2017 Review: Finland (+ UMK2017 Review)

Ahh, yes, Uuden Musiikin Kilpailu, one of the best Lunar New Year’s presents this year outside of red envelope money…  (Kiitos, YLE!)

Finland’s national final as of 2012 has been my favorite national final since I started watching NFs seriously in 2014, primarily because a) I get access to the songs on YouTube a month before the national final starts and have some time to process the entries, b) UMK in recent years is pretty similar to Melodifestivalen (which I also really like) in production terms but I don’t have to download an app to watch the show, c) there’s actually some variety in song genres so it doesn’t sound like 30 minutes of the same song playing over running water. Also it definitely didn’t hurt that Krista Siegfrids was hosting, and the show ended up trending #3 on Twitter that night.

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So despite having an exam to study for and a lab report to write, I put down my school stuff for two hours and tuned into YLE’s stream. Even better at the time: The rest of the family was out and I didn’t have to put on headphones or watch the performance on silent. And then the program started:

Circle of Light:

Emma’s WDM “Wooden Dance Music” entry was the immediate fan favorite on social media once YLE posted all the UMK songs on YouTube. A folky tune sounding a bit like Denmark 2013 meets Belgium 2003, the song contained a nyckelharpa (which I originally thought was a hurdy gurdy due to the clicking keys and drone string) and would probably fit in at the local renaissance festival. I debated whether to put Circle of Light as my #1 or my #2 but eventually decided on #2 due to calculus class. As Emma sang, “Nothing bad will ever cross the line, let me draw you a circle of light,” I couldn’t help but think of the circle of light as the domain where Bad=0, and the nyckelharpa’s instrumental solo reminded me of the protective dome in Atlantis, that there might be a protective surface above the domain created using a combination of magic and double integration (probably using r dr dθ because the domain’s a circle and because square rooting trig functions sucks). Math class blues aside, I didn’t get to see Emma’s live performance because my stream froze. I did get to see a few rehearsal pictures beforehand of her standing in a circle of flames similar to Maria McCool a few years ago in Ireland’s national final, wearing a floaty blue coat/dress holding a torch like in her music video. Unfortunately, her in-ears didn’t work as well as expected, she was thrown off rhythm, and her flame went out mid-performance. Rakas, we are not fine, I guess. However, despite her troubles on stage, she still earned enough points for a respectable placing, and maybe she’ll come back to another national selection in the future (3rd)

Arrows:


Each year in national final season there always seems to be at least one 16-year-old from some country that manages to sneak their way in. Not that it’s illegal (the limit is 16), but I just get really jealous. Two years ago UMK had Eeverest, last year they had Attention 2, and this year they had Alva. Her act was the first performance I got to see without the stream freezing (yay national final problems), and I could definitely see the Melodifestivalen influence as “Arrows” seemed like a very Mello-like song performed by a person who was a cross between Isa in 2015 and Krista Siegfrids. I didn’t care for the song as much as it didn’t immediately grab my attention, but after watching a few ranking videos, I had the “I’ve been shooting arrows, arrows, arrows,” hook stuck in my head. Alva seemed a bit off-key but it was most likely due to in-ears but visually it was a solid performance. (6th)

Love Yourself:

Yes, this is from the same guy that did the Ding Dong/ “You touched my tralala” song. Before I mention anything about the Günther and D’Sanz’s entry, I’d like to mention that there is a guy in one of my classes who looks just like Günther, minus the moustache. (He seemed really happy knowing about it). Anyways, this song is annoyingly catchy and it’s Marmite. I despised it at first listen, questioning why the hell a) YLE would ever send a Swede to UMK, and b) why a song about…self-love…would be okayed by YLE staff. My rational side wanted to keep “Love Yourself” in my bottom 3; however, the non-rational side decided otherwise. After about 3000 listens, about 80% of which came from the Ohrwurm Network, 10% to shock my friends (which only resulted in one friend talking about the seemingly super-low-budget video where according to him, “the backing dancers had to sell their clothes to be able to pay for Günther’s chair”), 7% because I needed something to stay awake at work/school which wasn’t System of a Down, and 3% because I was driving on a really cold day and the song just happened to appear on shuffle, the irrational side decided that this was going to at least be a guilty pleasure. Fast forward to the day of the national final and “Love Yourself” was the first performance that didn’t have any in-ear issues. D’Sanz sounded a little bit different because of the autotune in the song but the black and white-themed performance was slick and Günther didn’t sound like he’s snoring in the live performance anymore. So as an apology to my rational side, I’ll say it’s the performance that brought the song up. (5th).

