28 January 2019
Every year I sound like a broken record when saying it’s another great Eesti Laul. This year, I’m flipping the record, and Eesti Laul doesn’t seem that great. At least not on initial impressions. Eventually, after the several listens over the past few weeks, which was required to form a top 10, it is another good one. Not a classic, as there’s nothing really standing out, and there’s not even a group just below that level that you can say are worthy super finalists. In scoring them, I had eight of them at 7 points or more, and then ten on 6 points. As you know, ten into two does not go, so it’s been a struggle to make the cut. This preview is based on listening to the audio only. Eesti Laul have spared no expense this year by filming videos for every song. The only one I’ve watched is my favourite, and there wasn’t any choice in that.
The big change this year at Eesti Laul is the increase in the number of songs from 20 to 24. It’s always a risky proposition increasing quantity at the expense of quality, and they seemed to have just escaped with it. Organisers would not want to go any higher, as Eesti Laul gained its great reputation through its streamlined and concise formats that featured a good diversity of songs, and while organisers want to capitalise on its popularity, don’t destroy everything that made it great in the first hand. Remember, in much larger Sweden, they suffered with the expansion to 32 songs and have already cut back to 27 in recent years. Still, that’s too many considering some of the crap that gets through. Estonia might be fortunate in that it has more a diverse music industry so their national final should retain its interest even if the overall quality might drop.
Familiar faces and names? As usual there’s plenty, especially with a Eurovision connection. Sandra Nurmsalu of Urban Symphony from 2009 is back, Sissi is the daughter of 2001 winner Dave Benton, Birgit (2013) and Tanja (2014) team up in the group The Swingers, while Kerli Kivilaan is the sister of Triinu Kivilaan, who was part of Vanilla Ninja for Switzerland in 2005. Of course, there’s plenty of return artists trying to win Eesti Laul for the first time, like Grete Paia and Uku Suviste, to name a couple.
01. High Heels In The Neighbourhood – The Swingers, Tanja & Birgit
02. Supernova – Ranele
03. Deep Water – SOFIA RUBINA (ft. JANIKA TENN)
04. Hold Me Close – xtra basic & Emily J
05. Miks sa teed nii? – Johanna Eendra
06. Storm – Victor Crone
07. Without You – STEFAN
08. Little Baby El – Jennifer Cohen,
09. Soovide puu – Sandra Nurmsalu
10. Öhuloss – ÖED
11. Smile – Marko Kaar
12. Coming Home – INGER
01. I’ll Do It My Way – Synne Valtri
02. Strong – Sissi
03. Wo sind die Katzen? – Kaia Tamm
04. Kaks miinust – Iseloomad
05. Parmumäng – Cätlin Mägi & Jaan Pehk
06. Milline päev – Lumevärv ft. INGA
07. Pretty Little Liar – Uku Suviste
08. Cold Love – Kerli Kivilaan
09. Follow Me Back – Around The Sun
10. Halleluja – Lacy Jay
11. Kui isegi kaotan – Grete Paia
12. Believe – Kadiah
Synne Valtri with I’ll Do It My Way is an instantly appealing and addictive pop song with pleasant vocals, that gets a bit repetitive. Inger with Coming Home is another that starts with great potential with a nice folksy nature, and then just doesn’t do much. It likely will still do well, especially with an evocative stage presentation. Kaia Tamm with Wo Sind Die Katzen (where are the cats) is so cheap and tacky that it scratches a certain void. It would fit right in place at Melodifestivalen. OED with Ohuloss is more noted for featuring Kristel Aaslaid, who reached the super final with Cartoon in 2016 with Immortality. Like then, the song is probably better served by seeing it, not just hearing it. The video is bizarre enough. Jennifer Cohen with Little Baby El was the final one I wavered on.
The Top 10
10 Sandra Nurmsalu – Soovide puu – SF1 (6)
Fifth place in Moscow in 2009, this is Sandra’s second attempt since to reach Eurovision, and it only just scraps in. It has a feel of the Titanic theme, and might go down just as fast.
09 Iseloomad – Kaks miinust – SF2 (6)
This has a really pleasant indie rock vibe, and could be a sleeper song to do quite well. The Estonians, especially the jury, often like to pick something a little different.
08 Victor Crone – Storm – SF1 (7)
I thought of a James Bond baddie when I read his name and Stig Rasta once I heard his song. There’s definite echoes with Home last year, which finished second in Eesti Laul. Sure enough, when I get the youtube link to the song, Stig is in the video! If you hear the word Rootsi during Eesti Laul about Victor Crone, don’t worry, the Estonians aren’t being naughty, that’s their word for Swedish.
