Norway’s Tooji finished last at Eurovision 2012—and many confused fans are still scratching their heads. After all, in the months leading up to the grand final Tooji emerged as a fan favourite. He made the Top 10 with the Wiwi Jury. He performed a song by Peter Boström, the composer who co-wrote the winning tune “Euphoria”. And he seemed to have a strategy: “Stay” is a catchy dance tune with a delicious Oriental flavour, meant to woo votes from both Western and Eastern viewers. It’s no wonder that the bookies ranked “Stay” between 10th and 16th in the run-up to the final. Tooji, a handsome Iranian-born model and a popular MTV presenter in Norway, appeared to have the voice, the looks, and the dance moves to back it up. So what went wrong?
Internet chatter—just look at the comments on YouTube—wrote Tooji off as a copy of Sweden’s 2011 Eurovision contestant Eric Saade. (The fact that Peter Boström also wrote “Popular” didn’t help.) Although we fail to see any resemblance between the two performers, plenty of Eric Saade fans were convinced that Tooji copied their idol. They pledged not to vote for him in retaliation. This might explain why the Swedes gave their neighbours a meager three points. None of the other Scandinavian countries came to the rescue of their Norwegian sisters, either. Iceland only gave Tooji one point, while Denmark and Finland gave him nil points. The Netherlands was the only other country to award Tooji any points. (A measly three).
Of course, Eurovision is a song contest. Another explanation might simply be that Tooji’s vocals lacked the wow factor during his grand final performance. To be fair, the running order draw wasn’t kind to him. He had to sing after Estonia’s flawless Ott Lepland and before Azerbaijan’s stunning Sabina Babayeva. And while his sex appeal is undeniable, his voice isn’t his strong point. That’s why he relied so heavily on his dancers, who doubled as backing vocalists. That pretty much makes him the inverse of Bulgaria’s Sofi Marinova. She also had a good dance number, but only relied on her—admittedly great—voice to win votes. Ironically, the two tied for tenth place in the second semi-final. Tooji advanced to the final because “Stay” received votes from a bigger number of countries.
We’re not arguing that Tooji had the weakest voice of the contest. Absolutely not. Russia’s Buranovskiye Babushki, however endearing, howled more than they sang, and they still managed to snag second place. Which begs the question: could homophobia have played a part in Norway’s failure? Dutch juror Carlo Boszhard reportedly claimed that Tooji was discriminated against for being openly gay:
We were all amazed that Norway scored this low. Tooji was tipped as a top ten act from the start. He was ranked highly on Thursday by all the judges and in all the polls. I have been told that the fact he is so openly gay and proud scared the judges of the more conservative countries and the Ukraine team. Yes, maybe he missed a few notes, but if you see some of the crap that did make the top ten …
We don’t know who told Carlo Boszhard that Tooji is “openly gay.” We may have some suspicions about his sexual orientation, but he has not stepped out of any closet that we know of. What we do know is that two of the three men in this video are openly gay, and Tooji is not one of them!
Sexuality aside, it’s most likely that a multitude of factors (perhaps all of the above) worked against Norway this year. And we mustn’t forget that 16 other countries failed to qualify for the final at all. If it’s any consolation, Tooji didn’t actually finish at the very back of the pack.
What do you think about Tooji’s song? Were you surprised that he came last? What could he have done better? Sound off below!