Will This Be Iceland’s Year? Ten Songs Chosen as 2023’s Eurovision Contenders

Daði Freyr og gagnamagnið Eurovision 2021

Ten songs have been selected to take part in this year’s Söngvakeppnin, the three-part competition that will decide the act that will represent Iceland in the 2023 Eurovision Song Contest in Liverpool in May, RÚV reports. The ten songs, along with their songwriters and the musicians who will perform them, will be announced during a TV special on RÚV on Saturday, January 28.

Of the 137 songs were submitted for consideration, six were chosen by a selection committee comprised of representatives from the Association of Icelandic Musicians (FÍH), the Icelandic Society of Composers and Lyricists (FTT), and RÚV. The remaining four slots were filled by performers who the selection committee specifically invited to take part.

Will 2023 finally be Iceland’s year?

Since its debut in 1986, Iceland has achieved seven Top 10 placements in Eurovision, including, most recently, Hatari’s 10th place in 2019 with their art-industro anthem “Hatrið mun sigra,” (“Hate Will Prevail“) and Daði og Gagnamagnið’s much-beloved “10 Years,” which placed fourth. Iceland has come this close to winning twice, placing second in 1999 and 2009.




National song contest to begin in February; winning song selected in March

The first semi-final will take place on February 18; the second will take place on February 25. Five songs compete for two spots in the final. The selection committee also has the ability to advance a fifth song. So the national final will include either or four or five songs, depending on whether the committee sees fit to nominate a wild card. Either way, the final will be held on March 4. The festivities will be hosted by actress, presenter, and assistant director of RÚV, Ragnhildur Steinunn Jónsdóttir, alongside musician Unnstein Manuel Stefánsson, and radio station Rás 2’s Director of Music, Sigurður Þorri Gunnarsson.

Following the TV special on January 28th, the songs will be available to listen to alongside their lyrics on the website songvakeppnin.is. They will also be published on Spotify the same night.

Streaming Festival “Live From Reykjavík” Starts Tonight

Hatari at Iceland Airwaves 2019

This year’s Iceland Airwaves festival may be postponed until 2021, but you’ll still get a chance to hear your favourite Icelandic musicians perform this November. The two-day streaming festival Live from Reykjavík starts tonight, featuring performers such as Ásgeir, Hatari, Emilíana Torrini, Of Monsters and Men and Mammút.

According to Iceland Airwaves CEO Ísleifur Þórhallsson, festival staff worked hard to create a concert experience for people watching from home. “we wanted to make an effort,” Ísleifur told RÚV. “We’ve seen plenty of the world’s biggest artists in their underwear in the kitchen strumming a guitar, but this is a concert.”

The lineup consists of 16 performers: Ásgeir, Auður, Bríet, Cell7, Daði Freyr, Emilíana Torrini & Friends, GDRN, Hatari, Hjaltalín, Júníus Meyvant, Kælan Mikla, Mammút, Mugison, Of Monsters and Men, Ólafur Arnalds and Vök. The performances are recorded in venues that have been part of the Airwaves festival for years, such as the Reykjavík Art Museum, Iðnó and Gamlabíó.

While the performing artists agree that there’s nothing like a live performance with an audience, they hope that the concert will bring a little bit of that Iceland Airwaves atmosphere to viewers around the world. Einar Stefánsson, member of Vök and Hatari told RÚV he suggested people treat the live event like they would a real concert and give it their unlimited attention. “focus as you would at a concert, don’t be on your phone or Facebook at the same time. At a concert, you’re sharing a moment with the artists and others in the room, so that could be one way to get that atmosphere, turn off your phone and turn up the volume.”

The concert will be broadcast on RÚV and Rás 2 radio station. For viewers outside Iceland, tickets are available online.

