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.
It’s time for more critiques on Söngvakeppnin! The first semi-final took place on Saturday, 18 February, where two performers (Diljá and Bragi) have already advanced to the final. The second semi-final will take place on Saturday, 25 February, where at least two more songs will qualify. Ríkisútvarpið (RÚV) may include an additional song as a wildcard entry. The final will take place on Saturday, 4 March. One thing is for certain though, and that the Icelandic language versions of the songs will be performed this Saturday.
Three ESC United writers have listened to the songs that will be competing this weekend. Which songs do we think will rise to the top? Tyler Griffith from Alaska, James Maude from California, and David Popescu from Denmark will be the judges for this panel. Songs were judged on a 10-point scale.
The order of the songs presented was based on the current running order for the Söngvakeppnin semi-final two as provided by RÚV.
1. Kristín Sesselja – “Óbyggðir” / “Terrified”
David – 2 – It sounds like a fairytale-ish style of song, which I don’t think went well with the Icelandic. Vocally, it just sounds harsh and a bit rough, especially put together with a calm and easy-going melody. To be fair, I’m already lost on the calm and fairy like sound of the song, so not even an English version can save this for me.
James – 7.5 – This slower, brooding number does a lot of things right. The synth maintains a dark and somber mood throughout. The production is restrained, only layering in elements such as strings at the end when it services the song. The lyrics touch on Icelandic specific things (e.g. Northern lights, the cold) without going too corny. This is a perfectly serviceable pop entry that’s accessible to foreigners but unmistakably Icelandic as well.
Tyler – 8 – So much potential here! It’s ultimately going to come down to the performance and if Kristín Sesselja can pull off the vocals, which seem daunting based on the studio version. I get indiepop vibes here that is just unbelievably my shit, so boy do I want her to succeed and have the performance be memorable enough to blow people away. I think this song could qualify for Iceland too with the right staging and presence.
Total points: 17.50 points (Average = 5.83)
2. Langi Seli og Skuggarnir – “OK”
James – 4 – There’s not too much to recommend to this Icelandic rockabilly number. It’s not really memorable, its bassline and constant “OK” gets repetitive and old very quickly. You might have a good time listening to this at the pub after a shift at the cod processing plant, but it’s not going to stand out as a viable entry at Eurovision.
Tyler – 4 – Rockabilly is already going to be a hard sell for me, and “OK” is… just okay! Just because it’s in Icelandic doesn’t change the fact that it’s the same sounds that I associate with the genre. The song doesn’t feel groundbreaking to me at all, so unless there’s some crazy staging that makes people want to give it votes, then it’ll be dead in the water. And if it somehow qualified to the final, it’s death by the jury too.
David – 6 – You know Elvis was a huge deal, when you can still get that feel of his music, even in an Icelandic version. The song is kinda cool and funky, catchy beat and it works out pretty well. It’s a bit long about starting, but it lures you in, before the song and the guys go all blown out on the tunes. A really cool effort.
Total points: 14.00 points (Average = 4.67)
3. Silja Rós & Kjalar – “Ég styð þína braut” / “Together We Grow”
Tyler – 6.5 – Love the vibe I get from this entry, feels folksy, earthy, and energetic. It feels uplifting to me, but mostly in the Icelandic version. I do think the English version has provoking lyrics and sounds nice, but it just sounds nicer in Icelandic. The song is also too short, as there doesn’t feel like a big moment at the end to really make people wowed by the entry. I wish I liked this more, because this could be a song that is a Tyler Favorite, but it’s just mid instead.
David – 5 – A mystical sound of nature, this feels like something very authentic and exactly the kind of sound, that makes me think about Iceland. Very engaging and unique, maybe a bit slow in the beginning, but it does pick nicely up, but maybe it also ends very abruptly? I mixed, expecting a bit more, but it’s alright
James – 8 – This is a quirky and unapologetically Icelandic duet. It starts off very cold and simple, like two kids from Children of the Corn decided to perform a duet, but definitely picks up after the first bass drop and they start sounding more frantic as the wind and water metaphors morph into those of fire and celestial bodies.
Total points: 19.50 points (Average = 6.50)
4. Úlfar – “Betri maður” / “Impossible”
David – 1 – The exact definition of a ballad… that I just skip.
Tyler – 4.5 – Úlfar sounds like a good singer and the vocals were pretty good! I just don’t care for the rest of the song though, whoops. It didn’t hit me in the feelings to really get the emotions behind it, so it sounds maudlin in a bad way to me. I’m curious to see what the performance will be like and if it’ll change my mind.
James – 5 – A fairly ordinary ballad by a compelling young vocalist who needs something more challenging to work with. Also, given his voice, I am not sure going an Idol-winner type ballad route will be the best use of his talents when he’s more suited to a high tempo dance number. And in any event, this non-descript ballad will get lost in the shuffle should it proceed to Liverpool.
Total points: 10.50 points (Average = 3.50)
5. Sigga Ózk – “Gleyma þér og dansa” / “Dancing Lonely”
Tyler – 6 – This entry is cute! Cute next to gorgeous gets eaten by gorgeous though. I’m not sure if this would get that many televotes, but the song does make me smile and I don’t hate this song at all! It just doesn’t strike me as being a super amazing song though. It’s serviceable enough but I don’t think it would be good enough for Eurovision. The beat is nice, the lyrics are okay, so maybe the performance will take the entry over the top.
James – 6 – What I loved about Denmark’s 2021 entry was that it went full bore with its ‘80s schlager schtick. Too many ‘80s throwback attempts, including Sigga’s, are too tepid. Modern songwriting sensibilities hem in the concept, in this case a young woman on the pull in Reykjavik trying to dance a man right out of her hair. If Sigga could channel the dad uncool of Fyr og Flamme into Reykjavik reckless abandon energy, she could have Liverpool dancing with her. As it currently stands, it’s a weak girl boss anthem with cynical nostalgic flourishes.
David – 2 – This could straight up be something from Disney, with the fairytale-ish sound in the start, to the more inspiring and a bit more fast paced sound. Overall, just so bland and uninspiring. It’s heard over and over again, and it’s the kind of music I absolute avoid. Sigga tries to put something into it, but that’s probably the only thing I can respect.
Total points: 14.00 points (Average = 4.67)
So who did ESC United collectively endorse to go through to the Final?
It wasn’t even close. Our endorsements for the two for-sure qualifiers in the second Semifinal are Silja Rós & Kjalar and Kristín Sesselja, with the remaining three songs falling below the dashed line and out of our contention for the final. In terms of a wildcard, the highest ranking non-qualifier from our reviews was Móa with an average score of 4.83. We’ll see if she snags the wildcard spot in real life.
01) Silja Rós & Kjalar – “Ég styð þína braut” / “Together We Grow” – 19.50 points (Average = 6.50)
02) Kristín Sesselja – “Óbyggðir” / “Terrified” – 17.50 points (Average = 5.83)
03) Sigga Ózk – “Gleyma þér og dansa” / “Dancing Lonely” – 14.00 points (Average = 4.67, Had Highest Middle Score of 6)
04) Langi Seli og Skuggarnir – “OK” – 14.00 points (Average = 4.67, Had Highest Middle Score of 4)
05) Úlfar – “Betri maður” / “Impossible” – 10.50 points (Average = 3.50)
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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