Iceland surprised and delighted European football fans with their 2-1 win over England at EURO 2016 (aided by goalie and “Never Forget” music video director Hannes Dor Halldorsson), which has seen them head into the quarter-final. But football isn’t the only area where the tiny volcanic island nation has punched well above its weight. Since Iceland first appeared in Eurovision in 1986, it’s become known for entering songs that are memorable, often appearing near the top of the scoreboard. Let’s look at some of Iceland’s greatest Eurovision moments.
1. Daníel Ágúst – “Það sem enginn sér” (1989)
Even when Iceland scored the dreaded nil points, the song in question was actually quite good. Daníel Ágúst broke Iceland’s late ’80s/early ’90s trend of upbeat pop, with the more thoughtful “Það sem enginn sér” (“What no one sees”). Perhaps we can consider this one a bit before its time, with later Daníel having international success with his indie group GusGus.
2. Selma – “All Out of Luck” (1999)
Iceland had taken a year off in 1998 and when they returned in 1999 the national language rule had been dropped, prompting Iceland to make their English-language debut with “All Out of Luck” sung by Selma. The cheerful dance-pop number made a big impression, placing second. Iceland’s Nordic neighbours Sweden narrowly beat them to the win with a margin of only 17 points.
3. Silvia Night – “Congratulations” (2006)
Silvia Night, a comic creation of Ágústa Eva Erlendsdóttir, turned up in Athens with a bratty, over-the-top diva attitude. She managed to accidentally insult the host nation Greece and deliberately insult pretty much everyone else. Silvia’s semi-final performance of “Congratulations” was greeted with boos and — not surprisingly — she didn’t qualify for the grand final. But still, her performance is still remembered as an epic trolling.
4. Yohanna – “Is It True” (2009)
Iceland took second place again in 2009, when Yohanna delivered the sweet country-tinged ballad “Is It True”. While Yohanna delivered a strong and impressive performance, we’ll totally forgive her for not winning. She was up against Norway’s Alexander Rybak with his unstoppable and record-breaking “Fairytale”!
5. Hera Björk – “Je ne sais quoi” (2010)
Hera Björk showed up in Oslo with her irrepressible style and delivered the epic “Je ne sais quoi”. It was popular enough to come third in its semi-final, though it only managed 19th in the grand final. But still, “Je ne sais quoi” has gone on to be an all-time Euroclub favourite, and Hera Björk is still performing it with fierce intensity.
6. Eyþór Ingi Gunnlaugsson – “Ég á líf” (2013)
With English language songs dominating the song contest, Iceland typically translates the winning Icelandic song from its national final into English. But that didn’t happen in 2013. Eyþór Ingi Gunnlaugsson stood on the Malmö stage and delivered the heartfelt “Ég á líf” (“I’m alive”). The simple but emotional performance connected with viewers, giving Iceland one of its highest semi-final placings and coming 12th with the grand final televote.
7. Greta Salóme – “Hear Them Calling” (2016)
For some fans, “Hear Them Calling” not qualifying for the final is one of the biggest ever crimes of Eurovision. There’s no doubt that Greta Salóme brought an uplifting, catchy song to Stockholm, with ambitious staging. But for some reason (Was Greta too dimly lit? Did it pale against Russia’s sophisticated staging?), it just didn’t connect with audiences. But if Greta’s performance at the #WIWIJAM was anything to go by, “Hear Them Calling” will be another fan favourite for years to come.
And Greta had this to say after her team trounced England:
Guess they´ll be shutting down the #Iceland stores in England!!! Sorry…not sorry! #ISL
— Greta Salóme (@gretasalome) June 27, 2016
So we can all agree that Iceland should have won in 1999? Take me to your heaven is just bad and clearly the audience wanted Iceland to win. Whenever Iceland got points especially top points the audience went crazy. And for Sweden they just cheered slightly. Iceland deserves to win the contest just like Malta. I do think Iceland should have won in 1999 and I really can’t understand why Sweden beat it because ‘All out of luck’ is easier on the ear and has a melody that’s easy to follow. Although maybe Icelands nemesis staging got them that year.… Read more »
Sorry, I don’t really like “Complice”. But “Never Forget” is my second favorite masterpiece too (my first is “A Million Voices”, I still get chills whenever listening to it).
Nope that would be San Marino 2008 and even till this day I still cannot believe how it only got 5 points in the semi.
At least my second favorite masterpiece (Iceland 2012) still managed to get into the final.
Selma so deserved to win in 1999. Such a fun song, and she’s a positive girl!
The same happens with me but there are some exceptions. For example, my number one of last year (Russia) finished second and I’m very happy about that.
And let me guess: you are talking about Estonia 2016, right?
Same here although all the songs I find are masterpieces generally never do well in Eurovision, which is a disappointment.
What is most disappointing though is that what I consider the number one masterpiece of all time actually ended up finishing dead last in that year.
True, “Never Forget” is a masterpiece! It’s definitely in my top 5 Eurovision songs ever!
As one of the most epic songs I have ever heard in Eurovision, how come you forgot the performance in 2012? Despite it only coming 20th, I still listen to it every day.
Everyone says Greta’s performance seemed gloomy and dark and I say It wasn’t dark enough.
I preferred the Icelandic national final performance…… The costume seemed more demure and not as shiny and S&M and the lights made sense ….. It had some intensity and the staging is Stockholm was kinda half-ass from what we’ve seen Greta pull off.
