We are well into Eurovision selection season now, and it’s all I can do to keep up with the nations deciding their representatives for May’s Eurovision Song Contest in Copenhagen, Denmark. It’s my pleasure to say that tonight I’ll be looking at the effortlessly cool Estonia and its slick selection event Eesti Laul.
2014 marks Estonia’s 20th appearance at the contest, and caps 20 years as the most successful Baltic nation, furthermore a beacon amongst the Eastern European nations participating. They’ve reached the top 10 eight times, most recently in 2012, and won the contest with the less well-regarded “Everybody” the last time Eurovision came to Copenhagen back in 2001. With Denmark winning in last year Sweden as they did in 2000, could Estonia continue that parallel and bring the contest back to Tallinn?
A bumper crop of 189 songs were slimmed down to 20 semi-finalists competing in two semis to determine the final 10. A 50/50 Jury/Televote split chose the top 2, with a televote picking the act who will wave the Sinimustvalge in Denmark. I’m expecting a lot from this you know…
Maiken – Siin või sealpool maad
I missed these trippy intro VTs! Estonian is such a gorgeous language to hear, as the wonderful Birgit showed last year in Malmö. This is more of a pained ballad, beautifully sung but a little hard to grasp melodically. It takes shape in the last minute, as does a slightly strained key change. Very nice, but I can see why it wasn’t instant enough to grab the votes.
Wilhelm – Resignal
She doesn’t look like a Wilhelm… Is this all in English? Her vocal style intrudes a little into her pronunciation, leaving me wondering if she’s singing Estonian in parts. A curious selection of backing musicians, a cheery hipster and a grimacing geek appearing now and then. I’m not sure I’m quite getting this one, even in the last act when the tempo raises. A bit of dramatic folk music well-performed though.
Kõrsikud – Tule ja jää
Hmm… not sure what to make of this one! Peculiar trio of men, looking like something between farmers and buskers. You can’t deny those harmonies though, what an unexpected pleasure this song is! God bless you, Estonia. There’s a limit to how much I’ll love a folky song like this, but it maxes me out. Lovely!
Brigita Murutar – Laule täis taevakaar
More strange looking country-folk music with a pretty frontwoman. What is that guy in the hat though?! The verses remind me of the amazing theme tune to kid’s show “The Family Ness”. It’s bouncy, upbeat and cute. I’m starting to wonder if we’ll get something a bit more contemporary (i.e. synths) but for now this is rather lovely.
Norman Salumäe – Search
His hair makes me feel old, comb it, young man! Perhaps an unsupported intro wasn’t the best choice, the vocals are fine but a little wonky. The melody is probably to blame, it’s all over the place! I’m not really feeling this one, though he’s a nice enough singer. The backing singers blurting out syllables aren’t working for me either. Sweet enough but really needs polish…
Sandra Nurmsalu – Kui tuuled pöörduvad
Now I heard big things about this from the loons, excited by the singer from 2009’s Urban Symphony making a return. That was not the sort of song I was expect, a bit of lite Calypso? I was expecting icy Baltic queen, but the only frozen thing is her wig. It’s very nice but not the worldbeater I was envisioning. Mime-whistling, maracas, saxophone, a flying raft?! Madness. It seems the jury sank this one despite coming second in the public vote. Maybe next year.
Lenna – Supernoova
What a naturally beautiful lady Lenna is! She puts in an assured performance of a song that reminds me a lot of mid-90s Britpop more than anything. I don’t know if the title has planted the seeds of “Champagne Supernova” in my head though. Very nice, I just feel like I’m watching a 90s episode of Top of the Pops. Nostalgic and performed really well, but to Eurovision?
Traffic – Für Elise
As handsome as that frontman is (must I start every write-up with a comment on appearance?), it’s more indie-folk on the menu. This year’s Eesti Laul final feels like a bit of a one-trick pony so far. But I think this has won me over more than the others, I love the pace and his vocals, the harmonies are really strong actually. Very good!
Super Hot Cosmos Blues Band – Maybe-Maybe
These won the first round but just got pipped to the post in the Superfinal. First impressions aren’t good, straightforward indie-rock but at least it’s got a modern inflection to it. Sort of like Kings of Leon or something, with instruments recycled from rubbish – it would be uncharitable of me to say that the music sounds a bit like that. Sure it’s fine if you’re into that sort of thing, but um… not me, thanks. They’ve got a good shine off that disco ball though, my goodness!
Tanja – Amazing
Just squeaking through with 53% of the vote is the Estonian entry for Eurovision. Sounds like the lone dance song though, this must be how rock fans feel in nearly all national finals, what a relief for me! Several songs have been had “Euphoria rip-off” accusations thrown at them, but this is rather shameless, isn’t it?!
It’s very impressive how she keeps her vocals (largely) intact despite some feverish dance routines with her partner. What are they wearing though? Costume change please, some colour for her, maybe lose his shirt. Make no mistake, this is no “Euphoria” as much as it tries to be, I’m not entirely sure this is even guaranteed to qualify, though that choreo is really impressive.
I just can’t shake the feeling that the choreo won the rather uninspired Superfinal duel, rather than the songs. I think I wish Traffic had won rather than the top 2, but we’ll see, I think at least Tanja has the potential to bring something spectacular to the stage, even if it’s not a particularly original song.