Eurovision 2011: Iceland
Strict, proper journalism would demand that I followed Iceland’s national selection process closely.
The truth is, I haven’t. I can’t bear it. Keeping a close eye on what’s going on in the national finals seems to detract from the joy of the competition itself. I’m a purist. Serve me up the songs the countries offer up. That’s enough for me.
Where Iceland’s song is concerned, I’m glad I haven’t followed the process especially closely. By not doing that I have maintained my objectivity … at least maintained it as far as I can for a blog post which does necessarily include a certain amount of subjective assessment. When I heard it earlier today, I fell for it instantly. It has all the elements, you see. It ticks all the boxes.
But now I come to read up, I remember something I skirted over (Eurovision) news-wise a few weeks ago.
There’s a backstory to Iceland’s song, you see. A backstory which will surely carry it far into the competition and beyond it. This – regardless of Iceland’s performance in the voting – will be the song written by the bloke who died before he had a chance to sing it for his country. The song which his friends sang instead. The song which ended up representing the country. It’s going to be quite an emotional affair for Sigurjón’s Friends come Dusseldorf in May.
It’s memorable. ‘Tragic’ as the story seems (in what might be regarded as the non-literary definition of the word), the sadness surrounding the song adds poignancy.
It doesn’t necessarily need it. The song is terribly sweet. Apart from being utterly adorable right from the off and – in this national final clip – effortlessly simple in it’s execution, it’s the brass line makes me sigh just a bit. It’s unusual. It counters the tuba in the bass. Just.
But it’s a saccharin little number. It drips syrup. The truth is that it does pick up on loads of tried and tested Eurovision formluae, many of which stretch right back to Lulu, skirt around Cliff Richard’s ‘Congratulations’ and skip through plenty of pale imitations through the 70s and 80s.
The happy-go-lucky tub-thumping beat and the shameless pulling back of the speed in the final refrain is – at the risk of appearing like a classic Eurovision anorak – ripped from so many previous Eurovision songs as to make it’s fundamental characteristics a harbinger of doom. This has been done before. It might have been done marginally more stylishly, does its musical shortcomings shorten it’s shelf life? Will it last until the Eurovision competition in May?
From time to time, these songs have won (Israel, 1979). Others have done respectably well too (Israel, 1988). But Eurovision history has repeatedly proven – for the most part – that the wild-eyed optimism bleeding from these songs often ends up in a disappointing vote. The chemistry has to be just right. Like it was for Denmark when they won in 2001.