Will Ferrell Presents Iceland’s ‘Douze Points’ in At-Home Eurovision Broadcast

Had COVID-19 not intervened, Eurovision would have been held in Rotterdam this week, an event made all the more exciting because Iceland’s Daði Freyr and Gagnamagnið were strongly favoured to win. Iceland still found a way to celebrate the occasion, however, with a live Eurovision party on Thursday night featuring none other than Will Ferrell, RÚV reports.

Called ‘Okkar 12 stig’ (‘Our 12 Points’), the event gave Icelanders the opportunity to celebrate their favourite 15 songs from this year’s competition and then call in to determine which song would have gotten Iceland’s full twelve points (or, ‘douze points,’ in French, as those familiar with the song competition’s multilingual points announcement system would have it). Ferrell, who is playing an Icelandic Eurovision contestant alongside Rachel McAdams in a forthcoming Netflix movie, was given the honour of announcing Iceland’s top song for 2020: “Fai Rumore,” by Italy’s Diodato.

The event also featured a montage of all the times Iceland has been awarded 12 points by another country in Eurovision and Hatari’s Klemens Hannigan performing a subdued and distinctly un-Hatari rendition of the winning song from last year’s Eurovision: “Arcade,” by Duncan Laurence of The Netherlands



The evening closed with a rousing performance of Daði Freyr and Gagnamagnið’s “Think About Things,” which included cameo appearances by actor Jóhannes Haukur Jóhannesson (Game of Thrones, The Innocents), members of parliament, and none other than President Guðni Th. Jóhannesson and First Lady Eliza Reid.

Diodato sent his thanks to Iceland via video, saying, “Hello, Iceland, thank you so much for your support. I hope to see you soon. We’ll have to stand naked under a waterfall and spread the love. Ciao.”

You can watch the full broadcast on RÚV here.


Vök, Auður, Hatari Among Icelandic Music Award Winners

The Icelandic Music Awards were held on Wednesday night, with 38 awards given out in the categories of Album of the Year, Singer of the Year, Music Video of the Year and more, RÚV reports.

Pop act Vök received eight nods, the most nominations this year, and walked away accordingly with three awards in the categories of Singer of the Year (Women), Songwriter of the Year (both awarded to frontwoman Margrét Rán Magnúsdóttir), and Pop Album of the Year for In the Dark. Musician Auður also received three awards for Singer of the Year (Men), Performer of the Year, and Pop Song of the Year for “Enginn eins og þú” (‘No One Like You’).

Oscar-winning composer Hildur Guðnadóttir won two awards for her soundtrack for the film Chernobyl in the categories of Album of the Year (in the Music for Theater and Film category) and Production of the Year.

Hatari, Iceland’s representative at Eurovision 2019, received five nominations, including Song of the Year (for their Eurovision entry “Hatrið mun sigra,” or ‘Hate Will Prevail’), Songwriter of the Year, Music Event of the Year (for their Eurovision performance), Performer of the Year, and Music Video of the Year. Hatari won in the categories Music Video of the Year and Music Event of the Year.

Icelandic Music Awards: 2020 Nominees Announced

Hatari at Iceland Airwaves 2019

“The 2019 music year will long be remembered for many reasons. The creativity and daring of Icelandic musicians did not escape anyone’s notice, neither here at home nor abroad,” a press release from the Icelandic Music Awards states. The press release highlighted Hildur Guðnadóttir’s Oscar-winning music for the film Joker as well as her score for the TV series Chernobyl, adding that there were also many fresh faces and exciting new developments on the scene.

Rock band Vök received the most nominations this year, with eight in total for their album In the Dark. The bands Hatari, Sykur, and Grísalappalísa have each received five nominations.

Within classical and contemporary music, the Iceland Symphony Orchestra boasts five nominations this year, and the Icelandic Opera three. Pianist Ingi Bjarni Skúlason’s album Tenging received the most nominations (five) within the jazz category.

Hildur Guðnadóttir, unsurprisingly, has three nominations in the category of music in film and theatre. Of Monsters and Men has been nominated for Album of the Year, Rock Song of the Year, and Music Video of the Year.

