Iceland’s Eurovision 2021 Entry

There was no Eurovision entry I was anticipating more this year than Daði og Gagnamagnið’s song. They captured the Song Contest zeitgeist last year with “Think About Things,” to the point that Strictly Come Dancing was still referencing it in promos for its fall 2020 season.

There was a bit of a bizarre backlash to the song, based on the idea that Netflix engineered it to go viral to help promote Will Farrell’s Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga. Ahem, that’s the Oscar nominated Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga. I thought the whole conspiracy story was without teeth, but as with any conspiracy stories, it had quite a few adherents who would have had fits if Iceland actually won last year.

Have I mentioned, speaking as an American, how tired I am of conspiracy stories?

Anyway, unlike the other Nordic countries, Iceland decided to eschew a national final and just send Daði og Gagnamagnið directly to Eurovision. They knew they had captured lightning in a bottle last year, and they had to hope Daði and his band of merry music makers would be able to recreate that magic with “10 Years.”

Before I get to the song, I have to address the official video for “10 Years.” I think it’s trying a bit too hard to replicate “Thing About Things” while making it just different enough to feel fresh. It doesn’t fully work for me, although that doesn’t mean I didn’t laugh out loud at its playful sense of humor.

Of course, I may just have been disappointed they weren’t wearing the  space Elvis jumpsuits.

However, that all doesn’t mean I’m not delighted by “10 Years.” It’s a charmingly wide-eyed love song for Daði’s wife Árnýja Fjóla Ásmundsdóttir (one of the electrokvinnaböske players in Gagnamagnið). It’s simple, it’s ebullient, and it shows that not everyone got COVID-divorced last year.

I am amused that Daði decided to take the subtle disco flourishes in “Think About Things” and make them more overt in “10 Years.” It actually makes a lot of sense. If the song lyrics are about unbridled joy, then what sounds more joyous than a really good disco song?

An aside: if you ever get a chance to drive around San Francisco at midnight while listening to Van McCoy’s “The Hustle,” do it. You will not be disappointed.

Like The Roop, Daði og Gagnamagnið faced the impossible task of recreating the buzz they had created last year, and they’ve made a valiant go of it. Even if I don’t believe they’ve re-engineered it as successfully as their Lithuanian colleagues, I still think they are delightful enough to make an impression in Rotterdam.

Iceland’s Eurovision 2020 Entry

A funny thing happened to Iceland in 2019. They got tired of their songs getting lost in the Eurovision Semifinals, so they mixed things up by sending an agitprop anti-capitalist industrial dance collective. It worked out pretty well: Hatari finished 10th in the Grand Final and they only got fined the €5,000 after they waved Palestinian flags in the Tel Aviv green room.

Then it dawned on everyone: hey, maybe the secret to this Eurovision thing is to find acts that stand out. Pretty men singing bland ballads are a dime a dozen. Who else is sending a geeky synth pop band who are obsessed with 8-bit animation, homemade musical instruments, and exquisite choreography?

Daði og Gagnamagnið first competed in Söngvakeppnin in 2017 with “Is This Love,” which finished as the runner up to Svala’s “Paper.” At first glance, the only real difference between “Is This Love” and “Think About Things” is that instead of singing a song to keyboardist Árnýja Fjóla Ásmundsdóttir (who is his wife), Daði Freyr Pétursson is singing a song to his infant daughter (who is not in the band yet). Otherwise, the band is pretty much doing the same thing here as they did during their first go.

But everything is now a bit more polished, a little more slick, and a lot more catchy. They have a keen sense of their own brand, right down to the costuming and the nerdy, yet chic staging. The whole package is evocative of both Napoleon Dynamite’s dance to “Canned Heat” and Pollapönk’s “No Prejudice,” with a little bit of Real Genius thrown in for good measure. It is goofy fun, made more delightful by their attention to detail.

The hidden power of “Think About Things” lies in the collective talent of backing vocalists Hulda Kristín Kolbrúnardóttir and Daði’s sister Sigrún Birna Pétursdóttir. Their vocals have been consistently tight throughout this year’s Söngvakeppnin and they add a professional sheen to the song that elevates the band’s high school talent show aesthetic.

We can imagine that this is not everyone’s cup of tea. A little too twee, a little too precious, or something like that. But we adore it because, to paraphrase a tweet from Elaine O’Neill, Daði og Gagnamagnið just look like us. We could be those kids. We frequently are those kids to this very day. And it’s nice to see someone like us make good.

Eurovision 2016 Round-Up: St. Lucia’s Independence Day Edition

All of the Eurovision Song Contest entries decided in the past couple of days have the ring of familiarity to them. Two artists make their return to the Grand Prix, and two others have tried to represent their respective nations in years past. Let’s try and relive some magic.

Bosnia & Herzegovina: Dalal & Deen featuring Ana Rucner and Jala – “Ljubav Je”

Bosnia & Herzegovina returns to Eurovision with an all-star cast of performers, including Song Contest veteran Deen. “Ljubav Je” is a standard Balkan ballad with a hip hop twist, thanks to Jala. We love how they staged the song presentation: it looked like Dalal and Deen were singing about the Romeo & Juliet-like love story between Jala and Ana Rucner. Will strings melt a hip hopper’s heart? Will rhymes be the hammer to ring the chimes of the cellist’s soul? Tune into SVT in May to find out.

Cyprus: Minus One – “Alter Ego”

Minus One are an internal selection. They vied for the chance to represent Cyprus last year and their song was one of our favorites from the national final season even if it was called “Shine.” They teamed up with the prolific Thomas G:Son to shred the hell out of their entry. It’s rocking good stuff and we’re looking forward their performance in Stockholm.

Iceland: Greta Salóme – “Hear Them Calling”

It seems that Greta Salóme took notice of all that fancy stuff Måns Zelmerlöw did at the Song Contest last year and did her own goth take on it. It’s alright, we guess, but the Lemur household is of the opinion that if Iceland was going to send a Greta song, they should have picked “Á ný,” which she wrote for Elísabet Ormslev. We’re not disappointed, Iceland, just mad.

Ukraine: Jamala – “1944”

Because this is Ukraine, we’re not entirely confident saying that Jamala is representing her country in Stockholm with “1944.” (Heck, she may not be entirely confident either, given her past experience with the Ukraine national selection process.) This is a song about Jamala’s great-grandmother, who was deported with other Crimean Tatars to Central Asia by Joseph Stalin in 1944. Andriy “Verka Serduchka” Danylko noted during Ukraine’s Lord of the Rings-length national final there is concern that it could be seen as political – certain parallels with contemporary times and all that. It’s probably just Ukraine being oversensitive and we are sure that the Russians will not complain one bit. Not one iota. Nope. Anyway, it’s a very effective song, and we could see it doing very well at the Song Contest this year.