11 February 2022
It’s been a different and more expansive Eesti Laul in 2022 with the introduction of quarter finals and a provision that 50% of entries would be in Estonian. The quarter finals, which were staged from late November over four weeks, were essentially music video presentations, where five of the 10 entries would proceed to the semi finals. Two songs were decided by a jury and three by the public. From there, 10 entries (down from 12) would progress to the final.
Except for the first quarter final, there were no major surprises. Traffic were the biggest name to miss out, and had a decent song too, while I’d love to have seen Little Mess progress due personal, minor fanaticism after their excellent entry, Without A Reason, in 2020. Ariadne, who burst onto the scene with the hypnotic Feel Me Now in 2017, was in the tough fourth quarter final and sadly missed out. I feel for her after she was so excited to appear at Eesti Laul again, and had a quality entry with Shouldn’t Be Friends too.
If you’ve yet so hear all the semi final songs, here’s a playlist of my Top 20 ranked worst to best.
Semi Final 1
01 Elysa – Fire
02 Helen – Vaata minu poole
03 Andrei Zevakin feat. Grete Paia – Mis nüüd saab
04 Alabama Watchdog – Move On
05 Merilin Mälk – Little Girl
06 Stig Rästa – Interstellar
07 Triin Niitoja and Frants Tikerpuu – Laululind
08 Kaia-Liisa Kesler – Vaikus
09 Elina Nechayeva – Remedy
10 Ott Lepland – Aovalguses
Semi Final 2
01 Jyrise – Plaksuta
02 Maian – Meeletu
03 Boamadu – Mitte kauaks
04 Evelin Samuel – Waterfall
05 Black Velvet – Sandra
06 Púr Múdd and Shira – Golden Shores
07 Jaagup Tuisk – Kui vaid
08 Minimal Wind feat. Elisabeth Tiffany – What to Make of This
09 Stefan – Hope
10 Anna Sahlene – Champion
Those in bold qualified for the final.
The semi finals were notable this year for being loaded with returning Eurovision artists and for being hit by COVID-19 infections. Anna Sahlene was by far the biggest name and most interesting return artist, having represented Estonia on home soil way back in 2002. Appearing then simply as Sahlene, she finished third with Runaway. In subsequent years she tried unsuccessfully a few times to represent her native Sweden, failing each time at the semi final stage of Melodifestivalen. Now, after 20 years, and still looking as great as ever, she’s back in Estonia hoping to get that Eurovision booty call.
Also returning are Stig Rästa (7th with Elina Born in 2015), Elina Nechayeva (8th in 2018) and Ott Lepland (6th in 2012). Not to ignore Sven Lõhmus, who is on guitar for Black Velvet and wrote Remedy for Elina Nechayeva, and has composed several Eurovision entries, notably Rändajad in 2009 and Verona in 2017. I also called him a magician when he swung past during the Kyiv 2017 red carpet event, and he kindly picked up a CD we dropped that we asked Laura to sign. That CD was only just released and bought the day before in Tallinn and it was actually the first time Laura had seen it. She was flicking through it before signing it.
All these major names progressed to the final, with only Elina Nechayeva not doing it directly in the first round of voting. The first round is the top four based on 50% jury and 50% public, and she had to rely on the public wildcard in the second round to progress.
All five qualifiers from SF1 were the most logical, albeit I’d have tossed out Ott Lepland for Helen (nice Eesti disco number), Alabama Watchdog (rock) or Kaia-Liisa Kesler (a lovely ballad). Ott just screams too much whereas Kaia-Liisa is so soft and beautiful.
The four strongest and most obvious entries from SF2 progressed: Jaagup Tuisk, Black Velvet, Sahlene and boring Stefan. From the remaining six, except for Jyrise, it was very even after that, and any would have been fine as the fifth option. Personally, I was happy it was Minimal Wind, while I’d have thrown out boring Stefan for Púr Múdd and Shira. I also liked the very ABBAish Waterfall by Evelin Samuel. Curiously, Shira had two entries this year: one solo and the collaboration with Púr Múdd.
You’d have thought almost two years in that COVID-19 would not be an issue. Unfortunately, two artists tested positive prior to SF1 and one more prior to SF2. Without any performances recorded, their music videos were used as a substitute. Elysa and Minimal Wind still managed to qualify from their respective semi finals, while Merilin Mälk was the sad and unlucky non-qualifier from the first semi. Little Girl was one of my favourite entries and it would have been nice to at least see her perform.
