21 February 2015
Estonia’s national song contest is the only national final that gets me out of bed at 5am to watch. It’s not just because my favourite singer ever, Lenna Kuurmaa, has competed, Eesti Laul seems to have that knack of always providing interesting and diverse songs, the show moves along at a crisp pace and the voting structure is excellent. In fact, I regard the EL format of two semi finals of 10 songs with 5 from each progressing to the final as the best format. A mix of jury and televote decide the results until the final’s superfinal. The superfinal, in previous years being the top two after regular voting, will be top three this year, and is decided 100% by televote. This process ensures the fans get the ultimate say for their national winner while allowing the jury to have its rightful impact, mainly to ensure the contest attracts a wide range of artists and songs by offsetting any skewed voting the televote can be notorious for delivering.
I woke for Lenna in 2012 and was quite sad that “Mina Jään” – a song that could win in four out of 5 years – was just pipped by Ott Lepland’s “Kuula”, watched Birgit Õigemeel deservedly take the contest in 2013, and was back for Lenna’s fourth place in 2014. I was glad that Tanja won in 2014 because, knowing Lenna’s “Supernoova” would not get the required appreciation that I’d like, “Amazing” was the next best song. In 2015, if you believe the betting agencies that Estonia is actually favoured to win the Eurovision Song Contest itself, I should sleep through and watch on delay. Except, the overall song quality is so good that it would be an insult to my .0010 Estonian heritage (hey, I’ve visited 3 times and know a few words) not to watch. Besides, these betting agencies are more speculative at this stage than representative. For instance, Australia is a top 5 chance of winning and hasn’t even released a song or artist. In fact, at least 25 countries are still to decide.
01 Luisa Värk – Minu päike (Mikk Tammepõld, Luisa Värk)
This is one of the weaker ones in the final and becomes lost in translation thanks to a bunch of swinging girls with big grins on their faces. While it all might make sense to Estonians, to the illiterate that rely only on the music and emotion with the vocals to feel a song, it’s a bit confusing. Credit to them for going helmet free. In Australia, such dangerous antics would be banned. 5/10
02 Maia Vahtramäe – Üle vesihalli taeva (Olav Osolin)
One of my favourites. A beautiful song and a beautiful, husky type of voice. An understated and personable performance really conveys the message of the song, whatever that may be! Hey, it’s one of those journeys that you appreciate for the journey itself, not the destination. 8/10
03 Elina Born & Stig Rästa – Goodbye to Yesterday (Stig Rästa)
Presumably this is the big favourite. It has the style, the sound, the appeal, and is sung beautifully. It recalls the simple and evocative stage presence that the Netherland’s Common Linnets used at last year’s ESC while adding the Birgit black and white hue from 2013. I’ve seen Elina before as she emerged through Estonia’s “Idol” show that Lenna Kuurmaa helped judge and in which they performed a duet along the way. Groovy! Elina also competed at Eesti Laul in 2013, finishing eighth. Some say Stig Rästa races cars incognito on the BBC show Top Gear and learnt guitar while doing charity work for amputees in war-torn Angola. No, he’s actually a well known Estonian singer, songwriter and musician, and has written one hell of a song. Certain to be in the superfinal. 9/10
04 Kali Briis Band – Idiot (Alan Olonen)
Is this one of those “only in Estonia” songs? It’s actually quite addictive and would not surprise to see in the superfinal. It’s sort of the B52s meets the Buggles’ “Video Killed The Radio Star”. That’s my opinion. I’m such an idiot. 6/10
05 Robin Juhkental & The Big Bangers – Troubles (Robin Juhkental & The Big Bangers)
Robin Juhkental, as part of Malcolm Lincoln, and as a late entry after another song was disqualified, and after beating Lenna Kuurmaa into second place at EL (damn you!), competed for Estonia at ESC in Oslo 2010, where he failed to reach the final. His 2014 effort is so much better – being a really quirky, addictive jazzy number – and is a contender to win. 8/10
06 Daniel Levi – Burning Lights (Daniel Levi Viinalass)
Another song that should contend for the superfinal. A good call expanding it to 3 songs. The most energetic song this year, mixing pop, a bit of rock and a quintessential pretty boy pounding out the vocals (a pretty girl on the key-tar too). Obviously not all members of the audience are of your regular bystander type. 7/10
07 Elisa Kolk – Superlove (Vahur Valgmaa)
A really pretty ballad, without offering anything too radical. 7/10
08 The Blurry Lane – Exceptional (Kristina Bianca Rantala)
Another jazzy number. From the first semi final, I really liked this. Since then it’s been swamped by a few others. It’s still really good, and it would not surprise to see it in the superfinal. I’ll probably just have it outside. 7/10
09 Elephants from Neptune – Unriddle Me (Jon-Arnold Mikiver, Robert Linna, Rain Joona, Markko Reinberg)
The one blight on Eesti Laul this year. There were several songs from the semi finals that far more deserved a place in the final. This is absolute rubbish. Trash rock at its worse. It’s as painful as elephants from Uranus. I won’t even dignify it with a score.
10 Triin Niitoja & John4 – This Is Our Choice (Jaanus Saago, Triin Niitoja)
Not the sort of song I’d expect at EL. A male and female duo singing an infectious song with a booming chorus. As pleasant as it is, it might be one of those songs “not Estonian enough” for Estonians. 8/10
Who will join Elina and Stig? That really is the question. I want Maia and… arghhh… it’s so painful to pick another. Ok, it’s Robin J! Sorry Kali Briis Band, Elisa Kolk, The Blurry Lane and Triin & John4.
It looks like I’ve definitely talked myself into an early rise tomorrow. With the temperature 36 degrees in Melbourne today, I probably won’t sleep much anyway. Hüvasti!
– More information, videos and links to the Eesti Laul webcasts here