Celebrating Subwoolfer: The Norwegian Eurovision act that are no joke

Subwoolfer performing at Melodi Grand Prix | Image Credit – NRK

It would be easy to look at a duo dressed as yellow lunar wolves singing about bananas and dismiss them as a joke act. Subwoolfer offer way more than just a simple opportunity for cheap laughs; they’re a professional duo and deserve to be treated as such. 

So-called joke acts have long graced the Eurovision stage and with varying levels of success. The criteria that defines a joke act is itself open to interpretation given the concept of a joke is easily one of the most subjective elements of communication in any language. Often joke acts are rightly maligned by Eurovision fans who think they discredit the contest. It’s difficult to argue that Subwoolfer do that. 

We know little about Subwoolfer. They’re a character duo made up of ‘Keith’ and ‘Jim’. Their real identities are unknown. Instead, the pair dress in smart black suits, white trainers with yellow gloves, yellow masks and sunglasses to hide any distinguishing features. Some people have tried to work out who’s behind the masks but why spoil the mystery? 

Genuine joke acts

What do people generally consider as a joke act anyway? Does the performer have to be dressed in an unusual costume? Must the artist be singing about a trivial subject? Or does the act simply just have to fit the criteria manufactured by the viewer? 

Often the earliest cited joke act at Eurovision is the 1980 Luxembourg entry Sophie and Magaly who sang Papa Pingouin, a track about a bored penguin longing for a life away from the South Pole. That description doesn’t give the song much credit but it’s genuinely enjoyable bubblegum pop music. Just because there was someone on stage dressed as a penguin doesn’t necessarily qualify this to be a joke. 

Acts in Eurovision’s modern era have gone much further to discredit the contest’s brand and in some cases bring the competition into disrepute. Dustin the Turkey from Ireland is a crying shame of an act who fits that description. A hand puppet being operated by a comedian along to a melody and music that sounds like a 2008 polyphonic ringtone is shocking really. The less said about the controversy over the use of the word ‘Macedonia’ in Irlande Douze Points’ original lyrics, the better. 

Dustin the Turkey performing at Eurovision in 2008

Rambo Amadeus finds himself in the same territory as Dustin, but maybe to a slightly lesser extent. Still, the Montenegrin performer’s confusing lyrical poetry, on stage demeanour, off stage attitude and lack of respect for the contest leave him on the wrong end of being a fan favourite.

Although being a professional musician, Amadeus openly celebrated being voted as performing the worst Eurovision song in history in a recent fan vote and – ahead of his performance at Eurovision in 2012 – claimed his aim was not to qualify for the contest’s Grand Final. Speaking on an episode of The Euro Trip in 2020, Amadeus even failed to defend his song Euro Neuro when asked about comments made suggesting his song Euro Neuro was a joke. Eurovision deserves better. 

Scrub to 22:00 to hear Rambo Amadeus discussing his Eurovision song

To lump Subwoolfer into a category containing the likes of Dustin and Rambo would be baffling and confusing given their lack of comparatives. 

Subwoolfer deserve credit

Winning Melodi Grand Prix in Norway isn’t the most straightforward task of Eurovision national selection season. Admittedly, 2022 didn’t play host to the most star-studded or talent-filled edition in the event’s history but Subwoolfer still had to compete and win. Securing more than 368,000 votes in the competition’s final saw them bag the second highest number of votes from any participant since the introduction of the gold duel element of the show back in 2018. Only 2021 winner Tix has garnered more votes – 12,000 more to be less general – in Melodi Grand Prix’s current voting system. 

Subwoolfer performing at Melodi Grand Prix

Looking at it as a standalone piece, Give That Wolf a Banana has all the right qualities to dominate the public televote at Eurovision. It’s a genuinely enjoyable pop song with a professional production, it’s memorable after one listen, it’s unique visually and audibly, and it has a dance routine to accompany the performance that is both engaging and achievable. Fire up TikTok. 

There are certainly a number of variables at play that will set out to stop Norway doing what they did with the public vote at Eurovision three years ago but the qualities are there if the stars align. 

Some will try to mould Subwoolfer into their own predefined definition of a joke while others might change their previously solidified definition in order to find a cheap excuse to discredit the duo. Subwoolfer are fun, not a joke. There’s a difference between the two.

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