20 September 2015

2009: Yohanna: Is It True?

Yohanna / Is It True / Iceland / Eurovision 2009
It Should Have Won

Iceland: Is It True?

The UK's prospects of victory in the 2009 Eurovision Song Contest lay with Jade Ewen's It's My Time, a song specially composed by theatre impresario Andrew Lloyd-Webber and songwriter Diane Warren. Although it achieved the country's best placing since 2002, this year's competition was really about Alexander Rybak and which songs could realistically catch him on the scoreboard.

Norway's Rybak had been favourite to win for some months and it became evident early on in the voting that 2009 would be his year.

While Ewen's effort breezed into the Top 5, it was Yohanna's beautiful pop ballad, Is It True?, which came the closest to Norway's final points tally.

Yohanna Wins Söngvakeppni Sjónvarpsins 

As has been customary with Iceland's song selection, the country opted for a national final - this time composed of four semi-finals and a grand final. Yohanna's song was one of a quartet of entries showcased in the first semi-final in early January, seemingly progressing with some ease. It's not difficult to appreciate why.

What's not to like about a beautiful young woman singing an emotionally charged song with recognisable commercial potential? Nothing. And the Icelandic public agreed: Yohanna was the comprehensive winner of Söngvakeppni Sjónvarpsins 2009 (the name of the island's national final) receiving approximately 9000 more votes than her nearest rival.

On to the Eurovision Finals 

This enthusiasm for Is It True? followed Yohanna to Moscow, as savvy Eurovision fans had already recognised the promise that this memorable tune possessed. It also translated to plenty of votes from viewers of the Contest who, it later transpired, pushed the song to the top of the scoreboard in the first semi-final - albeit in a close tussle with the Turkish entry.

Yohanna / Iceland / Eurovision 2009
Yohanna at Eurovision
Turkey's Düm Tek Tek was yet another favourite and, like Alexander Rybak, received a plum draw in the running order of the Final (18th and 20th respectively). Yohanna was not so lucky. Selected to sing in seventh position, this early performance did not bode well for Iceland's chances.

However, it seemed as if viewers refused to forget the lovely Yohanna's three minutes on stage.

The focus may have been on Norway's continuous stream of top scores, but almost unnoticed, Iceland was pulling in a consistent amount of points.

Although Norway may have won with a record-breaking 387 points  - a figure which trounced the rest of the field - Iceland's 218 points in second place could easily have given it a victory in any other year.

A Significant Chart Success 

Although the song was ignored in several parts of Europe, not surprisingly Iceland sent it to the top of their charts.

Scandanavia and other territories close by also loved it. It figured highly in the music charts in Finland, Sweden, Norway and Denmark, but perhaps what was more unexpected was the response of Greek, Swiss and Belgian consumers: they bought and downloaded enough copies of the track for it to make a significant impact in each of their Top 20s.

Even the UK and Ireland pushed it into their Top 50s, helping it to become the second best-selling Eurovision song of the year.

Iceland Continues to Wait 

Still, in spite of Yohanna's remarkable success, Iceland remains the only nation in Northern Europe not to have won the Contest.

Sadly, even the strength, attraction and beauty of the entire 2009 Icelandic package was not able to change this.

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