In Defense of Iceland (AE)


Alëx Elliott's picture

As the world, nay the universe, gears up for Eurovision Week, Iceland’s chances of winning are not rated highly. And that’s really unfair!

Iceland’s Pollapönk and the bearded lady from Austria have been bunched together by many commentators as this year's joke entries to Eurovision – and bookies rate their chances of winning accordingly.

However, proud Austrian drag queen Conchita Wurst will represent the country with a perfectly accomplished, and not-at-all-spoof, song called ‘Rise Like a Phoenix’. While drag queens are not as uncommon or controversial as they once were, beautifully feminine ones with full beards remain so, apparently.

On a similar note, Icelandic entry Pollapönk are known for their (almost Teletubby-esque) brightly colored distinguishing costumes. People assume they must be some band aimed specifically at pre-school kids and write them off as a result.

-------Click here to listen along as you read the rest of this column -------

Here’s a news flash: Pollapönk is a band aimed specifically at young children. Or at least it was.

They had been doing pretty well for themselves touring the country and playing for the youngest generation, and their originality and flair had earned them a great deal of adult recognition and respect – though not many adult fans, it’s fair to say.

The band’s pre-school teacher lead singer, Haraldur Freyr Gíslason decided to write a pop-punk-rock inspired song to enter into the national Eurovision selection competition, and, well, the rest is history.

The members of Pollapönk have rock roots and their fame since 2006 for children’s music goes hand-in-hand with members’ other bands and interests, including sharing two band members with the hit indie rock band, Botnleðja (who, by the way, used to tour with Blur back in the day, and even donated the distinctive "Woo Hoo" line for one of Blur's biggest hits, Song 2).

Then there are the backing vocalists: one is the bassist and songwriter in the Viking metal band, Skálmöld; while the other is the first ever sitting member of a national parliament from any country to have ever performed at Eurovision (correct me if I'm wrong)...and also a renowned punk, of course.

So, ignore the costumes and what you may or may not have heard before about Iceland’s 2014 Eurovision ‘disaster’ and give the song a listen. What you’ll hear is a deliberately rough around the edges pop-punk number with a positive and upbeat message.

The song actually puts me in mind of certain 80s and 90s pop-punk classics including Dizzy, by Vic Reeves and the Wonder Stuff; and Two Princes by the Spin Doctors.

After your second or third listening to No Prejudice, you won’t even notice that it’s deliberately rough around the edges any more. It is just what it is.

As ever, the Icelandic nation is mostly right behind its entry – as repeated radio play for months always means that every Icelandic song is accepted, loved, and even expected to do well, by the time Eurovision arrives. A lot of people are usually quite surprised and put out by the outcome.

Even after my best efforts above, Iceland will still be considered lucky to proceed from tonight’s semi-final to the Grand Final this Saturday. But you can help.

Give the song two or three listens now, and then (if you agree with me) and you are in Europe, give us a tele-vote or two later this evening.

Við elskum ykkur sem kjósa fyrir Ísland!

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Views expressed here are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Iceland Review.