A full list of the nominees is available in Icelandic on the Icelandic Music Awards website.

Year in Review 2019: Politics

Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir meets with US Vice President Mike Pence.

The political scene in Iceland in 2019 was chaotic like it most often is. Even though the political scene isn’t large by any means, with 63 MPs in the Icelandic Parliament and 23 seats in the Reykjavík City Council, the close quarters lead to intense fighting. Often, the only saving grace for Icelandic politicians is the fact that Icelanders move on to the ‘next scandal’ extremely quickly. Yesterday’s news becomes yesterday’s news in a matter of days. That’s why we have a recap such as this one. From Eurovision scandals and Mike Pence’s controversial visit to nefarious Namibian dealings, and everything between. Step into the tumultuous political scene in Iceland with us.

Fallout from Klaustur

The year started with the fallout from the Klaustur Scandal, where six MPs made sexist, ableist, and homophobic remarks about their colleagues at the Klaustur bar in downtown Reykjavík. Even though the scandal took place in 2018, the case rattled Icelanders so that ripples were felt through the new year. The court case of whistle-blower Bára Halldórsdóttir came to an end as Miðflokkur (The Central Party) MPs had charged her for invasion of privacy. Bára was made to delete the recordings. Meanwhile, The Central Party became the second-largest party in Iceland, polling at 14.8% of voters in October.

Third Energy Package

The Third Energy Package sounds like something you would guzzle down while running a marathon, but it’s anything but. The matter split opinions at the beginning of the year as politicians and the public alike debated it hotly. The Third Energy Package was approved by the EU in 2009, and was to be adopted by EU and EEA member states. Ten years later, Iceland was the only country not to have approved the package. Many believed Iceland would give up a part of its sovereignty, and force Iceland to build up a power link to the EU. Eventually, the package was approved in September by a Parliamentary vote of 46 to 13.

Strikes, strikes, strikes

The gap between the lowest and highest earners of society has led to wage disputes and strikes. The spring of 2019 saw tourism industry workers strike for higher wages, with hotel staff striking and bus drivers following in their wake. Later in 2019, journalists striked to demand fair wages. That debate is currently still ongoing, but newspaper Morgunblaðið saw it fit to have part-time staff members violate the strike as well as laying off fifteen journalists.

On a happier, yet still, somewhat grim, note – the youth in Iceland took part in the global youth climate strike movement led by Greta Thunberg. Minister of Environment Guðmundur Ingi Guðbrandsson met with protesters.

Flags and dishwashing brushes

Anti-capitalist, BDSM wearing, industrial techno band Hatari represented Iceland at the 2019 Eurovision Song Contest in Israel and managed to stir the pot. Band members held up banners bearing the Palestinian flag during the revelation of the votes, much to the displeasure of Israeli officials. Eventually, national broadcaster RÚV received a fine and the flag-scene was removed from the official Eurovision DV.

In June, a dishwashing brush and an airport wait strained the diplomatic relationship between Turkey and Iceland. A Belgian man stuck a dishwashing brush in star players’ Emre Belozoglu’s face like a microphone while he was being interviewed by reporters. This happened following an unusually long wait at the airport. The Turkish government issued a diplomatic note to Iceland denouncing what it is calling “disrespectful” and “violent” behaviour against the country’s men’s national football team. Iceland won 2-0, but Turkey has not lost a single match since then.

Bills, bills, bills.

Bills, bills, bills is not only a Destiny’s Child song but also what the Parliament started to approved in droves in the spring- and summertime. A new plan was approved to build up tourism infrastructure, while a plan to ban single-use plastics was approved, a widely supported move.

In May, the Government passed an abortion bill which legalises the termination of a pregnancy within the first 22 weeks regardless of circumstances. Abortion was previously legal within the same timeframe, however, a person’s decision to terminate a pregnancy after the 16th week required approval by a committee. That decision is now solely in the hands of the pregnant person.

