The road to Lisbon is getting shorter, and many of this year’s acts are on promotion tour around Europe, including Iceland’s sweetheart Ari Ólafsson, who has been busy introducing himself and “Our Choice” to Eurovision thirsty audience across the continent. But back in Iceland, attitudes to “Our Choice” have been a little frosty

Ari had a blast in London, sharing unforgettable moments with the audience at Café de Paris, news reporters and fellow contestants. He is now in Tel Aviv, and continues to wow people with his flawless vocals and approachable and friendly demeanour.

But although the preview parties are all fun and games, there are dark clouds piling up in Iceland. The trouble stems from Iceland’s Eurovision preview TV show, Alla Leið. Every episode, the show’s two main panellists and two guest panellists give their personal and honest opinion about this year’s entries. And they were pulling no punches when it came to critiquing Iceland’s entry.

The 2018 edition main experts are Friðrik Dór Jónsson (runner-up in Söngvakeppnin 2015 and one of María Ólaf’s backing vocalists) and Helga Möller (part of Iceland debut Eurovision trio ICY). The panellists were rather positive in their reviews of Albania, Azerbaijan, Estonia and Israel (which got the highest score), but when it was time for the home country Iceland, a different energy entered the room.

None of the panellists were particularly supportive towards Iceland’s entry “Our Choice”, deeming it old-fashioned, unmemorable, boring and declaring that it had no chance whatsoever to qualify from the semifinals on May 8. However, the show host was much more positive and supportive.

Helga Möller then turned it up a notch, saying that she, in fact, didn’t like any of the songs in Söngvakeppnin 2018 and that she was surprised at how uninteresting they were. But on the other hand, all the panellists praised Ari Ólafsson himself and thought he was a superb singer — charming, connecting beautifully with the audience and frankly just too good for the song.

Needless to say, the composer of the song, Þórunn Erna Clausen was less than impressed by the negative comments and expressed her anger and disappointment. “I find it odd when someone is judging another person’s art creation and hard work in such a negative way. Apparently its impossible to compose music that fits everyone’s taste” she said on Facebook.

She also took a subtle jab at RÚV, saying, “This is done differently in other countries. There, the national broadcaster stands behind the songs and tries to show them in a positive light, not like this.” This suggests that she feels RÚV doesn’t support her to the degree she would like.

Whatever the understanding might be, it is hard to blame RÚV specifically for individual opinions of the expert panel. They are there to express their honest opinion, which doesn’t necessarily express the opinion of the entire nation or the national broadcaster and does not affect the final outcome of Eurovision. But those were harsh words indeed, and maybe understandable that Þórunn is hurt.

What do you think? Were the panellists too ruthless in their reviews? Should they always support their local act? Share your thoughts below!

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Sunna
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Sunna

I love Ari – but the song is ….
and it is a panel show where people are asked about their opinions – they gave their opninions
and if Þórunn can’t handle it i think she should get out of the eurovision business

Cornelis Schäfer
Guest
Cornelis Schäfer

I really, REALLY love this song. Ok, it sounds a bit dated, but it has Charme. Ari is such an amazing singer and so good-looking… everything is okay.

BUT I like the icelandic version a little bit more…

I give from the bottom of my beauty heart (10/10) and wish you the best – singer AND composer!!!!

Briekimchi
Guest
Briekimchi

Your job is to write a song. Many people would consider that a privilege. Can’t deal with criticism? Do something else. Or better yet, write a better song. Poor Ari is the one who has to go out and try to give life to this musical corpse. I know who I feel sorry for and it is not the songwriter.

Briekimchi
Guest
Briekimchi

On a side note, I find it refreshing that a broadcaster is allowing honest opinions when it comes to their own song. Having followed the absurd bigging-up of atrocious UK songs by the BBC over the years, I welcome a more self-aware approach.

Charles
Guest
Charles

Before and foremost being any kind of party … it IS a contest and like any competition it is required that you show your best effort … you can always enjoy the experience BUT you never loose your sight on the main focus: it’s a song contest … play your musical game the best you can … and don’t compete for votes, compete for credibility and with the purpose to seduces those listening to you … that is how those votes come up towards you.

Lilja
Guest
Lilja

People like Clausen are what’s wrong with the world today… Nobody can say their opinion on something without someone getting offended.

up!
Guest
up!

Well, they just said the truth… this was by far the weakest selection of this year… the Icelandic entry is performing leagues beyond the majority of this season…

Eve
Guest
Eve

He looks so sincere while he sings those silly peace and love lyrics, so actually he sells it pretty well, I wouldn’t count him out yet! 😀

Clausen go home
Guest
Clausen go home

This woman needs to stay away as far as possible from the Icelandic finals. Clearly, she is unfit to write songs. What’s more, she’s also delusional, calling her piece of garbage “art creation and hard work”. She’s the worst thing to ever happen to Eurovision.

