6 March 2021
Will Uku Suviste be the lucky one and win Eesti Laul for the second year in a row and finally reach the Eurovision stage? Or can it be beautiful for Koit Toome and return to Eurovision for a third time? It looks like a race between those two to be Estonia’s representative at 2021 Eurovision Song Contest in Rotterdam, and after the two semi finals, they were the two that stood out the most. Koit being the highlight of the first semi; Uku the highlight of the second one.
Semi Final 1 Review
01 Tanja – Best Night Ever
02 Hans Nayna – One By One
03 Wiiralt – Tuuled
04 Kea – Hypnotized
05 Andrei Zevakin & Pluuto – Wingman
06 Karl Killing – Kiss Me
07 Nika Marula – Calm Down
08 Egert Milder – Free Again
09 Tuuli Rand – Üks öö
10 Koit Toome – We Could Have Been Beautiful
11 Kristin Kalnapenk – Find A Way
12 Ivo Linna, Robert Linna, Supernova – Ma Olen Siin
Estonia totally muffed the first semi final by rejecting all the women to promote only male acts. It’s unbelievable not one of Tanja, Kea, Nika Marula or Kristin Kalnapenk could make the final. I’d have taken three of them, only leaving out Kea. Instead we got a familiar stale group of several solo male performers, the familiar Ivo Linna (even if his son, Robert, had ultra cool glasses) and unappealing hip-hip thanks to Andrei Zevakin & Pluuto. At least that duo presented something interesting, acting out their pick-up strategies of hot girls in nightclubs. It seems more complicated than I remember. Of the solo males Karl Killing, Egert Milder and Hans Nayna, we didn’t need them all. I’d even include Koit Toome in that stale male group if his song wasn’t so damn good.
Tanja – Best Night Ever
So Tanja wasn’t amazing like her 2014 winner (Amazing), nor did she do anything spectacular in her performance. She did at least present an upbeat and entertaining performance, her vocals were good, and she was better than half the male acts that made the final. Don’t forget the tastefully exposed garter on her left leg either.
Nika Marula – Calm Down
While this doesn’t compare as well to her 2018 entry, Knock Knock, that’s no knock on it overall and it was certainly good enough to reach the final. I’m puzzled with this one the most as it was a distinct entry both in song style and presentation, albeit it only lasts two and a half minutes and ends suddenly. Perhaps there were just too many strings attached.
Kristin Kalnapenk – Find A Way
Kristin was the rare unearthed gem of this year’s Eestl Laul and was my highlight from the first semi. Jazz can get messy if there’s too much improvisation in the vocals, and, personally, Kristin nailed that balance of providing subtle vocal variation and preserving the song’s melody. Her voice is so sweet too, and she was note-perfect even when hanging almost upside down. A true artist! If I had to critique it – find a way that would have pushed it into the final – the vocal flourishes weren’t powerful enough and it was overall too mellow to stick out for viewers. Anyway, Kristin, you found a way to my heart, so keep going with your career!
For me, Kristin Kalnapenk had to be a certain qualifier, with Nika Marula and Tanja as much preferred to some of the others. Out would go Egert Milder, Andrei Zevakin & Pluuto and Ivo Linna. Hans Nayna is an interesting character, coming from Mauritius, while you can’t leave out pretty boy Karl Killing, and Koit Toome had to be there for his song.
Semi Final 2 Review
01 Sissi – Time
02 Gram-Of-Fun – Lost In A Dance
03 Kadri Voorand – Energy
04 Helen – Nii Kõrgele
05 Redel – Tartu
06 Rahel – Sunday Night
07 Uku Haasma – Kaos
08 Heleza – 6
09 Uku Suviste – The Lucky One
10 Alabama Watchdog – Alabama Watchdog
11 Jüri Pootsmann – Magus Melanhoolia
12 Suured Tüdrukud – Heaven’s Not That Far Tonight
Two solo women made it from the second semi final, the glorious Kadri Voorand and her powerful song, Energy, and Sissi, daughter of 2001 Eurovision winner (with Tanal Padar), Dave Benson. Also add the big girl duo, Suured Tüdrukud, with their uptempo Heaven’s Not That Far Tonight as another female act. The “big girls” (the translation of Suured Tüdrukud) are familiar as backing vocalists at Eesti Laul over the years, and didn’t shirk their duties this year either, popping up in earlier acts during their semi final. Even with this 50% quotient of female acts progressing, it’s still lamentable that the horrible Redel qualified ahead of several other far superior entries. Even yawn-fest Jüri Pootsmann (Estonia’s 2016 Eurovision representative) could have been relegated for Heleza, or perhaps Helen. Hell! I’d take them both.