Reach Out for the Sun:

Well I recognized Anni Saikku’s face from “my top 10” ranking videos  and Eurovision fan sites, and the performance where her face was blown up a la Jüri Pootsmann’s face at Eesti Laul, but I didn’t recognize her song. When I did after the voting recap played 3 times before the votes were announced, I decided that this was probably the best dental office song out of the night’s UMK entries: enjoyable while the song was playing, and that there was some movement in the music to the point where patients wouldn’t fall asleep but it was still relaxing enough so patients wouldn’t bounce around in their chairs. Well she did have that 3D light cage, which I guess counts as an upgrade from Brinck’s 2009 stage backdrop? (7th)

Caveman:

I think I might have listened to the song once in a “My top 10” ranking video and then totally forgot about it. All I remember is the ranking put Knucklebone Oscar (and the Shangri-La Rubies) last, complaining that the song was noise. After watching the well-performed live performance I vaguely remember the general feeling of the song, all I really remember is a lot of bright colors in the visuals, so probably like a WTF American football halftime interval act. ESC Pulse mentioned that Knucklebone Oscar looked a bit like Gary Glitter (yay, middle school band flashbacks playing the Hey Song), and I guess due to people dropping their phones from shock and forgetting to vote, someone had to get the wooden spoon that day. (10th)

Blackbird:

This entry is probably to blame for putting out the review over a week late, because I didn’t know how to describe the song’s angst without repeating myself or copying Wikipedia’s current description of “[X title] is a song performed by [X artist] representing [X country] in [X year]” without expansion. Blackbird was my 4th place in studio behind Lauri, Emma, and Club la Persé (please don’t judge; or if you have to judge, just glare coldly into your screen where I can’t see you), but given all the technical issues and tragic stagings in the contest, everything fell into place for Norma John. Seated between two upbeat songs, singer Leena and pianist Lasse worked their magic, pulling a Mikael Saari. No audio issues, no visual issues, just the two working their magic, pulling Adele-ish vibes on a Norway 2015 meets Norway 2014 entry. The staging was pretty simple: Lasse on piano and Leena standing a few meters away, Leena asking the blackbird representing a former relationship to fly away so she could grieve, Lasse slowly flooding the air with so much tension so that it might as well have been as dense as maple syrup. In that case, it was probably a good thing for Leena to wear a floor length dress, so that no one would ever know whether she was standing or floating. (1st)

Helppo Elämä:

This was my favorite UMK entry this year. With an integral-free (*cough*CircleOfLight*cough*) entry of Avicii meets Justs meets Pall Oskar’s more recent stuff performed in Finnish (ugh, all that R-rolling…Orz), I couldn’t help but listen to the song at least 100 times prior to the competition to the point that my manager would have banned the song from the work playlist if not for the fact that I could keep my feet still. It’s also 100% self-composed, which is also a bonus. While I completely understand that it’s impossible (or technically, highly unlikely) for the results to match perfectly with my personal ranking, did Finland really have to rank Helppo Elämä 8th out of 10? I suppose the (IMO, tragic) staging had an effect on the scores, but this was not bottom 3 material.  Thank you, Sweden (the country that I thought was most unlikely to give a Finnish-language song 12 points) for giving Lauri Yrjölä the credit he deserves. And even though he’s not going to Kyiv, I’m keeping the song in my playlist until my coworkers and I can all sing along to the words. (8th)

My Little World:

YLE is really weird when it comes to selecting tweets to display on UMK. When someone told me my tweet made it onto Finnish TV, I thought it might have been a tweet about how my coworkers probably hated me for blasting Club la Persé’s entry at work or how I was confused about why there were random Japanese characters on the backdrop or how hard it probably was for Mr C*** to breathe through their pig nose. But nope, it happened to be this one:

