Finland’s Eurovision 2021 Entry

This past weekend, Aksel Kankaanranta became the first 2020 national final winner who was unable to secure the make-up ticket to Rotterdam. It was particularly heartbreaking after seeing how much more at ease he was on stage compared to his previous performance. Given the result, maybe he’d want to follow Blind Channel’s lead and put his middle finger up at the Finnish delegation for having a national final this year.

Blind Channel formed in 2014 and refer to their style of music as “violent pop.” They were originally a five-piece band, but they added DJ Aleksi Kaunisvesi in October 2020 after he helped them polish their demo for “Dark Side.” (He’s a song “betterer,” according to the UMK English commentators.)

“Dark Side” is unapologetically nu metal, which isn’t the most beloved metal genre around. I’ll tell you what, though: it is ridiculously catchy. It helps that Blind Channel lead with the chorus, then repeat it four times. The huhs and the ai-yis act as the fists that cram the hook into your skull. Vocalists Joel Hokka and Niko Vilhelm are so similar in tone that it’s hard to tell them apart. Yet this works to their advantage because their intertwined vocals bolster the song’s anthemic feel.

Even though I like “Dark Side,” I’m having trouble really getting into it. The band mentioned during UMK that they wanted to see the crowd shout “huh” along with them, and for some reason that kind of rubbed me the wrong way. I’m not one of those “death to false metal” types, and I don’t really demand authenticity in my rock music. But “Dark Side” is presenting itself as authentic, and I don’t really buy it.

Still, if they do get an audience of Eurovision fans to flash their middle fingers on cue, I have to admit that would be pretty awesome.

Finland’s Eurovision 2020 Entry

Finland had four female solo and group artists competing at this year’s UMK and one male artist. When we saw the line-up we said, “Watch, the one guy is going to win.”

Damned patriarchy.

Aksel Kankaanranta was runner-up on The Voice of Finland in 2017, then guested on Pyhimys’ “Jättiläinen,” which was the most streamed Finnish song on Spotify in 2018. His song “Looking Back” is by the American pop band Before You Exit, Finnish songwriter Joonas Angeria, and American songwriter Whitney Phillips.

“Looking Back” is a pretty song, and particularly poignant these days. Aksel has a lovely voice, if a bit reedy, and his vocal performance is good. However, he spent a lot of time at UMK with his eyes closed and his hands wrapped around the mic stand, which didn’t help make “Looking Back” soar like it should. He mentions in his official bio that he is overcoming shyness by putting himself out there as an artist, so knowing that explains his performance. But he needed to open himself up a bit more for his song to really resonate.

That said, the visual staging at UMK did a lot to overcome his reserved stage presence. It was a touching animation that illustrated the song’s themes, and we thought it was affective. “Looking Back” may not have been the most spectacular entry on offer to Finland, but we thought it held together nicely.

Reviews of the Rest of Eurovision 2019

Eurovision rehearsals are about to begin and we weren’t able to complete full reviews of all of this year’s entries in time. So let’s take a deep breath and cover all the rest in one go!

Finland: Darude feat. Sebastian Rejman – “Look Away

Darude had a global smash hit 19 years ago with “Sandstorm.” Now he’s representing Finland at Eurovision. We mock the United Kingdom when they do stuff like that and we see no reason to spare Finland our snark. Especially when the U.K. nostalgia acts send better songs.

Belarus: Zena – “Like It

Zena offers up a slightly generic, but still quite enjoyable pop song. We… well, you know… like it. Not sure if it’s going to do well for Belarus, but with the right staging, or at least the right Belorussian staging, maybe it could surprise us.

Serbia: Nevena Božović – “Kruna

Nevena is a veteran of Moje 3, the Barbara Dex Award-winning act from 2013. She’s back with a bland ballad, but she made it soar at Beovizija 2019. We expect more vocal fireworks in Tel Aviv. And better costumes.

Belgium: Eliot Vassamillet – “Wake Up

“Wake Up” reminds us of “City Lights.” We didn’t like “City Lights,” but it seemed like everyone else did. We like “Wake Up,” but it seems like no one else does. Go figure.

Georgia: Oto Nemsadze – “Sul Tsin Iare

Oto brought a wide-eyed intensity to his performance of “Sul Tsin Iare.” It worked for the judges and the people of Georgia, but we can’t say it’s going to work for the rest of Europe.

