All opinions expressed in this article are those of the person quoted and do not necessarily represent the opinions of the other team members or ESC United as a whole.

Iceland is back to select their entry for the Eurovision Song Contest! Maybe! Söngvakeppnin kicks off this Saturday, 17 February with the first of two semi-finals. All songs competing in the semi-finals are sung in Icelandic, and if songs qualify to the final, then the songs are performed in the language the artist intends to sing in Malmö. At least two songs will advance to the final from each semi-final, and Ríkisútvarpið (RÚV) reserves the right to include an additional song as a wildcard entry. The second semi-final takes place on Saturday, 24 February and the final will take place on Saturday, 2 March.

Five ESC United writers have listened to the songs that will be competing this Saturday using a 10-point scale. What songs did we decide should qualify, and which songs did we decide should be thrown in the bin? Let’s find out. The writers in this edition are: Yehonatan Cohen from Israel, Tyler Griffith from New Mexico, James Maude from California, Boris Meersman from Belgium, and David Popescu from Denmark.

The order of the songs presented was based on the current running order for the Söngvakeppnin semi-final one as provided by RÚV.

1. CeaseTone – “Ró” / “Flow”

David – 3You really don’t know where you’re going with this song, and it ruins it a lot. Unless you care for all these changes in genre, then there’s just no hope. Having that deep Viking feel, going into being a ballad, getting some tempo, eventually becoming dance track, if not a pop song. It’s aiming all around, and there’s no cover.

James – 8At first, I got the impression this is some wimpy indie synthpop lightweight whose lunch money I could take to buy cigarettes I’d smoke by lighting up with the lava from the volcano near Keflavik Airport. But “Ro” builds, adding layers as the song progresses adding anxiety to the singer’s plea for calm (which the song title means). The electric guitar feels like a sinister voice added to the mix at the end, and its final notes ending sounding like CeaseTone were victorious against the noise. Iceland is known for its more “cerebral” artists, for lack of a better word, but CeaseTone certainly joins their club with this well thought-out plea to end paranoia.

Tyler – 7 – Great start already! I do think “Ró” / “Flow” starts a little weaker with singing quietly, but it’s also a good build-up into the chorus, where the beat goes faster and becomes less acoustic and more interesting. I like the increasing tempos of the electronica in the song a lot, and I’m engaged throughout. The music carries the song a lot, since the vocals remain relatively at the same level throughout and sound muted in the studio cuts. The lyrics are fine, I think this has potential with good enough staging.

Boris – 9.5FloOoOoooOoOOoW. JUST WANNA LET THINGS GO :clapclap: All the attention went towards Bashar for obvious reason but I have my eye is on this Daði Freyr comrade for surprised contender: is, for lack of a better word, an everysong. In Icelandic it’s a dark moody and well-crafted EDM song warms my Belgian heart. It oscillates between vulnerable downtempo and adrenaline-fueled uptempo with clever percussion that invite you to clap along. It is melancholic yet empowering without ever dipping into maudlin clichés. The English version adds introspective complexity via catchy lyrics that are a joy to bleat along with. It’s a fantastic song on all fronts, probably the closest anyone has come to being a Gjon’s Tears without coming across as a clone. If “” was Swedish, it would be in the Eurovision winner conversation.  What it needs now is a powerful live act that enhances the bittersweet vibe and prove that I haven’t gone insane singing its praises.

Yehonatan – 4.5 – A generally alright radio friendly song that sounds like it would do well in the British charts, but is it enough for Eurovision? Probably not. I’m not seeing much staging potential in the song and it’s definitely not strong enough to stand on its on which is a shame.

Total points: 32.00 points (Average = 6.40)

2. Blankiflúr – “Sjá þig” / “Love You”

James – 9I’d been asking people for years why the Nordics never lean in on their country’s musical strengths with their pioneering metal and, in this instance, their synthpop at Eurovision. My only fear is that Blankiflur’s excellent, cool, trippy entry may be too late, not relevant to the kids who would associate this music with the burnout uncle who lives in their grandad’s garage who blathers on about his backpacking days in Costa Rica. Anyway, there’s a lot to appreciate from the beats, the vocals with the high notes hitting hard in the outro, the restraint, and the simplistic yet effective lyrics of two lovers seizing the moment.