07 The Swingers – High Heels In The Neighbourhood – SF1 (7)
Birgit Õigemeel (now Sarrap) provided me my proudest moment since this blog started, when her fourth album, Uus Algus, swept me away and forced me to write a review (it formulated in my head while out for a walk and the main draft flowed in just 15 minutes), to which she shared with her social media followers.
Since then Birgit got married, had two children, and took the family on a month long holiday to Asia a year ago. I haven’t followed Tanja at all, only knowing that she’s part of Birgit’s main musical interest since, the jazz/swing group, The Swingers. They did a great version of Despacito – the first time I heard that worldwide phenomenon. Anyway, as much as I want to say I love High Heels, I only like it. I’m more into Birgit’s normal stuff. Late last year she announced a fifth album was due out, not that I’ve seen anything about it. Perhaps it’s on hold while she deals with High Heels.
06 Kerli Kivilaan – Cold Love – SF2 (7)
I never knew Triinu had a younger sister, and she’s released two albums, in 2013 and 2014. She hasn’t been too active since. Cold Love doesn’t break any moulds; it’s just a nice song, and it’s probably my affection for Triinu and Vanilla Ninja that sees it get an extra point and therefore easily into the top 10. Kerli doesn’t have that alluring, smoky voice of Triinu, which was an initial disappointment. Upon a few listens it proves to be quite pleasant and suits the song well. What’s up with Triinu? She’s been living in Switzerland for over 10 years now, has a son about 10 years old, a new man, and an adorable cat.
05 Ranele – Supernova – SF1 (7)
Ignoring the fact I have this weird compulsion to hand Ranele a light-sabre (please don’t toss it away), this is the classic electronic pop style that seems unique to Estonian music. Even though it’s not by him, it sounds so much like a Sven Lohmus song. Whether that means this is a cheap imitation or a classic example of this unique style, you be the judge. It’s been one of the few songs to get stuck in my head.
04 Uku Suviste – Pretty Little Liar – SF2 (7)
This oozes quality and brings plenty of big moments, and with Uku’s pretty boy looks, it should do well. His video seems to be missing on youtube, so view it here, or stick to a live performance below.
03 Johanna Eendra – Miks sa teed tii – SF1 (7)
This is the sort of quirky Estonian pop I love. While you can find plenty of examples of this type of music elsewhere, by it staying in Estonian, it retains a unique appeal and has been another stuck in my head at times.
02 Kadiah – Believe – SF2 (8)
Quite simply, one of those classic beautiful songs that appear from nowhere, and you can never explain them. Sometimes the songwriters hit the spot, and then it’s up to the artist not to stuff it up. Here with quiet, quirky vocals, it all adds up to a haunting and emotional experience. I’d advise to not watch the video. Just absorb the song. I can’t wait to see it live. My unbiased view says this is the winner.
01 Grete Paia – Kui isegi kaotan – SF2 (9)
Once I saw Grete Paia among the list of artists I began salivating. She’s in my top 3 of Estonian artists (behind Lenna Kuurma and Birgit Õigemeel) and never disappoints. Her previous two Eesti Laul entries were in association with her long running partnership with Sven Lohmus, and resulted in the narrowest of second places possible in 2013 (to Birgit) and a seventh in 2016. That partnership ended in 2018 so it was interesting to see if she could deliver. Putting bias aside, she’s delivered more than Santa does at Christmas time. Other than Kadiah’s Believe, Grete’s song was the only one that stoked my interest. She hasn’t changed too much from the Sven Lohmus era, other than a less vigorous arrangement that brings her vocals more to the fore. Thank you for that, because she has this beautiful robust voice and her pronunciation of the Estonian language is so expansive, and delightful. You can really hear every letter pronounced, and with a wonderful emotional feel to her song, it’s easy number one.
Who Will Win?
First, the semi finals have equal representation in the top 10, which is a so much better than last year when 8 of the most popular songs were in the first semi final, and the five that made it to the grand final finished in top 5. This year the second semi looks slightly stronger, at least based on my top 10, with three of the top 4 in it. Curiously,Grete Paia and Kadiah are the final two songs in semi final 2. Talk about making a guy wait!
It’s difficult to find a general feeling of favouritism among fans other than Victor Crone, Uku Suviste, Stefan (he was part of Vaje in 2018) and Inger seem to be the main ones. Youtube views seem to validate that too, with Victor Crone at 82k and Inger at 76k compared to the The Swingers under 4k. Stefan is at 38k and, as stated before, no video could be found for Uku Suviste. Kadiah and Grete Paia are at 39k and 31k respectively, while Kerli Kivilaan is at 71k. I could tolerate any of them except Stefan. Of course, I’d be most happiest with Kadiah or Grete Paia.
31 January 2019
2 February 2019
16 February 2019