Big Daddy Karsten makes Eurovision history, celebrates the success of ‘Smile’
On January 30, gay Norwegian rapper Big Daddy Karsten made history at Norway’s Melody Grand Prix, the competition which determines which song will represent Norway at the annual Eurovision Song Contest, when he hit the stage in Heat 3 to perform his song “Smile” on the Melodi Grand Prix stage. The inclusion of “Smile” in the competition is significant for many reasons: It’s the first song to be entered by a gay bear rapper, and it’s the first song to be entered that discusses themes of non-monogamy.
In case you missed his performance and your chance to vote (tisk, tisk), Big Daddy Karsten absolutely slayed it! He won the first Duel of Heat 3, but unfortunately didn’t qualify for the Final in the end. But, all is not lost — He may still be able to get the Wildcard in the Last Chance round and qualify for the Final!
I recently had a chat about his experiences competing in the Melodi Grand Prix, the success of “Smile”, what inspired him to write the song, and how we can vote for “Smile” to get the Wildcard in the Last Chance round.
Big Daddy Karsten: It feels amazing! “Smile” has done so well from all of this. It’s literally my most streamed song. It’s crazy! I’m so grateful for the support and the response that the song has gotten.
Kyle Jackson: So, how does it feel now that you’ve performed in the Melodi Grand Prix?
I’m pretty well known in Norway, but people know me mostly for being the controversial gay rapper that talks openly about sex and being on PrEP and things like that. But to have people in California and New York and Canada streaming my song feels great.
KJ: I mean, it’s a great song, and you absolutely represented for the Bear community! We’re proud of you!
BDK: Awww, thanks! I really appreciate the support from everyone.
KJ: So, can you talk a little bit about your song “Smile”? How did that song come about? Did you write it for the competition, or was it already written?
BDK: Actually, “Smile” was written long before the competition. I wrote it because I just wanted a feel-good, pop song with a catchy melody that people can dance to. I made a demo of the song with Pål Gauslaa Sivertzen, who is actually a drummer in a metal band, but this song was actually so different from that. I then shared the demo with one of my main collaborators, Are Næsset, who hated it at first. But eventually I got him to work on it with me, and we got the track mixed and mastered and everything.
When my manager first heard the track, he absolutely loved it. He thought it was catchy and had the potential to be a huge hit. He decided that we should submit it for consideration for the Eurovision Song Contest. He created this five year plan where he decided that we would attempt to enter a different song into the contest every year, starting with “Smile” for the first year. Because there are so many submissions, he didn’t think make it the first time around — not until the fourth or fifth year. But it got accepted on the very first try. Over 1,500 songs were submitted, and I got through on the first try!
KJ: Wow! That’s amazing. It’s a true testament to your talent. And now, here you are making history. Are you the first openly gay artist to be considered as a competitor in the Melodi Grand Prix?
BDK: I’m not sure if I’m the first openly gay artist. But I’m the only out gay rapper in Norway, and I’m the first gay rapper to submit a song that speaks so openly about gay love and queer themes, including gay bears and open relationships.
KJ: How does all of this feel? Does it feel sort of surreal in a way?
BDK: You know, I’ve been rapping and writing songs for almost 20 years now, and I only just started writing songs in English last year in February of 2020. It just feels amazing that all of this — writing a song in English that was accepted as a contender for Eurovision, recording all the well-received Bearmixxes that I’ve been recording in English, being included in a permanent installation in Norway’s biggest music museum, being featured in Bear World Magazine so many times (you guys have been amazing) — all of this has happened in just a year.
This was a huge opportunity. And, I would also like to say that, not only have I made it to the Melodi Grand Prix stage to be considered for Eurovision, but I also got the chance to give a shout out to one of my favorite bear films, BearCity! It’s not every day that a chubby bear gets the chance to get on a huge stage and tell the world about bears and bear culture.
KJ: You usually like to be very provocative when it comes to your lyrics. You talk about sex a lot. But, in this song, you definitely seemed to tone it down a bit for a wider audience. How did that feel?
BDK: It didn’t feel that different because I’m still talking about sex. (laughs) I mean, in the lyrics I say, ‘I just want to spend my life with you… and invite over a guy or two.’ The sex is still there, but I’ve just found a bit of a balance between being overtly sexual and writing lyrics for a more general audience.
KJ: Would you say that, after having your song chosen to compete, people are finally opening their eyes and being more accepting of queer artists?
BDK: I think I’m forcing them to open their eyes. Even if they don’t want to, I think that me and other queer artists like me are making our voices heard and kicking the door down. At some point, they’re going to have to hear and see what’s happening. The game is changing.
KJ: So, you mentioned earlier that you still have the chance to make it to the Finals if you get the Wildcard. What exactly is the Wildcard, and how do people vote for you to get it?
BDK: So, basically there are five rounds, which are called Heats. During each Heat, there are two Duels. One song is chosen to move forward to the Final round, and one song is eliminated. But, in the Last Chance round, one of the five eliminated songs will get a chance to come back as a Wildcard and compete in the Final round.
In order to vote for “Smile” to get the Wildcard, you need to watch the Last Chance round on Monday, February 15 online at nrk.no/mgp at 8:00 p.m. CET (2:00 p.m. EST, 7:00 p.m. GMT), and vote during the show at nrk.no/stem/mgp. Make sure to watch, because voting is only open during the show!
KJ: So, what do you want to say to all of our readers out there that you haven’t already said?
BDK: I’m single. (laughs)
BDK: I’m totally single and ready to mingle with other hot bears — particularly hot bears in New York or Los Angeles who would like a big chubby bear who knows how to give warm snuggles and make a guy smile. (wink)
To register and vote during the show on Saturday from outside of Norway, visit nrk.no/stem/mgp!
Follow Big Daddy Karsten on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook!
To listen to “Smile”, visit Spotify, Apple Music and other digital platforms, and listen on YouTube below!