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Anyways, this is another guilty pleasure, but I’m not afraid to tell anyone that this one was my top 3 in studio because it has a good beat and I was really easy to sing along with. The lyrics were pretty straightforward with explaining my life as well. Yep, my little world is smashed to pieces and going nowhere; it’s trashed, useless, and doomed according to *certain family members* as well. So excuse me, I’m going to go sing didididididididididi now. (9th)

Perfect Villain:

Twitter had it right: Australia 2015 staging + Malta 2015 staging + pole dancing shirtless guys a la Slovenia 2016= Zühlke’s staging. She had a good voice and the performance was definitely very stereotypically Eurovision, but the lyrics were pretty random. Not as in the lyrics were badly Google Translated, since the composers were from Norway, but that everything was grammatically correct but didn’t make sense. For starters it would probably get a lawsuit from mentioning the X-Men and Kryptonite, and second those are from two completely different universes. I also didn’t bother listening to the song more than twice before the national final, and as a result I was definitely surprised to see her receive such a high score. (2nd)

Paradise:

This song would have been great if I used my first pair of headphones, i.e. the pair that allowed me to hear instrumentals but not vocals after some wire inside broke.  Maybe that’s why out of the 10 entries this song had the most listens on Spotify. The backdrop was pretty memorable as well, with the neon lights. However, the lyrics were terrible, cringe-y, and a bit explicit (Hmmm… “I wanna kiss your paradise?”); I’m waaaaaay too ace for this. I told one of my friends that if My First Band placed in the top 3 I would scream. Thankfully they placed outside the top 3, but it was really close. (4th)

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Unlike the past two years, in which the juries and televoters went separate directions (PKN vs Satin Circus and Sandhja vs Saara Aalto in 2015 and 2016, respectively), both the juries and televoters decided to give overall maximum points to Norma John.  I was a bit surprised that Zühlke obtained so many points (probably due to the performance and vocals), but overall I was okay with the results. No screaming about My First Band placing higher than it should, though I’m pretty sure I quietly flipped off the computer screen a few times when France and Israel decided to split a point on Lauri’s performance and when he only received 15 televoting points. But overall, Norma John should do Finland proud with a song that seems pretty likely to get into the final as of so far, if they amp up the piano instrumentals and keep the performance at Eurovision similar to their UMK staging.

*Image credits: Miikka Varila/YLE (taken from Eurovision.tv)

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Finland vs. Sweden

(Well I’m back writing less rant-y stuff!)

Finland and Sweden might not be the best of friends in ESC for historical reasons, but they’re still together in the Nordic pot. Most people in the Eurovision fandom would say that Sweden tops Finland, but that might not always be the case.

Relations might be friendlier now, but the rivalries still remain.

Relations might be friendlier now, but the rivalries still remain.

Points/Scores: This is what people in the fandom tend to look at while comparing the two countries. If you do that it’s pretty obvious that Sweden wins. With a current count of six victories, including one win with a record breaking 18 sets of douze pointe, Finland’s one win in 2006, 10 last places, and a 7/13 qualification rate can’t beat Sweden, at least not when considering only points.

Production: Given that Sweden’s been treated as Eurovision’s modern powerhouse since the language rule was lifted, and that Sweden’s been hosting a 6-city Melodifestivalen tour with production comparable to Eurovision, it’s not surprising that SVT excels at production of songs and performances. Camera work is tight enough that separate music videos usually aren’t needed for promotion, and there’s typically no excuse for building acoustics, so live and studio versions typically sound pretty similar. Finland is also pretty good when it comes to production, but Sweden edges out due to SVT’s over-the-top work and that they put on semi-readable subtitles on the performances.

