Eurovision National Finals 2013

Iceland 2013 : Icelandic Entries Erupt – Alan Cromie Reviews The Ash Cloud of Talent

Iceland Volcanoes Wreaking Havoc - Grimsvötn E...

Iceland Volcanoes Wreaking Havoc – Grimsvötn Erupts After Eyjafjöll (Photo credit: Kris Olin)

Who will represent Iceland at Eurovision 2013 in Malmo?

With a quick check of the history books, Iceland is the second most successful country to have never won Eurovision, now if that isn’t a claim to fame, I don’t know what is!

After a disappointing year last year, ‘Never Forget’ came 20th in the final in Baku even though it was highly thought of amongst fans and could even be described as one of the pre contest favourites, it wasn’t to be but Iceland hasn’t dwelled on it and in September, the national broadcaster RUV announced that Iceland would once again compete in the contest in May.

12 songs will compete in all, with 6 competing in each of the semis with the top 3 of each semi progressing to a grand final. The one thing to note here is that all songs must be sung in Icelandic for the national final with the winning song having the option of being sung in another language for the Eurovision contest itself.

Of the 12 contestants, 2 will be instantly familiar with followers of all things Eurovision, Brigitta Haukdal and Yohanna, both veterans of the Eurovision stage with both having somewhat of a ‘cult’ following amongst the fans.

Apparently, the advertised running order isn’t correct so I’ve just reviewed the songs as they were listed.

Magni Ásgeirssonn – ‘Ekki Líta Undan’

(YouTube Video Courtesy of Chris Thor)

A nice intro which cuts to a ‘take your mama (out all night)’ piano sound, however don’t let that fool you; it’s a rock song, sung by a rock singer and as songs go, it’s not too bad. It’s definitely going for the alternative rock sound that we’ve seen at Eurovision, however, as we all know, this type of sound has never been truly embraced by Eurovision and I’m not sure whether this is the year of it either.

Eyþór Ingi Gunnlaugsson – ‘Ég á Líf’

(YouTube Video Courtesy of Chris Thor)

A piano led ballad from Eyþór Ingi and my first confession; I’ve always had a weak spot for a softly sung ballad. This is a lovely sounding song, it’s very simple and it works. There’s a celtic instrumental towards the middle eight and a nice key change (it is Eurovision after all). It reminds me of that song that should have won for the UK back when Scooch got the ticket; Cyndi ‘I Leave My Heart’. I really like this song.

Svavar Knútur Kristinsson & Hreindís Ylva Garðarsdóttir Hólm – ‘Lífið Snýst’

(YouTube Video Courtesy of Chris Thor)

A male/female duo next. It’s very folksy and while perfectly pleasant it’s not my thing. Traditional folk songs of the Scandinavian variety don’t tend to do that well. There’s a lot of do do do dos and la la la las which will make translation of the song very easy should it win.

Birgitta Haukdal – ‘Meðal Andanna’

(YouTube Video Courtesy of Chris Thor)

Next up is Birgitta, she opened the contest back in 2003 with ‘Open Your Heart’ and I loved that song and it still gets a play on my iPod every now and then. This has an Irish connection too, as part of the team of writers includes Jonas Gladnikoff who composed Niamh Kavanagh’s ‘It’s For You’ and Sinead Mulvey’s ‘Et Cetera’ both diverse but equally good songs and Michael James Down who has been involved with the writing of several songs for Eurovision across the continent. To the song itself, well it’s a torch song I’m guessing about lost love, it has that vibe. I can see this being played in the arena in Malmo with lights swaying in the audience. And a good key change too, I’m sold, I love it. Birgitta sounds great in the audio and if she manages those high notes, she’ll do well. Whether or not she should sing in English if it gets to Malmo is debatable, the song is strong enough as it is.

Edda Viðarsdóttir – ‘Sá sem Lætur Hjartað Ráða För’

(YouTube Video Courtesy of Chris Thor)
Edda up next and after just listening to Birgitta, she is struggling to make any impact on me. A decent position in the national final might change that, but for now it’s doing nothing for me. As for the song, it’s a middle of the road ballad with, bear with me here, a new age type sound going on in the chorus. I think I may have even heard it while doing pilates last week, it has that sort of vibe. Not a contender in my eyes.

