Published September 17, 2018
Stjórnin took Icelandic pop and turned it upside down, creating some of Iceland’s best known dance hits and party songs in their prolific career. A collaboration between singers Grétar Örvarsson and Sigríður ‘Sigga’ Beinteinsdóttir, the band burst into the musical scene in 1988 and has left the country tapping their feet and bobbin’ their heads since.
In April 1988, Grétar joined up with singer Alda Björk Ólafsdóttir, bassist Eiður Arnarsson, saxophonist Einar Bragi Bragason, guitarist Hilmar Jensson, and drummer Matthías Hemstock to create a project which he titled Stjórnin. The group only recorded one song, ‘Ég þrái sumar og sól’ (‘I Long For Summer And Sun´), which immediately gained widespread radio play across the country. Following the musical trends of the time, the tune was a cover of Diana Ross’s ‘I’m Getting Ready For Love’ with altered Icelandic lyrics. Taking foreign music and rewriting the words in Icelandic was very popular within the country then.
Soon after, Alda Björk left the band for London. She was replaced by the young and talented Sigga, who would later become one of the most famous singers in Icelandic history. At this time, the new and improved Stjórnin was hired to be the house band of Hótel Ísland. Their weekend concerts became very popular and the band started to get more attention.
The group then made their first big mark on Iceland when they won the Landlagið (‘National Song’) contest in 1989 with ‘Við eigum samleið’ (‘We Belong Together’). The song was a happy-go-lucky tune with a catchy melody and some stunning harmonies.
Fresh off this success, Sigga and Grétar entered the Eurovision Song Contest in 1990 with ‘Eitt lag enn’ (‘One More Song’). Unprecedentedly popular in Iceland, the toe-tapping anthem could be heard in every store, bar, and house around. While Icelanders were confident the song would win, it garnered fourth place, which was respectable but still a bummer for the country.
Stjórnin dropped their first album, titled after their Eurovision hit, later that year, selling 10,000 copies in the country, which was a massive success for the time. The group followed with a national tour which cemented the two as national celebrities. Sigga was particularly adored by the public and became a pivotal role model for many young girls.
In 1991, they released their second album ‘Tvö líf’ (‘Two Lives’) and embarked on a completely sold out tour around the Ring Road.
The next year, Grétar and Sigga joined up with Sigrún Eva Ármannsdóttir and Friðrik Karlsson to form supergroup Heart 2 Heart, which represented Iceland at that years Eurovision Song Contest. Their song ‘Nei eða já’ (‘No Or Yes’) placed seventh. Sigga later completed solo at the 1994 iteration with ‘Nætur’ (‘Nights’), which ended up in twelfth place.
In the summer of 1992, Stjórnin dropped their third album, titled ‘Stjórnin’. Together with radio station Bylgjan, they traveled around the country with a concert extravaganza called ‘Allt í einu’ (‘Right Now’). Their fourth album, ‘Rigg’, came out the year after and contained the hits ‘Allt eða ekkert’ (‘All Or Nothing’), ‘Ekki segja aldrei’ (‘Never Say Never’), and ‘Þessi augu’ (‘These Eyes’)—all of which have since become Icelandic classics that still regularly grace the nations radio waves.
After these releases, the band took a well-deserved year long vacation.
A prolific return
Stjórnin returned to the spotlight in 1995 with a greatest hits album. At the same time, they were hired as the winter house band for Leikhúskjallarinn—a position they held for the next four years. Their concerts were incredibly popular within the country and became a highly anticipated part of the Icelandic holiday season.
In 1999, they came out with ‘Stjórnin @ 2000’, which is no doubt one of their most celebrated pieces by fans. The album contained not only new works, but also covers and collaborations with other artists. ‘Reykjavíkurborg’ is a particular standout for devotees.
When talking about Icelandic pop, there is before Stjórnin and after Stjórnin. Their stage shows were legendary and their catalog of work stunning. While the duo has since done other projects, they have been touring around the country since March and will hold a big 30th anniversary concert on September 28th at Háskólabíó. Their legacy will live on in the nations hearts and ears forever.