1976 – the second year of the “modern voting” era for Eurovision. The “12 points” system had proved a success the year earlier, and it lasted all the way through to 2016, when it was overhauled by a new system. Unfortunately, the “douze points” system didn’t do Norway any favours in 1976 when they finished last – for the fourth time – with just seven points.
The honour of Norway’s fourth last place went to Anne-Karine Strøm – and she was no stranger to the bottom of the Eurovision leaderboard. She’d already finished last two years earlier, in Brighton. Ironically though, she was also a member of the Bendik Singers who, in 1973, finished 7th – Norway’s best result since their debut year. For sure, Anne-Karine was used to a mixed bag of results…
Disco glasses, an uptempo number… surely a success?
Oslo – February 1976. The home of that year’s Melodi Grand Prix selection. Unlike the multi-show extravaganza we had in 2020, the show was a smaller affair back in the 70s with just five songs to choose from. The last of those to be performed on the night was “Mata Hari” by Anne-Karine Strøm. It was clear which song would win that night, beating second-place “Voodoo” – performed by Mr. Nul Points himself, Jahn Teigen – by nearly 300 points.
If only those 600-plus points could have transferred to the Eurovision stage. There was some other low scoring songs that night in The Hague – but nothing scored as few points as Norway, who managed to scrape together just seven points from the juries – four from Portugal and three from host nation The Netherlands.
The song had so much potential – but clearly it just lacked that bit of “pizzazz” on the night. But still! Sparkly glasses, a sparkly jumpsuit and a sparkly headband – what more could anyone ask for! Clearly A LOT more according to the juries, as it trailed eventual winners Brotherhood of Man by 157 points! Anne-Karine wasn’t alone in the Norway last place club however – the Nordic nation went on to finish last another seven times in the final, a feat managed by no other country. So it wasn’t all that bad… right?
What do the team think?
Norway is a country that is always very dear to me, including Eurovision-wise as it is the place where I first discovered our favourite contest. While Mata Hari does not feature among my favourite Norwegian entries it definitely features among my ranking of undeserved last places. Sure, it may not be mindblowing, but it’s impossible not to feel energized by the sining and that outfit alone is enough to make me want to hit the dancefloor. I enjoy the vocals, the styling and the instrumentation a whole lot, especially that explosion of sounds directed by the trumpets towards the end. Sad that it didn’t translate into votes that day, perhaps more dance moves and dancers on stage would have helped?
Being Norwegian I often find it hard to judge our entries. Mainly because quite a few Eurovision entries have been national hits, turning them into “household songs”. Growing up, I can remember my mom singing along to this song on the radio, so having an unbiased opinion about it isn’t easy. I’ll give it a go, though. This is clearly not our most shining moment at Eurovision, despite the sparkly outfit and accessories. However, it most definitely didn’t deserve last place! Anne-Karine’s vocals are spot on throughout the entire performance, the instrumentation is great, the styling is proper 70s over the top, it’s a disco number bang in the middle of the disco era…what more can you ask? Obviously quite a bit. This isn’t by any means my favourite of our entries, but last place? Really?!
I must admit I’ve never heard this 70s entry from Norway before. As one of their many last placers from yesteryear, it never seemed like a priority. My first impression is of a song that is wildly swinging between awfully over-sung and a strong retro pop number. Taste is pretty hard to quantify sometimes, and this could certainly be irritating if you were forced to listen to it, even despite the upbeat and cheery personality of the singer. Definitely not what I imagine when I think of a Eurovision last-placer, I tend to think of, well, the precise opposite of this, that being some lifeless ballad, but I wouldn’t call it remarkable either, and I can see why it didn’t do so well. I think Anne-Karine could have used being part of a group to perform this, take some pressure off her and inject the energy that the successful pop entries of the 70s often had.
“Mata Hari”… I mean, it’s an interesting woman to write a song about. This girl has a spectacular back story, being a spy, in World War I, double crossing big world powers, executed during the war, all after a life as an exotic dancer. I mean, you can do so incredibly much with that. It’s a shame that Norway chose to turn her into some ‘Femme fatale’ without any of her historical relevance. Basically, they’ve only kept the exotic dancer bit and threw the rest overboard. Add to that the song is rather hysterical and Anne-Karine gives it her all, but maybe a little bit (read: way, way, way, way) too much and I just completely switch off listening to this. Not Norway’s finest hour.
What’s your opinion on this Norwegian “classic”?… or at least a classic according to Tom! Do you agree with the team?
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