More material to work with: Melodifestivalen has 28 songs this year; Uuden Musiikin Kilpailu has 10. If all the songs were the same, then I would say that Mello wins over UMK. However, that’s not exactly the case…

Variety: Even though Melodifestivalen has more songs, more doesn’t always mean better. Half the songs sound really similar to each other, like some radio friendly entry that I’d hear on the bus or another schlager entry. And even if Björkman and his team tried to increase diversity of genres behind the scenes, all the weird stuff (e.g. everything that involves Sean Banan in any way, shape, or form, or any of the ethno-themed entries) gets cleared out, making the sound pretty uniform once on the Eurovision stage. Schlager. Schlager. Mid/uptempo. Schlager. Schlager. Ballad. Mid/uptempo. Radio-friendly mid-tempo. Rinse and repeat. I’ve tried listening to Swedish ESC entries in the shower and more than once I couldn’t tell 2004 apart from 2006 over the sound of falling water. (This is now a great time to announce that the first half of Euphoria won’t play over the shower.) With Finland it’s really hard to predict the sound of next year’s entry without listening to the UMK selections; there’s been tango, peace ballads, rock/metal-inspired entries**, folk-y dance tunes, and ballads. There have been more non-English entries for Finland than for Sweden; even the most recent Swedish-language entry was from Finland. Within the national finals realm there’s also more stage opportunity for older artists. In Mello anyone over the age of 45 is pretty much relegated to last place in the semi, yet in UMK Eini managed to a) perform the hell out of her entry, b) qualify from her semifinal, and c) not place last in the final.

** because Hard Rock Hallelujah’s genre is disputed a lot.

There was also Sleepwalker, which beats out La Voix by 9 years.

Waiting period: One of the methods SVT uses to take up space on ESC news sites is to release only a tiny bit of information at a time. So maybe we’ll know the hosting sites in October, the names of artists in December, the running order in January, and we won’t get to hear the songs until the semifinals in February. As a result, unless someone decides to post every single Eurovizijos atranka or A Dal heat result the news I most likely to be clogged up with Mello announcements. Also, due to SVT’s reluctance to release information, incidents such as Anna Book-Gate are likely to show up instead of something relevant. My points would go to YLE posting two substantial updates about the songs, artist, and their running orders; I don’t need to watch a full live stream to figure out which entry I like the most. I’d be much more likely to just go on the Wikipedia page and check if it got updated.

Access: Now that the EBU’s decided that there won’t be any live streams on the official Eurovision website, SVT gets a bit of edge for livestreaming Melodifestivalen on both SVT Play via phone app as well as SVT Play online. However, that edge goes away after finding out that the performances are only available for 30 days, and that live performances on YouTube are geoblocked in the USA. (For some reason my Youtube account thought it was in Ireland and had access for a month to the videos. And then it decided to switch back and I couldn’t see any more Mello performances anymore.) In that case, Finland gets the edge for access because of the music videos on the UMK YouTube channel, and that performances on YLE don’t get deleted.

If people only looked at points earned or production, then Sweden definitely edges out. However, if they’re looking at variety and access to the songs, then Finland wins. I’m a bit biased because UMK is my favorite national final (and that there’s probably a specific friend on FB who’s actively booing Sweden right now), but in most cases neither country is inferior or superior to the other. I’ll probably end up watching UMK over Ikea’s free Wi-Fi and coffee (because the signal at home sucks), so I’m not going to claim either one.

2016 Review: Finland

After hearing that the 4th Mello semifinal wasn’t that good, I decided to watch the final of Uuden Musiikin Kilpailu (the Finnish national final) on February 27. I tried watching both at the same time using two separate screens the weeks prior, but it didn’t work out very well, especially when trying to listen to Swedish in one ear and Finnish in the other. Let’s just say that didn’t work, and I decided that one screen and one NF was enough.

Thank goodness for SVTPlay App. But at the same time, listening to two songs at the same time is really hard.

