Norwegian pop fans: we choose your Eurovision entry so you don’t have to.
Scott Mildenhall: After failing to hit the heights with their rough approximation of Eric Saade last year (rather mystifyingly, in truth), Norway might do well to send this to Eurovision for 2013. It’s not exactly the sort of thing you’d expect them to come up with — its highly strung drama and doom is more reminiscent of recent efforts from some of the contest’s former-Yugoslav participants, like Slovenia’s incredible 2011 entry “No One,” or Macedonia’s quite full-on “Crno i belo,” than probably anything they’ve ever offered — so, even though neither of those share its claustrophobia or vaguely industrial edge, if it does end up being performed in Malmö, the similarities might just help it strike a chord.
Edward Okulicz: Margaret Berger’s built a cult following outside her native Norway for her ebullient and girlish voice and the lush, sweet pop she makes with it — and Eurovision would eat up something like “Will You Remember Me Tomorrow?.” Weirdly, she’s vying for a place on stage with a dark, dramatic, string-drenched tale of all-encompassing, psychologically intense desire with synth bass bursts like a weapon of mass destruction. Somehow it works, though. Her voice will no doubt get Robyn comparisons; as confidently as she hits the notes (she’s already shown she can kill it live on stage) she still sounds anxious and afraid, nervous as if she feels the fate of her world rests on a few moments of volatile intimacy. She sings “can’t touch or feel” like a distress signal, but “give me a kiss” like a threat. At three minutes it has to skimp on filling in the gaps by necessity — that middle section needed to be longer — but in terms of stage-destroying podium moments, this has more than enough.
Anthony Easton: Who thought that a Eurovision song would feature a psychosexual breakdown that could come straight out of a Cavani film? Though the song itself is the mildly interested darkening of Euro-bosh that has come around in the last couple of years, the image of feeding love as a consequence of — or because of, or related to — a knife in the back, is a metaphor with more violence than expected from the genre. I am not sure this is a good thing. It might be a welcome relief. It might be razor blades in the pavlova.
Katherine St Asaph: There’s a choir saying that it’s better to be big and wrong than small and right. Margaret Berger certainly agrees. Her guitars sound more likely generated by Top Gear than anything held or played by humans. She sings like a woman pushed a quirk too far. The way she sings “give me a kiss” is either throwaway or dark, and I still can’t tell. As you might guess, there’s no substance here, none, not a gram, but the style is so grand you don’t miss it. You can contextualize that many ways. There’s the Eurovision context, naturally, as this will likely stomp its competition much as its spiritual precursor, Loreen’s “Euphoria,” did. The chorus brings its own victory fanfare, even. There’s the pop context, but not the one you think; this could emulate Amy Lee, but with more grit could also be P!nk — the actual precursor, thanks to “Stupid Girls” co-writers Machopsycho. Or it could emulate the Scando songs you’d expect thanks to its other co-writer Karin Park, who deserves a career boost for this. Or if the word “emulate” bugs you, you could screw the credits entirely and go back to Berger’s own Pretty Scary Silver Fairy, synthy and dark and lodged in the same part of my id that yearns to Ladytron and Lilian Hak and the back half of Born This Way. There’s precedent for this bigness, in other words. And for me, there’s never enough.
Alfred Soto: I’m going to give you every inch of my sequencers.
Patrick St. Michel: My eyes almost jumped out of my head when this song started and I read that this is a contender to be Norway’s representative at Eurovision this year. Considering my clearest Eurovision memory of the last few years has been Epic Sax Guy, hearing a song start off sounding a bit like Merzbow was a bit jarring. “I Feed You My Love” settles into a more formulaic groove soon after — complete with overly dramatic violin — but manages to maintain a rough edge. Not a blockbuster, but I’m still rooting for it to square off against Jedward or whatever.
Iain Mew: Berger picking her way carefully between all of the shards of drum’n’bass and noise, sounding in control even with a knife at her back, is consistently great, but one line towers over the song. “I have the future on my tongue/Give me a kiss” is just wow, perfectly capturing a moment of uncertain but thrilling emotional possibility. If she went further with that idea rather than ducking out to more muddled ground, the song would probably be a .
Brad Shoup: Honestly? I thought the first verse was in Norwegian. This will make sense to four of you, but this sounds like Jars of Clay recording a theme for a Bourne movie.
Jer Fairall: A gloomy Robyn-bot sings what is either a confessional ode to masochism or survivor’s haunted reconciliation of abuse. A third option, that this is all a strained, drama queen-y metaphor for something considerably more banal, is frankly appalling to consider, but the track itself, which has the sinister mechanical grind to suggest one reading, and the anthemic defiance of the chorus supporting another, leaves too little evidence for me to know how seriously I should or should not take this.
Will Adams: A synth bass that monstrously carries the threat of sounding off for the whole song, but here it (almost too) kindly steps aside for a post-Evanescence chorus. The balance is nice, especially when it’s sewed up neatly into a three-minute package that, instead of upsetting you with its short length, beckons you to listen again.
Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: The introductory surge reminds me of my teenage years in under-18 rock clubs and not enjoying their DJs’ embrace of digital hardcore bands like The Shizit over anything else that could be considered “pop” or “soft” in electronic music. Those were simpler times back then. Now, Berger may take the sound to Eurovision, something I’m really still just trying to wrap my head around. It will surely find a wider audience with its oh-so-very-rockness, as producers Machopsycho (yes really) throw gothic-melodrama strings over the chorus, BIG DRUMS over everything else and someone holding down a button on the studio desk marked “1999 FOREVER”. Berger’s got a fine voice — hear how she sings “the world is mine” in the chorus like she’s realising just how much power she holds -– but one gets the feeling that she is working overtime just to make “I Feed You My Love” work. It’s close, but this is a few polishes short of [insert high-scoring Eurovision pun here].