EurovisionStockholm 2016

Iceland: Greta and the escXtra Team on the revamped "Hear Them Calling"

Exclusive; The team at escXtra took a sneaky preview of the final version of “Hear Them Calling”, Greta Salóme’s entry for Iceland to Eurovision Song Contest 2016 in Stockholm in May. The audio of the final version has now been released, accompanying the performance from the national final. We spoke to Greta about the names and changes involved over the last month:
Xtra: What’s been happening since Söngvakeppnin?
Greta: We´ve been working day and night on the final version and it´s taken a new shape.
Xtra: Who’s been involved?
Greta: Thorvaldur Bjarni, who produced ‘Never Forget’ and our 2nd place Eurovision song ‘All out of Luck’ in 99. We also took the track to a renowned producer in London, Ash Howes who has produced for many of today´s leading artists like One Direction, Ellie Goulding, Kylie Minogue and many more. He actually wrote Ellie Goulding´s song “Lights”. We took the production a lot further with him which resulted in the final version of ‘Hear them Calling’.
Xtra: The instrumentation on the song has changed, how did that all happen?
Greta: We recorded with The North Iceland Symphony orchestra which really lifted the song. We then tracked so many vocals and I improvised a lot of violin which we then used a lot of actually. So even though my violin won´t be onstage it will be present in the track.
Xtra: How would you describe the song to someone who’s not heard it?
Greta: I think it´s a perfect mixture of indie/contemporary folk pop, mixed with symphonic elements and then a dance beat, which makes it into an exciting fusion.

Just like back in 2012, Greta Salóme has made a few changes to her song, from what we heard in Söngvakeppnin. The changes obviously aren’t as big this time, since “Mundu eftir mér” was actually changed into “Never Forget”, in addition to tweaking the arrangements and polishing up the sound.
The team agrees that this is definitely a revamp, not a make-over, and, to varying degrees, we all also feel that this revamp was a good thing. Below, you can see what each of us think about the changes that have been made to the song, and also how we feel about the end result.
I have to admit, I wasn’t majorly keen on this during Söngvakeppnin – my initial thoughts were that the performance and most importantly the visual were the force behind the song. Listening to the song on it’s own really didn’t give off the same impact. However, on hearing the final mix of ‘Hear Them Calling’, I’ve got to say that they really have polished the production on the track. Whilst the melody is the same, it features several layers of new instrumentation which really completes the package and gives it a much more anthemic sound. On paper, it sounds as if they’ve done a Spain and thrown everything they can at it in order to get a top 10 placing – but thankfully that’s not the case here. The additions that have been inserted really do flow quite nicely and makes the song a lot more memorable.

This is what a revamp should be all about. For someone who had heard the song just once, this is almost imperceptibly different but Greta has improved the song significantly. All the instruments have been boosted and a few bits and bobs have been added in the choruses. The overall effect is that because there is a bit more variation in the song it sounds a bit less repetitive and instead is more driving. Basically she’s turned a good song into a great one.

This song is in my top 3. My opinion is that there’s a lot of curation on the sounds of the song and on making it peak in the right points, giving the right dramatic effect that will definitely work on stage. And it sounds like they worked on the song bearing in mind that there is going to be a stage presentation and they know what they are doing
Goodness me, Iceland works their magic again then with a finished product. This is a hundred times more haunting. It’s clear that this rework tells the story better than it used to. There’s a much more obvious connection between the instrumentation and her vocal – the backing singers have really given me a much bigger love for this too. Question! In the chorus it ends with “now we are coming home” and then I wonder is the long noted that follow also “home” elongated because if they’re not then they’re missing a trick haha!
We’ve seen bigger revamps in the history of Eurovision (hi there, Albania), but I’d rather have this than a complete make-over which just ends up destroying the entire song. There are slight changes in Hear Them Calling and you need to pay close attention to pick up on them. The general effect is that the song is just a little more polished, a little more finished and a little more lively. Just the background violin after a minute makes this revamp worth it. Really, that violin is a great idea. Does this change where I’d predict Greta and Iceland to finish? No, not at all, as this is still a very decent and steady entry which should do very well.
Musically, Hear Them Calling was already a fairly complete composition so there are no major surprises in the new version of the song itself. However as you’d expect, the whole thing is much bigger and fuller. It’s like the national final version was a sketch that has now been coloured in. The bigger drums and deeper orchestration help underline the drama in the song and the increased presence of the violin (Greta’s trademark for many ESC fans) is a nice touch. That being said, these changes in production don’t matter as much as how the song is staged, which will be the clincher above all.
Not hugely different, but oh, for real brass!! My only wish is that the arrangement was less “happy”, and had more darker moments to reflect the staging. I don’t like the manic drums or the honkytonk rhythm, it is too happy and yes, manic. It needs to be much darker and atmospheric, though still noisy.
As I did with “Never Forget”, I really would have liked this year’s entry to have stayed in Icelandic. I feel the Icelandic lyrics fit the melody much better than the English, even though the song was born in English. And I also think it’s a bit rougher, not as polished, which I prefer. But since that was never an option, I have to say I really like some of the changes that’s been made. Especially the brass and strings, and also the more powerful backing vocals, make the song stronger. “Hear Them Calling” is definitely in my top 10!

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