Skiwalko
Guest
Skiwalko

That’s a bit rude. I wouldn’t call her work art creation or hard work, but I think she did a pretty good job with “Coming Home”. And that song had some value after all (and heartbreaking story behind it). Of course you can dislike her songs, as many people do, but calling her “the worst thing to ever happen to Eurovision” is to me an exaggeration.

Digital Style
Guest
Digital Style

Ari is a man of immense talent and charisma so to see him done dirty like this is upsetting. I agree – he is far too good to be given a cheesy and lifeless song that does not suit him in any respect.

TJ
Guest
TJ

Stop whining. The amount of work is irrelevant to quality. You can work years and produce bad results. If you cant handle criticizm, write better songs or look for a job where you don‘t expose your work publicly.

Magpie
Guest
Magpie

I know Ari has a bad song this year, but if the comments about his personality are true, could people actually vote Iceland into the grand final?

It seems like Ari is working around the clock to make sure this song works.

Thespb01
Guest
Thespb01

No chance – it’s a ballad in the death slot. Casual viewers won’t know or care about his nice personality & voice – they’ll hear the song and immediately forget it.

Joe
Guest
Joe

Their thoughts are basically my thoughts. Poor guy.

AzeriChico
Guest
AzeriChico

He deserves so much better than this song. Pity. :/

Bgc
Guest
Bgc

Don’t think I’ve ever felt so bad about hating a Eurovision song before, as Ari is so lovable and a great singer. But sadly nobody could take a song like “Our Choice” and make it great. The only way to salvage anything from the performance is to sing in Icelandic: the lyrics may still be as saccharine and cringe but at least the rest of Europe could then enjoy the beautiful Icelandic language without having to understand the trite lyrics (something Svala also should have done last year!) Anyway I hope this won’t be Ari’s only time at ESC –… Read more »

Rory
Guest
Rory

Ari is great and we can all agree on that.

And I truly wanna see him in the Final so can mediocre wannabe journos or ranking-persons-whatever blow their mind in that exact second.

I’ve stated multiple times before – this is not a song that can do something on its own, but Ari does miracles to it. Poland 2016 comes on my mind. I hope that it will at least have the half of its fate. 🙂

Denise pls
Guest
Denise pls

One step at a time

Roy Moreno
Guest
Roy Moreno

Let’s put aside how charming Ari is as a person (let alone singer, he’s great!) Our Choice is not bad at all Perhaps a bit weaker than other songs in semi final 1 but the melody is enjoyable for me and I also think the lyrics are simply amazing and it’s important to have songs like that I’m almost 100% sure he is not going to qualify (also performing 2nd on the night, so…) but it will still be sad Anyway, Iceland can and should be proud of Ari Bringing personality, charm and love to the contest If all Icelandic… Read more »

Álvaro
Guest
Álvaro

What’s with the bullying on this guy?
Seems the nicest guy of this year to me.

So people keeps hating on his song.
Let him perform and show how far he can go.

Robyn Gallagher
Editor

The criticism isn’t aimed at Ari. If anything, people are rapidly falling in love with him, impressed by his charm, humour and (of course) his incredible vocal talent.

The problem is his song. It seems that the more people get to know and love Ari, the more annoyed they are that it seems his talents are being wasted on such a mediocre song. But he seems happy singing it, so we should respect that. 🙂

Rasmus
Guest
Rasmus

Ari seems like a sweet person. Im sad that Iceland has no chance to qualify. I wish he had a better song.

Ireland on the other hand i was hard on at first. I think they have a shot after heard them live. I think Ireland will be this years Portugal, a grower. So if i were an irish fan i would be happier then a icelandic fan.

Jenny
Guest
Jenny

They’re right Iceland has no chance to qualify to the final the song is so old fashioned and boring it’s probably going to finish last in the semi

Anita
Guest
Anita

It is just true that this entry would have been great in the 60ies or something for Eurovision. It is not a timeless peace and in that way it is old fashioned and dated. Besides of that the singer has great vocal abilities – and it is the singers decision to go for such a song, so you can’t really seperate the artist from the song. On the other hand I am all for appreciating the strength and good things besides the weak ones. And Eurovision needs the divercity – also in quality, because would there be any fun with… Read more »

LEO ESC AUT
Guest
LEO ESC AUT

@OFF TOPIC – WOW

Finland – Saara Aalto performs on piano by herself. She is singing ‘Monsters’
In 34 Languages – those languages from participating Eurovision countries.
It’s a very nice gesture from here, but unfortunately it’s too late now , she won’t perform it in Lisbon as this version has a time of 03:50 min/sec, it’s over the maximum ESC limit time of 03:00 min/sec.
To every ESC fan – all I can say ENJOY !
https://youtu.be/L9Y3AxgV1f4

Madrileño
Guest
Madrileño

AMAZZING.

Colin
Guest
Colin

This is really awesome! Saara is an incredible vocal talent and I also appreciate her tribute to all the participants.

