26 February 2023
Cha, cha cha, cha cha cha, cha! The beautiful Finnish language returns to the Eurovision Song Contest for the first time since 2015 thanks to the enigmatic Käärijä winning Uuden Musiikin Kilpailu 2023 with his equally enigmatic song, Cha Cha Cha. Käärijä won UMK convincingly with 539 points ahead of second placed Portion Boys on 152 points, with the Finnish public awarding him 467 points alone. They had 75% of the say in the result, with an international jury the other 25%, meaning any shenanigans from the international jury would almost certainly be rendered meaningless. The jury voted for Käärijä the most popular anyway, so it was truly a comprehensive victory. UMK 2020, when Erika Vikman surprisingly lost, was the last time a 50/50 split was used.
1 Käärijä (3) – Cha Cha Cha – 539 (72/467)
2 Portion Boys (7) – Samaa taivasta katsotaan – 152 (28/124)
3 Keira (4) – No Business On The Dancefloor – 133 (42/91)
4 Robin Packalen (1) – Girls Like You – 109 (28/81)
5 Kuumaa (2) – Ylivoimainen – 107 (44/63)
6 Lxandra (6) – Something To Lose 70 (46/24)
7 Benjamin (5) – Hoida Mut – 66 (34/32)
Curiously, despite the big win by Käärijä, his total points did not eclipse the 551 points that Blind Channel accrued in 2021, nor was his 52.9% share of the public vote higher than Blind Channel’s 54.3%. He did win with a bigger margin, 387 to 371, to take that record. His big winning margin emphasised UMK 2023 as an even year beyond Käärijä as votes were spread across many artists, which suppressed the total for the second placed song. While Portion Boys won 14.1% of the public vote, Teflon Brothers and Pandora were the clear second favourites in 2021 and won 17% of the vote.
1 Robin Packalen – Girls Like You
For a song in a style not to my liking, I enjoyed this. Crisp vocal work, really engaged well with the audience, and the trampoline was a wonderful and unique addition. Robin really got me grooving! 7/10
2 Kuumaa – Ylivoimainen
Loved the retro graphic effects and the A-ha vibe. Even though the song is in Finnish, its message is still strongly felt in the vocals. Ultimately, much like the first entry, a bit one dimensional. While Girls Like You would play well in the clubs and Ylivoimainen plays well on radio, you need a bit more for a big stage like UMK. 7/10
3 Käärijä – Cha Cha Cha
So Käärijä’s name is derived from previous gambling habits, and means Mr Wins A Lot. He certainly won the lot tonight. That cha cha cha bit is just so addictive, and the performance unique and energetic. He didn’t blow up the stage as I hoped, and part of that is the final parts of the song hits a flat spot. Then, bang, the big crescendo kicks in, and it’s over. It needs to increase intensity much sooner. I’d also question the pink Cha Cha dancers. I get the play on words; the question is are they at all relevant? The song is about a guy at a bar. If they were dressed as evil Cha Cha dancers perhaps it would fit better. 8/10
4 Keira – No Business On The Dancefloor
Very well presented with spectacular dancing rods of coloured lights, and Keira’s natural charm and quality voice made it all the more engaging. Ultimately, the song was not quite strong enough to rate higher. 7/10
5 Benjamin – Hoida Mut
Directly following Keira, and with a similar type of song, it was easy to make a direct comparison, and that comparison wasn’t in his favour. While I always loved the song, and the damn thing is bouncing around in my head as I write this review, the performance was a bit flat. Just Benjamin solo while Keira had her dancers. His glowing poles were certainly no substitute. Vocally not that strong either. Finishing at the tail of the field was therefore not a surprise. Somehow the juries from Sweden and Poland gave him 12 points. Actually, I shouldn’t be surprised with Sweden. 6/10
6 Lxandra – Something To Lose
Another slight disappointment, especially for a song that at one stage I had as my second favourite of the event. For a ballad, you need to engage directly with the audience to create that connection, whereas Lxandra was staring at space for much of the time, and prancing around doing her own thing, probably trying to act out the song. I simply didn’t feel it. It was only at the end, once the full set was exposed and dancers appeared, that eye contact and real engagement was made. Younghearted performing Sun numero at last year’s UMK, now that’s how you do a ballad. 6/10
7 Portion Boys – Samaa Taivasta Katsotaan
This was chaos. Perhaps too much chaos! It was a sensory overload for part of it, trying to absorb it all. By the end, I was hooked. Watching the performances a second time then confirmed that this was my favourite of UMK 2023. It had everything: a rapid tempo and catchy song, an energetic performance, superb visuals to inform non-Finns about the song’s message, and the drummer was zipping around on a Segway. Kyllä! The audience engagement was also super strong. Classic stuff. 9/10
No song scored below 6, which means they were all good. An average score of 7.1 makes it automatically an excellent UMK and puts it in the upper echelons of any national final or Eurovision show. It rates only a little below last year’s 7.3 (which had one song score only 4) while 2021 rated 7.6. Note, with a small selection of songs, one point here and there makes a difference. If I add one point somewhere for UMK 2023, it scores 7.3. Three points somewhere and it scores 7.6. Really, with Lxandra’s and Benjamin’s songs, that should have been attainable.
My Top 7
1 Portion Boys – Samaa Taivasta Katsotaan (-)
2 Käärijä – Cha Cha Cha (-)
3 Kuumaa – Ylivoimainen (+3)
4 Keira – No Business On The Dancefloor (+1)
5 Robin Packalen – Girls Like You (+2)
6 Benjamin – Hoida Mut (-3)
7 Lxandra – Something To Lose (-3)
Some notable changes in rank from my preview. Benjamin drops from third to sixth; Lxandra from fourth to seventh. Kuumaa get the biggest boost from sixth to third, while Robin goes seventh to fifth and Keira fifth to fourth. My order roughly corresponds with the actual results. The same two at the top, the same two at the bottom, and the same three in the middle. It’s just the specific order within those groups vary.
I must add, it was difficult to split my bottom two, and it was even more difficult to score them only 6. They were great songs and figured they would be an easy 7, with Robin only a 6 or less. That’s UMK and these types of shows in general. They can be full of surprises.
Finland: UMK 2023 – Preview & My Top 7
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