ESC 2010 Reviews: Finland
To tell you all the truth, I’m having a tough time coming up with what exactly to write for my article on Finland. However, it’s not the same kind of writer’s block that came to me when I was typing up my piece on Bulgaria, where there was no real meat to work with (or tofu, to my vegetarian readers…seitan? Mock duck? What vegan-friendly metaphor works here?) With Finland, however, there’s a history 43 songs deep (since their first entry in 1961), and it took them until 2006 to clock in their first win. I’d call them the “Ugly Ducklings” of the ESC, but maybe the “Lonely Chameleons” would be more appropriate. The Finns have dabbled in nearly every imaginable genre in their quest to break the then-longest-running losing streak the ESC had seen, from disco to tango to reggae to metal, and although they’re part of the Nordic Bloc, they had no close linguistic allies in the contest until Estonia debuted in 1994. They were sort of like the weird kid in a high-school clique…the one that grew up on the same block as the rest of the group, but was the only one in the Drama Club instead of the Cheerleaders.
So, how do I approach one of the biggest perpetual underdogs in the Eurovision fight? The country that would try anything once (and probably has)? Maybe I’ll just throw a bunch of random songs at you and let you make up your own minds on what Helsinki gives us!
Finland has come in last place a total of nine times since their debut, but a few of those last place finishes were actually pretty underrated. In 1968, for example, the song submitted was “Kun Keillo Käy (When Time Goes By)“, a sweet and era-appropriate pop song that sounds like it was plucked directly from Burt Bacharach (if he were Finnish). It sadly only scored a single point (thanks, Norway!). Fourteen years later, Kojo hit the dreaded “nul points” with “Nuku Pommin (Sleep Through the Bomb)”, which I personally enjoyed. Rock in Eurovision was really just finding its footing in the early 1980s, so it’s very possible that Kojo was just ahead of its time.
Finland, however, wasn’t quite ready to let rock go at the ESC. After Kojo’s epic faceplant on the scoreboard, Helsinki sent Sonja Lumme (and her remarkable 80s hair) to the 1985 contest with “Eläköön Elämä (Long Live Life)”, possibly my favorite entry from the year of my birth. With a 9th place score, this was a definite improvement. Six years later, they re-tried their formula (mid-tempo rock + pretty girl) with Kaija, singing “Hullu Yö (Crazy Night)”, a song that sadly only made it to 20th place out of 23 songs. After that unceremonious return to the lower end of the scoreboard, Finland put rock on the back burner for about 15 years.
My theory is that it took 15 years for their 2006 entry to properly incubate.
All Hail the Arockalypse! The Day of Rockening has Arrived! Where do I drop off my sacrifices of virgins and fresh goat meat to appease the might of Lordi? (Again, sorry, vegans!)
Not only did Lordi’s “Hard Rock Hallelujah” shatter Finland’s 42-year losing streak, but it won the highest point total of any entry ever, a whopping 292 points (until last year’s Norwegian entry, but more on that later). It transcended borders and voting blocs; out of the 37 nations participating at the 2006 Eurovision Song Contest, only Monaco, Armenia, and Albania gave no points to the band of monsters. Finland sent rock again the next year, with Finnish Idol-winner Hanna Pakarinen singing “Leave Me Alone”.
So, after finally finding redemption in rock, what has Finland given us this year?
Wait, what? Where are the dudes in platform boots and monster makeup? Where are the leather outfits and pyrotechnics? Is that an ACCORDION?
Ok, so it’s not THAT bad. It’s just a bit of a departure from what we’ve been getting from the Finns over the past few years. “Työlki ellää (One Can Work for a Living, Too)” by Kuunkuiskaajat (Moonwhisperers) is actually a pretty sweet little campfire song, and definitely different from anything else we’ll be seeing in Oslo. Whether it breaks through to the finals is still to be seen, but at the very least, it’s a helluva lot better than this…