Tel Aviv 2019

Changes in Söngvakeppnin, step in the right direction?

Following the announcement on 13th of September, about Iceland participating at Eurovision in Tel Aviv in Israel, RÚV, the national broadcaster and the host of Söngvakeppnin, the Icelandic national final, posted further details. That is, the dates, including a  few changes in Söngvakeppnin selection process, as well as a call for song submissions.  

Starting on 20th of September until 22nd of October, RUV will be accepting song for Söngvakeppnin in 2019. Last few years the Contest as grown more popular in Iceland, and is one of the main events of Icelandic TV broadcasting. The last few years the a special comity as selected 12 songs out of the submission for the contest. 

Reaching out to the authors

This time for Söngvakeppnin 2019,  there will be only be ten entries. That is five songs in each semi, and two of them going to the final. And like previous years chances of an additional “wildcard” entry. So possible five entries at the final. There will also be changes in the selection process. Now RUV will reach out to experienced and popular songwriters to make few of the songs, as well as selecting for in-sent songs.  In addition the there will be a special workshop for recorders, composers and performers, in collaboration with the ISAC – The Icelandic Society of Authors & Composers.

New artist director and choreography

RÚV hired the British choreographer Lee Proud, to be there artist director and dance choreographer. But he has been directing big musicals in Iceland, including Mary Poppins, Billy Elliot and Mamma mia. He will be working with experienced Samúel J. Samúelsson, who is the musical director for Söngvakeppin. Along with Ragnhildur Steinunn Jónsdóttir who has been the one of the orgininizers of the Conntest as well as the hostess for the last several years. She is excited for the change and is hopeful that the changes will bring “more diverse, more excitement and even better songs”.

The dates for the show!

The semi finals will be held at Háskólabíó on the 9th and 16th of February. And just as previous years the final will be in Laugardagshöll on 2nd of March. Furthermore it promises that it will continue to invite big Eurovision stars to perform as interval act.

  • First Semi Final – February 9th
  • Second Semi Final –  February 16th
  • Söngvakeppnin final – March 2nd

For those songwriters, composers and singers that want to take part, are asked to send in their submissions through, songvakeppnin.is .However people outside of Iceland should know that their have not been changes in Söngvakeppnin regarding that songs need to be in Icelandic at the semi final And their needs to be Icelanders in the song team.

What do people think of the changes in Söngvakeppnin?

We here at ESCXTRA asked few artists, songwriters and fans, in Iceland, about what they thing about the new set up. As well as if they would have liked to see more changes in the contest. And for those who have taken part at Söngvakeppnin; if they will send submissions for this years selection.

Arnar Jónsson

Arnar has taken part at Söngvakeppnin two times, last time was in 2017 as a part of a duet with Rakel Pálsdóttir. The other time was in 2010 with Þúsund stjörnur. When asked about the changes express both positive and negative thoughts ” I think that inviting professional songwriters to submit a song can only improve the contest. As long as their songs get the same odds of getting accepted as the other songs, so I’m excited for that. The decision to reduce the final songs to four instead of six at the final… I don’t know… I don’t agree with that… but maybe they have something big up their sleeves.”

Furthermore he pointed out the difficulty with the language rule, about needing to have it in Icelandic in the semi final. “I would have liked that songwriters could decide in what language their songs would be performed in. Have you any idea how hard it can be to translate English lyrics to Icelandic and keep the content intact? Its pretty challenging and can be a bit frustrating”. However this will no stop him from wanting to take part at Söngvakeppnin this year. “Yes I will” was his answer to “Will you submit a song/songs this year?”.

Júlí Heiðar Halldórsson

Júlí Heiðar has taken part at Söngvakeppnin few times, both as a singer and songwriter. He wrote  and sang inn 2017 he a duet with his girlfriend Þórdís.. And as a composer he took part in 2016 and 2018,  the second one was performed by Dagur Sigurðsson, and was a runner up.

“I have doubts about some of the changes they made, but hopefully my opinion will change when we hear the songs. These changes will probably have some effects on the contest though. The only thing I would change about the contest is the format of the duel. In my opinion the points from the duel should be added to the points from the first vote and the judges vote. I’m not submitting a song this year and I will probably take a break from Söngvakeppnin for a while”

Laufey Helga Guðmundsdóttir

Laufey is a devoted fan to Söngvakeppnin and Eurovision, and has been to many of them. When asked her personal opinion about the changes, ” I like that RÚV is making an effort! By targeting experienced song writers and inviting them to join the contest, the workshop they are initiating together with the Association of songwriters in Iceland and finally hiring Lee Proud as the choreographer for Söngvakeppnin. I am little skeptical about having only 4 songs in the final but will keep an open mind for that one!” She is also sure that it will have positive affect on the contest.

When asked about further about what changes might be good for Söngvakeppnin, Laufey had few thoughts. “All songs must be performed in Icelandic in the semi-finals. I would have liked to see a change where it is in the discretion of the songwriter to choose the most fitting language for his/her song and performer. This is also bad PR in my opinion since in most cases you would have to promote two songs, one in Icelandic for the semi-finals and one in English for the final.”

In addition she would have liked to see th requirement of Icelandic nationality/residence for the songwriters lifted since this rule can easily be circumvented. She says: “It would be better to have full transparency.”

However if Laufey could pick one thing to change: “Essentially these are small amendments – what I truly would have preferred, after four years of Iceland not qualifying for the Grand Final of Eurovision, are drastically changes. In my opinion Icelanders are too keen on choosing the right artist for Eurovision instead of concentrating on the song. Perhaps it would be worth the try to have one artists perform all songs (like UMK 2018) or organising Söngvakeppnin in two parts; one where we choose the artists and second where we choose the right song for that particular artists.”

What do you think about the changes in Söngvakeppnin this year? Will you watch it? What are your hopes for Iceland at Eurovision in 2019. What artist/s would you like to see?

Iceland in Eurovision

Last several years have not been the most success for Iceland at Eurovision. However they could be hopeful for this year, given the “10 year rule”. That is, Iceland´s highest score was in 1999 and 2009. Both Yohanna and Selma reached second place at Eurovision.  In addition Selma did performed “All out of Luck” in Israel. Who knows if Iceland will be seccond again and have their victory stolen from another Nordic country, maybe Denmark this time!

Selma performing in Jerusalem in 1999.


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