Monday, April 27, 2015

Notes from National Finals: Söngvakeppnin 2015, Iceland

It goes without saying that Söngvakeppnin is always one of my favourite national finals every year. But I'll say it anyway.

After a couple of semi-finals, it was time for this year's Icelandic national final on 14th February. Valentine's Day! But why spend the evening paying over the odds to go out with your loved one to an overpriced restaurant surrounded by boring loved up happy couples.  When you could spend the evening with the other great love of your life - national finals season!!  This was another Super Saturday with heats and semi-finals a go-go but I was saving my evening for the Icelandic final and the last night of Sanremo, which I've covered in a separate post.

But something was not right with the Icelandic final.  Something was missing...that restful little howl which we know and love.


The show began with a celebration of last year's winner, Enga fordóma, and the arrival of this year's finalists.  Following a short feature on the 'Pönk, it became clear that we would probably not see anything as quirky as them in the 2015 final.

One major change this year was a bizarre rule change which meant that if the winner chose to sing in English at Eurovision, then their song must also be in English in the national final.  I'm not sure if this applied just to Iceland or was it a general rule change?  Five of the finalists must have thought they were in with a chance as they changed their songs to English.  One of these was the pop trio Cadem - I rather liked them and thought of them as an enthusiastic Icelandic 'Alcazar-teens'.  This does have Melodifestivalen written all over it, and appropriately the whole feel of "Fly" is more scraped-through-to-Andra-Chansen than serious contender.

Sunday also chose to sing in English. Out went Fjaðrir and in came "Feathers" but it was still the coolest thing in the contest.  A Margaret Berger level of cool,  But I knew it wouldn't be enough. This song cried out for some major, massive staging, but the small venue failed it.

Björn and Friends were not only defiantly dated beyond belief, but they were uncompromising with it.  So no English translation for "Piltur og stúlka".  I checked my calendar to see that I hadn't time-travelled back to the 1980s.  They were good singers though, it has to be said.

Generic manic pixie Disney princess/prom queen alert. Maria Ólafsdóttir is a very pleasant and pretty young woman, and this is a rather cynical attempt to please. Barefoot. Unnecessary background dancing. This sounds like the kind of song which used to soundtrack teen dramas like Dawson's Creek. She has a similar natural look to Emmelie de Forest. Unbroken is a generic mid tempo number with shades of Uncover by Zara Larsson. This is in the vein of the safe entries which seem to go down well at ESC these days.

Followed by another pleasant but less-than-manic young woman. Elin Sif who also thinks she's got a chance at it as her song is translated to "Dance Slow". She wrote this herself. Its far too sickly sweet for me. Far far too sugary sweet.

Friðrik Dór reminds me a little of an Icelandic version of Erik Segerstedt with enhanced eyebrows. Extra points for "Divine" being played in the postcard.  It does have a memorable tune although the staging with the girl fans at the end of the catwalk annoys me and its embarrassing. It was a welcome change from the manic pixie girls though and although this could be any boyband-on-stools type ballad from any time in the past 20 years, he sings it very well.

The beard quota is fulfilled with nice beardy doctor bloke Haukur Heiðar Hauksson wearing what looks like leftover uniforms from the Belarus army band.  "Milljon Augnablik".  This song will get a post contest life on my iPod. But what about the interval act?

Well, it's only an all male interval act including Fridrik Omar and the wonderful Magni Asgeirsson (yes I do still miss him at Söngvakeppnin) who is going to appear in Jesus Christ Superstar with none other than Eythor Ingi, better known at EuropeCrazy HQ as "the egg a leaf guy" in the leading role.

It's Friðrik and Maria to the super final. Safe versus safe. What happened to that Icelandic 'edge' this year?  Maria wins.

Mum: why is (Maria) wandering around looking for her shoes?
Mum has spoken, she doesn't like Unbroken.  And neither do I really, if I'm honest.  In recent years Iceland has given us disco bangers, sweet, daft or anthemic pop songs and epic swooping ballads, which have all been wonderful in their own way.  Unbroken is none of these.  It's bland, and safe, and dull, and it would only have gone up in my estimations if it had stayed in Icelandic.  Iceland usually have an automatic pass to my favourite songs list in any Eurovision year.  Sorry Maria, but you're crossed off my list this year.  

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