I love Iceland at Eurovision. Or at least most of the time I do. They’re responsible for some of the best songs of the last decade, though there are always exceptions. They really hit their stride at the end of the last decade, with Eurobandi in 2008, Yohanna’s 2nd place finish in 2009 and Hera Bjork’s amazing 2010 entry. The quality has been great since then too, and they are pretty good at throwing those curveballs.
Aside from Malta, Iceland are a nation I would love to win. They’ve come close, two second place finishes in the last 15 years, but they’ve had to live in the shadow of basically all the other Nordic nations (even Finland, outrageous!). Will 2014 be their year? That’s the purpose of Söngvakeppnin, the Icelandic selection show.
For a nation of barely more than 300,000 people, it’s pretty amazing that 297 songs were entered into the running. That’s like 1 entry per 1,000 people – imagine 60,000-odd songs for the UK! These were thinned down to ten songs, and two semi-finals whittled them down further into 6 finalists. A 50/50 Jury/Televote split picked the top 2, with the public alone selecting the Icelandic representative to May’s Eurovision contest in Copenhagen. Let’s see what they had to offer…
That’s a long intro… Icelandic is a fun language isn’t it? Unsurprisingly from the band name, this is a bit of disco-lite funk with a group varying wildly in handsomeness. Some cheesy moves too, without knowing the words it’s hard to tell if this a piss-take or not, but that Daft Punk breakdown is rather good. Very strange but I think I like it … lots of fun, even if it would have been a disaster at Eurovision.
Ásdís María Viðarsdóttir – Amor
They like their extended intros don’t they? This time there’s a lot of whistling and sensual hand-waving. This is perhaps a bit conceptual for me. This is likely to be a short write-up because hardly anything is happening. I don’t like her creaky voice much, there’s just nothing here apart from an overly made-up lady doing an octopus impression and shouting a bit at the end.
Gissur Páll Gissurarson – Von
I won’t judge the slow tracks too harshly, after last year’s entry turned into a real grower. But I’m not seeing quite the same spark there. At least it’s an ACTUAL SONG. He’s got a great voice but I’m not really getting into this, it’s a bit old-fashioned. I could imagine this being a Eurovision song from the ‘old days’ but maybe not now.
Greta Mjöll Samúelsdóttir – Eftir eitt lag
Uh oh, ukelele alert (or similar). This is exactly how I imagine Icelandic entries to look. Light-hearted but it’s just a bit blah … it’s like some old Jack Johnson stuff. Her voice is sweet but struggles a little when it’s tested – perhaps wary of this, the song rarely tests her vocals. I love her enthusiasm but this is a bit of a non-starter for me.
Sigríður Eyrún Friðriksdóttir – Lífið kviknar á ný
We’re in the top 2 already, that was quick! She’s fun, and the song a nice energy about it. This 20’s throwback sound is quite popular in national finals is it? I keep referring to it as “Paloma Faith-style” but I think she’s just the UK manifestation of this. The staging doesn’t help particularly, it feels a bit cheap, and the production does too now I think about it. A clumsy key change is a decent climax but … well maybe with some polish this could have been a decent entry.
Pollapönk – Enga fordóma
Well like it or not, we are stuck with this as our Icelandic representative – let’s hope it’s decent. Hmm… I’m not sure what I was expecting, track-suited rockers? It’s quite palatable though, it’s a bit of a hybrid of loads of styles – old rock’n’roll, some 90s US rock like the Chilis, even a brief flurry of disco funk, and some mad chanting.
You know, despite the first impressions of a novelty track, I think Iceland made the right choice this time. Not saying it’s a guaranteed hit, or even a guaranteed qualifier, but it’s another confident entry by one of the smallest Eurovision nations, and I look forward to hearing the studio version.