San Marino: Serhat – “Say Na Na Na

San Marino has sent disco songs for three of its last four entries because this one time, die hard Eurovision fans convinced them that’s what we want. Maybe we should tell them that we like other genres too.

Armenia: Srbuk – “Walking Out

Srbuk looks a lot like my mom did when she was 18 and I’m struggling to get past that.

Ireland: Sarah McTernan – “22

We are not particular fans of Meghan Trainor’s oeuvre, so anything that resembles her output is not going to rank high with us. But at least it’s not another earnest ballad.

Moldova: Anna Odobescu – “Stay

Moldova is following up successive classic Eurovision contributions with a song that we will probably forget about shortly after the Song Contest is over. Sigh, it’s hard to generate memes every year.

Austria: Pænda – “Limits

“Limits” is a great song to listen to at 3 A.M. when it’s gently, but audibly raining outside and you’re feeling a little sad and need a good cry. That’s usually not the atmosphere Eurovision provides, which may hurt Austria’s chances.

Lithuania: Jurijus – “Run with the Lions

Jurijus is this dreamy guy singing an anthemic song about believing in yourself and dreaming big. It’s a pleasant three minutes made better by Jurijus’ inherent likability.

North Macedonia: Tamara Todevska – “Proud

“Proud” is an old fashioned ballad about empowering girls to believe in themselves and dream big. It’s a lovely three minutes made better by Tamara’s vocal star quality.

Israel: Kobi Marimi – “Home

Israel is happy to have won Eurovision and is also not interested in winning again this year.

Finland’s Eurovision 2018 Entry

Finland has chosen Saara Aalto and “Monsters” for this year’s Eurovision Song Contest.

Now, it would not be a stretch to call Saara Aalto a competition veteran. She finished second in the Voice of Finland 2012 and she has also finished second at the Finnish national selection show UMK twice, in 2011 and 2016.

See a pattern? One wondered if she was ever going to get a win somewhere, anywhere.

Then something interesting happened: Saara went to the United Kingdom and entered X Factor UK. She finished second (again) in a series that was widely watched by the Brits, the Irish, and the Finns. Rumor had it that she planned to enter the UK national selection competition Eurovision: You Decide. Finland took a look at its crop of songs, decided they were a measly bunch, and gave her a direct-to-Eurovision offer, thus beating the UK to the punch.

It’s a classic story:

You’re not good enough for me.

Ok, I’ll change.  How about now?

Better, but no, you’re still not good enough for me.

Is that really how you feel? It breaks my heart. But I’ll pick up the pieces, move on, and find someone else who will love me the way I deserve.

Wait, someone else likes you?  I like you so much better now. Come back!

Well, it always has been you, so…okay. But you hurt me bad. This time I have some conditions.

Sure, sure anything. But please come back! I need you!

Thus, for this year’s UMK, Saara co-wrote and performed three songs for the public and an international jury to choose from. “Monsters,” the runaway favorite, was co-written with “Heroes” songwriters Joy and Linnea Deb and Ki Fitzgerald from Busted.

“Monsters” is one of those only at Eurovision songs, from its thematic content to its ballad-to-dance track transition. It’s a Euroclub stomper, if not a Eurovision winner. Maybe it will finish second?

Saara’s vocal phrasing is excellent. She’s not flawless: She runs the risk of being shouty and she struggles with the lower end of her range. Be not fooled by her surname: Ms. Aalto is definitely a soprano. But her obvious glee about finally getting her chance at Eurovision translates into a joyful, infectious live performance.

Speaking of infectious, let’s talk about that lyrical hook: “Monster” burrows into your brain and pops out at random times.

“I ain’t scared no more!”

So it’s got that going for it.

Finland’s Eurovision 2017 Entry

Norma John won UMK 2017 and will represent Finland at Eurovision with their song “Blackbird.”

Vocalist Leena Tirronen and pianist Lasse Piirainen formed Norma Jean in 2008. Tirronen finished third in the Finnish X Factor in 2010. Piirainen is slated to appear as a team captain this spring in a new version of BumtsiBum!, a Finnish TV show based on Ireland’s The Lyrics Board.

Well before UMK, Ben Morris of Europops fame tweeted that “Blackbird” was “[r]eminiscent of Anouk,” and we agree. Both have haunting melodies, lush arrangements, and suitably melancholy lyrics. But while “Birds” is borderline desperate (“no air, no pride”), “Blackbird” is more mournful:

You sang when he was in my bed
You sang when my heart sang
Now you remind me of something I’ll never have
So blackbird, don’t sing

Tirronen delivers those heartbreaking lyrics with power and grace. You feel her hurt, but you also get the sense that she is strong enough to get over the pain. The melody of the chorus is certainly memorable. We both had it in our heads well after we finished watching UMK and that was without listening to the video replay. We have high hopes that this is going to do well in May.

