It’s Eurovision time. The time of year when half the population of Europe goes crazy—flag-waving, song-singing, chaos-inducing crazy—and the other half wants everyone to know that they don’t even care about Eurovision… whilst they watch the entire thing and live-tweet it “ironically.” Whichever side you’re on, you can’t escape it. As an unapologetic huge fan, I was really excited to go to Iceland’s selection finals, where the country would decide its representative at the Grand Final in Kiev, Ukraine. I was also excited to see where Iceland fits on the Eurovision-love spectrum. Turns out, they’re at the total devotion end. Especially the kid sat next to me, who jumped up and down on her seat for three hours straight. The atmosphere at Laugardalshöll—where the show took place—was one of intense anticipation and excitement. And it wasn’t just the live audience that went mad for the show: according to Vísir, over 235,000 televotes were counted (equivalent to two thirds of the Icelandic population), at a cost of around 30.3 million króna. Now that’s some real Eurovision love.
This show was like watching a teaser trailer for the main event. It had every Eurovision cliché you can expect to see in the finals: the guy in the questionable leather trousers, the cheesy duet, the guy with all the confetti, the loveable novelty act and, of course, the winner. Not only that, but with special appearances from 2015’s winner Måns Zelmerlöw, as well as Alexander Rybak (aka the violin guy from 2009), it was heaven for a Eurovision lover (aka me).
As of 2016, Iceland is the only northern European country that is yet to win Eurovision, so the stakes are high. Luckily though, this year’s competition included two really strong acts that not only stood out from their fellow contenders, but also seemed to shine a glimmer of hope for an Icelandic victory. Daði Freyr and his song “Is This Love?” was pure geek chic electronic pop. Each member of his group wore a jumper with their own face printed on it, and there was not one, not two, not even three, but four keytars. And you can never have too many keytars. Despite Daði and his group’s best efforts, they placed second, but they still had smiling faces all round. Perhaps they were slightly relieved—Kiev is a long way to transport four keytars.
The winner was Svala, a.k.a. Svala Björgvins, the favourite of many Eurovision blogs (which are a thing that exists, apparently). She’s been singing professionally since the age of seven, is a coach on the Icelandic version of ‘The Voice’, and her father Björgvin Halldórsson, the godfather of Icelandic Christmas music, represented Iceland at Eurovision in 1995. She is a total pro. As soon as she stepped out on stage, I knew I was looking at a winner. I mean, she was wearing a white pantsuit and Spice Girl platforms—if that doesn’t say girl power victory, I don’t know what does. And it wasn’t just her outfit that stood out. Her performance was mesmerising, polished and also had lasers. And I love lasers. In fact, her performance was so captivating that the couple sitting in front of me actually stopped making out for a moment to watch. Just for a moment though, and then they were right back at it.
Svala’s song, “Paper,” which she cowrote with her husband, is a real epic anthem, much like Sweden’s entry “Euphoria” from back in 2012, or Austria’s “Rise Like A Phoenix” in 2014. And… I don’t want to jinx it or anything… but both those entries won. This song also deals with some pretty complex themes. Svala has been very open about her struggles with anxiety and, as she explained in a press conference after the show, this song is a rally cry of sorts: “It’s about not giving up, not being ashamed.” When asked if she thinks she could win, she simply replied, “I will do my best.” And by the looks of that competitive glint in her eye, she truly means it.
Could this really be Iceland’s year? The bookies say no. Currently, Iceland is ranked as the 23rd favourite to win. But hey, opinion polls aren’t exactly the most reliable things these days, so it could still happen. Have faith, Iceland. Everyone loves an underdog, and your underdog is a bad-ass woman in a pantsuit and platforms—she’s got this.
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