I could/should be looking into writing some thoughts on all the music I laid my hands on during/after Airwaves. But in my heart of hearts, I know that instead of writing 1500 words on the likes of Mammút, I really need to be writing about this guy… STEINAR! If Iceland’s cool music industries can make it happen with Ásgeir, then the hnakki proles can do it their own way with this 18 yo cherub! Seemingly out of nowhere this summer, he’s being tipped as the hot pop property of the moment, and his debut single has been all over the likes of FM 95.7 like a bad case of shingles (Yes I do listen to that station. It may be a place where hope and decent tunes go to die, but as my mother always said, “know your enemy!”).
Oh, and he’s also a student at Verzló (Aka Iceland’s commercial college)! Lovely!
So yeah this single, “Up.” Put it this way – If Jón Jónsson is a T-800 Terminator, an efficient if slightly bland and conformist killing machine, then Steinar is surely a T-1000 model. Sleeker, faster, shinier and polished to the point that there is absolutely no emotional rough edges or.blemishes to speak of. He’s built so well that it’s almost impossible to hate on the guy. If you tried to kill him with fire, he’d just look right back at you with those droopy hangdog eyes saying, “Hey baby. Why you feeling so sad? Want me to sing you a song?”
Check out the video. Occasionally running his fingers through his lovely clean hair, he emotes and paces around the set, arms flailing and hands pointing and grabbing at his t-shirt (That’s how you know he’s showing his feels), while his wardrobe seems to morph several times across the whole Dressman comfort/street/urban clothing spectrum. One thing though – What’s up with the crotch in those jeans?
As for the song itself, amazingly enough the production is fairly simple, minimal and unfussy, if a little nonplussed (No Party Rock/EDM dropz/Salty garbage bombast going on here). It seems that the guys behind this are Redd Lights, who’ve also done stuff with the likes Emmsje Gauti, Úlfur Úlfur, and Friðrík Dór (Not sure if that is a good thing) and you can hear some of that stuff in this. The whole thing just ticks along aimlessly, just minding its own business and being all wholesome and presentable, with that repeating guitar chord progression, drum machine ticks & clicks, and the odd electric piano and harmonising lines thrown in. It´s the culmination of years of American Idol style R&B, and the likes of Jason Mraz and James Morrison being pumped into the country via TV & Radio unto unsuspecting ears. Pleasant enough, but utterly disposable. That stuff causes real soul damage y’all!
The lyrics though…. yeah. OK the guy is 18 and all that, but just take the first verseI don’t know why, But everything I do is going over it all See i I don’t know why If you don’t know why The feelings of you me are going away Now try to figure out
Apparently the whole of his album is about a special girl, but I do I hope he realises that those are a just a random group of words slammed together that mean absolutely bugger all! Figure out what?? fucked if I can be bothered to find out!
“Up” pretty much represents where Iceland pop music is really at these days (See also Kajak, Unnur Eggerts, Kaleo, etc, etc). Steinar will be rather popular in Iceland over the coming years. And with music like this, that’s when you begin to see the brilliant, almost insidious nature of it all. Icelandic celebs/musos like Gillz, Ásdís Rán, the Jónsson/Dór brothers, Brynar Már and others were just the first wave people. If i didn’t know better I’d say that this was all part of some kind of major psyops project that’s being facilitated by the likes of Monitor, Verzló, and Stöð 2 in order to slowly mould and shape everyone into a fruitful consumerist conformity, so that it can then prepare the younger generation to accept the new raft of end-stage neoliberal style manoeuvers on the horizon, such as the dismantling of all remaning state assets, from RUV to the welfare system, and the health service, to the total deregulation of just about every check and balance you can think of. and that’s before we even get to mandatory blood testing to make sure everyone has the right level of “Icelandic” in their system. The Shock doctrine ain’t got nuthin’ on this! But that’s OK right? I mean, as long as we have cool fun times or progressive hedonism, it doesn’t really matter does it? I mean, all that stuff about rules and taxes, that’s just all boring.
*sigh – takes off his tin foil hat* – I suppose we should be grateful that Steinar isn’t Jake Bugg (Yet).