Eurovision 2016 Round-Up: Leap Year Edition

It’s a good thing it’s Leap Year, because we need an extra day to process all of the songs chosen for Eurovision this weekend!

Finland: Sandhja – “Sing It Away”

Donald Trump is going to be the Republican Party candidate for President and Sandhja’s European jazz festival closer is going to represent Finland at Eurovision and I do not understand the world anymore.

Hungary: Freddie – “Pioneer”

We are Eurovision hipsters, so A Dal is of course our favorite national selection competition these days. There were eight songs in the A Dal final, and we felt that the four super finalists would ably represent Hungary in Stockholm. Coming out of the semis, we thought Freddie would not only finish top 5 at Eurovision, but even take the crown. His performance in the final was a bit rougher, so we’re not quite ready to proclaim him the champion yet. But his husky voice and rugged good looks may make him very popular in Sweden.

Continue reading “Eurovision 2016 Round-Up: Leap Year Edition”

Finland’s Eurovision 2015 Entry

Pertti Kurikan Nimipäivät have been voted to be Finland’s representative in Vienna with “Aina mun pitää”:

PKN’s four members have learning disabilities and their story was the subject of a 2012 documentary called The Punk Syndrome. They were expected to win UMK 2015 and now join Italy’s Il Volo and Estonia’s Elina Born & Stig Rästa as early favorites to win Eurovision in May.

Bassist Sami Helle told The Guardian, “We don’t want people to vote for us to feel sorry for us, we are not that different from everybody else – just normal guys with a mental handicap.”

Aside from the inspirational back story, PKN are breaking new ground at Eurovision. Not only are PKN the first punk band to perform at the Song Contest, but, as Eric Graf pointed out on Twitter, their song “Aina mun pitää” is the shortest Eurovision entry ever at just one minute and 27 seconds.

Our household is split on “Aina mun pitää.” Jen thinks it’s plodding clatter. I think it’s a fun throwback to the early days of punk and hardcore music, more along the lines of Black Flag than the Sex Pistols. I’m not expecting the voting public to go all in on a punk song, but then again it wouldn’t be the first time an unusual Finnish band grabbed the trophy at the Grand Prix.

Finland’s Eurovision 2014 Entry

After a terrific Uuden Musiikin Kilpailu finale, Finland selected Softengine as its Eurovision representative with their song “Something Better”:

“Something Better” is a good example of a modern, radio-friendly rock anthem. It reminds me a lot of Killers or The Bravery or (to put it in Eurovision terms) A Friend In London. The chorus has an immediacy to it that should grab a lot of people’s attention, although I worry that it might get a bit grating upon repeated listenings. Then again, we both LOVE that great big, stadium-friendly “whoa-oh-oh-oh” bridge. This is the strongest song from Finland in years.

Finland’s Eurovision 2013 Entry

Is Krista Siegfrids, like, really really famous in Finland? Because I have no other explanation why “Marry Me” is the song that Finnish voters selected to send to this year’s Eurovision Song Contest.

Jen said it reminded her of Venke Knutson’s “Jealous ‘Cause I Love You,” one of the lucky losers in Norway’s 2010 Melodi Grand Prix. Watching the two performances together, they are really similar, both musically and in energy. The difference is that Knutson’s song is supposed to be funny, whereas I’m not sure Siegfrids’ song is. Sure, the staging is jokey, with the over-the-top train and the general hamminess. But lyrically, “Marry Me” is regressive and desperate.

It’s almost as if Siegfrids’ team realized the song was bad and tried to stage it with a satirical edge. George S. Kaufman said, “Satire is what closes on Saturday night.” Whether or not this is satire, I hope it closes on Thursday night.

Finland’s Eurovision 2012 Entry

We want to review Finland’s representative to Eurovision, Pernilla Karlsson’s “När Jag Blundar,” but we keep falling asleep:

Seriously dreary.

UPDATED: I have tried to listen to this song three more times since I posted this. Every time, I hit the two minute mark and switch to another song. How can a three minute song seem so long?

The only way this song will work in the ESC is if Finland pulls a Ukraine 2011. Focus on the interpretive dance, hire a sand artist, but do something to relegate the song to the background.