Now, I am aware that I’m turning into a full-on eestiphile but I seriously think that Estonia has a chance to win Eurovision this year, if they play their cards right.
No, Juri, not like that.
Anyway, Estonia was the first nation in the 2017 Eurovision season to present me with a song that made me go “Blimey, that sounds like a song that could win the whole thing” – I’m sure you can guess which one it is, but let’s keep a modicum of suspense in this exercise. The thing is, at the time of writing it’s still a distinct possibility that they might not go for it. There’s so many strong songs and so many big local names that almost anything could happen. I mean, this is Estonia. Basically expect the unexpected.
Let’s take a look at the Semi Final 1 contenders…
Lenna Kuurma – Slingshot
When I am walking about this time of year, you can often find me listening to a giant playlist of all the ESC national final songs mashed together on shuffle. During one of these perambulations this song came on, and I went “Oh, is this from the UK national selection or is this one of the lower tier A Dal songs?”. This is not a complementary response to an Eesti Laul song. It has the “love love peace peace” anthemic feel, but as we’ve all now decided that is a bit basic, this is not what I expect from Estonia. It might even feel like a weak start to the condition unless Lenna can really sell it on stage.
Elina Born – In or Out
I’m afraid that I have to tell you that Elina Born’s triumphant return to Eesti Laul is a trap. Stig Rasta has written a song that came third in Eurovision and he’s also written a song that came dead last. He also came 4th in Estonian Dancing With The Stars, but this is beside the point. I know he’s a national cultural hero, and the idea of him working with Elina Born again has everyone excited, but I have to say that In Or Out isn’t anywhere near as good as Goodbye To Yesterday. Elina sells this country-ish pop number to the max, and it should comfortably qualify for the final, but I don’t think that this is the potentially Eurovision winning song we are looking for.
Carl-Philip – Everything But You
From the piano chord intro to the chorus harmony backing vocals, what I am mainly getting from this song is something that the mature 3 piece Take That would do. Now, Take That aren’t my thing, but they certainly are a lot of other people’s things. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this song, which would probably be in the top 3 of many other national selections. But it isn’t even close to my top 3 of Eesti Laul 2017.
Ivo Linna – Suur loterii
This is a really, really sweet Estonian-language song about how life is a big lottery and you never really know how things are going to go. Ivo Linna is another returning ESC artist – he was part of the duet that sang Kaelakee hääl back in 1996. This song has a really nice classic pop feel, and even though it’s a song that is probably in the finals as part of Eesti Laul’s commitment to representing all ages and genres, it’s actually really nice. Maybe it gets to the final on Ivo’s reputation? I don’t know.
Ariadne – Feel Me Now
This is a perfectly pleasant loop based pop song. It’s angular with synths but somehow also circular with a sort of marimba sound – and the melody is insistent to the point of being nagging. It also doesn’t necessarily have a strong chorus that is differentiated strongly from the verse, which you sort of need if you’re going down the basic pop song route for Eurovision. Now, I’ll take the opportunity to say that my favourite Eesti rock band Frankie Animal had a song in the running this year, which narrowly missed out on the shortlist. Feel Me Now is the song that I would have cut in order to make room for the romantic, sweeping Nightlights. If I was in charge.
Uku Suviste – Supernatural
An uptempo song with a serious dancefloor feel, very contemporary, possible ‘sound of the summer’ vibes. It’s got a lovely transition into the chorus and a nicely hooky post-chorus section. I like this one a lot, and I could definitely imagine hearing it in the UK top ten if given the correct promo. If there’s a problem with this, it’s that it doesn’t have a big enough middle eight or a strong ending.
Laura Prits – Hey Kiddo
Is it possible that an act can be too eccentric even for Estonians. Laura Prits (Literally Laura Squirt in Estonian) brings us a poppy and insistent ode to fabulous female friendship. It’s a bit like a Baltic version of Charlie XCX & Rita Ora’s song Doin’ It. There’s a high risk of ukelele and toy piano, there’s a likelihood of crazy costuming (she turned up on breakfast TV to do this song in onesie pyjamas and slippers, adorably) and there’s a reasonable likelihood of getting to the granda final. This song wouldn’t win the whole contest in May though, so don’t get carried away.
Karl-Kristjan & Whogaux feat Maian – Have You Now
So, this song is probably the Estonian response to the tropical house pop trend. It’s got the sweetly sleepy sensuality of a record by The xx, it’s got a gentle dance feel and acres of acoustic space between the lovely guitar riff and Maian and Karl-Kristjan’s romantic vocals. It’s lovely, and I’d put it through to the grand final but I wouldn’t necessarily want it to win.
Janno Reim & Kosmos – Valan pisarid
Who likes shoegaze? Who likes Estonian language shoegaze? Who likes Estonian language shoegaze verses bolted onto an early Britpop chorus? Well, the Eesti Laul selection panel as it turns out. This is one of the genre acts who is with us tonight in order to showcase the mind-boggling corners of the Estonian music scene. It’s a very nice example of the type of thing that it is, and taking a queue from 2016’s Young Georgian Lolitas, they take the opportunity to go for a bit of a psych freak out in middle 8. Admirable, but not our winner.
Leemet Onno – Hurricane
Now that country rock is an apparently viable Eurovision genre, we have Leemet Onno with a vaguely redneckish country song about courting a woman who is serious Trouble. I would believe in this song a bit more if Leemet looked a bit more like a lumberjack. About 50% of the landmass of Estonia is forested and 70% of that is commercially managed for logging, so it’s not like they couldn’t have found a hipster lumberjack somewhere. Anyway, this will be closing the show so I expect big things from it. It’s quite a tune, forestry statistics aside.
So that’s Semi Final 1. My qualification picks are: Elina Born, Uku Suviste, Leemet Onno, the one that sounds like the xx and Laura Prits.
See you next week for Semi Final 2, which is a doozy.