On occasions, certain countries or songs are unpopular at Eurovision. Few, however, have managed to attract the same level of antipathy as Iceland’s entry in Athens in 2006.
On the face of it, Congratulations, Iceland’s song, had a few things going for it. It was an uptempo, catchy number. Production-wise, it couldn’t have sounded more like Britney Spears had it been by Ms Spears’ producer, fellow Nordic Max Martin. And the singer was certainly charismatic. So why all the boos? Even if the entire audience had invested in Icesave, the bank wouldn’t go bust for another two-and-a-half years.
The problem lay with the song’s performer, Silvía Night. To put it mildly, she was a piece of work.
Silvía Nótt Sæmundsdóttir (“nótt” being “night” in Icelandic) was born in Reykjavík on 20th February 1973. She rose to fame in her native country in 2005 thanks to her her show Sjáumst međ Silviú Nótt, where she interviewed people “in real-life situations”. However, the reason people watched was not for the interviewees, but Ms Nótt herself. Self-obsessed and narcissistic to an amazing degree, Silvía divided Icelandic public opinion. However, her show was a hit, and in a poll conducted by the Icelandic radio station Rás2, she was voted Iceland’s sexiest woman in February 2006.
The next step was to conquer Europe. She entered, and won, Iceland’s Eurovision selection that year with Til hamingju Ísland, a song congratulating her native country for producing such a star.
Fourth in the Rás2 “sexiest woman” poll was a 23-year-old singer/actress called Ágústa Eva Erlendsdóttir. For a couple of reasons, this was strange. Firstly because she was nearly ten years younger than Ms Nótt/Night. And secondly because she was Silvía Night. Ms Nótt/Night was a character invented by Erlendsdóttir and Gaukur Úlfarsson. Iceland got the joke. Would Athens?
Well, no. Silvía certainly attracted headlines in Greece. It’s hard to know which of her utterances was the most controversial. Was it ordering journalists at a press conference not to look her in the eye? (One (an actress) subsequently did, and was ejected from the venue by bodyguards.) Was it insulting a Eurovision icon, Carola (she claimed the Swede had sex with the head of the EBU in a car)? Was it the threatened profanity in her song’s lyrics (in rehearsals, she used the phrase “the vote is in/I’ll fucking win”, which led to a stern letter from Svante Stockselius, ESC executive supervisor)? Or was it the conversation with God during the middle eight (“Hello, is that God/Whassup, dog”)?
Probably the main factor against her was something she wasn’t actually guilty of. In full diva mode during a rehearsal, she shouted “Fuck you, fucking retards”. This was reported in the Greek press as “Fuck you, fucking Greeks” and seen as an insult to the hosts.
In the event, Silvía came 13th in the only semi-final, three places from qualification. After the contest, she railed against everyone she saw as being against her, eventually being led off by her Argentinian boyfriend (an Icelandic actor). Say what you like about Silvía, but I have huge respect for Ágústa Eva’s ability to remain in character even after the event.
Ágústa Eva Erlendsdóttir has continued with her acting career, both in theatre and in Icelandic films such as Jar City, City State and Brave Men’s Blood. Silvía Night recorded the Icelandic chart-topping album Goldmine in 2007, but her whereabouts are currently unknown.
Wham bam boom.