Tyler – 7 – The vocals here are good! The editing of the song is good too, and I feel myself getting pumped up and ready to dance with the chorus. If the staging is good and the vocals aren’t terrible live, this would be a fun song to see performed and might get some votes. The beats are good too, possibly a little outdated, and I don’t like the use of the demonic background singer that’s pitched down. But if Blankiflúr can perform stellarly, this could get votes.

Boris – 8.5An Eesti Laul song (very complimentary). Blankiflúr’s song comes together in English, where it establishes itself as a delectable Obsession Anthem – Blankiflúr loves her man-toy, to a point it’s driving her insane and the dramatic orchestration helps her create a compelling Swiftian narrative. It’s a gloomy dark electropop banger and I’m a Belgian – of course I love this. The problem though is that the Icelandic version isn’t as potent and although Blankiflúr is in the easier first heat, the two slots for the finale are spoken for – they will go to Vaeb and CeaseTone unless CeaseTone is terrible. Nevertheless, I’m hoping she bangs out a good enough live performance. This Söngvakeppnin is strong in studio – it deserves to have strong also-rans.

Yehonatan – 3 – I think that the best way to give me comment on the song is that I zoned out so much while I was listening to it, that I barely noticed and it was already gone. There was nothing to capture my attention, for good or bad, and it ended up just existing for 3 minutes.

David – 3Intriguing, but not for long. It has an interesting sound, and I’m happy that it keeps it, but the slow tempo-drop that there is feel out of place and damages the song a lot, because from that point, it also becomes very boring lyrically. Very simplistic, very repeatable and just uninteresting eventually. This is also feels like more of a show, rather than purely an audible experience.

Total points: 30.50 points (Average = 6.1)

3. Anita – “Stingum af” / “Downfall”

Tyler – 8 – This entry has so much potential to be a big club banger. The beat keeps changing constantly to keep your interest, (some of which I don’t like, but it’s all different so it’s a net positive). Anita’s vocals are on point too, and if there aren’t any fumbles, she could do quite well. I wish she did a little more in the chorus than rely on the varying beats and the lyrics are good, not great to me. Still I hope this makes it through the semi and we see the Eurovision version. I think this would do well at Eurovision regardless.

Boris – 7.5Icelanders can do girlbangers too? Nice, I’m always down for those. I’m NOT as taken away by this one as it’s fairly standard issue at first but once the EDM riffs kicks in I imagine the fans going wild at the preparties. The score on my part is modest though – “Stingum áf” is much better in Icelandic despite having an English version – the latter goes all-in on the shallow sultriness and some of the mystique of the original is lost. If Anita reconsiders and keeps “Stingum áf” in Icelandic however, I’m fully on board until her inevitable demise in the ESC Grand Final to Angelina Mango’s “La Noia”.

Yehonatan – 6.5 – So far Iceland is going with a very clear electronic vibe for the national final, but this is by far their best flavor of electronic they have to offer. It’s a pretty generic summer banger, but it does the job, and keeps me interested enough to last through the entire song actively paying attention to it.

David – 8This is a party starter, but here’s the minus for me, I can hear the sample from September’s song “Cry For You”. If I can recognize something in a song, from another song, then I can’t credit an original song fully. Anyhow, perfect for the dance floor, teasing lyrics and hard to deny. A great composition, and it works with the short deep bass/dubstep-ish throwback, not overdone and pulls you back in.

James – 7Did you know that Iceland has the most Taco Bells per capita in the world? I mention this as this song has a Taco Bell vibe, a club track that pulls in every production trick of the last decade like stuffing Flamin’ Hot Cheetos into a hard taco stuffed gordita and a large Baja Blast to wash it down. Not that I mind necessarily, as this is another fun “let’s get lost and hook up in the moment” club track. It’s more dated elements (e.g. the part after the first chorus where the beats ramp up) work smoother than the modern (the clunky bass drop and the pause), and Anita could take a page from Blankiflur and exercise a bit of restraint. But otherwise, a commendable and fun three minutes.

Total points: 37.00 points (Average = 7.40)

4. Sunny – “Fiðrildi”

Boris – 6In several selections this season, this Björk-looking lady would function as a lifeline and niche fave – Sunny’s the type of entrant I would obsess over in a bad selection just to keep myself sane. SVK24 is very good though, and here Fiðrildi’s weaknesses stand out more than its strengths – it’s kind of dated drum and bass that doesn’t go anywhere. It’s a charming but somewhat disorganised first attempt by a starting artist. Not bad, but Iceland can do better.

