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Photo credit: RÚV

Having won Söngvakeppnin 2024, Hera Björk will represent Iceland at Eurovision for the second time, having competed 14 years ago previously. Read our article to learn more about Hera, her career so far and her second journey to Eurovision.

Who is Hera Björk?

52-year-old Hera Björk was born in Reykjavík to a musical family, with her mother being a well-known singer. As a result, Hera has been performing from a young age, having recorded some children’s songs and appeared in TV adverts before she the age of 12. In 1988, Hera began entering national singing competitions which in turn led to her being offered roles in a number of stage musicals.

Hera first became a household name in 1999, when she co-hosted the TV show ‘Stutt í spunann’, Iceland’s answer to the well-known comedy improv show ‘Whose Line Is It Anyway?’ In 2000, she released a Christmas album ‘Ilmur af jólum’ (‘The Scent of Christmas’), followed by her self-titled second album in 2006. In 2010, she released the album ‘Je Ne Sais Quoi’ to coincide with her Eurovision appearance and in 2013 she released ‘Ilmur af jólum II’, a sequel to her debut Christmas album.

In addition to her own music, Hera is a qualified vocal coach and has also toured with well-known Icelandic artists such as Björk and Sigur Rós.

Eurovision 2010

Although Hera first represented Iceland at Eurovision in 2010, this was not her first attempt. She competed in the Icelandic pre-selection contest in 2007 and notably attempted to represent Denmark in 2009. Her Dansk Melodi Grand Prix entry ‘Someday’ placed second in the national final and even won the OGAE Second Chance Contest that same year.

Hera has also taken on a behind-the-scenes role at Eurovision on three separate occasions, having worked as a vocal coach and backing vocalist for Iceland’s Eurovision entries in 2008, 2009 and 2015.

However, 2010 would see Hera’s first big break on the Eurovision stage when she competed with her song ‘Je Ne Sais Quoi’. The song was initially regarded as a favourite to win the contest and even placed third in its semi-final. However, the song placed 19th overall once it reached the Grand Final.

Söngvakeppnin 2024 and the Journey to Eurovision

In response to the ongoing conflict in Gaza, and calls from Icelandic musicians for their country to boycott Eurovision 2024 due to Israel‘s participation, broadcaster RÚV announced that the decision would be left to the winner of Söngvakeppnin as to whether they would compete. However, Söngvakeppnin would still run as an event separate to the Eurovision Song Contest.

Ten artists were announced to compete across the show’s two semi-finals with returnee Hera and Palestinian singer-songwriter Bashar Murad both receiving enough televotes with the Icelandic public to qualify for the final. As per the rules of Söngvakeppnin, Hera had to perform her song in Icelandic in the semis but for the final she was free to sing in whichever language she chose. Therefore, viewers heard her English-language song ‘Scared of Heights’ live for the first time on Saturday 2nd March.

For the final, a combination of jury and televotes determined which two artists would qualify for the super-final, meaning they would perform again and voting lines would re-open to determine the winner of Söngvakeppnin. Ultimately, Hera and Bashar were chosen as the two artists to go through to the super-final. Although Hera came second to Bashar, with a deficit of around 15,000 votes in the first round, she was able to overcome this in the second round, ultimately beating Bashar by 3,340 votes to be crowned the overall winner of Söngvakeppnin.

Immediately, the results of the vote were called into question, with Icelandic viewers reporting that the app used for televoting glitched whenever they tried to vote for Bashar Murad. One of the songwriters of Bashar’s entry ‘Wild West’ called for a third-party investigation into this which was ultimately granted by RÚV when one of the songwriters for ‘Scared of Heights’ announced her intention to cut ties with the song in light of the controversy. Even more controversially, Icelandic news site Mannlíf alleged that a campaign had been launched by Israeli broadcaster IPBC/Kan to urge members of a Facebook group to vote against Palestianian Bashar in the final.

In light of this, many wondered if Iceland would withdraw from Eurovision 2024. However, as RÚV had stated this would come down to the wishes of the individual artist and Hera had made it clear she still wished to compete, she was off to Malmö to represent Iceland for the second time.

In preparation for her second time as a Eurovision artist, Hera has performed at pre-parties in Madrid, the Netherlands and Oslo. Although little has been revealed about how ‘Scared of Heights’ will look on stage, Iceland have been drawn to perform in the second half of the first semi-final on Tuesday 7th May. Regarded by fans as a competitive semi, only 15 acts are participating meaning that with 10 acts progressing to the final, Hera’s chances of qualification are much more open.

We’ll certainly be wishing Hera and Iceland the best of luck in May!

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