ESC 2014: An In-Depth Review of Iceland


It has become customary for the editorial board to engage professional individuals from the music industry to assess the songs competing in the Eurovision Song Contest as presented to the European Broadcasting Union during the Heads of Delegation Meeting. Martin Isherwood, Deo Grech, Stano Simor and Matt Mercieca from the United Kingdom, Malta and the Czech Republic have been entrusted with the first semi-final, comprising of sixteen songs and set to take place on the 6th May 2014 at the B&W Hallerne in Copenhagen, Denmark. Making use of the running order and thus moving onto number #5, we catch up with Iceland (RUV) who will be represented by Pollapönk and the song No Prejudice co-written by Heidar Orn Kristjansson, Haraldur Freyr Gislason and John Grant.

Pollapönk were founded in 2006 by guitarists Haraldur Freyr Gislason and Heidar Orn Kristjansson of the Icelandic post-punk trio Botnledja. They created Pollapönk when graduating as Bachelors of Education from the Icelandic University of Education – in fact the first Pollapönk album was recorded when Haraldur and Heidar were graduating as pre-school teachers: they made an album as a part of their final work and submitted it along with a final paper. The purpose was to write and perform ambitious music that children and adults alike would enjoy and be able to sing along to. The songs are intended to relate to different age groups in an open and illuminating way.

The first Pollapönk album was a major hit in Iceland. In 2007 drummer Arnar Thor Gislason – who is Haraldur‘s brother – and bassplayer Gudni Finnsson both joined Pollapönk, who then became a quartet. Pollapönk have recorded two subsequent albums and played countless gigs for children and adults all over Iceland. In everyday life Haraldur Freyr is chairman of the Association of pre-school Teachers. Heidar Orn is a pre-school teacher and Arnar Thor and Gudni are professional musicians. Haraldur Freyr and Heidar Orn are childhood friends who have been playing and writing music since their early teens. They formed the band Botnledja and entered the local music contest Battle of the Bands’in 1995 and ended up winning it.

Despite their obvious sense of humour, Pollapönk’s serious aim is to help eradicate prejudice and bullying through the medium of music. The song No Prejudice (Enga fordóma) is typical of this running theme in all their work. It is all about a young person who has a speech impediment and is afraid of being teased or bullied because of it. With this song about celebrating our diversity it is Pollapönk’s aim to help eliminate all forms of discrimination, bullying and prejudice, with the message that every individual has the right to live harmoniously with the rest of the world. Eurovision itself is a uniquely diverse institution and Pollapönk are proud to use this musical stage to send their positive message out across Europe to millions of viewers.

Iceland, the only Scandinavian country yet to win the Eurovision Song Contest has flirted with the top positions on more than one occasion, finished in second place in 1999 and 2009 at the hands of Selma with All Out of Luck and Yohanna with Is It True? Since 2008, the country has maintained a perfect qualification record at the esteemed event with fan favourites such as Je Ne Sais Quoi by Hera in 2010 as well as Never Forget by Greta & Jonsi in 2012 respectively. Last year, Gianluca who represented Malta had stated that Eg a Lif by Eypor Ingi was his most favourite song in the competition and was photographed with the male vocalist on a number of occasions.

Professional Critics Voice their Opinion

Rating: 40%

Martin Isherwood: Unusual shift in feel to the chorus which loses a bit of the momentum.  Laudable politically correct sentiments.  Strange mix of 80s feels mixing madness, and almost lifting the chorus and chants directly from the J Giels band’s ‘Centrefold’ with some funky moments and Blink’ thrown in to totally mess you up.  Hard to keep track of.

Deo Grech: Sorry, this is not my cup of tea at all!   The English version of the song didn’t help it at all.   The stage act will make things worse.  I still can’t figure out why are they trying to be funny while singing lyrics about ‘No prejudices’ out to the world!   Iceland please…bring back Yohanna, Selma and Hera Bjork!!

Stano Simor: Island brings with Pollapönkem simple fun that aims to entertain and not to act like the musicians and the art. Stage costumes and “stupid” expression of the vocalists , is exactly what can deliver today at the ESC. We will not see this song on the first places, but it will certainly an interesting variegation of the ESC.

Matt Mercieca: Blehhhh! hmm I want to love it, cause of the message it gives but nahh! The vibe of the song is cool! and like the breakdown in the middle but BLEEEHHHHHHHH! its not my kind of song.



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