First Listen Review attempts to capture my first impressions of the year’s Eurovision entries as and when they’re released. My opinion is liable to change as certain songs grow on me or get revamped, but based on the principle that most listeners will only hear each entry once (or twice) before voting, hopefully it’ll provide some insight.

Norway Flag

Norway: Mørland & Debrah Scarlett – A Monster Like Me

Mørland & Debrah Scarlett - A Monster Like Me | Eurovision 2015 Norway

Kjetil Mørland is a singer-songwriter and former frontman of Absent Elk, who supported Girls Aloud, The Script and The Hoosiers on their UK tours. Debrah Scarlett competed on ‘The Voice of Norway’ in 2013.

While their neighbours in Sweden have perfected the art of high-gloss pop productions, and the Danes are cruising comfortably in the middle of the road, over the past couple of years Norway have seen success by sending slightly more leftfield efforts to Eurovision. Margaret Berger’s ‘I Feed You My Love was arguably the most exciting entry of 2013, and last year’s Silent Storm‘ by Carl Espen was more Antony & The Johnsons than Alexander Rybak.

‘A Monster Like Me’ isn’t quite as edgy as those songs, but it certainly stands out as a darker proposition than the other duets in this year’s lineup. For the first two minutes of the song, the pace is almost funereal, with Mørland and Scarlett trading mournful verses (which seem to be about a childhood murder) over a creeping, low-key string and piano backing. Just as the unrelenting misery begins to feel a little uncomfortable, the song explodes into an unexpectedly soaring final chorus. It’s a strong pay-off made all the more impactful for how long the audience is made to wait for it.

That’s the case on record, anyway. Live, this song faces an uphill struggle in convincing a restless TV audience to bear with it until that pay-off arrives. Personally, I found Silent Storm to be a bit of a buzz-kill last year – especially placed so early in the running order. But even that had a very strong chorus that arrived within the expected 45 seconds. Two minutes without an obvious hook is a long time to make the audience wait, especially for a song as gloomy as this in a competition as predicated on instant appeal as Eurovision.

Once again then, it’s all going to come down to how effectively Mørland and Scarlett can draw the audience in with their performance. Unfortunately, if their National Final is anything to go by, it’s a problem they haven’t come close to resolving yet. Frankly, the live version of ‘A Monster Like Me‘ is a dull mess. There’s no sense of the story of the lyrics (which will go over the heads of the majority of viewers), precious little chemistry and far too much empty space between the two singers, plus a costume mismatch that leaves Mørland looking like he’s propping up a trendy Oslo wine bar while Scarlett appears to be auditioning for the title role in ‘The Corpse Bride‘. It fails to engage on just about every level, and the fact that it only narrowly claimed victory despite being the runaway favourite should be a cause of major concern for the Norwegian team.

Two months is plenty of time to iron out these kinks of course, and if the Norwegians can pull it together this has the potential to be a real wow moment. But at the moment all evidence points to a missed opportunity, and if there’s a fan favourite this year that radically underperforms – and there always is – this could well be it.