Iceland 2024: Hera Björk
Photo: Anna Maggý

Hera Björk from Iceland said yes to Eurovision 2024: "We still want to bring joy, love and unity"

INTERVIEW Hera Björk is back at Eurovision with another pop dance song. This time around she had a final say on whether Iceland should participate in Eurovision 2024 or not. In the end, the values of the song contest spoke louder

We know you know she has that special something and that might have just been the reason why the Icelandic nation thought it would be a good idea to bring Hera Björk back to Eurovision for another try.

It was back in 2010 when the Icelandic singer stepped on the Eurovision stage as the main artist for the first time. It was with the pop banger "Je Ne Sais Quoi." 2024 marks her official return, but for those who don't know it will actually be her fifth time on the Eurovision stage:

– Eurovision is pure love for me, she says.

– I grew up with Eurovision from an early age and it has always been a happy place for me. But what I love the most is the people.

They love her back. Despite finishing 19th with "Je Ne Sais Quoi" in 2010, it wasn't the end of the road for Hera, quite the opposite. She has become Eurovision royalty and one of the most treasured figures amongst fans. They still remember her, celebrate her, and are quick to say she was "robbed" in 2010:

– I feel their love, she confirms.

– I take it in and give it back, I take these warm feelings with me every time I go on stage and I even revisit them in my mind when I am by myself, just to collect a smile or a feeling. Their love doesn't just come and go.

Iceland 2010: Hera Björk – "Je Ne Sais Quoi"

It's been 14 years between the two Hera Björk's appearances, and according to her, "Everything has changed":

– I have been blessed to broaden my horizon by traveling the world, singing "Je Ne Sais Quoi," meeting all of those people, and hearing all the lovely, crazy and silly stories. So yes, my life has changed because of that, I've grown as a person.

– I know my own core better. I can have an honest conversation with myself and tell myself to shut the hell up when I am being a self-bully.

We are so hard on ourselves...

– That's so true... And, of course, my family has grown. My children are like adults, and so has the world... There are wars, Mother Nature keeps on doing her thing and she's still at it, she says referring to the volcanic activity in Iceland.

– She's the main diva.

What's the point of standing in the light for three minutes if you don't give anything or receive anything in return?Hera Björk

You have a replacement sometimes... Just sometimes.

She laughs:

– But I think that the biggest change has been in the social media platforms. As I said before, everyone has a voice now, which is fantastic and a positive aspect, but we also get a lot of information that we don't exactly need... It's good to have it but sometimes it's preferable to stay away from it.

– I am glad I have a social media manager, he's my favorite person in the world... Sorry, husband.

Hera goes on to share her beliefs on how Eurovision should set an example for the younger generations and for the ones to come. She believes we should respect each other more and stop the online bullying.

The right song and the right reason

She mentioned how much she loves Eurovision and how she sees it as a happy place, but how does one keep motivated to come back after not winning?

– I don't need motivation. It's all about the feeling in my body, if it's the right reason or the right song... Of course, it needs to be the right song.

– If you follow Eurovision, you know how much work this is, the hours behind a performance is crazy so you need to be sure about the investment that you're making for yourself, but also for others including your family, she clarifies.

– The questions I always ask myself before submitting an application are "do I have anything to add?" and "is there a message in there?" Many think the performers are in Eurovision just for the attention, but I'd dare to say the attention is almost the negative part of it.

What do you mean?

– The attention is something we just get used to, it's something that we have to learn how to handle. Our participation needs to have meaning. What's the point of standing in the light for three minutes if you don't give anything or receive anything in return?

So, what is Hera Björk's message with this Eurovision 2024 participation? She goes back to the respect she's already mentioned:

– We need to start listening to each other more, we need to respect each other more, and respect everyone's opinions. We also need to be able to feel empathy in all directions. Otherwise, we're not on a good path.

– When I saw Eurovision's slogan, "United By Music," I fell in love with it and that's my message with this participation. We need to be united and not divided.

Saying yes to Eurovision 2024

In 2022, Russia invaded Ukraine initiating a war that's still going on. More recently the conflict between Israel and Hamas escalated making headlines all over the world including requests for Israel to be disqualified from Eurovision, to boycott Eurovision, and many protests all over the world, including at Eurovision's pre-parties.

The Icelandic broadcaster RÚV opened up the idea of withdrawing from the contest due to Israel's participation in Eurovision 2024. After a careful analysis, RÚV confirmed Söngvakeppnin would take place, and only after the broadcaster and the selected singer would make a decision on the participation.

