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.
“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.