Preview: Iceland 2011 —Songvakeppni Sjonvarpsins


Saturday, February 12, in Reykjavik


There are several.

  • What will our presenter Ragnhildur Steinunn be wearing?

Iceland is the final resting place for zero budget, age-inappropriate dresses. Befitting her homeland, Ms Steinunn has some of the most questionable personal style we’ve seen in a television host.  During the first semifinal, this young, beautiful former Miss Iceland wore a black vintage dress, hair, and jewelry that belonged on Kitty Carlisle Hart.

Kitty Carlisle Hart rocking the Ragnhildur Steinunn
(Image from
  • Will Yohanna be overshadowed by the ghost of Sjonni?

Sigerjon Brink had competed in several Icelandic selection shows since 2005.  Sadly, 36-year-old Sjonni passed away in January 2011.  Icelandic organizers decided to keep his entry in the song contest and have his friends sing the song as a tribute.  “Aftur Heim” emerges as a sentimental favorite among Icelandic voters.  Icelandic organizers placed it last in the running order.  If it wasn’t the front runner before, it is now.

In the 2009 ESC, Yohanna represented Iceland with “Is It True.”  Only 17 years old at the time, she projected dewy naiveté and an emotional, polished vocal—a powerful combination.  Her performance catapulted Iceland to an excellent 2nd place overall finish.  This year’s entry, “Nott,” isn’t as good a song, but Yohanna will be remembered fondly by Eurovision observers and her talent as a performer makes her a hard act to beat.  Yohanna, however, is buried in the running order – she goes 3rd.

For a potential upset, look to Jogvan Hansen and Magni Asgeirsson.  Both are good performers, have stronger songs, and have advantageous placements in the running order (6th and 7th, respectively).

  • Watch Matti Matt go!

Matthías Matthíasson will be a busy boy on Saturday, with lead vocals on “Eldgos” and “Aftur Heim.”

  • Spot the former Eurovision backup singer.

Iceland has talented singers, but a short bench. “Spot the former Eurovision back up singer” is a time-honored armchair viewing tradition for Iceland musical entertainment. In this installment, after singing backup to Hera Bjork in 2010, Erna Hrönn Ólafsdóttir attempts a lead vocal.  Not much else is remarkable about her entry.

Songs we’ll be looking for:

Nott.  Songvakeppni Sjonvarpsins requires all entries be sung in Icelandic.  That’s a shame, because “Nott” was written in English, is probably better in English, and if it made the ESC, would probably be sung in English.  As it is now, “Nott” is a wordy, sing-songy ballad that doesn’t connect emotionally with the audience.  The first line of the refrain sounds like “The Power of Love” from Celine Dion.  Yohanna is in excellent voice and makes the most of her mediocre material.

Eldgos.  For comic relief, we will be treated to a bat-shit insane entry from Matthías Matthíasson & Erla Björg Káradóttir. “Eldgos” is a melodramatic meditation on… the volcano. Yes, that Icelandic volcano that tied up European air transportation for several months last year. We haven’t heard this kind of heaven-and-hell duet/operatic screeching since Elnur and Samir (Azerbaijan 2008).  A howler.

Ég Lofa. In our opinion, Jogvan Hansen is the dark horse of the competition. Once it gets going, “Ég Lofa” is a strong song and stands out as sounding more contemporary than the front runners.  Hansen has proved he can get Icelandic votes by winning Iceland’s X Factor in 2007.  The national final will probably be about Yohanna or Sjonni, but this is our pick.

Ég trúi á betra líf. Magni Asgeirsson has impressive stage presence, and the camera loves him.  Belting out a hard rock ballad, he could inspire people to pick up the phones and vote.  He’s done it before; American audiences might recognize him as a finalist from Rock Star: Supernova.  We like him, but we don’t care for the song.  Too bad he couldn’t cover Radiohead here.

Aftur Heim. Sentiment notwithstanding, the song is a plausible enough candidate; we’ve seen similar entries at ESC before — see Rollo & King (Denmark 2001). It’s folksy, cute, and upbeat. There’s a ragtime quality to the arrangement, but something cinematic about it too—we imagine hearing this song during the closing credits of Paper Moon or Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Bottom line:  the song does not measure up against the entries we’re starting to see from other countries.  If “Aftur Heim” goes though, it’s because Icelandic voters wanted the feel-good story.