Overall it was a really good show (bar a few people singing off key) and I was glad to not be able to vote because I wouldn’t be able to just pick one:

Mr. Lordi demonstrates that Finland can share Krista Siegfrids with Sweden…

Love is Blind: Audio alone, this song is a toned down, PG version of Tooji’s “Father Project” (NSFW), which criticized religious groups’ lack of acceptance for LGBT, that anyone not fitting the groups’ standards would go to hell. I really liked the song in studio, despite the really cheesy lines like “love is blind” or “I won’t go to heaven if you aren’t by my side.” On the other hand, the song is in the grey region between Eurovision and Pride, where the host location alone would determine whether “Love is Blind” would have a too-political entry. Performance-wise I wanted to like the live version, but Cristal Snow was so off-key in his performance that I spent the entire 3 minutes wondering if his in-ears failed. I understand that at least one of the demon backing singers was screaming to add a bit of dissonance and give a bit of a “hell” feeling, but it didn’t seem to work as planned. Also, if South Park hell could pull off a choir, then so could Cristal Snow.- 6th place

Cristal Snow shows that demons can be good backing singers. Some audience members are curious to whether Hell has good in-ears available.

Ain’t Got Time for Boys: This was one of those songs that I didn’t really pay attention to until the final. I knew that it existed, and that it seemed like a pretty chill, jazzy, coffee-shop-open-mike-night vibe entry in people’s ranking videos. Unfortunately, a) it was in unlucky slot 2, and b) compared to all the other entries it seemed like the toilet break entry of the show. If the song was playing on the radio, I might enjoy it. While it definitely worked on TV by filming a lot of close-up shots and not making the stage drown her out, and she pulled it off well vocally, it felt like watching the performance took more energy than the song provided. – 8th place

Stella Christine’s backing singers are trying to order Starbucks. One extra espresso shot please.

Good Enough: Before we go anywhere, here’s a reminder that Angelo de Nile, the guy who had the crazy Roman gladiator musical last year, is the same person as Kimmo Blom. This year he still brought the musical theatre aspect, but this time it was much less OTT and he didn’t have his character role to act through. And while it was what the ESC fanbase would call “a generic ballad most likely paired with an Azerbaijani fire curtain written by a Swedish guy who couldn’t make it in his home country”, Kimmo and Annica performed it really well with a lot of chemistry (probably because they are also a couple in real life). I don’t think anyone has done the mirror trick so far, with the two singing away from each other but looking at each other’s reflections (virtual images), and then the mirrors moving away for them to look at the real people. The real vs. virtual message worked with the lyrics, which really sang to me, especially the lines in the refrain, “When only silence haunts you and no one really understands you/pick yourself right back up, you’re better than just good enough.” Brain chemical disasters= shite. Someone telling you that you’re better than good enough=it’ll be slow but you’ll recover.- 5th place

Annica Milan realizes that Kimmo is standing right behind her and that YLE didn’t order the Mirror of Erised.

Draamaa: Sweden (or at least Björkman) claims that schlager in the Mello world is dead. First off, schlager is not dead. It’s just that composers can’t send “meh” schlager entries that are “so last generation” and expect a great result. Eini pulled it off really well vocally and visually in the final, especially with the dancers in the background. I have absolutely no idea what she was singing outside of the word “draamaa” but it was a fun song to listen to. Also, given that around 95% of Eurovision NF entries are of artists between ages 16 and 35, it was really nice of YLE to invite an artist outside that range and unlike Mello (*coughcough*), have her qualify and not place last. -7th place

Eini’s backing dancer is confused to why the national anthem is playing right now.

Let Me Out: Like Stella Christine’s entry, I didn’t pay attention to this song until the final and only knew that it was a rock entry performed by female artists. Given the pop song majority at UMK and that they were loud enough to keep the audience awake, the Barbe-Q-Barbies were bound to stand out. Despite only hearing the entire song once, I can still remember the general tune of the refrain, so that’s usually a good thing. -4th place

Remember when we got THIS MANY points back then?

Don’t Wake Me Up: So Conchita’s “Rise like a Phoenix” is one of her favorite entries; that’s probably why she wanted a similar, simple stage act of standing on a platform and telling a story. The blue atmosphere with rain showed that it was a sad story, but the story telling wasn’t as effective as her music video (where people at the party were destroying all the memories of her partner), and I don’t think it transferred as well to the audience (hence the last place). Yes, she was a good singer, I really liked the song in studio version, and she seemed to match the studio version live if I closed my eyes, but I got confused visually. Blue and rain was supposed to mean sadness, but what about the red shoes and the fire curtain that typically mean something happy? Did ManuElla from Slovenia try to do a subtle promotion about blue and red? Or did Tuuli Okkonen just really like those shoes?- 9th place

Tuuli Okkonen realizes that Slovenia already did a “blue and red” theme but it’s too late now.

