22 February 2015
Estonia’s Harry Connick Jr and Elisa Born ready to excel in Vienna
Estonia does it again. This is the fourth Eesti Laul I’ve watched live and it was easily the best. Eight of the 10 songs would have been worthy winners, and one of the other two was second favourite of the jury. Elina Born & Stig Rästa with “Goodbye To Yesterday” surprised no one by winning the ticket to Eurovision. Not even the mischievous Estonian producers could pretend a hint of a surprise by announcing Elina & Stig as the third of the 3 acts to reach the televote-only superfinal after Elisa Kolk and Daniel Levi were already announced.
From the Eesti Laul Preview drawn from the semi finals, not much changed with the final. Elina & Stig added a minor bit of “choreography” – most likely to avoid any direct comparisons with Netherland’s The Common Linnets’ minimalist presentation at last year’s Eurovision. There were a few new outfits, notably by Maia Vahtramäe and Elisa Kolk – the two female balladeers. Maia, who was one of my favourites, sounded even better than in the semi final. As did Elisa, who was only in 5th place and 29 points adrift of the Elephants after the jury vote. That leap into the superfinal mirrored the improvement she had with me, pushing her to contest my superfinal with Maia, Elina & Stig and Robin Juhkental. Daniel Levi’s energetic performance lost some novelty the second time around, while the Elephants From Neptune – the jury’s second favourite by just a point over Elina & Stig – was not as horrendous as before.
Eesti Laul also validated the system of jury and televote – at least for the essential phase of forming a superfinal. Surely it was only industry empathy and knowledge that the Elephants had no hope in the public’s mind that the jury rated them so highly. Really, even as a rock song, it was poor. Estonia’s 2010 Eurovision entrant, Robin Juhkental (as Malcolm Lincoln), finished third in the jury vote only for him and the Elephants to be knocked out of the top 3 once the public vote was added. Robin’s support on stage in 2010 was Manpower 4; this year it was the Big Bangers. Is he trying to tell us something?
The superfinal proved no surprise with Elisa announced as finishing third, leaving Elina & Stig and Daniel to go head to head. Many nervous seconds as possible were then added before the result finally had to be announced: Elina & Stig to Vienna. With 79% of the vote against Daniel with 13% and Elisa with 8%, it wasn’t even close. Elina & Stig are worthy winners, and obviously the people’s winners, and the jury’s winners, and lead my race with the Netherlands’s Trijntje Oosterhuis with “Walk Along” as best song for Eurovision 2015 so far.
Watching the Eesti Laul final, it finally did dawn on me (maybe from being up at the crack of dawn on a Sunday morning to watch?) that Stig Rästa is very much Estonia’s answer to Harry Connick Jr. He has the looks, he definitely has the voice, and he has the suave. After several previous appearances at Eesti Laul under various guises, it’s wonderful that he’s finally been rewarded, especially with such a deserving song. Elina Born competed in Eesti Laul in 2013, finishing eighth with “Enough” (wasn’t “Eight with enough” a TV show with Dick Van Patten?), which was written by Stig, as was the winning song tonight. She’s certainly improved from those days, after emerging from Estonia’s “Idol” show, and really refined a lovely soft tone in her voice for this song that’s also a perfect complement to Harry’s, oops, Stig’s swoon.
I’ve never been to a Eurovision Song Contest, saving myself for a particular artist that qualifies or if it’s in Estonia. With Elina & Stig a strong contender to win in Vienna, and with Lenna Kuurmaa a strong chance to compete in Eesti Laul next year, or maybe even Birgit Õigemeel, 2016 could be the year.
01 Luisa Värk – Minu päike (Mikk Tammepõld, Luisa Värk)
02 Maia Vahtramäe – Üle Vesihalli Taeva (Olav Osolin)
03 Elina Born & Stig Rästa – Goodbye To Yesterday (Stig Rästa)
04 Kali Briis Band – Idiot (Alan Olonen)
05 Robin Juhkental & The Big Bangers – Troubles (Robin Juhkental & The Big Bangers)
06 Daniel Levi – Burning Lights (Daniel Levi Viinalass)
07 Elisa Kolk – Superlove (Vahur Valgmaa)
08 The Blurry Lane – Exceptional (Kristina Bianca Rantala)
09 Elephants from Neptune – Unriddle Me (Jon-Arnold Mikiver, Robert Linna, Rain Joona, Markko Reinberg)
10 Triin Niitoja & John4 – This Is Our Choice (Jaanus Saago, Triin Niitoja)
– Full results, all videos, or watch the show here