Music

We Simply Must Talk About Iceland’s Stupendously Kinky, Deeply Political Eurovision Performance

There was a message behind all that BDSM gear.

hatari iceland eurovision

In 2014, Iceland’s Eurovision contestants rocked up in primary-coloured suits, like The Wiggles in formal attire, to sing a cheerful song entitled ‘No Prejudice’. This year, they couldn’t have swung harder in the other direction, arriving in latex and spiked leather harnesses to scream the bleak lyrics of “Hate Will Prevail”. Not gonna lie, it was a mood.

Iceland’s entrant, BDSM-inspired techno-punk band Hatari (“Hater”), certainly shook up the usually tame and family-friendly Eurovision broadcast. There was latex and leather in abundance; a member of the band spent the piece dancing inside a metal structure that was equal parts cage and bomb. The lead singers looked, in turns, like they were either on the verge of a fiery painful death, or too bored to care.

Then again, it could be both: it’s possible they were simply resigned to the fact that combining platform heels, spikes, and jets of flame shooting from the stage is a recipe for near-certain disaster, and decided that they might as well go out gyrating (which is, in itself, impressively risky given the proximity of enormous metal spikes to everyone’s vital organs).

And then there were the lyrics, which translate roughly to things like “Debauchery unconstrained/hangover un-contained/life’s purposeless confusion/the void will swallow all”. Or if that’s not quite doing it for you, try verse two (“universal obfuscation unilateral execration/from gullible delusion/escape will be curtailed/the void will swallow all”).

Honestly, before I go on, let’s just get you up to speed: like a fine wine, this is better experienced firsthand.

Alright, welcome back. It’s time to talk politics.

See, this year’s Eurovision Song Contest has been the subject of an intense boycott due to the competition’s location in Tel Aviv, Israel. That boycott is part of the broader Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, which protests Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territory, and violations of Palestinians’ human rights. In particular, calls to boycott this year’s Eurovision event pointed to a particular incident last May, when the Israeli army killed 62 unarmed Palestinian protesters in Gaza, including children, and injured hundreds more.

In Iceland, tens of thousands of people signed a petition calling for the country to boycott Eurovision in solidarity. Iceland obviously did not do so, but Hatari appears to have delivered the next best thing: a protest. The Eurovision Song Contest rules don’t allow political messages in songs, but the lyrics (and title) of Hate Will Prevail send a pretty pointed message given the context.

It helps that Hatari themselves have also openly criticised Eurovision in Israel. Hatari are pretty well known for trolling and shit-stirring (they once told media they were breaking up the band because their goal of “dismantling the apparatus capitalism” had not been achieved, and “the business” of dismantling capitalism “did not meet the expectations of the board”), and they’ve brought that shit-stirring talent to Eurovision 2019.

So far, the band has challenged Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to a wrestling match, and told The Guardian that if they win Eurovision, they will set up a liberal BDSM enclave in Israel (similar to, say, the settlements Israel has made on Palestinian territory, in violation of international law).

They also told The Guardian that their post-Eurovision plans include “playing shows in countries where there currently is not an illegal occupation taking place”. Their protest is clear, though certainly not uncontroversial — while Israel apparently mulled over barring them from the country, supporters of the BDS movement have also called on Hatari to take a stronger stance and actually boycott Eurovision. Putting the BDS in the BDSM, as it were.

Still, as the band pointed out to The Guardian, there’s arguably merit in ensuring that Eurovision can’t just continue in a bubble. “Letting the narrative of the fluffy, peace-loving pop contest go on unchallenged in this context in our view is extremely political,” singer Tryggvi Haraldsson said.

“Everyone who takes part in this is taking part in a political statement whether they are aware of it or not”.

Like It Or Not, Hatari Have Made The Eurovision Finals

Whatever your stance on Hatari, you’ll likely be hearing more about them, because they’ve made the Eurovision finals. The footage of the band discovering this fact is nothing short of iconic: sitting assembled on a couch in full BDSM gear, one member doesn’t react at all, another licks their own latex-covered thigh, yet another waves a rainbow flag serenely in the background.

Honestly, tag yourself:

If you want some more Hatari before the finals, you can pass the time screaming along to the karaoke version of Hate Will Prevail, available on the official Eurovision album for reasons unknown. Alternatively, continue boycotting. The band will support you.


Feature image by Martin Fjellanger, Eurovision Norway, EuroVisionary licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.