Darren
Guest
Darren

Ari’s sound would stand out more in Icelandic I think. In English it just seems too mediocre, it also clashes with Ireland and to a lesser extent, Austria in its semi.
Icelandic would have elevated it I think and offered “something” different.

Madrileño
Guest
Madrileño

ARI SEXI MAN WITH A GREAT VOICE WE WAIT FOR YOU IN SUMMER IN SPAIN.
BUT GET LOTS OF POINTS FIRST

Darren
Guest
Darren

I like Israel this year but it won’t win. The winner will be so unexpected this year. If it’s not Australia, it’s going to be a dark horse completely off everyone’s radar at the minute (I’m looking at France, Italy and Bulgaria right now).

poe-tay-toe chips
Guest
poe-tay-toe chips

I really hope that when Iceland inevitably does not qualify, that Ari would at least not take it too personally and understand that he is not at fault.

He’s charismatic and has a great voice.

He was just screwed over by someone else giving him a poor song.

Had he had a better song, I think someone like him could qualify easy.

I hope the poor guy gets a second chance with an oppurtunity to come back later on with a better song.

Honestly…Ari is too good for his song.

Darren
Guest
Darren

I really feel Ari is getting a hard time everywhere. First it was crying at the NF, then he gets a lot of stick about Iceland being dead on arrival in Lisbon this year, now this. The song is pretty inoffensive sure and certainly won’t win, but it’s really not that bad. Ari seems like a sensitive young soul and all these comments and attacks are very damaging to his self esteem. In a fair world, Iceland would qualify over the likes of Azerbaijan, Armenia etc but alas…this isn’t a fair world…this is Eurovision. Keep going Ari, you’re doing grand!

MrBrightside
Guest
MrBrightside

XD

Israel will be hosting next year as Italy hosts this year. 😉

Boy
Guest

I like this song. Its my toop 10. Its so many bad song this year. If Ukeain have this song it should winn.

Choices
Guest
Choices

That’s right. Ari is way too good to this oldfashioned, boring ballad. He could sing so much better, modern ballad. Much love to Ari<3

Robyn Gallagher
Editor

Bring back Pollapönk! Seriously though, “No Prejudice” was basically Iceland’s last good entry. A fun, catchy song, a likeable band and really memorable staging. It left the audience with a smile. Iceland of recent years feels too stiff, too formal. They need to loosen up and have some fun!

Nickc
Guest
Nickc

Agree 100 %. In the same vein, Golddigger might have had a shot at qualifying this year.

Callum
Guest
Callum

Aaron, I don’t know who you are responding to but is there any Eurovision discussion that merits calling somebody ‘stupid’?

BTW, I really liked ‘I hear them calling’?

Darren
Guest
Darren

Oh Robyn! Hear Them Calling was one of their strongest ever entries in my opinion. I still listen to it. Should have qualified….starting to get emotional… #NowImSad

ghh
Guest
ghh

I still don’t get the hype of I Hear Them Calling.

Darren
Guest
Darren

It was a great folk song, very typical of the Icelandic music scene, was hella catchy and the staging was cool too! Iceland was an early winner of mine during NF season, and stayed in my top 10 throughout. Sadly missed the final but really shouldn’t have, such an injustice.

Robyn Gallagher
Editor

“I Hear Them Calling” had so much fan love! I think the staging killed it. Apart from Russia getting in first with a really impressive projection, Greta was in the dark for too long due to the dim lighting. It was shady and gothic when it should have been brighter and more uplifting.

Colin
Guest
Colin

I agree. I liked No Prejudice a lot and honestly, they could have made the same cute effect with Aron Brink last year.

Jonas
Guest
Jonas

They should get John Grant involved again, his lyrics are so great.

Mel
Guest
Mel

They’re not wrong… The only thing deserving praise is Ari himself and his vocal abilities, which they rightfully recognized. I don’t really see what the problem is.

LULU
Guest

I have to agree this year in general for most of the countries it’s has been very poor ,I’m not really looking forward to watching the contest as in previous years, I can only pick about 5 songs this year that i can say they are good , the rest are very poor indeed

James
Guest
James

Justice for Heim.

Renaida
Guest
Renaida

Did they lie? NO!

Dan Marino
Guest
Dan Marino

I am sorry but she is so right even about there NF. I hate all of the songs in Iceland’s NF this year and didn’t even pay any attention to it because it was awful

I’m on her side about this because the song is boring and so outdated and also the other songs were just rubbish too

Lagead
Guest
Lagead

The poor fella deserves a better song with those vocal abilities. Love him.

Emre Dinç
Guest
Emre Dinç

They’re right. It’s boring (((

C
Guest
C

Ari is great. Nothing more to say there. I just feel so bad for him! His song is literally the meme of the year. It’s far less inspiring and far more cringe-worthy than anything else served up this year. I can’t believe this song even made it into the 2018 NF season, much less Eurovision. Ari definitely deserved better and so did Iceland.