Preview: Estonia – Eesti Laul 2011 National Final

February 26, 2011

Storyline(s) we’ll be looking for:
Estonia is year-in year-out one of our favorite Eurovision countries. Eesti Laul entries range from quirky alt rock to the truly bizarre. We enjoy Eesti Laul not just as a Eurovision national final but as a music festival.

  • Can Ott and Märt live up to the standard they set last year?

Eesti Laul 2010 set the entertainment standard by which all other national finals will be measured. Last year’s hosts, comedians Ott Sepp and Märt Avandi, were engaging, funny, and did some spot-on musical parodies we still reference. For example, we can’t look at Paradise Oskar’s song (Finland 2011) without being reminded of this:

I gather that Märt Avandi is not hosting this year for personal reasons, but he still is contributing to the creative team. We are looking forward to the quality of songs being presented, and hope that Ott–and Märt’s replacements–can pull out a couple of good canned comedy bits.

  • Is Estonia for real this year?

Estonia is treating us to some excellent entries this year. Two of them could catch on and place strongly in the ESC finals. But there’s also “a villain” — one song that has buzz that we think is vastly overrated.

The Songs:

Hopa’pa-rei! – Ithaka Maria. One part Lordi, one part folk melody. Ithaka Maria is in the same hard rock vein as Hanna (Finland 2007), but her song is much stronger. Effective use of electric and classical string instruments, and it’s got a memorable hook in the chorus. Powerful. She’s going first, but we believe “Hopa’pa-rei” can win Eesti Laul and deliver a strong finish for Estonia in the finals.

All & Now – Rolf Roosalu. Dude, where’s the rest of your boy band? He looks so lonely up there.

Valss – Orelipoiss. The most eccentric entry in this year’s Eesti Laul, and we love them for it. If Andy Partridge covered Rufus Wainwright’s “Beautiful Child.” “Organ Boy” Jaan Pehk could have used a gospel choir to ramp up the drama in his song. Instead Madis Kubu from Malcolm Lincoln (Estonia 2010) tends his garden and plays a blade of grass during the instrumental bridge. Robin Juhkental sings backup.

Rockefeller Street – Getter Jaani. Katy Perry’s Estonian cousin visits New York and gets lost in Hell’s Kitchen. It seems no one told her there is no Rockefeller Street in Manhattan. It’s wide-eyed Swedish pop with hints of naughtiness underneath. This one is a lot of fun. If “Rockefeller Street” won instead of “Hop’pa-rei” we wouldn’t mind.

Do Not Want Anything – Jana Kask. “I Believe I Can Fly,” sung by a white girl. Next.

Smile – MID. Dark indie pop a la 80s-Manchester, 24 Hour Party People. MID takes inspiration from Joy Division, but is polished and contemporary like Interpol or Editors. The song doesn’t really go anywhere, nor is it going to ESC, but me likey.

I Wanna Meet Bob Dylan – Outloudz. This is a moody, introspective mid-tempo number that we find dull, dull, dull. If the Eesti Laul viewer poll is to be believed, it ranks 2nd among fans behind “Hopa’pa-rei.” We really hope that’s an unrepresentative sample. Seriously boys, Bob Dylan doesn’t wanna meet you.

The Storm – Mimicry. Mimicry were in last year’s final as well, and they’ll do about as well in this year’s. This entry pays homage to early Depeche Mode, Ladytron, and black light. And holy cow does the lead vocalist sound like Ian Curtis.  Sadly, it’s a tuneless mess.  They’ll siphon votes from MID, but this song is not as endearing.

Be My Saturday Night – Noorkuu. Noorkuu is a 5-member boy band, but the Bee Gees achieved the same sound with 3 people, 35 years ago. The staging does a decent job at making them seem relevant, but those harmonies are pretty distinctive and it’s hard to get past.

Baby Had You – Victoria.  “Baby Had You” is possibly the coolest entry in the lineup. Victoria is super hot and has a new wave, post-punk vibe akin to Blondie or Maja Ivarsson from the Sounds. Me likey very much. It’s great listening and completely inappropriate for Eurovision.

BONUS: This one didn’t make it out of the semifinals, but it’s worth sharing anyway.

St. Cabah – Shirubi Ikazuchi. Considerable deference is given to Siouxsie and the Banshees, both in vocal style and lyric sensibilities. WITCHES! WITCHES! WITCHES WE ARE!!! Right here, this is why we follow the Estonians.