05 March 2017
So it proved to be, the best pedigreed song and classiest performance won Eesti Laul of 2017. Koit Toome and Laura with Verona won the super final with 55% of the vote, beating Kerli with Spirit Animal into second place and Rasmus Randvee with This Love in third. It was an exciting and quality final, as evidenced by Elina Born – one of the top contenders with In Or Out and a winner in 2015 – finishing last in a highly fluid voting process.
Especially during the jury section, places were constantly changing, with only Kerli holding her place consistently, in the lead. Thirty two points separated the rest of the field, with Verona only in sixth placed overall. The public then promptly jumped it into the super final as their first preference. They validated their decision with Verona ultimately winning. Not that viewers were aware of their initial decision, because Eesti Laul, which I say again has the best system to decide winners and should be adopted at Eurovision, only announced the three super finalists once the four remaining songs had yet to receive their televotes. With Verona in sixth, it was some relief for Koit and Laura that they squeezed in.
Yes, it wouldn’t be a national final without sore losers. Kerli’s fans were livid at her defeat, and even spread claims that her televote number was dead for 10 minutes. All this seemed based on a few fans saying they couldn’t vote, when the truth is they were probably trying to cheat and vote too often, and that caused the rejection. Moreover, Verona won the televote in the main voting phase anyway, and in their semi final, doubling Kerli’s tally each time, so were clearly the people’s pick. It shows that there’s always whingers regardless of system, and the key purpose of the jury in the voting process is to protect against spam voting. They physically can’t do it, unlike the public and their “bloc” mentality.
To the other entries, it was a harsh outcome for my girl Lenna Kuurmaa. While she did well with the jury to finish fourth, she received the second lowest votes from the public to finish 8th overall. She had a softer look with less make-up and straighter hair from the semi final, and added a trapeze section that saw her launch (yes, like a slingshot) into the crowd. While I loved the look, the trapeze section meant much of the stylish choreography from the semi final – which I regarded as a perfect presentation of the song – was lost, and the performance overall disjointed. Camera work was dire, with too many sweeps and approaches, not to mention the lighting was substandard. It made the whole thing look a bit messy and less intimate. Some of the other acts were afflicted by poor camera work and lighting too, so Lenna is not at fault here. Even though her dream (and mine) to reach Eurovision is still to be fulfilled, I remain proud of her, and she’ll always be a winner to me.
There seemed to be unusually big hype this year from the organisers and competitors about the final, especially the venue of Saku Suurhall constantly mentioned as the grand target, so maybe there wasn’t enough rehearsal time or too much experimentation to nail down the camera and lighting. The main front camera was also set too low, or the stage needed to be raised. With Eurovision alumni like Mans Zelmerlow and Poli Genova on the jury and Mans performing during the interval, it seems Estonia really want the Eesti Laul final to rival other main ones, notably Melodifestivalen in Sweden. They have the songs, and that’s the most important first step, so now it’s about laying the groundwork for the annual spectacular production.
Ariadne decided to walk around and dance a little this time to add some sort of visual appeal to her performance beyond her natural cuteness. While it helped, it was never enough on this grand stage, and her inexperience also showed with her engagement with the camera lacking. Despite her sixth place, she’s a talent worth following. Elina Born did nothing wrong. A catchy song and great routine, it’s more that previous winners are often compared with their previous songs, and if it’s not as good, which it wasn’t compared to Goodbye To Yesterday, then it’s basically ignored. Despite that, last on both jury (even with 45 points) and televote seemed harsh. Kerli similarly did nothing wrong. Her problem was the song was repetitive and no where near as good as the hype – mostly from her deluded fans – suggested. Rasmus Randvee was brilliant and proved to be my (and Poli’s) favourite performance of the night and I’d have been content had he won.
Whogaux & Karl-Kristjan feat. Maian were the surprises in fourth with their cute and bubbly song. They totally changed their static semi final performance to dancing around the stage together, and it worked for a worthy fourth place. Similarly worthy was Ivo Linna’s catchy Suur Loterii in fifth. Liis Lemsalu did all she could do with her lightweight pop piece to finish 7th, while Daniel Levi’s bland entry was always making up the numbers.
Another Eesti Laul over and finally we have our first 5-star song of the season. Koit and Laura need to tighten a few things with their routine, especially the moments they are on stage together, as they do look awkward. Koit looks like a cruise ship crooner the way he holds the microphone, so needs to adopt a firm, more authoritarian grip. Be a man and really grasp that damn thing. No problem with Laura’s grip. The video screen images need to be woven better into the routine, which I’m sure will happen come Kyiv. Styling is fine other than I preferred Laura with the flowing hair from the semi final, not the slicked back version in the final.
Verona will be an interesting song in Kyiv. It could be either top 5 or miss the final. It depends on the mood of the audience and other entries involved. While it’s obviously a classy song with pleasant, harmonious voices, how will the staging – trying be a live music video – be accepted? We wait and see.