ESC 2017 Review: Iceland – Cut Like Paper

I don’t have anything clever to say about Iceland because Iceland didn’t send their clever entry and instead sent this (still great) more standard song.

These are my own PERSONAL rankings of what I think of 2017’s Eurovision songs but I’m also going to make some bold predictions about the eventual fate of the song. These will probably be very wrong for a variety of reasons including I have no idea what almost half the artists sound like live or what type of staging and song changes could be made. There’s plenty of songs that have been let down by their staging (2016 Spain for example) so in the end they’re just guesses in the dark.

Country: Iceland
Artist: Svala
Song Title: Paper
My Ranking: 21st (out of 43)
Semi Final: 1st Semi
Final placement prediction: NQ

Iceland is the little land that couldn’t. Iceland is a small country of about 320,000 (if you’re keeping score that’s smaller than Malta) but this will be the 29th Eurovision for them. And how have they fared? Well, 2nd place twice ain’t bad. Iceland has grabbed the silver in two very difficult to win years but aside from that they’re usually somewhere in the middle of the pack. The last two years have been really rough with a back to back NQs so I’m sure they’re hoping that Svala can pull out a win for them, or at least qualify. The song they sent last year is great so I have to assume that after sending Pollapönk in 2014 the problem is just that the world realized we would never really be ready for Iceland.

Svala blew away all the competition during the Söngvakeppnin contest including my personal favorite (RIP “Is This Love”). Svala is one of the oldest competitors in this years Eurovision at 40 she’s been a singer/song writer for longer than some of the competitors have been alive which is also not hard because of the young age of the competitors but also Svala was in her first public recording at age 7 – meaning she’s been making music since before even I was born. She’s been part of the electronic house band Steel Lord, her music has been used on several US shows. In the past decade she’s released music under three different act names (Steel Lord, Blissful, and her own name) and gone on to launch a line of clothing, direct music videos, and be a coach on Iceland’s version of The Voice. Svala is quite the impressive force to be reckoned with so, how’s the song?

I have to say, I really like “Paper” and I grew to like it more after listening to it a couple times. Age is really just a number because Svala moves on stage like she’s half her age, she has a really fresh and interesting look this could have easily been sold as Katy Perry song I think. It has all the slow build and bravada as “Roar”. She is a fantastic singer and she’s channeling Madonna and Gwen Stefani during the whole song. The lyrics are actually quite good and I feel like the thematic image of being cut through by someone you love or trust really works for me (it could easily be a stand in for anxiety or stress as well). This is also not a particularly easy song to sing so I have to give a lot of props to Svala never losing composure.

What makes me worry about the song is the almost-rap she has. I’m not sure that it works. It makes it sound muddled and it’s just in an uncomfortable valley between “white girl rapping” and “mush mouth through lyrics”. If somehow we could just take that part out of the song I would be able to rate it higher on a personal level and also I would say it had much more of a chance at qualification on the night at Eurovision.

The second problem comes with what they’re likely to do with her staging. While the music video is great and gives me all the vibes that I’m getting from the song, at the national final we had almost none of that. At the national final she was simply in weird high heels that lit up when she walked (kind of) and lights that strobed on her extremely dated 1990 Madonna knock off outfit. I’m going to need Iceland to step up everything. Considering that the last two years they sent basically the exact same staging to ESC, I’m not expecting much. If the pattern holds true it’s basically an complete NQ for the tiny country again. The outfit needs to be entirely different, maybe something extremely colorful, some way to bring in the line “color me in with your blue” like having her in a white outfit that turns blue over the course of the song. It either needs a lot of different colors or to show how tortured the emotions are in the song. Most of all,  after seeing the cool outfits in the video and some pieces from her clothing line and costumes from Steel Lord…we all know she can do way better than white suit Madonna.

So Iceland, step it up! Bigger! Costumes! Actual staging! A paper dress that falls apart would also be acceptable. Just do SOMETHING!

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