Schlagerfiasko or not? That seems to sum up the reactions to Iceland’s Söngvakeppni Sjónvarpsins, where Sjónni’s friends (vinir Sjónna) won the competition. The main surprise seems to stem from the fact that Jóhanna – whom many, particularly outside Iceland, had tipped to win – didn’t even come second.
It was always going to be an emotional evening, with Sjónni Brink’s absence having a huge impact on proceedings. Despite the sterling efforts of Guðmundur Gunnarsson, joined by the inimitable Páll Óskar (Ragnhildur was apparently on her holidays!), the tone was muted and respectful, rather than fun. That’s not to say there wasn’t humour along the way, and Pálli’s interjections were great. And he definitely knows his Eurovision…
Crowd-pleasers were Jóhanna and Erna Hrönn, both of whom delivered great performances that definitely had potential for the Düsseldorf stage. Erna Hrönn, in particular, had great confidence and was an absolute treat. But given the circumstances, I’m not sure Eurovision was the point any longer.
Sjónni’s friends received a rapturous response, with the song seemingly taking on a new dimension as a celebration of Sjónni. I’d have been surprised if it didn’t win. Was that because of his passing? Quite possibly. But even if it was, it doesn’t matter. The Icelandic music community are mourning one of their own, and the contest became a tribute to his life. And you know what? That’s absolutely fine.
There’s been much internet comment about Jóhanna being Iceland’s only chance of victory. But who’s to say that she would have had a better chance at Eurovision than Sjónni’s friends, or Erna Hrönn, or Magni (who came second)? It doesn’t matter if Iceland wins the whole contest or doesn’t make it past the semi-final, it will (if the Friends are allowed to perform in place of Sjónni) have sent a song that truly represents the country at this moment in time.
Just a further note about the minor scandal surrounding Jóhanna’s perceived reaction to the announcement of the top two entries. She has had to issue a statement to say she supports the outcome, and congratulated the performers on the night. That’s fine, but why shouldn’t she be disappointed? She worked as hard as everyone else in the contest and wanted to represent her country. Any of us in the same position would be disappointed not to do as well as we hoped. Trying to create a drama from nothing is not going to achieve anything except a cheap headline, especially given the exceptional circumstances of this particular situation.
Goodness me, what a serious review. I’m going off to watch Babsan from Saturday evening.