Stockholm 2016

Xtra Review: The Icelandic semifinalists as they are presented!

As they have done in recent years, RÚV are presenting the Söngvakeppnin semifinalists during two of their radio shows; Virkir Morgnar and Poppland. Six songs will be presented in each of the shows, and we are here to listen to them as they are presented, to tell you about the songs and let you know what we think about them.
Below you can see the list of songs. They won’t be presented in this order, so we will move the songs to the top of the list as they have been presented. We will give a very brief description and my (Wiv’s) opinion under each of them as they are played. All you need to do is refresh the article every now and then…
The first song to be played is “Augnablik” (One Moment).
This is a mid-tempo pop song, guitar based and very drum driven. It also has certain modern country elements, something that has shown itself to work quite well for a number of young female singers in the US.
Alda Dís, who is singing this song, is fairly new on the Icelandic music scene, but after winning “Iceland got talent” last year she has become very popular. The most popular radio station and newspaper in the country has nominated her for both “Newcomer of the Year” and “Female Singer of the Year” in their listeners’/readers’ awards.
Alda Dís’ voice carries the song really well, and  James Wong, who has co-written the song with Alda Dís and Alma Guðmundsdóttir, has written for, among others, Justin Bieber.
I really like this song, both because it’s a good song, but also very much because of Alda Dís’ voice. She has an emotional and powerful voice, and it is perfect for this song. “Augnablík” does, however, depend on her voice holding up 100%. Having heard her live on several occasions, though, I’m not at all worried about this.
Song number two up today is “Á ný” (Again).
This is a ballad. It starts off with a single piano, and then Elísabet’s voice joins in. The verse is very gentle and soft, but when the chorus kicks in the drum beats drive the song up. Slowly the song builds; violins and other instruments add to the sound, and it  reaches it’s peak when Elísabet’s voice is joined by several female backing vocalists. This song has been described, by people who have listened to it earlier, as a “Bond anthem”. I think perhaps it builds a bit too slowly and perhaps the peak isn’t quite powerful to be a Bond song. But I can see why people may feel like that.
Like “Augnablík”, this is a song that depends almost entirely on the singer’s voice, and just like with Alda Dís I have no fear for Elísabet’s ability to carry this song. She took part in “The Voice Iceland” this fall, and she impressed everybody with her amazingly powerful voice.
“Á ný” is written by Greta Salóme, who we remember from Baku, when she performed her own “Never Forget” with Jónsi.
I love the verses of this song, and the drums in the chorus are almost hypnothizing. Elísabet’s voice is amazing, but to me she doesn’t really get to use it to it’s full potential in this song. When I interviewed her last week she sang “Love Injected” for us (watch out for her interview on escXtra in the next week!), and she has also done her own version of Adele’s “Hello”, both showcasing her voice better.
The next song to be presented is “Ég leiði þig heim” (I lead you home). 
This is a fairly traditional Icelandic male ballad, excellently performed by Pálmi Gunnarsson. Some of you might remember Pálmi from Iceland’s first ever entry, “Gleðibankinn”, as one of the members of ICY. What sets this ballad apart from others in the same genre is without a doubt Pálmi’s full, smooth, warm voice. And there is a saxophone! I always think including a saxophone or five is a brilliant idea!
This might be a song that caters more to the grown-ups in the audience; I doubt the children will go for this sort of calm tune.
Song number 4 is “Ég sé þig” (I see you), written and performed by Sigríður Eir Zophoniasardóttir and Jóhanna Vala Höskuldsdóttir, from the group Eva. 
This is another fairly slow song, I would have to describe it as indie/folk/country, and it’s very much guitar based. Two female voices who work very well together. This song has an important message, about the refugee crisis that is happening in the world right now, with lyrics that include lines like “I see you, not where you’re coming from”.
This song has quite a contemporary Icelandic sound; there are a lot of female duos (or solo females) performing these sort of lovely, floating, airy songs. It’s success does very much depend on the performance, though, since it’s carried almost entirely by the two voices. I am quite excited to hear this performed live!
Next up is “Fátækur námsmaður”, (A broke student), written and performed by Ingólfur Þórarinsson. 
This is the first proper up-tempo song, and up-tempo it is! This is good, old rock, and being a rock chick at heart I have to admit I like this! This is true rock, with full guitars and drums, and especially the chorus makes it impossible to sit still!! There’s clapping, and already after the first time you’re (or at least I’m) clapping along. In this (so far) slow, calm field, this is going to stand out, and we all know that kids very often prefer “jumping around” songs…
The lyrics are about (surprise! 😛 ) a student who doesn’t have any money, and how the poor (hihihi) guy survives…
Song number six is “Hugur minn er” (My mind is).
This is a big female/male ballad, performed by an old friend of ours, Erna Hrönn, and a newcomer to Söngvakeppnin; Hjörtur Traustason, who won The Voice Iceland right before Christmas.
This ballad builds up very nicely, and their voices fit together perfectly. We know from before what wonderful things Erna Hrönn is able to do live, and having won The Voice recently, I guess we can safely assume that Hjörtur will be equally wonderful!
I think much of the success of this song depends on the staging. It’s not a song the kids will automatically go for, so hopefully there will be something in the performance that attracts the younger people, as recent years have shown that the “kiddy vote” very often is the deciding vote here in Iceland.
Six down, six to go
New radio show, new hosts, and I think some instructions must not have reached the people taking over, as they appear to not know that SIX songs had been played in the first show… So they started the show by saying that the first 5 songs had been played in the first show…and proceeded with to play “Hugur Minn er” again…
The songs have now been posted on RÚV’s web site, so I recommend you all just pop over there and listen to them yourselves! Please share in the comments what you think of this year’s lineup!
Which is/are your favorite/s?

One Comment

  1. The song about the broke student is brilliant! I hope it can win 🙂 great feelgood catchy rock, with some indie / britpop. Just my taste1

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