09 February 2023
Not the strongest Eesti Laul in 2023, and the final set for 11 February looks a race between two: Alika with her ballad, Bridges, and Ollie with his rock song, Venom. Both are new names to the Eesti Laul stage and will try to win ahead of a bunch of familiar names from previous editions and the Estonian music scene in general. Those names include Anett x Fredi, Bedwetters, Elysa (Kolk), Inger and Sissi. In the semi finals was also Robin Juhkental, who represented Estonia at Eurovision 2010, fronting the group, Malcolm Lincoln.
After experimenting with quarter finals (based on music videos) last year, Eesti Laul reverted to its traditional format of two semi finals and a final. From twenty songs that competed in semi finals held on 12 and 14 January, four progressed from each directly to the final via a combined jury/public vote, with a fifth one added solely by a public vote. A new wildcard option added two further songs, which was decided by a public vote over the two days following the second semi final. Mia and Elysa were the two beneficiaries.
With 12 from 20 songs proceeding to the final, there wasn’t really anything left behind undeservedly in the semi finals. Perhaps the most interesting exception was Tokimeki in first semi final – a quaint song in Japanese by the Estonian/Japanese hybrid group, Neon Letters and Maiko.
The playlist of My Top 12 from the Eesti Laul 2023 final
01 Meelik – Tuju
02 Inger – Awaiting You
03 Janek – House of Glass
04 Elysa – Bad Philosophy
05 M Els – So Good (At What You Do)
06 Bedwetters – Monsters
07 Andreas – Why Do You Love Me
08 Alika – Bridges
09 Anett x Fredi – You Need to Move On
10 Ollie – Venom
11 Mia – Üks samm korraga
12 Sissi – Lighthouse
My Top 12
12 Meelik – Tuju
11 Andreas – Why Do You Love Me
10 Bedwetters – Monsters
09 Inger – Awaiting You
08 Sissi – Lighthouse
07 M Els – So Good (At What You Do)
06 Anett x Fredi – You Need to Move On
Meelik was probably the main surprise to qualify directly from the second semi, being a throwback to 1960s style of rock music, and noted more for the quality of the mole on one of the guitarists than the quality of the song. Andreas brings a sappy, R&B style of ballad, that as exciting as wetting your bed. Speaking of Bedwetters, these heavy duty punk rockers formed almost 20 years ago, albeit they took a break from performing between May 2013 and June 2022. While Monsters is a catchy rock song, the monster look is irksome. The video was horrendous with things being cut up, and that icky feeling remains on stage. They just aren’t as lovable as, say, Finland’s Lordi, and I just don’t like watching them.
Inger is a bit more uptempo this year compared to her recent entries, and it’s a fun, boppy addition. It’s just that it’s Inger: a bit drab. Sissi, the daughter of Dave Benton, who won Eurovision with Tanel Padar for Estonia in 2001, doesn’t offend with this soulful ballad. It’s pleasant enough without particularly excelling. M Els presents a really nice jazz/pop song, and I was pleased to see Estonians ensure she advance via the second round of voting in semi final two. Anett x Fredi brings quality jazz that’s not quite to the quality of their 2020 entry, Write About Me.
05 Janek – House of Glass
Surprisingly relied on the second round of voting in the first semi to advance, this is a highly engaging pop song with a pleasant voice. Probably too generic for the jury, which is why Janek needed the public.
04 Elysa – Bad Philosophy
My immediate impression upon seeing the preview video was this was amazing. So hypnotic, with a superb retro feel, and wrapped nicely with Elysa’s stylish vocals. That feeling remains for the whole song… the first time. Repeat listens, and notably the semi final performance, exposes its limitations. Nothing much happens during the second half, with the bridge an uninspiring instrumental section, and then the chorus just runs out. The song screams for some big vocal moments, like a “bad philosophyyyyyyyy” during the bridge, and a bit more oomph to the final chorus. It’s just all very one-key. I posted this in the comments section on Elysa’s Youtube page for her video, so curious to see if she’ll listen to the advice. There’s been a big break since the semi finals for the artists to think about their songs so why not change a few things.
03 Mia – Üks samm korraga
Will probably be too understated for most people. For me, I love the mix of Mia’s voice, her vocal expression, the music, and it’s quite simply such a lovely song. Mia’s voice and physical appearance reminds me so much of Grete Paia, which only adds to the attraction. I was so happy when Mia received one of the wildcard spots in the final. She should have been there all the time.
02 Ollie – Venom
Real name Oliver Mazurtšak, Ollie brings a classic rock song with ripping vocals to the Eesti Laul stage. Interesting that it has an instrumental section after the first verse and chorus, and then really kicks up. That breaks away nicely from the standard rock formula, making it all the more impressive.
01 Alika – Bridges
Winner of Eesti otsib superstaari (Estonian version of the Idol series) in 2021, if Alika (full name Alika Milova) wins Eesti Laul 2023, she’ll follow Birgit Õigemeel, Ott Lepland and Jüri Pootsmann as previous Idol winners to do so. From the first few lines of Bridges, you can see why she won. Her voice and vocal prowess is stunning. She hits every note, remains flawless and pitch-perfect throughout, and then you have it all interwoven into this majestic, beautiful and dramatic song. Brilliant.
As noted at the start, it is a race between two: Ollie and Alika. The fans say it, the betting market says it, and I say it. Both songs are positioned well in the latter stages of the show, and both with lower key songs either side of them to ensure they stand out, if that was ever a concern. It will be an exciting competition give the stark contrast in styles. Given the nature of song and the fan legacy from winning Idol, Alika looks most likely the one.
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