Sing it Away:

Thanks to the jury, the song is now representing Finland. When I first listened to the studio version, my first thought was that Sandhja (the H is silent) reminded me a bit of Miley Cyrus due to her hairstyle, outfit, and lower singing voice (I blame the canteen at uni for blasting Wrecking Ball every 10 minutes for the comparison). Once the song built up to the refrain, the brass-band-y part reminded me of Australia’s entry last year. Out of the upbeat songs in UMK, this entry sounded like it would do well on American radio. She looked like she was enjoying her performance, as she had a lot of fun on stage interacting with her backing vocalists and bringing her party on stage to the rest of the audience. I was a little confused about the screen blocking on camera though. What happened then? Did one of the backing singers suddenly do something YLE deemed inappropriate to show on live TV? (In that case, does the Finnish version of the FCC have a 6 second delay on TV too?) Did someone have an accident? Or did they block the screen because it looked cool? Anyways, now that she’s going to Stockholm I wonder what she’s going to do since the Eurovision stage will be much bigger than the UMK stage.- 1st place

Sandhja decides that she can get away with 3 minutes of stand-up. Well it worked today!

No Fear: Well surprise, surprise, Ms. I-place-second-in-everything placed second again (despite winning the televote). This was the first UMK16 entry that stood out for me in studio, due to the song’s eastern/southern Asian elements. And while yes, there was the super obvious pride theme since she came out sometime last year, “No Fear” works for anyone feeling shite and wanting to feel self-love, to be accepted instead of given murder for being different; I found myself singing the first verse a lot after getting yelled at for the tiniest details at home. While it was great in studio and she did give a good performance on stage, it wouldn’t have worked out had she won UMK. For starters, only 6 people are allowed on stage, and backing vocal tracks are not allowed. I’m going to guess that she didn’t have any backing vocal tracks, but for the super-OTT performance she had 4 backing vocalists and 6 dancers to complete her costume change. Given that she kept the same performance, cutting down to 3 dancers and 2 backing vocals wouldn’t have worked in her favor. At least the Finnish public really liked her song and performance, so maybe she now has a lot of tours to look forward to. -2nd place

The dancers realize that they should have showered when Tuuli was on stage. What’s the point of towels if they can’t use them?

On it Goes: So Mr. I-lost-to-Krista-Siegfrids-in-2013 came back to UMK, with, what seemed like in the studio version, another sleepy ballad that I couldn’t pay attention to. As a result I wrote him off prior to the contest. His performance during the semifinals changed my mind, as he was on key and could match the studio version, if not perform even better to project his emotions to the audience through the screen. It was a really intimate performance, with just him and the (at first sight kind of creepy) dancer on stage, like one of those really intimate scenes in a musical that would appear on the Tony Awards. Given his vocal and stage performance, I thought he was going to get the ticket to Stockholm, but Finnish voting isn’t very predictable, and some people might have found his act a bit pretentious. So a respectable 3rd place it is. (Thanks asphalt constructors for the 12 points!)

Mikael Saari wonders if he’ll ever get a calling to represent Finland. His dancer just wants to finish the stage act and get food.

***Note: All captions are fictional and don’t represent what actually happened. The pictures are from YLE. And now that I’m done, I’ll leave the computer and go get some salmiakki.

