With a powerful performance of the song Unbroken, in the national pre-selection for Eurovision Song Contest 2015, María Ólafsdóttir stole our hearts and tickled our minds with empowering lyrics. Lyrics which are now starting to raise eyebrows.
Some songs’ meanings need no explanation. They’re very literal and direct. Whilst others are more vague leaving them open to interpretation. And that’s exactly what experts and listeners have been doing for decades, analysing lyrics of popular songs in hope of finding their true meaning, some going as far as decoding hidden content.
For example One Direction’s songs are full of “secret, coded” messages to their fans about sex, drinks and rock n’ roll – the real reason for their phenomenal success, some say. Every other song Taylor Swift has ever released is supposedly about “awful ex-boyfriends” (Harry Styles, Jake Gyllenhaal…the list goes on). And Lady Gaga’s song Telephone is all about mind control. No really. Then of course there’s the classic Beatles song Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds which is secretly about doing acid. After all, it’s coded right there in the title, right? Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds.
And now keen cryptographers have turned their eyes on Iceland’s entry for this years Eurovision Song Contest: Unbroken, wich they say is not about someone recovering from a break-up “A step at time” as has been widely believed up untill now. Amongst them is leisure instructor and student Kristín Lovísa Lárusdóttir who says that: “The English lyrics to the song are about stepping out of the darkness and into the light and letting go of the past,” which is a clear indication that the song is really about coming out. “That’s exactly what coming out of the closet is,” she explains, “taking steps toward becoming who you are and saying goodbye to the past!”
It certainly wouldn’t be the first time a Eurovision song’s meaning has been debated. For years claimes have been made that certain entries and even the contest itself are riddled with hidden political messages.
Back in 2007 some, especially the Russians, were convinced that the lyrics to Ukraine’s entry Dancing (sung by drag queen Verka Serdyuchka, in real life Andei Danilko) constituted a direct assault on Moscow itself. At the root of the indignation is a refrain that appears to exhort the audience to sing “Russia goodbye”.
Then there was Russia’s entry last year, Shine (performed by the Tolmachevy sisters) believed to contain numerous coded threats of drastic action against Ukraine: “Living on the edge, closer to the crime / Cross the line a step at a time / Maybe there’s a place, maybe there’s a time / Maybe there’s a day you’ll be mine”.
– Wait, you didn’t think that Eurovision was just a fun, clammy show with lots of tinsel and glamour, did you?
But back to Unbroken’s interpretation, just how convinced is Kristín that it’s really about coming out? “It could as well be a theme song for Reykjavík Pride,” she replies without blinking an eye. A conclusion she came to in a conversation with friend and Q-Queer Student associate, Ugla Stefanía. And the pair say they’d love it if people would relate to the lyrics like they did.
“And it could and is sort of related to the theme of the song No Prejudice performed by Pollapönk last year at Eurovision,” Kristín adds.
But what do the songwriters themselves have to say about that? We asked StopWaitGo member Pálmi Ásgeirsson, who wrote Unbroken with brother Ásgeir and their friend Sæþór Kristjánsson.
“Well we’re just happy that people can relate to the lyrics,” he says. “At some point everyone has to move on and say goodbye to something that’s held them back in order to experience something that lifts them up.” That could refer to coming out of the closet he explains or something else. “It really doesn’t matter, as long as people can relate we feel like a goal has been reached.”
Now, before you make up your mind about Unbroken’s true meaning why not take a pause and listen to the lyrics for yourself: