We’re looking at all the countries currently participating in the Eurovision Song Contest and picking ten reasons why we love them — for all the right (and sometimes wrong) reasons. Today we’re heading north to Europe’s most distant country – Iceland.

Iceland debuted at Eurovision in 1986 but they still haven’t won the competition. This makes them one of the most veteran countries in the contest without a victory — although they came so close, with two second-place finishes. Here are 10 reasons why we love Iceland at the Eurovision Song Contest.

1. They are very persistent

Iceland is one of the most persistent countries to compete at Eurovision. Since they joined Eurovision in 1986, they have missed only two editions of the competition — in 1998 and in 2002 — and those were only due to relegation. Iceland is also the only Nordic nation that hasn’t won the contest yet and after Cyprus, they are the country with the longest period of participation without a victory. Let’s hope they won’t have to wait much longer before they finally take the trophy to Reykjavik!

2. A member of the Icelandic parliament performed at Eurovision

In 2014, the kid-friendly punk band Pollapönk went to Copenhagen with the upbeat rock song “No Prejudice”. As well as the four band members, the group had two backing vocalists. One of these was Óttarr Proppé, who at the time was a member of parliament. He took a break from being a politician and became the purple Polli. He was especially noted for delivering an enthusiastic “Hey!”

3. Twice as nice

During their 32 years of participation, Iceland has sent seven duos — that’s almost 25% of their entries. Iceland was particularly fond of sending pairs in the late ’80s and early ’90s, when four duos went to Eurovision, including Stjórnin with “Eitt lag enn (1990) and Heart 2 Heart with “Nei eða já” (1992). Most recently, Greta Salóme and Jónsi performed “Never Forget” in 2012.

4. They have their own legendary divas

Despite being such a small nation, Iceland has more than its fair share of divas. In fact, their best results were achieved by female singers. Selma almost brought Iceland its first victory, with “All Out of Luck” back in 1999, and Yohanna also finished second with “Is It True?”. The following year, Hera Björk delivered “Je ne sais quoi” which continues to be a Euroclub favourite to this day. And Greta Salóme was a huge fan favourite in 2016 with “Hear them Calling”.

5. They turned a sudden departure into a moving tribute

Sjónni Brink was a well-respected musician in Iceland but tragically died from a heart attack after he had submitted his song to the 2011 national final. Despite his sudden death, his friends paid tribute to him by forming the group Sjónni’s Friends and they won the national final with his song “Coming Home”. A song which originally had been written to symbolise life and happiness became a commemoration for its writer. The story behind it added a touching aspect that made the song even more special.

6. Their emotional ballads

Iceland has delivered many ballads to Eurovision — and it’s also one of their great strengths. One of the most famous was “Is It True?”, but there are other epic songs such as “Heaven” (2004) “Valentine Lost” (2007) “Ég á líf” (2013) and most recently in Lisbon “Our Choice”. Unfortunately, some of these great songs weren’t appreciated by the voting audience.

7. The huge gaps between their semi-final and grand final results

It’s a curious thing — in many years, when Iceland does well in the semi-final, this result does not repeat itself in the grand final. In 2010, Hera Bjork finished third in her semi-final but struggled in the final, and only reached 19th place. The same gap was seen in the case of Sjonni’s Friends in 2011 – fourth place in the semi-final and a sharp fall straight to the 20th position in the final.

8. Silvia Night’s extravagance

In 2006, Iceland sent the obnoxious and outrageous Silvia Night as their candidate. The song was called “Congratulations” and it was about the dream of comedy character Silvia Night (played by Ágústa Eva Erlendsdóttir) to win Eurovision. After earlier trash-talking Greece, an arena full of booing greeted her, and she did little to win over viewers when she sang “The vote is in, I’ll fricking win, too bad for all the others”. Unsurprisingly the song failed to qualify, but it remains one of Eurovision’s most extravagant moments.

9. They can work Icelandic lyrics

Since the language rule was lifted in 1999, Iceland has mostly sent songs in English. The one big exception was in 2014, when Iceland sent Eythor Ingi with “Ég á líf“, a ballad which was sung entirely in Icelandic. It made it to the grand final and reminded viewers of how powerful Icelandic lyrics can be. Many international fans of Iceland — who often complain when their favourite national final songs end up performed with English lyrics — would love to hear more Icelandic lyrics at Eurovision.

10. Yohanna

It would be a sin to finish this list without mentioning Yohanna. She represented Iceland in 2009 with her beautiful and breathtaking song “Is It True?”. The song finished first in its semi-final and second in the grand final with the most points ever given to Iceland in the history of the competition. It was no match for the juggernaut that was Rybak’s “Fairytale”, but the song has since entered the pantheon of beloved Eurovision entries thanks to Yohanna’s stunning performance on stage.

Bonus! Years that end with nine

There’s something magic about the number nine. Both Selma and Yohanna gave Iceland their best results, each with second-place finishes, in 1999 and 2009. Does this mean another silver medal is written in the stars for Iceland at Eurovision 2019? Perhaps, but in 1989, Daníel Ágúst‘s song “Það sem enginn sér” gave Iceland its first (and to date only) nil points result. If history is going to repeat next year, let’s hope it’s in a good way!

What are your favourite moments from Iceland at Eurovision? Tell us in the comments section below!