So she should have taken it the whole way and make it more dark, more mystical and with the amazing vocals on the night she would have surely qualified ….. Even tho for me personally she deserved to qualify anyway.
Don’t forget 2003. That was one classy start to the show ????
I don’t think she was being serious but the video is hilarious anyway 😀
It was shown by the news on that Greek channel in 2006 so I had already seen it 🙂
Omg!!! I never seen that video before, I don’t weather to laugh hysterically it cry hysterically! :O wow!!! Was she being serious?
@Daniel: Not to mention that Paul was one of a very few, at that time, who used the stage for a theatrical performance.
@Daniel: I watched the entire 1997 and 1998 contests early this month, and although someone said this before, I’m in agreement, that if Paul Oscar had put “Minn Hinsti Dans” in a vault for 1998, it might have been he who had gone toe-to-toe with Chiara from Malta and Imaani from the U.K. for the title. That song, more than most, was definitely millennium-ready.
Do you want a true Icelandic shocker? Try with their 1997 entry, “Minn hinsti dans”. It was the first song to prove that jury and televoting were about to disagree very often – the song scored only 2 points from juries (Estonia if I remember correctly), but snatched 16 points from 3 of the 5 countries that used televote – Sweden (8), UK (6) and Austria (2). And every point to Iceland was heavily cheered in Dublin. “Minn hinsti dans” was a true revolutionary song, a shocker because of its explicit sexual and hedonistic nature, and a true Eurovision classic.… Read more »
Angie P @ im not that old too.. and i still remember selma singing in israel at eurovision 1999 and she was the best..island deserved to win back then
oooops: I liked your reference to “If I were sorry”, it was to the point!
I don’t remember the 90s songs (I’m not that old). Still my favourite song is Yohanna’s “Is it true” followed by “Je ne sais quoi”! Love them both!
And congratulations to Iceland qualifying in the Euro2016! Hard task now against France!
As an Austrian I was not mad at all at Iceland for kicking us out of the competition. Instead I cheered with them and I wish them the best of luck. Such an adorable country!!
Their 2013 ESC entry is one of my favourites of all times.
That’s what happened: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=NVdf7KrevF0
I still laugh at Silvia Night.
Also, do you guys remember how she acted AFTER she failed to qualify? She caused a whole scene outside the stadium, where she threatened to jump off a bridge. It was crazy.
I don’t want to argue with you again but I disagree. I want a reasonable explanation. If “it’s all about politics”, then why did Israel qualify last year and why did you place in the top 10? Why did you qualify again this year and why did the German jury give you 12 points? It’s just not logical to say that. Something must have gone wrong with Mei and her performance…
Esc Greece i agree with u about salma in 1999 i remember she preformed that song in jerusalem and it was awsome..better then the winner of that year..about israel in 2014 – dont be suprised its all politics in eurovosion.
That’s true 🙂
Why hasn’t Iceland confirmed participation at Eurovision 2017 yet? I start feeling worried… maybe they are disappointed after two consecutive eliminations in the Semi-Finals. I don’t think they will withdraw (and I hope they won’t) because they don’t face any financial difficulties and they seem to be very interested in the contest. About their elimination this year: I think that the song itself was a risk. I love it but I understand why non-Eurovision fans didn’t. First of all, it doesn’t have a hook, one can’t sing along to it. It doesn’t have a balanced structure and I think it… Read more »
And of course I’m looking forward to their first victory 🙂
I love Iceland at Eurovision (and generally!), they are by far my favorite country. All of their entries since 2008 are in my top 5 except for their entry in 2011, I just like that one. Silvia Night’s performance was epic, sadly though people didn’t understand that it was just a joke and they got insulted. Lots of love to Iceland <3<3<3
“All out of Luck” shouldve won!! I’ll never get over it, even 17 years later!! Hear Them Calling and Is It True? are also awesome, but I’m not sure if any of their entries can top Selma’s happy innocent totally 90s tune 🙂
If Eurovision was being held this week, Iceland would probably win the whole thing – all of Europe is completely freaking out about them.
A message to England: …If I were sorry, but I’m not sorry, no Another Brexit here and we will soon see a third when Scotland most likely will break free. But I am happy while Iceland won the game yesterday, our national team (Sweden) played so boring, so I am not sad being that our national team didn’t qualify to Knock-out stage, we didn’t deserve it. Iceland’s national team is a perfect example of how to not play boring. But I think Eyþor should represent Iceland again, his performance was touching. Or if it is possible, Thorsteinn Einarsson, who represented… Read more »
I liked Greta’s performance. To be honest, I would have preferred the Söngvakeppnin performance with the blue background she used in Stockholm, but it was good. The gloomy and dark atmosphere was made on purpose, that’s what made the song beautiful… So sorry for her
@Robyn Gallagher – However Loreen’s face in 2012 was not well lit and I think that was an important ingredient for creating the mystique in the performance.
I will never forget Silvia Night. It was so bad, but so good at the same time. She was trolling Europe, she was poking fun at the contest by saying it was “Eurotrash free” yet the song was obvious Eurotrash. It was clever at the time and I’ll always remember Silvia.
Regarding good Icelandic entries, we’ll look no further than 2009, 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2016. They have sent some quality entries and I really hope they win soon. Eurovision at the top of the world in Reykjavik would be awesome.
Greta was amazing in Stockholm. I don`t understand why she didn`t qualify to grand final. In my opinion people don`t like dark performance and clothes. They didn`t understand Greta`s message.
Silvia Night is comic but I still remember her song and performance.
“Is it true” – it`s beautiful song.