Sunday, February 24, 2013

Catch-Up: Söngvakeppnin, Iceland - 02.03.2013

This year's Icelandic national final took place on 02.02.13, on yet another of those 'Super Saturdays' where it jostled for laptop time with heat 1 of Melodifestivalen, heat 3 of MGP and the final in Malta.  The qualifying process was quick and painless - only two semi-finals - and the qualifiers were joined by one wild card entry which failed to qualify from those semi-finals.  The two-hour final was preceded by a preview-show, and the contest was opened by one half of last year's Söngvakeppnin-winning duo.  Sadly it wasn't Jónsi, but rather Gréta Salóme showcasing some new material.

I mentioned the wild card earlier.  Happily, that wild card entry was none other than "Ekki Lita Undan" sung by Magni Ásgeirsson.  Regular readers of this blog and my Twitter feed will not be surprised to learn that I was delighted about this, as I've become a big fan of Magni and his music over the last couple of years.  On the first couple of hearings I didn't like the song as much as "Hugarro" but after more listens it completely won me over and now I love it.  The stage presentation had been beefed-up since the semi-final, with Magni's microphone stand wrapped in chains.  As usual, Magni gave it his all on this mid-tempo pop-rock song. Never mind ESC, "Ekki Lita Undan" goes direkt till the 2013-50!  I'm not sure how long he'll keep doing Söngvakeppnin though: there comes a time when all 'repeat offenders' finally have to throw their hands up and admit defeat.  But one more time would be nice....

"Lífið Snýst" next, sung by Svavar Knútur Kristinsson and Hreindís Ylva Garðarsdóttir Hólm, was a pleasant, old fashioned ditty with a whiff of Sjonni's Friends about it. At least it had a tune, unlike most of the songs in every national final this year!

The presence of Örlygur Smári's name in any Icelandic songwriting line-up is usually a cause for celebration and this year it was no different, however you'll have to look elsewhere for a "This Is My Life"-type stomper, because "Ég á líf" was an anthemic, theatrical ballad sung by a hairy bloke named Eyþór Ingi Gunnlaugsson which, on the night, had 'winner' written all over it - and I'm not just saying that with the benefit of hindsight.

I was quite excited to hear that Birgitta Haukdal was back in Songvakeppnin this year,   After all, she is pretty fab, I loved her in ESC 10 years ago and she even had a guest spot in Næturvaktin! Unfortunately, "Meðal Andanna" didn't float my boat.  It was as if the multi-national line-up of songwriters (including Birgitta herself) had tried too hard to write a 'Eurovision song'.  She still has a lovely voice and I'd love to see her back again with a better song.

Next up,Jogvan Hansen and Stefanía Svavarsdóttir. Yet another male-female duo, both of whom gave a strong vocal performance of Til þín. I was trying to think of how to describe it: think "In A Moment Like This" on steroids and you get the idea. Again, like Birgitta's song, the end result was a little too old-Eurovision-which-they-don't-do-any-more.

There's been a bit of an upsurge in easy-going acoustic songs of late.  Here's another one: "Vinátta" written and sung by Haraldur Reynisson. Quite a pleasant song, with simple staging - he's sat on a stool, flanked by two female backing singers also sitting on stools. Although it's one of those songs which drifts past and doesn't make much of an impact.

Unnur Eggertsdóttir was next on stage with "Ég Syng!", a chirpy, lightweight and fun mid-tempo pop number. Unnur looked a little bit like Kylie Minogue, I thought.

Songs out of the way and it was time for the interval act, which simultaneously managed to combine some of Iceland's best-loved ESC participants - Euroband and Selma - with a random selection of Eurovision winners - Making Your Mind Up, Ein Bisschen Frieden and Euphoria. (And, for some reason, Gente di Mare, which kinda qualifies as it should have won!) I didn't really see the point in the two guys in the dinner suits, a kind of Icelandic Ant and Dec, who seemed to get a bit too much screen time. Just get on with the results!

Superfinal time.  Where it was all about.....the eggs.

Yes, it was Egg a Leaf versus Egg Sing in the superfinal. And that's no yolk! Dressed in a black shirt and white jacket, Eyþór once again gave a very strong and dependable performance of his song. You get the feeling that your song would be in good hands with this guy.  Unlike Unnur, whose vocals didn't match up with her enthusiasm and exuberant performance of her song.  (A bit like Adelen in this year's MGP).

Whilst we waited for the final votes to be counted we were treated to an interview with Hera Bjork and yet another one of the numerous ad breaks.  Actually, that's one of the reasons I love watching national finals, just to see all those foreign ads.  It's the same when I go on holiday abroad - I love the ad breaks!

So finally, the result of the voting was announced.  It's Eyþór who's going to sing for Iceland in Malmö. As the ticker-tape rained down, Eyþór didn't seem too egg-cited (groan) at winning. But he gave yet another faultless reprise of his song and us tweeters very quickly all came to one conclusion:

Dear Iceland, please do NOT translate this song into English for Eurovision.  KEEP IT IN ICELANDIC! It could "do a Kuula" if you keep it in Icelandic.  So many songs really have been 'lost in translation' over the years since the introduction of free language.

I think this song has a strong chance of doing well in Malmö - a simple, memorable song sung by a good singer with a strong voice and good stage presence.  Good luck Eyþór!

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