Gram-Of-Fun – Lost In A Dance
Gram-Of-Fun became Ton-Of-Disappointment with an unbelievably flat display for a song that’s meant to be so energetic and fun. My second favourite entry (after Koit Toome) heading into Eesti Laul, it flopped notably due to the weak vocals of Kristel Aaslaid. This song needed clean, powerful vocals to really resonate; instead we got forced, constrained vocals through a constricted windpipe. I’ve never seen anyone trying to rip big notes with their mouth half closed and lower lip curled up. Weird, and wrong!
Heleza – 6
Quirky song, quirky girl, quirky dress. While I enjoyed it, it was all too restrained to stand out. Perhaps we’ll see Heleza back next year with 7?
Helen – Nii Kõrgele
This was always a remote chance to reach the final as the song – as much as I liked it – never pinged hard enough with enough people. Credit to Helen for trying to elevate it with this fascinating presentation. It kept me engaged.
Alabama Watchdog – Alabama Watchdog
This created controversy with lines like, “Get down for the lockdown. Stay sane till it blows out. I preach those lines but I won’t realize. My soul will thrive in a ghost town.”. Supposedly it made the band lockdown deniers or anti-vaccine. Ridiculous. Writing about such stuff doesn’t automatically make you a strong proponent. It could be a general expression of sentiment in parts of the community, or even about the degree or duration of a lockdown. These are valid topics, and if music can’t be used for expression, we have truly lost the plot. Ignoring all that (and you should!), this is a great, raucous entry. I’d have preferred it in the final over Redel or Jüri Pootsmann. In fact, I’d dump both of them and add Helen and Alabama Watchdog as my qualifiers from the second semi.
01 Egert Milder – Free Again
02 Suured Tüdrukud – Heaven’s Not That Far Tonight
03 Hans Nayna – One By One
04 Ivo Linna, Robert Linna, Supernova – Ma Olen Siin
05 Karl Killing – Kiss Me
06 Uku Suviste – The Lucky One
07 Sissi – Time
08 Jüri Pootsmann – Magus Melanhoolia
09 Redel – Tartu
10 Koit Toome – We Could Have Been Beautiful
11 Andrei Zevakin & Pluuto – Wingman
12 Kadri Voorand – Energy
With Uku and Koit kept separate, both appearing after less favoured songs, and both not too early in the schedule, they are ensured to get their best opportunity to shine. Kadri Voorand to perform last will certainly help her. A 50/50 mix of jury and the public will pick the three-song super final, with the public alone deciding a winner from that. Personally, this is the best national final format around and should be trialled in Eurovision.
Hans Nayna – One By One
Our boy from Mauritius certainly needs a mention because he’s the most interesting of all the solo males. He has a wonderful soulful voice, and One By One is such a good song in its own right. Probably among the top 3.
Suured Tüdrukud – Heaven’s Not That Far Tonight
Yes, it’s the big girls! There’s a bit of momentum for this, as the ladies do present as so charming through the camera. Add their great voices and this catchy song, they are worthy of a final’s spot and even a top result. They have the second highest views on the Eesti Laul youtube channel of their semi final performance with 28k – even a head of Koit Toome (24k) and Uku Suviste (12k). Only Andrei Zevakin & Pluuto with 32k views beat them. Curiously, I had the ladies as my second favourite overall when first listening to all the Eesti Laul songs. Over the weeks they slipped a bit in the ranking (to 8th) while Gram-Of-Fun rose. If only we had voices like the big girls in Gram-Of-Fun!
My Super Final
Kadri Voorand – Energy
This was easily the biggest surprise packet from the semi finals, mostly due to Kadri’s epic and effortless vocals. A lovely, simple presentation too. I had her 18th rank out of 24 before Eesti Laul; now she’s my third favourite.
Koit Toome – We Could Have Been Beautiful
Koit keeps it simple and let’s the song and his exquisite vocals do the talking. That’ll be enough for top 3.
Uku Suviste – The Lucky One
Not as strong a song as his winner last year, Uku lifts it with a stylish and classy presentation. Great vocals too.
Who Will Win?
It is a two-horse race between Uku Suviste and Koit Toome. While Koit has the better song, Uku has the better performance and likely the public sentiment to finally see him on the Eurovision stage after last year’s cancellation. In third, I’ll go for Kadri Voorand, placed last to perform, as she will leave a huge impression with those stellar vocals.
So it’s a year that I align with the broad census – including the betting markets – of a race between the two main pretty boys. Even if Estonia had not muffed the first semi final, I’d still align. Uku and Koit are the clear superior choices, and I hope Uku does finally get to Eurovision.
Eesti Laul 2021 Preview – My Top 24
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