This June, the Directorate of Health proposed a sugar tax on soft drinks and sweets to work towards long term goals in public health. The Icelandic Dentist’s Association has yet to release a statement on the matter. Later that summer, calls for stricter regulations on foreign land ownership started to rear their head. It’s an oft and long-discussed subject which appears to be stuck in political purgatory. But what should be done, and who’s land is it anyway?

USA – Iceland and Mike Pence

This summer, the Iceland – USA relationship was a hot talking point. US military presence is returning to Iceland, as the US Air Force and US Navy will construct facilities at Keflavík airport. The Air Force had facilities there from 1946 to 2006 and is going to spend ISK 7 billion ($56.2 million/€49.5 million) on military infrastructure. Meanwhile, Iceland increased its defence budget by 37%, due to “…increasing temporary presence of NATO forces at Keflavík Airport due to worsening security conditions in Europe, including in the North Atlantic.”

Vice President’s Mike Pence’s official visit to Iceland in August hit the news. Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir originally intended to miss the meeting due to commitments at the convention of Nordic trade unions. Eventually, Pence extended his stay to speak to Katrín about Arctic issues as well as defence matters. His visit was controversial and proved to somewhat unpopular with road closures, high cost and last but not least it was protested by numerous organizations due to his pro-war and anti-LGBTQ+ agenda.

Deportations debated

The public has called for the government to make major improvements to the handling of asylum seekers in Iceland. In August, authorities’ handling of two Afghan families seeking asylum in Iceland were heavily criticized. Later, in November, the Directorate of Immigration deported an asylum seeker who was just shy of 36 weeks pregnant. Both cases were met with outrage, as they were considered inhumane.

Move the clock – or not?

Few issues have garnered as much attention – and feedback – as the contentious suggestion to move the Icelandic clock back one hour to better align with solar time. Should Iceland move the clock?

Fishrot Files

Last but not least are the Fishrot Files. Icelandic fishing company Samherji is accused of tax evasion and bribery in Namibia to ensure access to fishing quotas in the country. Samherji is one of Iceland’s biggest companies and the fallout has been according to that. The government issued additional funding to investigate Samherji’s wrongdoings, and Icelandic tax authorities have opened an investigation into the case. Namibian ministers have resigned, as well as the CEO of Samherji. The case is still being resolved.

RÚV Fined for Hatari’s Palestine Banners

The European Broadcasting Union has decided to issue RÚV with a fine for Hatari’s behaviour in the green room at the Eurovision Song Contest finale in Isreal last spring when band members displayed banners in the Palestine flag colours. According to RÚV Director of Broadcasting Skarphéðinn Guðmundsson, RÚV will receive the minimum fine of 5000 Euro.

RÚV objected to proposed fine to the EBU and claimed they were unhappy with the process and intended solution. RÚV’s letter to the EBU stated that it was the wrong conclusion and unfair to fine RÚV for breaking the rules when RÚV had taken every possible measure to make sure the rules would be followed. RÚV is of the opinion that the broadcasters taking part in the competition can never completely prevent their artists from saying or doing something that might be against the rules.RÚV’s letter also states that RÚV is nevertheless proud of Iceland’s contribution to the competition this year and believe that the Hatari performance was splendid and attention-grabbing.

The EBU ruling will have no further consequences and RÚV has decided that they will participate in the competition again next year. They are now excepting songs for the 2020 contest in Rotterdam.

Hatari Pro-Palestine Protest to be Cut from Eurovision DVD

Icelandic band Hatari’s pro-Palestine protest during the 2019 Eurovision finals will be cut out of the official DVD of the event, RÚV reports. The news agency has not yet been able to confirm if the protest will also be cut from the footage that will be made available on streaming site Netflix, but it’s thought likely that it will be.