I Always Have To

After looking up the translation of PKN’s Aina mun pitää, I realized that the song would have been useful while teaching English at volunteer camp; they could write their own lines following the patterns “I always have to XXXX” and “I am not allowed to/I cannot XXX”, and some of the students could shout their sentences over the music. Maybe the head English teacher would have been annoyed at us, but at least it would be fun. They’d probably ask me to write my own version first though (off the top of my head)…

I always have to wake up

I always have to go to class

I always have to do homework

I always have to wear socks

I am not allowed to shout

I am not allowed to complain

I am not allowed to go barefoot

I always have to speak one language

I always have to wash the dishes

I always have to eat ginger

I always have to brush my teeth

I am not allowed to see my friends

I am not allowed to sleep late

I always have to cook breakfast

I always have to take a shower

I always have to drink water

I always have to clean up

I always have to stop talking

Maybe I would loop the backing a few times and ask the students to each read a few lines. Or maybe they could work in groups (or even one big class group). I don’t really know though…

Thoughts on Semi-Final 1

Thanks to SVT App and something called headphones, I managed to catch the contest with the sound on this time!

I didn’t watch Denmark’s performance since I had to use the washroom, but the replay showed that it was exactly the same as in DMGP, so I didn’t really care. And I still don’t like the guy’s face.

Predicted qualifiers (in participation order):
Moldova, Armenia, Belgium, Finland, Greece, Estonia, Belarus, Russia, Albania, Georgia

Actual results (in participation order):
Armenia, Belgium, Greece, Estonia, Serbia, Hungary, Russia, Albania, Romania, Georgia

Well 7 out of 10 isn’t that bad. Then again, it was such a crapshoot trying to predict the qualifiers that probably could have predicted the same amount by drawing random flags out of a hat, and I didn’t consider any visuals of the rehearsals. It’s also a good thing that 5 out of the 10 qualifying countries are more uptempo, so we don’t have to drown in a sea of “jury-friendly” ballads in the final.

Now let’s move on to the 2nd semi!

2015 Review: Finland/ Thoughts on UMK

So after all the national finals I missed because I didn’t really like the songs/had other priorities/[insert excuse here for missing out on a NF], here’s one of the contests that I actually followed: Uuden Musiikin Kilpailu, or the Finnish national final.

And by “following” I mean listening to multiple “Top 18 UMK entries” videos on YouTube and then following up with the actual videos posted by YLE.  Due to [insert excuses that no one really cares about here], I ended up only watching the second semifinal and the final, the latter without sound. Anyways, from the Top 18 videos, I decided that I liked (in no particular order) “Mustelmat” by Siru, “Heart of Light” by Opera Skaala, “Hold Your Colours” by Solju, and “Ostarilla” by Shava.

Eventually this turned into the most diverse national selection so far, as out of the 9 acts were:

An angry punk group

A “One Direction reject,” complete with autotune and screaming girls

He also looks like the guy who sits next to me in communications class and goes on Facebook for 90 minutes each day

A techno-opera singer

Complete with dancers wearing classical wigs

 

A Sami mother-daughter duo mixing pop and joik

A dramatic ballad that seems fitting for a stage musical

A gospel-inspired song, complete with choir

A Spanish reggae singer

A “Suomibhangra” group (think Finns singing Bollywood)

A pop band that I was too lazy to listen to because I couldn’t spell the name (sorry…)

XXXXX

When I first heard the entry from Pertti Kurikan Nimipäivät (PKN) “, my initial reaction was pretty much, “Wait, that’s it? It’s only 90 seconds long!” Out of all 18 entries, this one seemed the most “raw” when everything else sounded more produced. It’s probably the main reason why a lot of YouTube’s “UMK 2015 top 18 entries” videos put PKN in last place. But now they can’t do anything, since “Aina mun pitää” (“I always have to”) won the entire selection. IMO the song’s a grower and has a lot of energy. The performance has just the band, which means unlike some of the UMK entries, they don’t need to downsize their act. And the live version sounds pretty similar to the studio version.

It’s just really annoying seeing a bunch of negative comments in the Eurovision blogosphere saying that they only won the final as a novelty act since the band members all have Down Syndrome and/or all the votes were sympathy votes. And even before they won, the entire blogosphere turned into the Late Late Show’s “odious little man” scandal except blown up multiple times more. They’re just regular guys that are singing about their daily lives who by coincidence also happen to have a 3rd copy of Chromosome 21. I just wonder if the media’s going to treat them as punk singers with Down Syndrome or Down Syndrome punk singers.