For years Iceland boasted “solid qualifier” status at Eurovision, having advanced to the grand final every year starting in 2008. And then came 2015. Ever since then the little island up north has struggled to get back on the big stage for the grand final. It’s a seismic shift akin to Eyjafjallajokull burping.

Earlier this summer RUV confirmed to wiwibloggs that Iceland will return for Eurovision 2018 in Lisbon. With that in mind we’re walking down memory lane — and through Iceland’s recent drought. If you want to overcome your problems you’ve got to face them head on, right?

Below you can review all three of the non-qualifiers starting with 2015. Afterwards you can vote in our poll. You can vote for as many acts as you’d like, but you can only vote one time. Be sure to click the box next to each act you want to support before pressing submit.

María Ólafs — “Unbroken”

15th in the second semi final with 14 points

María Ólafs had some big shoes to fill, as Iceland had qualified for the grand final seven years in a row. Her song “Unbroken” was Disney-esque powerpop and María came across as the innocent ‘girl-next-door’, who just happened to possess some awesome pipes.

Prior to the contest María earned some rather good reviews. The betting odds had Iceland as a secure qualifier and even as high as tenth favourite to win the final. María also did well with the Wiwi Jury — our in-house panel of music unprofessionals. Based on the studio version, “Unbroken” earned the eighth highest score that year. Given the enthusiasm among the fandom and the bookies, it’s understandable that Iceland felt a tad confident.

But you should never take things for granted — a reality Icelanders faced after the semi. Rather than securing its eighth qualification in a row, the land of fire and ice crashed and burned, finishing in 15th place with a measly 14 points. Talk about getting bolted from the blue.

Greta Salóme — “Hear Them Calling”

14th in the first semi final with 51 points

Despite disappointing results the year before, Iceland came back stronger than ever — or so many thought. Greta Salóme, who made the Eurovision final with Jonsi in in 2012, forged her comeback with “Hear Them Calling” — a solid pop song that built on Nordic melancholia.

Before the national final in Iceland even finished Greta emerged as a fan favourite and hopes were high for redemption. Amongst our own Wiwi Jury, Greta Salóme placed fourth. As one juror wrote:

“Rooted in Icelandic folk, ‘Hear Them Calling’ is less pop music and more three-minute art piece. The clever lyrics set up an ambiguity that never resolves: The voices call, whisper and howl, but we don’t know if they are a source of comfort or torment, and at times their pledge to come home sounds like a threat. The music builds on that tension, with the thumping timpani — reminiscent of a heartbeat —  and metallic clangs creating a sense of urgency and drive. Despite tapping into something tribal and ancient, the song swells with modern instrumentation and production. It’s mystical, other-worldly and gripping.”

But performances don’t always translate from national final stage to Eurovision stage, and broader European tastes frequently differ from the fandom’s. Iceland ended up in 14th place in the first semi final with only 51 points. As soon as the contest came to an end, Iceland’s many fans searched for reasons — “stolen” graphics, a dark stage, the outfit (which was eventually auctioned on eBay). Others swallowed their pride and accepted that Iceland just didn’t have a winning formula.

Svala – “Paper”

15th in the first semi final with 60 points

Third times a charm, right? Or so Iceland hoped in 2017 when they chose a solo female singer with a mid-tempo song for the third year in a row. Svala, an established singer-songwriter who splits her time between Los Angeles and Reykjavik, won Iceland’s national final with “Paper”. It mixed her native Icelandic mystique and her adopted L.A. realness, giving viewers back home confidence they were on to a good thing.

Alas. Svala didn’t make quite the splash of her predecessors. Her song fared less well with the Wiwi Jury, earning a score of 6.63 and finishing mid-table. Somewhat worryingly, a number of jurors wrote it off as forgettable. “The live performance was bland and monotonous,” wiwiblogger William wrote. “Like paper, the song is flat and one-dimensional.”

The bookies weren’t impressed either. They put the icy songstress down as 14th favourite to win her semi…which proved to be rather close to reality. She finished 15th with 60 points.

Again outraged Icelanders searched for reasons. Was it the outfit? Was it the song? Was it Svala’s alleged icy demeanor? Or was it just the fact that the performance got forgotten amid all the other divas from Europe?

Looking forward, many fans will want Iceland to mix it up a little bit and show Europe that Iceland’s talent isn’t confined to female soloists. But remember: It’s the song and performance that matters most, not the gender of the star.

Poll: Iceland’s best non-qualifier since 2015

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Briekimchi
Guest
Briekimchi

Paper was awful. Did not deserve to win their final (it might have been the worst song in their national final) and was lucky not to finish last in its semi-final at Eurovision.
Preferred Unbroken in Icelandic but was still ok. Was going to be a borderline qualifier until the live performance. It is possible that Maria did not hit a single note that night.
Hear Them Calling is the only wronged one of the three. Should have been top ten in the grand final. Great song, performed well. No idea why it did badly.

Rita
Guest
Rita

Maria and Greta for me…though, I will say that Unbroken should have stayed in Icelandic….but, I still like it. Greta’s song could have been in either Icelandic or English…that was good too. I think Iceland is just hitting a runt where they have decent songs…but, on the night, someone else with their decent song outshines them. They need something that connects with people enough….not just a formulaic Eurovision song…just something that people can feel.

Jo
Guest
Jo

Paper is a very good song, the staging was just a catastrophe.
Hear Them Calling is good but not awesome, got lost in that tough semi-final.
Unbroken is just a generic pop song.

Ilse
Guest
Ilse

I don’t think any of them were really that great. Unbroken was cute, but the performance was bad. Hear Them Calling was kind of a messy song in my opinion. I couldn’t get into it. Paper wasn’t my cup of tea.

