With the second heat of Söngvakeppnin Sjónvarpsins finished, expectations among fans was huge. The overall standard of tonight’s heat was extremely high. Jóhanna and Matthías Matthíasson & Erla Björg Káradóttir join last week’s victors in the final on February the 12th.
Hosts Ragnhildur Steinunn Jónsdóttir and Guðmundur Gunnarsson welcomed us once again to the RÚV studios in Reykjavík for the second installment in the thriller that is Söngvakeppni Sjónvarpsins 2011. Would they be able to match the high standard of last week’s show? It certainly seems so, as in this heat there are two names familiar with most fans – Jóhanna and Kristján Gíslason (Two Tricky). Tonight we’ll get better acquainted with the next 5 artists and their songs.
The songs: (You can read more about the participants in our presentation)
Song number 1: Jóhanna Guðrún Jónsdóttir – Nótt/Night (María Björk Sverrisdóttir/Marcus Frenell/Beatrice Eriksson/Magnús Þór Sigmundsson)
First out is young Jóhanna who made a lasting impression on most of us in Moscow. Singing tonight’s big ballad, would she be able go one better with Nótt than in 2009? Well, if truth be told, Nótt is not as immediate as Is It True?, although there’s no denying the quality of the ballad, a very emotional ballad which despite her young age, Jóhanna manages to convey convincingly. The song is a grower however, and has all of the ingredients that fans want. Jóhanna came on stage to subdued applause. Cool blues provided a backdrop for Jóhanna’s performance. She was dressed very simply and elegantly in a powder pink thigh high emroidered dress with a simple silk bodice. Her backing singers were dressed all in black, possibly so as not to distract attention from the artist. Jóhanna gave a Very confident performance and the camera truly loved her! Just as good as the studio version, even when she hit the long high note entering the last chorus. Impressive start to the show, this is definitely the one to beat.
Song number 2: Bryndís Ásmundsdóttir – Segðu Mér/Tell Me (Jakob Jóhannsson/Tómas Guðmundsson)
Bryndís sings the blues at Söngvakeppni! Her voice is as if made for this song, with its raspy, soulful qualities. Refreshingly different, Segðu Mér acts as a great contrast to the previous number. Bryndís sings passionately, and with a melody that builds nicely, this makes for very pleasant listening on the ear. The song was apparently specially composed with Bryndís’ voice in mind. The stage was dark, lit gradually by strips of pink and red evolving behind the artist. Bryndís chose a flowing red and black kaftan for her outfit this evening. There was very little choreography with her backing singers stading in a row of five behind her. Her vocal prestation was fine, attacking the song with gusto, although in places she just sounded tired instead of husky. The song flowed fine, but failed to make that much of an impact, sounding quite deflated.
Song number 3: Kristján Gíslason & Íslenzka sveitin – Þessi þrá/This Longing (Albert G. Jónsson)
On familiar territory here, thinking have we heard this before? Quite reminiscent of last year’s Danish entry In A Moment Like This with a psuedo Coldplay intro. Kristján and Lísa perform this slightly uptempo ballad very well, their voices complementing each other perfectly. A very uplifting and memorable hook, this could also be one to watch. Orange hues set Kristján’s outfit off perfectly, as he stood there dressed in a black suit and red shirt. He seemed to struggle with some of the higher notes in certain places although he didn’t perform bad at all. Lísa enters the stage, discarding a black cape to reveal a red silk dress underneath. Very effective gimmick. Their interaction on stage seemed forced in some way, not entirely convincing and not quite gelling. Got quite a rousing applause from the appreciative audience.
Song number 4: Rakel Mjöll Leifsdóttir – Beint á Ská/Straight Across (Tómas Hermannsson/Orri Harðarson/Rakel Mjöll Leifsdóttir)
If you fail to get a happy vibe when listening to this, you need prozac! Rakel’s voice sounds so fragile in places; the song itself seems to evoke a picture of summer and hazy days with a very organic sound. As refreshing as a cold chardonnay on that warm summer’s day. An interesting choice of outfit – animal prints were back! Leopard patterned sleveless top and trousers, with backing singers dressed in red. A dark backdrop, changing colour gradually between greens and yellows was a nice effect. Poor Rakel’s voice quite simply veered off course in some parts of the song, with an unsteady beginning setting the tone for the rest of the song. Yet another static performance. The young artist quite simply lacked enough experience apparently. Still charming in a way.
Song number 5: Matthías Matthíasson & Erla Björg Káradóttir – Eldgos/Explosion (Matthías Stefánsson/Kristján Hreinsson)
What would the contest be without an hommage to the volcano that wreaked havoc for many last April/May? It’s a difficult song to categorize – the sinewy, slightly sinister introduction soon evolves into a fast paced, punchy melody. The strings are a nice touch, although the operatic tones halfway through do nothing for the song, merely detracting from the experience. It’s a song no doubt many will either love or loathe. The red coloured backdrop and smoke was very significant, symbolising the volcano Eyjafjallajökull. Dressed in a short sleeved military style shirt, Matthías certainly provided the most lively performance of the evening, waking the audience up towards the end of the show! Amazingly, he hit all the notes, which was impressive in itself but was marred when Erla Björg started her wailing. Tonight’s version sounded much rockier than the studio version.
The hosts didn’t beat about the bush and got proceedings underway immediately. We were welcomed to a stage lit in soothing pinks and purples, setting the stage for the evening’s first number. Each act was introduced by the composer telling small stories. Following the last act, a moving and very fitting tribute was paid to Sigurjón Brink, who had tragically died very suddenly earlier in the week. According to RÚV, his song will still be performed next week as planned, but by his friends, at the request of his family. This weeks roving reporter took us to a fitness center in Akureri, discussing the importance of outfits, rhythm, etc. A nice Eurovision touch was the Danish entry Twist of Love in the background as they were training! Yet again, there was surpringly little in the way of entertainment, with celebrities Gunnar Hansson and Hafdís Þrástardóttir engaging in banter with the hosts as the next lucky candidate for RÚV’s Düsseldorf competition was being contacted. Their Eurovision knowledge wasn’t very impressive, to say the least…
The first artist to be announced as a finalist was, no surprises, Jóhanna with Nótt, to rapturous applause from the audience. The biggest surprise was when Eldgos performed by Matthías Matthíasson & Erla Björg Káradóttir was revelaed as the other finalist!
Congratulations to the two winners this evening, and not least to RÚV for producing yet another great show! You see, small countries can do just as well, too! See you next week, same time, same place!