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MY ICELAND: The Eurovision Song Contest

Make no mistake: despite its many remarkable accomplishments, the Nicelandic nation is seriously afflicted with small-nation complex. And nowhere does this complex manifest as clearly as in its obsession with the Eurovision Song Contest.

For those who don’t know, Eurovision is a pan-European contest organized by the national broadcasting services in each of the nations, that has been running since the 1950s or thereabouts. The object is to choose the best originally composed and performed song. Whereas it started off with some semblance of dignity, today most people would agree that essentially a cheesy campfest of mediocre pop songs. It’s nonetheless become one of the most popular televised events of the year, probably second only to the Áramótaskaup – the annual parody of the year’s main news events that is broadcast on New Year’s Eve. It is during those two broadcasts that the streets of Reykjavík are virtually empty of people.

That is, of course, presuming that Iceland is taking part in Eurovision. Europe’s expansion over the past few years has necessitated a few changes to the contest, most notably in that there are now semi-finals preceding the finals, and this year, for the first time, there were two semi-finals. Also, in the past few years, the ‘new’ European nations have seemed as eager as the small-nation-complex nations to prove their worth on the European stage and have pulled out all the stops with their songs. There has been a great deal of disgruntlement around alleged rigged voting … the results are arrived at through televoting and certain ‘related’ nations [Greece and Cyprus, Germany and Turkey*, former Eastern Bloc nations, e.g.] tend to vote for each other, although whether this may be attributed to foul play or simply a similar taste in music remains undetermined.

The closest Iceland has come to winning the Eurovision Song Contest [despite the perpetual predictions that THIS YEAR IT IS IN THE BAG] was in 1999, when Selma Björnsdóttir landed in second place after a thrilling toe-to-toe with Sweden, switching first and second places almost all the way through the voting. In 2004, the first year in which there were semi-finals, Niceland once again sent Selma Björnsdóttir, convinced that our shining Eurovision knight[ess] would bring home the trophy this time. Those annoying semi-finals were just a formality, Selma would fly through them … and much to everyone’s amazement, she didn’t. [But naturally rigged voting among the former Eastern Bloc nations was to blame.] Incidentally, this was not the first time that the Icelandic nation was filled with stunned disbelief that our contestant did not win Eurovision – it happens with alarming regularity.

Meanwhile, a couple of years ago Iceland reached new and unexplored heights in its Eurovision quest for winning by sending old Silvía Nótt [remember her?]** as its representative. In YT’s opinion, Silvía Nótt provided some of the most stellar entertainment in the history of Eurovision, particularly offstage, but very clearly I was in a minority there, as Silvía Nótt is probably the most hated contestant in Eurovision history.

This year, after the looonnnggg and excruciating winter-long process of choosing a song, Iceland finally settled on the somewhat inanely dubbed ‘Euroband’, with a disco-charged song called This Is My Life. The Euroband is fronted by two reasonably well-known singers here, who were probably most aptly described by one little girl, asked on TV to give her take after watching footage of them performing, who earnestly remarked, “They’re like a Barbie boy and his mother.” The song received a drab response among most people … and yet last Thursday the Euroband actually managed what no Icelandic contestant has managed before – they totally aced it out of the semi-finals and into the finals, which – oh did I fail to mention this? – are on this evening. And despite my reservations about the song, the Barbie looks and whathaveyou, I have to give them this: they completely deserved it because they gave 110% to their performance and totally kicked ass!

So you can bet that YT will be sitting in front of the tube this evening and cheering them on. Because when all is said and done, I’m a small-nation-complex girl at heart.

LOOKING BEAUTIFUL OUT THERE!

The sun is peeking out occasionally, and there’s a slight wind which is OK because it’s mild. And just so you know: I had fabulous weather while on my mini-retreat and actually managed to get a bit of a tan***, heheh. On this special Eurovision day we have 12°C [54F] and sunrise this morning was a 3.44 am, sunset due for 11.07 pm.

* On account of the large Turkish population in Germany

** Ágústa Eva, the woman behind Silvía Nótt, appeared on the Icelandic National Broadcasting Service last year and announced that Silvía Nótt was no more, and now has some stellar turns on a weekly talk show called Svalbarði, in which she sings with the house band and performs in various skits – check her out in this video, particularly around 5.0 minutes – especially hilarious if you speak Icelandic!

*** OK, freckles, mostly.

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  • ReallyEvilCanine May 24, 2008, 5:22 pm

    I miss Sylvía. “Germany” votes for Turkey but it’s rarely reciprocated, and Israel never gives Germany a point. Half the participating countries don’t even have a phone-in vote.

    I saw that song last week on Kvikmynd and wondered how bad the other songs were that this one won. Ugh. I’ll still be watching but if Iceland wins, where the $§&%# would next year’s contest be held? Laugardagshall? NASA? Upstairs in Solon?

  • alda May 24, 2008, 5:40 pm

    REC – we don’t plan to take first place. Everybody knows that whoever lands in second place is the true winner.

  • James Mayl May 24, 2008, 7:52 pm

    I was in Iceland back in 2006 when Sylvia was your representative; spent the evening at a work-colleagues house having our own Eurovision party! Just a shame that no-one except you and us (the English) got the joke!

  • ReallyEvilCanine May 24, 2008, 8:27 pm

    How silly of me to forget that. Fyrirgefðu. Ég er fáviti. At least “Euroband” wasn’t singing off-key unlike certain others I won’t name.

  • Lucy May 25, 2008, 9:49 am

    did you see the irish entry? shocked it didn’t go through on tuesday.

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