

    • Yes, I am on at Betfair exchange, and its offering me some nice payoffs already. But nope, sticking with it for now as I am sure the odds will drop further once we get to Lisbon.

  22. This is top 5 and possible default winner

  23. Currently I have made a small TOP 13 prediction (will change during the upcoming weeks depending on live performances, running order, staging details and rehearsals). Probably it’s as crazy as a bucket of lots for running orders being drawn by Putin, but hell it’s fun :-P. Curious what you think of it:

    01. Australia
    02. Israel
    03. The Netherlands
    04. Norway
    05. Sweden
    06. Lithuania
    07. Estonia
    08. Belgium
    09. Bulgaria
    10. Albania
    11. Austria
    12. Azerbaijan
    13. Germany

    • Why don’t you take the 50 avaiable on betfair for Albania Top 10?

    • The biggest concern would be that you have seven nations from the first half of semi-final 1 in your top-12. At least one or two of those won’t make the final.

      • You’re absolutely right. This first half of semi final #1 is a total massacre :-(. You have a clue which of these from the first half of semi #1 will be eliminated eventually?

        Albania (I give it 4/5 stars)
        Azerbaijan (I give it 3,5/5 stars)
        Belarus (I give it 3/5 stars)
        Belgium (I give it 4,5/5 stars)
        Bulgaria (I give it 4/5 stars)
        Czech Republic (I give it 3,5/5 stars)
        Estonia (I give it 4/5 stars)
        Israel (I give it 4,5/5 stars)
        Lithuania (I give it 4/5 stars)

        • Some nations are very honest. Some are not. I think that may form the eventual result.

          But don’t underestimate the juries’ love for modern pop. I would have Czech on my green list.

          • Thanks Gavin. Which of these do you think will end higher? They all appeal more or less to similar audiences: Norway, Czech Republic, Sweden.

          • I personally have Sweden lowest out of those three upbeat songs. For me, Sweden fails to entertain. It’s a low-key song with a dazzling stage show. It lacks a connection or emotional trigger to compensate for the song.

            But specifically on your list: there are three countries with a USP: Czech, Estonia and Israel. Rehearsals will see other nations reveal their USPs.

        • @Gert I think from the countries you posted Albania and Lithuania have realistically 0% chance to qualify. Azerbaijan and Belarus are borderline qualifiers, one can sneak in if the performance is great. Czechia, Estonia and Israel are surefire qualifiers. Bulgaria is a most probably qualifier, I think it will qualify but wouldnt be that surprised to see it bombing if its messy live ( first semi is brutal ).

  24. I just watched this performance from the Ukrainian National Final: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NrbInsZiHa0 . And again, I think Gavin is spot-on. I have to admit my mistake here. Personally the Czech song doesn’t do it for me. But then again, it’s never about my personal taste.

    But watching this performance from Mikolas actually puts a much bigger smile on my face than that epilepsie-inducing performance from Benjamin Ingrosso. This guy oozes charm, and his dance moves are just adorable and fun.

    Taking into account this, and both Netta’s exceptional stage presence, I would change my TOP 13 prediction into this:

    01. ISRAEL
    05. NORWAY
    06. Lithuania
    07. Estonia
    08. Bulgaria
    09. Belgium
    10. Sweden
    11. Greece
    12. Albania
    13. Austria

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