Laufey: From Icelandic Sensation to Global Fame

Bewitched / From the Start

Laufey Lín Jónsdóttir, simply known as Laufey [Lay-way, lœy:vei], is a Grammy winning singer-songwriter from Iceland. With her unique voice and musical talent, she has captured the hearts of listeners worldwide. 

From bewitching melodies to Grammy-success, her journey from the shores of Iceland to the pinnacle of the music industry is nothing short of extraordinary. Raised in a household immersed in music, Laufey started playing the piano and cello at a young age. She performed as a cello soloist with the Symphony Orchestra of Iceland at age 15, appeared on talent shows, studied music and singing at Reykjavík College of Music and earned a presidential scholarship to Berklee College of Music.

It was her debut single, ´Street by Street,´ along with her pandemic concerts on the social media platform TikTok, that propelled her to stardom. This marked the emergence of a true musical phenomenon, celebrated as the ambassador bringing jazz to the forefront of Gen Z culture.

 


Early life and influences

Born in Reykjavík on April 23d 1999, both Laufey and her identical twin sister Júnía, come from a mixed heritage, with an Icelandic father and a Chinese mother. Laufey speaks Icelandic, English and Mandarin, having grown up both in Washington DC and Iceland and spending her summers in Beijing. 

Central to the twins’ upbringing was a deep immersion in classical music, nurtured by their mother’s skill as a classical violinist and their grandfather’s legacy as a violin educator in China. The sisters embarked on their musical journeys at an early age, with Júnía finding her forte on the violin while Laufey studied both the piano and cello. 

Laufey has many times said that her classical background influenced her love of music greatly, but it was also her father´s jazz record collection, featuring artists like Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday, that inspired her musical career. 


Laufey´s rise to fame

Laufey´s musical journey took a significant step forward when she performed as a cello soloist with the Iceland Symphony Orchestra at just 15 years old. Her path to musical success continued as she appeared on Icelandic versions of popular talent shows like Ísland Got Talent, where she was a finalist, and The Voice where she made it to the semi finals. 

Following her graduation from Reykjavík College of Music in 2018, where she also studied singing, Laufey went on to continue her musical education. With a presidential scholarship in hand, she pursued further studies at Berklee College of Music, from where she graduated in 2021.

Surprisingly, a career in music was not Laufey´s goal all along. In an interview on the Icelandic talk show Vikan með Gísla Marteini, she told viewers that she initially intended to study economics at St. Andrews in Scotland alongside her sister Júnía. However, it seems like fate had other plans. Júnía explained that it seemed like the world kept interfering to redirect Laufey towards a musical career.

In 2020, Laufey´s career started taking off with the release of her debut single Street by Street. This was followed by her first EP, Typical of Me, in April 2021. A year later she reached yet another milestone with the debut of her first full-length album, Everything I Know About Love, which resulted in her being the most streamed jazz artist on Spotify in 2022.

 

Bewitched: From a record-breaking album debut to a Grammy win

Laufey accepting her 2024 Grammy. A screenshot from YouTube / The Recording Academy

Laufey´s musical journey reached new heights with the release of her second album, Bewitched, in September 2023. The album reached an all-time record, making history as the biggest debut for a Jazz album on Spotify. With over 5,7 million day-one streams Laufey´s Bewitched surpassed Lady Gaga´s and Tony Bennet´s 2021 Love For Sale album.

Laufey’s ascent to musical stardom soared to even greater heights after the release of  Bewitched, resulting in her first ever Grammy award for Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album. This milestone marked a crowning achievement in Laufey’s career, affirming her talent and influence on the global stage.

Laufey´s success not only resonates with her global fanbase but also with her fellow Icelanders. Whenever someone from this small island in the North achieves greatness on the world stage, the whole nation swells up like a proud parent. Even though Laufey´s journey is just beginning, she serves as an inspiration, not only for aspiring musicians but for anyone with a big dream. As she continues to bewitch audiences worldwide, we eagerly await the next chapter of this extraordinary young artis. 

 

What ethnicity is Laufey?

Laufey is half Icelandic and half Chinese and mostly grew up in Reykjavík, Iceland.

Who is Laufey’s twin?

Laufey has an identical twin sister named Júnía. The girls are very close and even work together. Júnía is the creative director of Laufey´s brand and the two spend a lot of time together even with Laufey living in L.A. and Júnía in London.

How did Laufey get famous?

Laufey´s ascend to stardom has been fast. She started off by participating in the Icelandic versions of The Voice and Ísland Got Talent. During the pandemic she started performing on TikTok that quickly earned her a huge social media following from all over the world and she even caught the attention of famous musicians such as Willow Smith and Billie Eilish. After releasing her music, Laufey has appeared on talk shows such as Jimmy Kimmel Live! and collaborated with musicians like Norah Jones. She then won her first Grammy in 2024 for her second full-length album, Bewitched.

What is Laufey’s genre?

Though the exact genre of Laufey´s music is hard to pinpoint, jazz is very obviously her main musical influence. Her music also includes elements of pop, classical and bossa nova. Her genre has been described as jazz-pop or traditional pop due to the mixture of elements in her music. Laufey´s Grammy win was in the category of Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album where her fellow nominees were industry icons such as Bruce Springsteen and Ricky Lee Jones. 

 

Hera Björk Wins Amid Eurovision Controversy

A screenshot from RÚV. Hera Björk during the Söngvakeppnin final, March 2, 2024

Hera Björk has won Iceland’s Söngvakeppnin, but it is still unclear whether she will represent Iceland in this year’s Eurovision Song Contest. Hera won Iceland’s pre-Eurovision competition with her song Scared of Heights last Saturday, beating out Palestinian contestant Bashar Murad in the final. Some have called for an independent investigation into the voting process after reports of glitches in national broadcaster RÚV’s voting app.

Iceland falls on bookmakers’ lists

Five acts performed in the televised Söngvakeppnin finals last Saturday evening, with Hera Björk and Bashar Murad voted as the two finalists. Prior to the final, Eurovision bookmakers had considered Bashar as most likely to become Iceland’s Eurovision representative and had placed Iceland in third place on their Eurovision betting odds lists. Since Hera’s win was announced, Iceland has fallen to eleventh place.

Glitches in voting app

Several Söngvakeppnin voters reported glitches in National Broadcaster RÚV’s voting app on Saturday. Some who attempted to vote for Bashar shared screenshots of error messages or indications that their vote had gone to Hera instead. Vodafone Iceland stated that any glitches were not due to a systemic issue on their end. RÚV is looking into the matter, but director of Söngvakeppnin Rúnar Freyr Gíslason has stated that the total number of votes affected by potential glitches were not so great as to influence the final outcome. The composer of Wild West, the song Bashar performed, has called for an independent investigation into the matter.

Icelandic musicians call on RÚV to not participate

There have been calls to boycott Eurovision among the Iceland public this year due to Israel’s participation in the contest. These calls have been echoed within the Icelandic music community as well. Over 550 musicians in Iceland signed a petition calling on RÚV to boycott the competition if Israel is permitted to participate. The signees include a plethora of well-known artists such as Emilíana Torrini, Bríet, Hildur Guðnadóttir, Páll Óskar, and Nanna Bryndís Hilmarsdóttir (Of Monsters and Men). The Icelandic Association of Composers and Lyricists also released a statement urging RÚV not to participate in the contest.

RÚV Director Stefán Eiríksson has previously stated that the broadcaster would leave it up to the winning musician of Söngvakeppnin to decide whether or not to participate in Eurovision in Malmö, Sweden this year.