Read more Iceland Eurovision news here

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Bruno
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Bruno

I love Iceland , beautiful talented people and amazing language , hope they will do better next year, good luck:)

Yodenman
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Yodenman

Yohanna is a very talented singer, but greatly underused. She released the brilliant Butterflies and Elvis way back in 2008, but has not followed it up with another album. She changed her manager after the contest and her career suffered drastically as a result. She should be internationally known by now, but outside the Eurovision family, I doubt anyone has even heard her music. This is such a shame, because as stated before, she is a special talent.I have visited Iceland and noticed how varied and quirky their music scene is. That’a why I find it frustrating when they send… Read more »

Polegend Godgarina
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Butterflies and Elvis is one of the best albums from a Eurovision singer, in my opinion. Not one single bad song on it.

Regina Phalange
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Regina Phalange

Love Iceland, hopefully they will keep participating and find a way to do well again.

AngieP
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AngieP

I love Iceland at Eurovision, because of its talent, its language and its awesome names.
I also love them because they haven’t won yet and I want them to win some time soon.
Extra reason: “Is it true?” with this amazing performance. It was so unlucky to be the same year as “Fairytale”. In any other case, it would have won.

Ana
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Ana

You should have mentioned Minn Hinsti Dans which was very cutting-edge, interesting and different from the songs in that period of time. I like almost all of the songs you wrote about but I have a special feeling for Greta and Jonsi – both as solo performers at ESC and as a duet.
PS I wish I could see the rock side of Iceland (and other Scandinavian nations!) like in Valentine Lost – they seem to be born for such music <3

Lolz
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Lolz

Minn histi dans was horribly underrated
It would have come 6th in televoting but got only 2 points from the juries!

Richard
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Richard

I totally loved Silvia Night, and couldn’t understand why people didn’t get the joke. 2006 was a bad year for booing. The audience seemed to have lost any sense of humour. Its true that Iceland appear to have gone off the boil, but they have a great back catalogue and are sure to come back stronger.

pp77
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pp77

For me best 5 song from Iceland
1.1997
2.2003
3.1986
4.2005
5.1991
than 1995,2010,2007,2016,2008….. they send so many good song.
For me underrated in 1986, 1991,1995,1997,2004, 2010,2013
Overrated in 1990,1992, 2009
Deserved to go to final in 2005,2007,2016
Iceland was 2 times in 2 nd place in 1999 in Jerusalem and in 2009 in Moscow. Maybe in 2019 we see Iceland on second place again.

Kirby
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Kirby

This is off-topic, but I’d like to add that Hera Björk won 2013 Viña Del Mar (Chile) Festival, one of the oldest song contests in the world. She hasn’t been the only Eurovision star at Viña Del Mar: Greek singer Elpida won it in 1975, and in 1973 Romuald (although not the winner) provided the most famous Viña Del Mar song, “Laisse-moi le temps”, later sung in English by Frank Sinatra. 1969’s winner Lenny Kuhr participated in Viña as well.

Joe
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Joe

For a small country, Iceland has a surprisingly big music industry, and they know how to send their best and brightest to Eurovision. A bunch of favorites (No Prejudice, the ahead-of-its-time Minn hinsti dans, the goofy but fun Sjubiddu, All Out of Luck of course), but the two that stand out the most for me are Coming Home and Is It True. It’s hard to pick which one is my favorite, but Coming Home is especially special for me because it was one of the first Eurovision songs I heard, and I had the context beforehand to make it extra… Read more »

Raoul
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Raoul

Is It True was pure purity.

Vanilla Bean
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Vanilla Bean

Iceland is one of my favorite countries on earth. Always worth a visit, no matter what. I adored Jónsi when I watched Eurovision 2004 as a kid, then Selma came and screwed up. Yohanna redeemed Iceland, Greta Salomé certainly managed to inspire but now… after this year’s disaster, I kind of stopped rooting for them. They managed to send the most awful song out of a truly awful bunch. Toddlers have better songwriting skills than the woman who committed this year’s crime. I never thought Iceland of all countries would become this amateurish.

Nick
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Nick

I used to love them and I still do, but something went really wrong after 2014. The only icelandic song I liked since then are 2015 and 2018 and those weren’t even great sonhs (especially not 2018 lol)

MMM
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MMM

Silvia Night was the best ever. I still to this day quote her, when I’m doing something I think is awesome and everyone is clearly hating it and hating on me, I’ll say “Thankyou Europe! Thankyou for loving me!” (what she said at the end of her performance when the boos were ringing out) ? and my friends that get the reference always laugh

Loin dici
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Loin dici

Dear, no Svala in the list?

Hrvatska
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Hrvatska

I love icelandic language

Duane
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Duane

SVALA SVALA SVALA SVALA ?

Jonas
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Jonas

Great list, but we can’t forget about Paul Oscar and his ground-breaking “Minn Hinsti Dans”!

Celi
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Celi

I was waiting for this too. It was so different and bold!

James
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James

“Ég Á Lif” was sent in 2013, not 2014. 🙂

Tylos
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Tylos

Maybe they can send Daníel Ágúst back in 2019 with his phenomenal band GusGus!!

CookyMonzta
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CookyMonzta

Yes! Send the whole band this time!