Hatari unfurled the Palestinian flag on camera during the official vote counting during the 2019 Eurovision Grand Final. The group garnered a great deal of attention prior to and during the event for openly stating that they intended to use Eurovision as a platform to engage in a critical discussion about Israeli-Palestinian relations. “We, of course, hope to see an end to the occupation as soon as possible and that peace will come,” they stated during an interview upon their arrival in Israel. Hatari was joined in its protest by Madonna, whose performance at the Grand Final featured a white-clad dancer bearing the Palestinian flag and a black-clad dancer wearing the Israeli flag. The words ‘WAKE UP’ were also displayed during her performance. Eurovision organisers stated that they were unaware of Madonna’s intentions and that the imagery had not been part of rehearsals ahead of the event.

Hatari’s flag-flying was controversial, as Eurovision maintains that it is a politically neutral event. When asked about breaking the Eurovision rules, one of the group’s singers, Matthías Tryggvi Haraldsson commented: “It wasn’t necessarily the plan to intentionally break the rules. There’s some undefined line there, and no one knows where it lies.” He continued, however, that the band felt that it was “a contradiction to say that this competition is apolitical” and, moreover, that they felt that it was impossible for them to ignore Israel’s actions toward Palestine during a competition that “is supposed to revolve around unity and peace among men.”

The reaction to Hatari’s protest was mixed, both among Israelis and Palestinians, some of whom dismissed the band’s “fig-leaf gestures of solidarity” and said that its decision to perform at all in Israel represented the “crossing our peaceful picket line.” Eurovision authorities and attendees were similarly unamused: the band was immediately forced to forfeit their Palestinian flags and were booed by some crowd members. Hatari also alleged that they were intentionally split up and given the worst seats on their El Al flight home from Israel in retaliation for their demonstration.

As yet, Eurovision has not definitively stated if Iceland will face repercussions for Hatari’s demonstration, which event organisers have stated were in violation of its rules.

Hatari Flew the Palestinian Flag at Eurovison

Icelandic Eurovision act Hatari held up banners bearing the Palestinian flag during the revelation of the votes at the 2019 Eurovision Grand Final. When the camera showed Hatari in the Green Room, Hatari members furled out the banners, releasing a clear statement. Much of the post-Eurovision discussion has revolved around Hatari’s act. Hatari’s song “Hatrið mun sigra” (Hate will prevail) is intended to portray what would happen in a hate-filled Europe without unity.

The contest was held in Tel Aviv, Israel, after Netta Barzilai won the 2018 Eurovision Song Contest with her song ‘Toy’. Hatari finished 10th in the competition, having received 186 points from the public, and 46 from jury votes, resulting in 234 total points.
Hatari had previously stated that they intend to use the Eurovision platform to engage in a critical discussion, and had stated “Well we, of course, hope to see an end to the occupation as soon as possible and that peace will come. We are hopeful,” on their arrival in Israel. Pop artist Madonna also performed at the Eurovision Grand Final. Her performance was politically charged, as a white-clad dancer bearing the Palestinian flag performed with a black-clad dancer wearing the Israeli flag. The words ‘WAKE UP’ were also part of the performance. Performance organizers have stated that they were unaware of Madonna’s intentions and that the imagery had not been part of rehearsals ahead of the event.

Hatari comments
Matthísa Tryggi Haraldsson, one of Hatari’s two singers, had this to say: “This was all according to plan. We’ve always felt it is important to use art as a tool to raise questions, to push the state of things into a different context and to get people to ask themselves big questions. This was one way to achieve that. If people were looking for some kind of explosion from us, I believe that our show by itself was the explosion, but of course, we did this as well.” When asked about Hatari breaking the Eurovision rules, Matthías commented: “It wasn’t necessarily the plan to intentionally break the rules. There’s some undefined line there, and no-one knows where it lies. It’s a contradiction to say that this competition is un-political. We felt like we had no other choice. You cannot host such a competition, which is supposed to revolve around unity and peace among men, which is beautiful in itself, but when you compare it to what happens in this country [Israel], you cannot ignore it. Like we’ve stated, we want art to remind us of the bigger context. I hope we did that.” The atmosphere in the Green Room was mixed after Hatari’s act. “Israelis and other competitors either complimented us or cursed us. The reactions were unforeseeable.”

