28 January 2017
It’s a change of format in Finland, from three semi finals and a final of recent years, to one single show. The reduction in total entries is only from 18 to 10, so effectively they’re cutting the driftwood to produce a strong line-up of an eclectic bunch of songs. Being an eclectic bunch, that means there will be one or two you hate. That’s ok, because the idea is to find one or two you’ll really like.
(Scroll down for a review of the final)
THREE TO WATCH
Rather than me prattle on about every song and you skip viewing most of the videos after 20 seconds, I’ll present three to watch – literally. That “literally” means literally, as in watch to the end, not the current fad of using “literally” to emphasis something as truthful, as in yesterday I literally had a 10 minute shower because I literally stunk after literally riding 40 km on my bike. These three are a combination of personal appeal, widespread appeal and distinctive appeal.
1) Emma – Circle Of Light
If you believe the online pre-poll, this is among the favourites to win. Emma calls her style “Wooden Dance Music”, which is ironic because I’m a wooden dancer and have been searching for appropriate music for years. Compared to the other pop songs in UMK17, the hint of folk music would appeal to Finns and makes it stand out for everyone else. It’s why I selected it in front of another.
2) Alva – Arrows
This was the song I considered instead of Circle Of Life. While I prefer it slightly and appreciate its contemporary nature, it’s nothing you haven’t seen from the current crop of post-pubescent American songstresses doing the rounds these days.
3) Günther & D’Sanz – Love Yourself
No doubt that creepy moustache already got your attention, Love Yourself is not only the one to watch for UMK17, it’s the one to watch for the entire Eurovision season so far. I don’t know how they’ll present it on stage, and I don’t want to know. I’m not even sure about the message other than the solo-sexual community finally has someone sticking up for them. It really grows on you and has a great feel to it. If it wins UMK17, it will certainly be a fan favourite in Kyiv and potentially a winning song.
4) Anni Saikku – Reach Out For The Sun
One of two slower songs in UMK17, it’s also one of my favourites. With Anni’s pretty voice (I’m so predictable) and the calming music, there’s a nice evocative feel to it. It’s rating at the bottom in the pre-poll, so if you don’t see it now you may never see it.
5) Knucklebone Oscar & The Shangri-La Rubies – Caveman
That’s it! Since I’ve already shown my three to watch, no need to watch the rest of UMK. Wait! My favourites are often notorious flops, so watch on, except for this one. It’s one for knuckleheads.
6) Norma John – Blackbird
The other slow song, and it’s another nice one too. Maybe a bit too slow compared to Reach Out For The Sun.
7) Lauri Yrjölä – Helppo elämä
The only Finnish language song. Other than the funky vibe, there’s not much else to it.
8) Club La Persé – My Little World
A novelty entry and total rubbish.
9) Zühlke – Perfect Villain
A powerful voice and big sounding song, it’s among the favourites in the pre-poll. It lacks a bit of substance for me.
10) My First Band – Paradise
An infectious, funky style of a pop song, and being placed last to perform validates its high rating in the online pre-poll. Personally I much prefer others and would be disappointed if it won.
Watching all these songs several times now, I hope Love Yourself wins. I’ve become more and more addicted to it, which may not be healthy long term. Like most songs, it will come down to the performance on the night, which is ironic considering its subject matter. Given the pre-poll result and general internet chatter, Circle Of Light is the likely winner, and that would be fine by me.
29 January 2017
Compared to the generic gibberish of Britain’s final on Friday night, Finland’s was far more interesting and diverse. While it never rose to any great heights in terms of an obviously great song, the general quality was good and it vindicated the switch to a single night format.
In possibly a minor surprise, Norma John won with Blackbird. Zühlke with Perfect Villain finished second with pre-poll favourite, Emma with Circle Of Light, in third. The Finns (and the international jury) got it right. The top two were clearly the best vocally of the night, with Blackbird the best presented and the only one to leave a (positive) imprint.
For Emma, it was a disaster, with her vocals off at times and her presentation of weird hand gestures while standing in a ring of fire devoid of imagination. That she still reached third place is testament to her song and her pre-poll popularity. Speaking of that pre-poll, what point does it serve? Possibly people voted against her because she was favourite. On a similar matter, using international juries to decide half your vote is nonsense as it risks purging all local cultural influences from your selection process. Only one Finnish language song was even involved, and it finished effectively last if you discount the two ridiculous novelty/joke acts.
My favourite of Günther & D’Sanz with Love Yourself put on a strangely static performance. During the choruses this song needed to burst into life with energetic dancing, not stick with the lame posing. The duo epitomised the average presentation standard of the night, with Anni Saikku being another letdown by standing in a glowing wireframe thing for most of her song. Also, what’s with the creepy idea of displaying giant images of yourself on the background screens? Both did this, and it totally undermines the intensity of your song. You never want the audience looking away from the stage, and certainly not to a giant head lasciviously licking its sleazy lips. Anyway, despite all this, I felt Günther & D’Sanz were a bit stiff to finish fifth, and Anni should have finished in front of Alva, whose nice song and pleasant performance was let down by dreadful vocals.
The worry with Norma John winning is it means four songs out of 5 selected so far for Kyiv 2017 are ballads, two of them the dreary and whiny type. Remember, two of the key ingredients to Ukraine’s winning song in 2016 were dreary and whiny, so the copycat syndrome that often follows for the subsequent year seems disturbingly in effect. Let’s hope it stops right here and stops right now.