A Sweet Surprise in Latvia: Aarzemnieki
This weekend saw the finale of 2014’s Dziesma, the Latvian national final for Copenhagen. Held once again in the Baltic coastal town of Ventspils, this year’s theme was “Made in Latvia”, with the stipulation that only residents of the country were permitted to send songs to the contest. A dozen songs duked it out for the chance to go to Denmark, and hopefully bring the country its first ticket to the Finals since “Wolves of the Sea” in 2008.
Following a three-song superfinal which pitted local favorite Dons and his ballad “Pēdējā vēstule” against perennial runner-up Samanta Tīna’s Euroclub-friendly “Stay” and newcomers Aarzemnieki with their entry “Cake to Bake”, it was announced that it was the winner was, to the shock of many, the quirky, jangly ode to one heroic man’s lack of patisserie skills:
The final result was exceptionally close; Aarzemnieki and Dons were technically tied in the superfinal, with juries favoring the ballad and the public favoring “Cake to Bake” by a razor-thin difference of only 97 votes between the SMS and Internet tallies. However, as the rules say that the winner of the public vote takes precedence in a tie, it was Aarzemnieki who nabbed the win.
While three of the four members of Aarzemnieki hail from Latvia, it’s the German nationality of lead singer Jöran Steinhauer that gives the band its name (literally, “Foreigners”). Jöran fell in love with the country during a high school exchange, followed by a yearlong service project in a local church and children’s center in Riga. Last year, as Latvia underwent the transition from the Lat to the Euro, Aarzemnieki had a viral hit with the song “Paldies Latiņam (Thank You, Lat)“, and so they decided to give Dziesma a shot. The rest, as they say, is history.
I’m just going to put this out there, because I have a feeling it might be an unpopular opinion amongst many Eurofans.
I love “Cake to Bake”.
It’s unpolished, it’s unpretentious, and it doesn’t put on any airs or graces. With Aarzemnieki, what you see is completely what you get: a group of friends who simply love to jam together, make music, and hopefully make people smile a bit. A Eurovision song doesn’t have to be serious or intense; it doesn’t need three key changes or pyrotechnics. In Eurovision, (and really in life in general) sometimes all we need is to just lighten up, have a slice of something sweet, and enjoy things for what they are. I like to think that “Cake to Bake” reminds me of this.
Could Dons, Samanta Tīna, or one of the other songs in the running possibly have had an easier road ahead of them as they try to qualify? Probably. But were any of them as simply joyful and organic as this? I’d wager not.