Likely Televote Appeal
Likely Jury Appeal
Cohesiveness of Package
The song's got the hooks, relevance and familiarity to find itself on the left hand side if they can tighten up the presentation.
Fresh from another bruising non-qualification, Iceland will be hoping Svala can lead them back into the final after a two year absence.
Svala will perform Paper in the second half of semi-final 2.
Iceland have been showing some ambition over the last 2 years, upping the presentation scale of their annual Söngvakeppni Sjónvarpsins, or in English, the imaginatively named “Television Song Contest”, only slightly easier to say than Eyjafjallajökull. To me, this signals hunger for a win.
Greta Salomè’s ambitious performance last year was a surprise non-qualifer to some. I personally was very back and forth on it. Overall though, Greta’s effort was perhaps just too complex and arty-farty and not accessible enough. Their selection for 2017, Svala, addresses this issue with a simpler, cool, Bjork-esque modern pop package that Iceland can easily be identified by.
When I first heard it, it reminded me a bit of Jessie Ware’s song Wildest Moments, as I imagined it might end up on that production level, but then I had to consider why on Earth the Icelandic broadcaster decided to push their contest back to the bitter end of the NF season. Normally they’ve decided before the Melodifestivalen circus is done swanning around the country, (and you can pick whichever of these definitions suits Melfest the most in your mind,) giving the Icelandic entrant time to produce a decent revamp of their track. The Icelandic broadcaster RUV have some explaining to do here, as Svala has no such luxury this year, so what we hear now probably is the final version, and that’s the first let-down.
My initial critique of Paper, assuming there was some hope of a revamp down the line, is that it was kind of cold, clunky and stuck in 3rd gear. The intro sounds a bit like it was based on someone just grabbing a wooden spoon and hitting whatever they can find in their kitchen. It didn’t feel like much thought had gone into it. However, there’s still a good traditional structure and a beautiful melody in the song with a decent hooky chorus, imaginative lyrics, and a bit of rap in the second verse that will only cause it to suffer on the scoreboard if every juror is a 70 year old wine swirling, monocle-wearing toff in a tweed jacket. It’s no more aggressive or out of place than anything by Jessie J. It’s just a shame that there’s no time to develop this song a bit more, because it’s crying out for better production.
Moving on to the weakest link of this entry, the overall package. Let’s get one thing straight. Svala is 40, but she looks 32 tops. There’s something in the water up in Iceland. I first thought this song might be staged similarly to Sanna Nielsen’s “Undo” but I think there are both positives and negatives in what we’ve actually seen. The body popping with angled spotlights at the start of her performance is something I’d like to see stay for the Kyiv performance. It’s an attention-grabber. The use of lasers suit the song too. The choice of clothes could be better, because she looks a bit like Wham-era George Michael, rest his soul, or Ellen DeGeneres, dad dancing around seemingly random, messy arrangements of lights, lasers and LED backdrops. The overall sense of movement and owning the stage is good, but a lot more thought needs to go into this.
Still, there’s a non-threatening coolness about Svala that I don’t think is something to worry about. She’s a bit like P!nk meets Jessie J. We’ve had a handful of examples where the presented personality isn’t all sweet and innocent, of either gender, and they’ve gotten away with it on the scoreboard. Georgia’s Nina Sublatti and Belarus’s Teo come to mind, so it’s important to recognise that it’s relative to the song and other features of the package. Svala has a solid live vocal and great stage presence – she’s not a coach on The Voice of Iceland for no reason, and being a fashion conscious working woman with a background in rock music while having spent a lot of time out in LA, one can imagine she knows the general standard of quality that the bigger economies of the world expect of their entertainment, so I expect a high standard of final product.
Despite how demo-y and rough around the edges the song is, I think Iceland will find themselves back in the final this year. The song’s got the hooks, relevance and familiarity to find itself on the left hand side if they can tighten up the presentation, and if by some miracle there is even a minor revamp of the song that can polish it up and swell the chorus more, top 10 is within reach. As it is though, the lower-mid positions of the final are calling. Let’s just hope Svala hears them in time to act.
Will Svala’s icy charm warm Europe’s hearts?