Palestinian reaction
Palestinian reaction to Hatari’s act has been mixed, ranging from ecstatic to denouncing the act. In the run-up to the Grand Final, calls for Hatari to boycott the competition had grown louder. The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI), denounced the act, stating “Palestinian civil society overwhelmingly rejects fig-leaf gestures of solidarity from international artists crossing our peaceful picket line #Hatari”

On the other end of the reaction spectrum, Palestinian marathon runner Mohammad Alqadi praised Hatari’s efforts.

The European Broadcasting Union has released a statement on Hatari’s actions:
“In the live broadcast of the Eurovision Song Contest Grand Final, Hatari, the Icelandic act, briefly displayed small Palestinian banners whilst sat in the Green Room. The Eurovision Song Contest is a non-political event and this directly contradicts the contest’s rules. The banners were quickly removed and the consequences of this action will be discussed by the Reference Group (the contest’s executive board) after the contest.”

It is not known what sanctions Hatari or Iceland might face for the band’s actions. It has been speculated that Icelandic national broadcaster RÚV, which organizes the Icelandic entry each year, might face a fine. It has also been mentioned that Iceland might be banned from Eurovision 2020, which will be held in the Netherlands.

The response of the delegation
The Icelandic delegation manager Felix Bergsson was caught by surprise by the act but has stated that the delegation waits for the decision of the European Broadcasting Union. Read more here. “I was undeniably surprised and had somehow not expected this. But it was unequivocally the decision of the artists. There will be some repercussions which I do not know exactly at this point in time. The European Broadcasting Union has already notified me that they will respond. We’ll just have to wait and see what the response will be. Everyone could have expected this, as these are opinionated folks who wanted to voice them. I hope it’s a storm in a teacup which will pass over tonight [last night] and tomorrow.

Icelandic Eurovision commentator Gísli Marteinn Baldursson stated that he wasn’t surprised by the band’s actions. “Realistically, I think that it wasn’t a tremendous surprise that Hatari did something like this. From my point of view, I had feared that they would do something even more drastic, which would have more severe repercussions than this act.”

Hatari’s performance in the Grand Final yesterday evening:

Eurovision staff confiscate flags
It has been released that not all Hatari members knew of the proposed stunt. A video was published on Hatari’s drum gimp, Einar Stefánsson, personal Instagram account, which depicts Israeli Eurovision staff confiscating the flags from Hatari members. One of the Hatari dancers can be heard in the background stating “I’m very afraid now. I want to go back to the hotel. I was not-,” before her voice trailed off.

Hatari’s official Instagram page now depicts the Palestinian flag. https://www.instagram.com/hatari_official/

Madonna’s performance at the Grand Final

The flag incident during the vote revelation, along with Hatari interview

Bookies Give Iceland 4% Chance of Winning Eurovision

Hatari Eurovision

Online bookies are predicting that Iceland will come in 8th place at the Eurovision Song Contest Final on Saturday. Per the current odds on EurovisionWorld.com, The Netherlands are well-placed to triumph, with a 47% of winning tonight. Iceland, on the other hand, has a 4% chance of winning, odds it shares with Italy, Russia, and Azerbaijan.

Predictions have Australia coming in second place, although if the country wins (current odds, 12%), the competition would be hosted in an as yet to be determined European country. Switzerland is predicted to come in third place.

Iceland has earned second place twice in the competition: in 1999, for Selma‘s “All Out of Luck” and 2009, for Yohanna’s “Is It True?”. The country has never won Eurovision. By making it through the semi-final, however, Hatari has already exceeded Iceland’s showings in recent years; the country has not qualified for the final since 2014.