Louis Enright
Guest
Louis Enright

Hear them calling wasn’t a mid tempo song…

AngieP
Guest
AngieP

None of the three is my favourite.
2015: I liked the song, but it wasn’t a good performance.
2016: The song was good, but I wasn’t a fan. The staging I think was too much.
2017: I liked the studio version, but then I really didn’t like the whole performance. It was bad.

esc freak
Guest
esc freak

Svala’s performance was bland and disappointing so I can see why she didn’t qualify, but María and Greta were absolutely robbed.

Monika
Guest
Monika

I loved all 3 of them. I was shocked Greta didn’t qualify. Maria was not very convincing live…. As for Svala, the staging was too simple… It could have been way more complex… In a contest with 18-19 participants in each semifinal each country should do the best possible show. Unfortunately, this year I’ve seen so many flat shows for great songs. Many stagings were too simplistic… Serbia, Montenegro, Iceland, Albania, Australia, Finland, Macedonia, and so on. I would have seen a lasers show for Iceland, many dancers for Macedonia and Serbia, a crazy show for Montenegro, and so on.… Read more »

MoN
Guest
MoN

Maria’s voice wasn’t as good in live as in the studio version.
Greta’s staging wasn’t as good as it was in national final.
Svala’s staging should’ve been changed all over again.

Love
Guest
Love

All of them were very underrated! Especially in 2016 it was the biggest injustice of that year! Why people? Why?

Julia
Guest
Julia

1. 2016
2. 2015
3. 2017

Zolipop
Guest
Zolipop

Greta must come back once again and win it all for Iceland because it’s just not fair 🙁

Julia
Guest
Julia

Yaas

D
Guest
D

I think they’re all good Iceland’s been so underrated these past few years. María just had trouble singing live, Greta should’ve stayed in Icelandic, and Svala had bad staging. Overall, Svala was probably my favorite in studio versions.

brunowskii
Guest
brunowskii

Love Greta…. It was an absurd not qualifying…

“Paper” was pure trash since the beginning. Obviously wouldnt qualify

NotArmenian
Guest
NotArmenian

How to vote for Armenia in this poll?

Sven
Guest
Sven

I like none hahaha.
Three deserved non-qualifications for Iceland, which has lost it’s powerhouse-status at Eurovision.

Bgc_Irl
Guest
Bgc_Irl

“Ég veit það”, the Icelandic version of “Paper”; was so much better than the English version. I suspect it would have done better in the semi-final, although the staging still needed a big fix as it came across too cold and unimaginative. “Hear Them Calling” was a little bit overrated; it wasn’t a bad song and it probably did deserve to qualify but it wasn’t quite the masterpiece many made it out to be. “Unbroken” was just a bad song. The performance on the night was terrible, but even if she had sung well I don’t think they would have… Read more »

Roelof Meesters
Guest
Roelof Meesters

2015 was a disaster, 2016 a masterpiece, and 2017 was mediocre, so the choice is obvious

Napaw
Guest
Napaw

Although I was one of the few people who actually liked “Paper” this year, there’s no chance it tops “Hear them calling”. Greta not qualifying for the final will always remain the textbook example of Eurovision WTF moments.

Desfolhada
Guest
Desfolhada

Please Iceland send a great entry and win Eurovision in my country!

thespb01
Guest
thespb01

“Unbroken” was a lovely song, but the live performance was pretty awful. “Paper” was decent and Svala had a great voice, but the staging meant that it fell flat. With “Hear Them Calling”, I’m still mystified as to how they didn’t get through.

James
Guest
James

Raddirnar, never be forgotten.

azaad
Guest
azaad

Greta is a queen who was ROBBED in 2016…forget qualifying, she would have been a credible winner!

Unbroken was ultimately an empty song with little substance performed poorly while Paper’s staging was a hot mess. Those two non qualifications don’t surprise me.

Richardinho
Guest
Richardinho

Can you imagine someone watching that Greta Salome staging and saying: ‘Hmm.. a bit too dark..’. Beggars belief.

Anton
Guest
Anton

Svala is by far the worst Icelandic entrant for a long time. Her “L.A. realness” was pretty forced and unnatural, making the whole performance look like a parody of itself. I think that’s why people didn’t relate and why it ultimately fell flat on it’s face. Nobody wants to see an Icelandic girl pretending like she’s a gangsta from the hood. It’s was so uncomfortable to watch and it had me cringing behind the cushions. It’s a shame, because I didn’t mind the song and she’s got a great voice. I just wish she’d felt a bit more genuine.

Polegend Godgarina
Guest
Polegend Godgarina

I’m still not over María not qualifying, I’m such a sucker for Disney soundtrack songs like Unbroken. I get it that her live vocals weren’t the tea, but we’ve had worse vocalists in the grand final.

Greta also totally deserved to qualify. I don’t understand those who blame the ‘dark’ performance, it’s what made it so special in my opinion. The song would have probably received more televotes if it had been sung in Icelandic.

Svala had one of the worst songs this year, she was an obvious non-qualifier. But María and Greta’s non-qualifications left me shook.

Mark
Guest
Mark

Iceland needs to not send standard pop songs

Möhrant
Guest
Möhrant

I actually love all of these entries regardless of where they placed.

Kris
Guest
Kris

Best song was Maria’s…..best staging was Greta’s

Kris
Guest
Kris

So voted for Unbroken…. because it’s a song contest

Rasda
Guest
Rasda

Agree <3

Maria
Guest
Maria

Svala by far too me

Maria
Guest
Maria

to*, oops!

beccaboo1212
Guest

Munich favorites were María and Svala. 🙂

beccaboo1212
Guest

I meant “my favorites”