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:
— Greta Salóme (@gretasalome) June 27, 2016