01 Elina Nechayeva – Remedy
02 Andrei Zevakin feat. Grete Paia – Mis nüüd saab
03 Jaagup Tuisk – Kui vaid
04 Elysa – Fire
05 Ott Lepland – Aovalguses
06 Stig Rästa – Interstellar
07 Minimal Wind feat. Elisabeth Tiffany – What To Make Of This
08 Stefan – Hope
09 Anna Sahlene – Champion
10 Black Velvet – Sandra
My Top 10 playlist of the final
It’s a very even final and tricky to predict. Elina Nechayeva‘s Remedy is more a disease compared to the superlative La Forza, and her performance, especially vocally, was a bit limp. The song itself, while really nice, just doesn’t give her the opportunity to express the full lustre of her vocals, and being placed first is a sign of low confidence by the producers.
Sorry, Grete Paia, as much as I love you and your delightful voice, I’m not a fan of this collaboration with Andrei Zevakin. It’s just talking with some marginally talented himbo. Jaagup Tuisk will likely suffer the same fate as Elina Nechayeva by being compare to his previous entry, and fail. In Jaagup’s case, it was Beautiful Lie in 2020. Missing the chance to perform in the semi finals could be an advantage for Elysa as not only will she will be a fresh act, she has a high energy dance song that, while being bit formulaic, could will really capture the audience.
Ott Lepland needs to stop screaming and return to singing, just like he was doing prior to his 2012 Eurovision performance. He sung Kuula so beautifully at Eesti Laul in 2012, only to scream it in Baku, and he’s lost me ever since. Stig Rästa knows how to write a song, and with Victor Crone also part of his songwriting team, it’s no surprise Interstellar is stellar. It’s a bit of a return favour for Stig after he contributed to Victor’s Storm in 2019.
Minimal Wind featuring Elisabeth Tiffany (I shouldn’t forget Elisabeth Tiffany!) bring the snazzy, jazzy What To Make Of This, complete with some exquisite vocal touches. As the other act yet to perform live, again, it could be a big advantage if a strong live performance is presented.
Stefan with Hope? Nope. Boring Stefan, who seems intent to compete every year until Estonia picks him, has left his usual sop-fest behind for a twangy country style of song. It’s nice enough, if still a bit boring!
For her attempted to return to Eurovision for Estonia, Anna Sahlene has brought a powerful, uplifting song in Champion, and it’s far stronger than her attempts in Melodifestivalen. While I was hoping for a bit more innovation in the semi final, Sahlene showed she still has it after 20 years.
No surprise from those comprising Black Velvet that Sandra is a very catchy song, with a catchy vibe. Being sung in Estonian, and by three rather nondescript males (at least to my eyes), means it could struggle in the first phase of voting that uses an international jury for 50% of the result. The top 3 then go to a super final that is exclusively decided by the public.
My Super Final
Anna Sahlene – Champion
Elina Nechayeva – Remedy
Stig Rästa – Interstellar
Sahlene the runaway winner.
Elysa is the wildcard, and could be a candidate for my super final if she delivers a strong performance. Remember, she missed the semi finals due to COVID-19 so something fresh and memorable could change things. Stig would drop out. Even Black Velvet, it was a tough decision to leave them out.
Champion has been my favourite song prior to the semi finals, and it remains so. Next is Elina Nechayeva – Remedy, Merilin Mälk – Little Girl, Stig Rästa – Interstellar, Black Velvet – Sandra, and Elysa – Fire.
Starting positions are a good indicator into the minds of the producers. Between 6th and 9th seems to be the golden positions in recent years, and that’s where Stig Rästa (6th), Stefan (8th) and Anna Sahlene (9th) find themselves.
The betting market, which is a bit unreliable considering this is a competition in which the Estonian public have the final say, has Stefan the dominant favourite. Then it’s Ott Lepland and Anna Sahlene, followed by a group of six others, with Minimal Wind rated last at almost zero chance. Personal bias against boring Stefan precludes me from believing he can win, so expect it will be out of Ott Lepland, Anna Sahlene and Stig Rästa, with nostalgia and creating a great story nudging Anna through.