Throughout our conversation, Hera Björk has been holding her glass of coffee the whole time. She puts it down now:

– It felt great to win but, at the same time, I was scared. I didn't know if I was ready to make the decision. We're obviously in this situation because of a war that would've ended years ago if all of us had the power to end it, she says.

I am aware this will be hard and demanding for me and for my family, but it'll be worth it.Hera Björk

– We feel powerless, but the thing is we still want to go and bring the joy, love, unity and to communicate physically. And when I realized that, I knew I had to do it. That's exactly what I feel we all need.

– It grounded my belief in Eurovision as a gathering of people that are like-minded, that are from all nations, of all sizes, shapes, colors, genders, and that's the beauty of it.

Hera Björk concludes:

– I am aware this will be hard and demanding for me and for my family, but it'll be worth it.

We certainly hope it will.

This year's Söngvakeppnin participation started off with an invitation from Ásdís María Viðarsdóttir, one of the songwriters of "Scared of Heights":

– She's a powerhouse lady, an amazing songwriter and a performer living in Berlin. I have been a fan of her for like three years. So, when she contacted me I knew something good would come out from it.

Iceland 2024: Hera Björk – "Scared of Heights"

Hera describes Ásdís' style as a "current yet still old-fashioned disco dance sound with all of the clichés," which seems to perfectly describe her song:

– When I heard the song for the first time, I didn't even hesitate. I thought "I'm going again. Oops!... I Did It Again," she says before laughing.

– I completely fell for the song, I think it has all of the elements that I love and are right for me. When it concerns Eurovision, it needs to feel right and there needs to be a match, it needs to be that one thing I will bring that no one else will.

The best example of a Eurovision contestant

For her Söngvakeppnin performance, Hera Björk opted for a simple show. In a red jumpsuit, she was joined by four back vocalists and walked around the stage with a gracious and peaceful smile. It brings her 2010 performance back to our minds, especially since the color palette is similar:

– There is a connection because this is me, she says.

– It's my signature. Loreen's signature is being alone on stage, in a similar position throughout the whole thing, and almost in the dark or under a wall but still doing something extraordinary. My method is more of a walking towards the audience, more physical while belting my song out.

As for the color palette:

– That's actually right. Those are the colors of love and lava. We're representing the Icelandic nation at its best, bringing love and lava to Eurovision... And there you have your headline, she laughs.

But not only that. The performance will go through some adjustments for Malmö:

– It will be slightly changed because we have an amazing stage in Sweden. It'd be stupid not to use it... It's massive.

We're representing the Icelandic nation at best, bringing love and lava to Eurovision...Hera Björk

– There are so many buttons we can push to get the power and, of course, we will. We're going to use the graphics in the best way possible but all in the sense of supporting the song and not to drown it. There'll also be a few special gimmicks that I am not allowed to mention.

She concludes by letting us know she'll be using a similar jumpsuit, and the back vocalists will also join her on stage.

Are you nervous for the final outcome?

– No, I am not, she firmly states.

– I know that what you put into it you get out of it, so I know I will always be able to take something amazing out of this, no matter what. I am the best example of a Eurovision contestant, places number 19 and still has the most amazing Eurovision career. So, it truly isn't about where you place but how you go into this and what you take from it.

That's quite the message for all the current and future competitors of Eurovision:

– I know what I am going to take with me from Malmö. It will be connections, relationships, emails, phone numbers and invitations to go everywhere. It's all in my hands to win in so many other ways than the first place.

– The universe is unlimited.

So is the future. What are your plans after Eurovision?

– Jazz is my core and I do a lot of Jazz when I perform in Iceland. I was brought up with Sarah Warren, Ella Fitzgerald, and so on. These lovely velvet voiced ladies are incredible so I will probably go more towards this in my elderly years, being a Jazz diva at the House of Hera somewhere on the planet.

Hera Björk will represent Iceland in Eurovision 2024 with "Scared of Heights." She will compete in Semi-final 1 on 7 May.

About the author: Pedro Santos (Portugal)

authorPedro comes from Lisbon, Portugal. He's 30 years old and graduated in journalism. He has attended Eurovision Song Contest three times live - 2018, 2019 and 2022 - and covered the show twice more (2021, 2023) but his first Eurovision memory takes him back to 2007 when Sarbel delivered his catchy "Yassou Maria" performance. Pedro's favorite Eurovision song is Albania's 2015 "I'm Alive" by Elhaida Dani which is also his favorite Eurovision edition.

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