Stockholm 2016

Xtra Review: Iceland’s second semi-final

Iceland kicked off its national selection on Saturday, sending through three songs to the final including the extremely fancied Raddirnar by the returning Greta Salome. This week they will be joined by three more from this batch of songs, which Peter has been listening to. Listen along to the songs yourself at the selection’s official site.
Alda Dís Arnardóttir – Augnablik
Yet another song called Augnablik in the Icelandic selection! This one is quite cute, with a gentle acoustic guitar accompanying Alda’s sweet voice. Then the chorus introduces a choir into the equation, which makes the whole thing quite anthemic, but without over-egging the pudding. I can imagine this being played on adult-contemporary radio in the 1990s which maybe isn’t a good thing but it is very nice. I’m not sure whether it’s a vote winner, but what do I know?
Elísabet Ormslev – Á ný
Quite a brooding start to this song, with just piano, and I’m not totally sure where it’s going. Then the chorus starts and the dramatic Eurovision percussion comes in. It sounds like it’s going to launch into a dramatic ballad, and dramatic it is, but not in the overblown way it threatens to for a while. The middle eight takes the song off in a different direction with backing singers providing a counter-chorus at the end and dramatic strings. I’m not sure what I think of this one…it’s left me feeling a bit cold. It felt a bit disjointed and never really reached the heights it should have done.

Pálmi Gunnarsson – Ég leiði þig heim
OK. I love this. It’s probably the least wise choice for Eurovision of all the songs so far, as it sounds like it’s been lifted straight out of Eurovision 1993, but I think that’s what I like about it. A gentle slightly Disney ballad, with lovely orchestration and smaltzy chord changes – oh did I mention the sax solo? It’s so incredibly lame and dated, but it’s really doing it for me. I don’t particularly like Pálmi’s voice, but everything else is done so perfectly and without shame that I can overlook that.
Erna Mist & Magnús Thorlacius – Ótöluð orð
We’re back to the present day now, and this is a basically completely acoustic duet featuring just a picky acoustic guitar. I don’t like the vocal production on this, it’s got that hipstery echo chamber quality that’s very in I believe. I suppose without it, it would be slightly dull. It outstays its welcome a little this one. It is charming and very Icelandic, but there’s not a lot to work with here, musically anyway.

Helgi Valur Ásgeirsson – Óvær
I know Iceland like their national selections middle-of-the-road but this is right on the central road markings. It’s another one for adult contemporary radio in 1997, starting off like a soft rock song of yesteryear, then it does get some life in the chorus when the brass section comes in. I like the chord progression in places here, but beyond that it’s really not my cup of tea and it would be a bit of a dated choice to send to the contest.
Þórdís Birna Borgarsdóttir & Guðmundur Snorri Sigurðarson – Spring yfir heiminn
Icelandic rap. Something I don’t feel particularly qualified to judge but I will try anyway. When the rap actually came in at the half a minute mark I nearly jumped out of my seat. It was a bit of a shock after the female vocal at the start which then became the main chorus hook later in the song. It’s not the worst hookline for a rap song I’ve ever heard but it’s not really enough to compensate. I find the whole thing a bit much but once again, what do I know? At least it’s not more MOR.
This one is much more difficult to call than the first semi-final. Without knowing much about the artists’ profiles (although be sure to check out our Wiv’s excellent interviews with the competitors to find out more), I’d say Ótöluð orð and Á ný would be vote-winners even though neither do much for me personally, with Augnablik sneaking the third qualification place.
One that I feel I can rule out with some certainty, although it breaks my heart to say it, is my unexpected favourite of this heat, Ég leiði þig heim. Let’s pray for Pálmi and hope we’ll be hearing that sax solo in the final!

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