Yehonatan – 4 – This is the least radio friendly song in this heat, but it follows the same general pattern of electronic pop as the rest of the selection. The main instrumental part after the chorus is the weakest part of the song and drags it down a lot for me, but at least it’s unexpected.

David – 3The song has a sweet beat to it, but the vocals are probably my greater problem. While the music is high tempo and all over, the vocals are close to being the opposite. Low performance, lack of energy, no intriguing moment, just nothing. The match is just not there and so, my interest disappears completely.

Tyler – 8 – Based on the reception I’ve seen, I feel like I’m the only fan of “Fiðrildi”. I find the song so disjointed, but there’s a method to its madness that I enjoy a lot and it works for me. I’m not the biggest fan of the key change going into the bridge, but it does break up the techno house vibes of the song to make people interested. I wish Sunny did more in the chorus as the beat may not work for most people, and I also find her lyrics to be subdued. This is my kind of quirky music that I could study or work to and I’m excited to see this performed live!

James – 6.5Come my lady, come come my lady, you’re my Fiðrildi, sugar baby. I’ve always wanted Crazy Town, creators of the masterpiece “Butterfly,” to enter Eurovision. How they would, I don’t know, seeing as they’re from Victorville, California. I am off track, as Sunny’s “Butterfly” is drum and bass, which would also be a novelty at Eurovision should it progress. However, it’s not the best example of it and I drift off. It’s fine, but lacks distinction and a wow moment.

Total points: 27.50 points (Average = 5.50)

5. Væb – “Bíómynd” / “Movie Scene”

Yehonatan – 6.5 – If only there was more Icelandic rap in this song, I’d give it a much higher score. It gives the song a very necessary flavor that sets it apart from the rest of the selection. It has the most potential to be something memorable on stage but I’m not keep my hopes that high.

Tyler – 4.5 – Hmm, I don’t think this song is for me. I like the use of both Icelandic and English in “Movie Scene”, but this feels like Icelandic Jedward. I like them on Twitter, but their music remains to be desired. I’m not a fan of the rap and the general composition of this. Maybe the live performance will have endearing staging that isn’t annoying, but this song just feels pestering to me (especially with the lyrics about nailing an actress and namedropping Adam Sandler and Will Ferrell). This feels like an entry that’s trying to go viral, which doesn’t work for me in general so.

James – 3When the outro is the most interesting part of your song, you know you’re in trouble. And we can Iceland to the list of countries who rappers are not likely to be any good, as evidenced here. This effort is all over the place and lacks focus. I doubt any staging would redeem it, as I suspect it will be as full of forced zaniness as the track itself.

David – 6Alright, holy fuck, the lyrics are SOOOOO cheesy! Yet, it works effectively. The song is a great mix, when it comes to style, tempo and even language. It’s a fun little jiggle and story, which still tells a story, which captures my interest. It’s an admirable effort, but of course, when being cheesy, there various moments where you just wonder and even facepalm yourself.

Boris – 6We’ve hit already hit a point where every broadcaster feels like they need to include a “quirky gimmick” JUST in case they don’t have a strong entry in the rest of the selection. :glares at Finland:. As far as these go, these brothers provide fun shenanigans (“FILLS LIKE A MOOSIE” – Halfdan & Matthias Matthiasson) on a dope beat that holds its own.  Iceland can do better for itself though (literally everyone else), and I hope their televote isn’t going to favour what is easily the worst option between the realistic winners.

Total points: 26.00 points (Average = 5.20)

So who did ESC United collectively endorse to go through to the Final?

In a close race, our endorsement for the two for-sure qualifiers are Anita and CeaseTone, with the remaining three songs falling below the dashed line and out of our contention for the final (except maybe our third-placer, Blankiflúr, as the wildcard?). The second half of songs for Iceland will be reviewed next week.

1. Anita – “Stingum af” / “Downfall” – 37.00 points (Average = 7.40)

2. CeaseTone – “Ró” / “Flow” – 32.00 points (Average = 6.40)

———-

3. Blankiflúr – “Sjá þig” / “Love You” – 30.50 points (Average = 6.10)

4. Sunny – “Fiðrildi” – 27.50 points (Average = 5.50)

5. Væb – “Bíómynd” / “Movie Scene” – 26.00 points (Average = 5.20)

Who do #YOU think will qualify for the Söngvakeppnin final? Do you agree with our thoughts? Who do you think will win it all for Iceland? Let us know on social media @ESCUnited, on our Discord, or on our forum page!

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