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Throwback Thursday: Blast from the Arctic Past

With much of Europe blanketed in Snow over the past week, Today’s Throwback Thursday takes a look at one country that is most certainly no stranger to a snowflake or two – Iceland. Iceland have participated at Eurovision a total of 30 times, with this year marking their 31st entry at the contest. They may be a small nation but no one can deny that they’ve sent some big songs during their time. Today I’ll be looking at one which remains close to my heart.

Birgitta shone through

In 2003, Birgitta Haukdal won the Icelandic national final ‘Söngvakeppni Sónvarpsins’ with the song ‘Segðu mér allt’ – she stormed to victory, scooping a total of 21,964 televotes.  Although the Icelandic version is a gem in itself,  the song was re-recorded in English to appeal to the wider Eurovisiona audience – ‘Open Your Heart’ was born.

At the draw for the running order, Iceland were pulled out first which meant Birgitta would open the show.   Despite an early performance,  the song appealed to tele-voters and finished in a respectable 8th place.

For me, this is Iceland’s finest song at the contest and my go-to song whenever I need a lift in spirit or something to cheer me up after a bad day at the office. The opening strings and guitar chords are a delight to my ears in addition to the song’s insanely catchy chorus.  Birgitta delivered a perfect stage performance in Riga, oozing charisma and captivating Europe with her radiant smile.

This week’s guest star

Thorunn Erna Clausen really doesn’t need much of an introduction, but we’ll give her one nonetheless! She was the lyricist of Iceland’s 2011 entry, “Coming Home”. The composer of the song was her late husband, Sjónni, and she took their song to Dusseldorf along with the group Sjónni’s Friends. She has also written lysics to a gazillion Söngvakeppnin entries over the years. And as we all know; her song “Our Choice”, the first one where she’s written both the music and lyrics, will represent Iceland at Eurovision in Lisbon in only a few weeks’ time. Oh, and the lyrics to half of the songs in this year’s Söngvakeppnin final had her name on them! Just sayin’.

Thorunn’s opinion on “Open Your Heart” and then some…

“Open Your Heart” is one of the most successful Icelandic entries; Birgitta’s 8th place is our fifth best result. Icelanders underestimated the song a bit before the contest, but Birgitta is one of our most charming singers, and it was amazing to watch how her talent and charm and beauty came across on camera. She performed it really well, and the song was upbeat and something that we could be really proud of. She was wearing white, which was really nice, and also when she takes the flower from the microphone stand, it opens the pose up; that is one of the most memorable moments in Icelandic Eurovision history. Also it’s one of my favorits because Vignir Snær, who was one of Sjónni’s Friends and is also part of the team behind “Our Choice”, was one of Birgitta’s guitar players.

Iceland loves Eurovision

Icelanders are possibly the biggest Eurovision fans in Europe! It’s such a big part of our culture, and it can get quite personal at times. So when our song does well, and the whole nation is rooting behind it and we’re really, really happy. And everybody longs for the Saturday party, to get to the final, so we can have another Eurovision party! It hasn’t always worked out for us, and these past three years we haven’t made it out of the semi. Hopefully our luck will change this year.

This is only the second time Iceland sends an entry that is written entirely by a woman, which is big for us. Well, actually the third time, but the second woman, as Greta Salóme went twice. Iceland has usually done better when we have sent female singers, but this year we are sending an amazingly talented and charming young man…but I should probably not talk too much about that!

For me, of course, the most memorable thing in Icelandic Eurovision history is when I took my late husband Sjónni’s and my song, “Coming Home” to Dusseldorf. There, Sjónni’s Friends spread the message that we have to live our lives today and do things and not wait until tomorrow. And we need to tell the people around us that we love them. Because tomorrow it might be too late.

What the others had to say…

Ryan: “Open Your Heart” is one of my favourite entries of 2003, a very uplifting yet simple pop track that were very common at Eurovision in the 2000s. Nevertheless, this was certainly one of the best of its genre in the early part of the decade. Despite it’s disadvantageous running order slot in Riga, this did deservedly well for Iceland! Nevertheless, my favourite Icelandic entry came in 2009 with Yohanna’s “Is It True?”. This is one of the best Eurovision ballads ever by one of the best and most effortlessly talented vocalists to grace Europe’s biggest stage.

Wivian: This is very much not my favorite Icelandic entry! It’s not that I don’t like it, cuz I do. I think it’s a catchy song, and it’s incredibly singalong friendly, which is always a good thing. Birgitta is obviously a very good singer, and super sweet and charming on stage. I do however prefer songs that aren’t as smooth and easily digested as this. With very few exceptions, I need music to have something that challenges me. Either in the lyrics, the beat, the voice…just something. I will happily both sing and dance along to this song, though! Happy summer songs are often easy to like, but hard to love. For me, that is.

Hlynur: The lyrics of “Open Your Heart” and/or “Segðu mér allt” somehow got stuck in my brain when I was a teen. Sometimes, only a few times a year, I find myself singing parts of it. I don’t know what it is, but it is indeed a catchy song. And her 8th place at Eurovision is one of Iceland’s highest placements. At the time Birgitta was active in the Icelandic music scene, so active that there was even made a “Birgitta Haukdal” doll (see below)! In addition, I am sure that this song inspired Latvia’s 2004 entry, because at this part, my brain turned Birgitta on!

Birgitta doll

Sami: I mean, it is a catchy song and it has sweet lyrics, but I don’t think it’s one of Iceland’s best ones. It doesn’t really stand out from the other similar pop songs from the early 2000’s either. Eight place was quite high for this. Iceland has been very underrated country in the past years. Both “Unbroken” and “Hear Them Calling” deserved to qualify, but my favourite Icelandic entry must be “Never Forget”.

Read the lyrics for Open Your Heart on 4LYRICS

Next week

Next week it’s Angelos’ turn to take you back in time, to yet another historic Eurovision Song Contest performance. He’ll be transporting us all the way back to…2016 (!!!) with us one of his favorite Eurovision entries.

We would be delighted to hear you guys’ thoughts on our chosen Throwbacks, and also on our opinions!  

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