Yohanna –‘ Þú’

(YouTube Video Courtesy of Chris Thor)
Whilst everyone was expecting a ‘Is it True?’ sequel, Yohanna has surprised people by moving away from the ballads and presenting us with a mid tempo tune. The melody is almost folksy but vocally she delivers it well. She’s breaking no ground here and I can’t help but feel she’s not going to pick up any new fans with this tune. It’s a nice song and deserves a place in the Icelandic final, which I think may be the pinnacle for this song. It sounds like it should be the theme of an American Teen Soap like One Tree Hill or Dawson’s Creek.

Erna Hrönn Ólafsdóttir – ‘Augnablik’

(YouTube Video Courtesy of Chris Thor)

From the opening bars I’m immediately transported to an Elizabethan court setting, banquet in full swing, jester in the corner doing tricks and me on the throne in full regal grandeur. It’s a good song and with the right presentation and playing up to the style of music could do well. It’s by no means a novelty song as it’s properly constructed and sincere in its delivery and Erna has a nice voice. I quite like it, it’s different.

Unnur Eggertsdóttir – ‘Ég Syng!’

(YouTube Video Courtesy of Chris Thor)
Unnur tries to inject some pop sensibilities into proceedings and she almost pulls it off. The chorus is catchy and melodic with slight electro beats running through it. It sounds youthful and innocent with a lot of bouncy beats and some high school musical ‘yeahs’ thrown in. I like it, not the strongest song in this contest but a decent attempt at electropop-lite by Unnur.

Klara Ósk Elíasdóttir – ‘Skuggamynd’

(YouTube Video Courtesy of Chris Thor)
Klara looks pretty from the YouTube screen shot I’m seeing. She’s singing a mid-tempo pop song. She has a good voice, there’s a nice use of strings throughout the song but it’s instantly forgettable and doesn’t particularly stand out on first hearing.  It’s a ‘no’ from me.

Sylvía Erla Scheving – ‘Stund Með þér’

(YouTube Video Courtesy of Chris Thor)

Can Sylvia lift what has been a mediocre last few songs? Yes she can, just. This is the type of song that may benefit from a change of language, being sung in English may improve the song, as it is, it may appeal to locals and that’s about it. I don’t know whether it would have a wider appeal. Sylvia sings in good voice. Not the strongest singer in the contest but a decent entry none the less. The melody in the chorus is good, another torch song even if those torches need to be swayed a little faster.

Jógvan Hansen & Stefanía Svavarsdóttir – ‘Til þín’

(YouTube Video Courtesy of Eurovision013TV)

X-Factor winner Jogvan singing a duet with Stefania. It’s a power ballad similar to last year, but whereas ‘Never Forget’ was a slow burner that built up to a crescendo, this starts as it means to go on. It’s up-tempo from the outset and both singers have strong voices that complement each other well. Stefania in particular has a fine set of lungs on her from what I’m hearing. There’s a good key change but I was expecting a little more oomph. It’s nothing that they can’t solve if it gets the ticket to Malmo. A contender for Malmo. A highlight for me.

Haraldur Reynisson – ‘Vinátta’

(YouTube Video Courtesy of Chris Thor)

Haraldur rounds off the last song in Iceland’s national contest. Like all good national finals, Iceland has given us a variety of different sounds, it’s not a wide variety, but it’s a variety none the less. Haraldur sounds like a guitar led Daniel O’Donnell. It‘s a folksy country number with an almost honky tonk sound. Not for me sung in either Icelandic or English.

And that’s it. The Icelandic entries have been listened to and reviewed. Like all people, my tastes are my own and everyone will have their own favourites. Iceland has produced some good songs for Eurovision in the past and there are potentially a few new favourites amongst this selection. When Iceland chooses well, they choose really well.  Personally, I have my favourite and I am in no way biased but if Birgitta doesn’t at least progress to the national final, there’s something very wrong with the world. Very wrong indeed!

Signing out.

Author – Alan Cromie

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