20 February 2017
Another year, another great Eesti Laul. It’s beginning to sound like a broken record. Except, unlike a broken record, Eesti Laul continues to amaze with its consistency to produce interesting songs and shows. While there’s unlikely to be something that says “wow, instant Eurovision winner”, the general quality is again high, and there’s always great diversity. That’s something to be celebrated.
This year is a “Lenna year”, in which you’ll be subjected to my unashamed bias towards Lenna Kuurmaa, my favourite singer ever. That’s ok, because Eurovision is far more than announcing a winner; it’s the journey through the national final season and into Eurovision itself. It’s a journey of following favourite artists, or even vicariously the experiences of one humble blogger, to especially feel the passion that is the modern fairytale of Eurovision.
The other great hallmark of Eesti Laul is it has the best format. Two semi finals of 10 artists, with 5 of each through to the final, it’s just the right mix. The normal process of the top 5 being combined jury and televote was altered this year to be top 4, with the final spot a new round decided by televote alone. Great idea! In the final, the top 3 based on jury and televote go to a super final where the televote again decides alone. Unlike the recent and dubious trend in other countries of international juries, Estonia sticks to almost a 100% Estonian panel, which prevents the contest becoming homogenised into boring Euro trash. You might get the odd Finn on the panel, that’s it. This year there was one and he notably said the first semi final of Eesti Laul was far superior to Finland’s final. He was right too.
Onto my video ranking and preview of the final, and my five to watch based on personal and popular appeal.
10 Daniel Levi – All I Need
Only into the final with the final round televote, and unfairly too. I’d have much rather seen Close To Infinity ft Ian Karell qualify. Levi had a really energetic song two years ago, finishing second to Elina & Stig. This time it’s rather bland.
09 Karl-Kristjan & Whogaux ft Maian – Have You Now
From the first semi final, this was the surprise finalist in the initial top 4. It’s fun and quirky, and even though the damn melody has been stuck in my head at times, it’s likely to be swamped by others.
08 Ivo Linna – Suur loterii
A former entrant in Eurovision, finishing fifth in 1996 with Maarja-Liis Ilus, this crusty old guy is back with a really infectious and catchy song. It’s only that the competition is so strong that it sits low in the rank. It’s original form was over 5 minutes, and being cut to 3 minutes has harmed it in terms of structure. Here it’s verse, chorus, repeat. While the 5 minute version rambled on way too long, at least there were some highs. It needs some powerful backing or harmonising to really lift it.
07 Liis Lemsalu – Keep Running
There’s nothing really wrong with this entry other than others are better. It’s a nice, bubbly song sung by a nice, bubbly girl. It speaks more Melodifestivalen than Eesti Laul, and would probably do better there. I’d be shocked if Estonians went for this.
06 Kerli – Spirit Animal
Betting agencies initially had this as clear favourite to win, and it’s certainly a unique song, with tribal influences and the enigmatic Kerli herself. She has an interesting history with the Estonian people – seeming to alienate them after launching her career outside of Estonia, which included an appearance at Melodifestivalen 2003. Without being privy to developments in the relationship over the years, there could be some residual ambivalence. Body language suggests Kerli is still somewhat wary, and with this her first Eesti Laul in 13 years, she has a right to be. Part of her initial favouritism was because she is Kerli. She’s a recognised name, and that always means a lot in early betting markets. The song itself, while initially very appealing, is quite repetitive, and she’s now a joint favourite. If it were performed by anybody else, we probably wouldn’t even be talking about it.
05 Rasmus Rändvee – This Love
One of the songs that could achieve a decent result at Eurovision. A big sounding and thumping song, complete with cool shaking camera effects, it’s distinctive and classy.
04 Elina Born – In or Out
Elina will be familiar to those who remember the excellent Goodbye To Yesterday two years ago when she was part of a duo with Stig Rasta. If you don’t remember them, please slap yourself. Stig is involved again, as he was last year with Juri Poostmann’s lacklustre Play, being one of the writers. It’s a catchy, bouncy song, and will be in contention. Elina’s vocals have developed nicely over the years, adding a slightly husky strain to her voice. She also gives leotards a good name.
03 Koit Toome & Laura – Verona
The class act in the final, with two veterans of Eurovision (Koit in 1998, and Laura as part of Suntribe in 2005), and a veteran writer and producer of 3 Eurovision songs (2005 Let’s Get Loud by Suntribe, 2009 Randajad by Urban Symphony and 2011 Rockefeller Street by Getter Jaani) and many other attempts in Eesti Laul, including second last year and 2013. It’s a great song too, with beautifully matching voices, and is deserved equal favourite. I’d be more than happy with this in Kyiv, especially as consolation of a consolation, and it probably stands as Estonia’s best chance for a high place.
02 Ariadne – Feel Me Now
I’m about to use a word I thought I’d never use again, and certainly not about somebody else. That word is “Malinesque”. Malin Berggren was the blonde in the 90s Swedish band Ace Of Base, and her voice was so pure and crystalline that it got its own description. It might still be my favourite pure voice ever, and now it’s been reincarnated with Ariadne. While the tone doesn’t exactly match, the purity does, and Ariadne goes one step further by being so effortless in her delivery. Maybe she’s Ariadnesque? Add a funky hybrid pop/dance song and a groovy girl, and this is one ultra groovy entry, man! It’s been my “momentum song” since the nomination phase, and decloaked of my Lenna bias, I’m really hoping this wins. Curiously, Ariadne only qualified as the public choice from the first semi final, which bordered on outrageous. Her static stage presentation no doubt hurt her with the jury and reaching the initial top 4. She really must add some sort of animation to her act with the use of a band, especially if she does reach ESC. In light of her SF1 performance, making the top 3 will be her real challenge. Once there, let’s hope the public can do its job. Wait! Let’s not hope…
01 Lenna Kuurmaa – Slingshot
This year must be Lenna’s year! It’s her destiny, and hopefully it’s mine. Lenna was in Kyiv in 2005 for Eurovision with her band Vanilla Ninja, where they finished 8th for Switzerland, and now she’s trying again with a song that recalls some of the hallmarks of Vanilla Ninja classics. Except, Lenna is her own person now, an extremely accomplished artist with her own style and ambition, and has presented her song not in the Vanilla Ninja way at all. While Slingshot is a well crafted song, with a nice progression and Lenna sounds as good as ever, she probably knows it’s not strong enough on its own, or at least not raucous or big enough, for her to deliver a standard performance, so she’s added stylishly choreographed routine and excellent use of the choir to help lift the song. It’s a matter of whether that’s enough. It will stand out by being the only song in the final with such strong choreography. Her chances of winning depends on others in the top 3. If a public favourite like Ariadne is there, who has triple the views of her semi final performance on youtube than Lenna does, it’s all over. If it’s Kerli and Koit & Laura, then Estonia might snub Kerli and then must decide between the two veteran entries, where Lenna might be rewarded for her loyalty, perseverance and the synergy of being in Kyiv again.
Koit & Laura, Kerli and Ariadne in the super final, with Koit & Laura winning.
All Eesti Laul performances can be found here
The Eesti Laul 2017 final is on 4 March 2017 at 1930 local time
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