Category Archives: Finland

Hey, Stefanos! Check this out!

Again, you can always find more news and reviews from my friends at ESC Kaz!

New Videos from Norway and Finland

Norway’s Stella Mwangi has just released the preview video for “Haba Haba” and, as expected, the fun, bouncy atmosphere in the song carries over perfectly to the parade-meets-beach-party setting in the clip:

Also in Nordic Eurovision news, Finland’s Paradise Oskar has released a second video for “Da Da Dam” (granted, the first version wasn’t bad!).

Paradise Oskar for Finland!

Yesterday was a long one on Eurovision-land, and we’ve got a lot of news to share with you!  Let’s get cracking…

Finland:
Euroviisut 2011 wrapped up last night with ten finalists trying to snatch the golden ticket to Germany.  After the first round of voting, a “superfinal” was announced for the three highest vote-getters, and the voting began again.  Here are the Finnish Top 3:
3) With 12.6% of the superfinal vote, “Good Enough” by Father McKenzie
2) With 40.7% of the superfinal vote, “Blessed with Love” by Saara Aalto
1) And, with 46.7% of the superfinal vote, the winner is “Da Da Dam” by Paradise Oskar!

Paradise Oskar is the stage name of 19-year old Axel Ehnström, who wrote “Da Da Dam” on his own.  It’s been drawing a lot of comparisons to last year’s Belgian entry, “Me and My Guitar” by Tom Dice.  I can definitely see why: both Tom and Axel are polished young men with similar sartorial style, standing alone on stage with their guitars, singing simple, sweet, self-penned tunes that address important issues (in Tom’s case, following your dreams; in Axel’s, the environment).  I don’t think that Axel went out to copy Tom, but I think it’s simply further proof of my hypothesis that what’s successful in one year will carry over to the next.  Tom brought Belgium their highest placement in years, and gave the Flemish their highest scores ever.  I can’t imagine Axel going out there saying “I’m going to copy this formula and take it to the top”, but I can see how a young singer-songwriter could look at Tom’s success and think “maybe there’s a place for me and my message out there in Eurovision…I could give this a shot”.

As we’re still figuring out who Finland will be competing against in the First Semifinal, it’s hard to say how “Da Da Dam” will stack up.  But the song is well-written and well-performed, with a universal message that almost everyone can support.  There are always at least a few “message songs” in Eurovision, whether it’s about world peace, saving the planet, or having faith in yourself.  This one checks the box nicely.

Stefanos, my dear, I await your thoughts! 😉

The Weekend Preview, 2/10

We’ve got another busy weekend ahead of us, so let’s dive right into what we can expect from all over the Eurovision world over the next few days!

On Friday, Azerbaijan will finally make their decision on who they’ll send to Germany this year.  Their preselection process started back in mid-November with 77 candidates, and they’ve finally been narrowed down to five final performers: Aynishan Qulieva, Ilgara Ibrahimova, Eldar Gasimov, Ilhama Gasimova, and Nigar Camal.  It’s still a bit unclear how the song will be selected; last year, the top three candidates sang three different songs, and while the winning performer was selected the night of the finals, the winning song wasn’t confirmed until over two weeks later.  Considering Azerbaijan’s penchant for flexibility on their preselection processes (their dates have been moved around many times, for example), who knows what answers we may find tomorrow night, or what questions will remain!

Also on Friday, Ireland will pick the artist and song that they hope will bring the nation to the top of the Eurovision heap for an eight year.  Brief snippets of the songs were released last week, but they were heard in their entirety for the first time just today.

Don Mescall – Talking with Jennifer (written by Ronan Hardiman, Don Mescall)
Nikki Kavanaugh – Falling (written by Christina Schilling, Camilla Gottschalck, Jonas Gladnikoff, and Hanif Sabzevari)
Bling – Shine On (written by Patrick Mahoney)
The Vard Sisters – Send Me an Angel (written by Liam Lawton)
Jedward – Lipstick (written by Dan Priddy, Lars Jensen, and Martin Larson)

Ironically, “Lipstick” is the only song that has been removed from YouTube for copyright reasons.  Why ironically?  Well, first, as its considered the frontrunner in tomorrow’s competition, and second, as a portion of the song was “accidentally” released on Amazon.com too early, prompting RTÉ to make the decision only one third in the hands of the audience’s vote, rather than fifty percent.  The remaining part of the decision will be in the hands of regional juries throughout Ireland.


Malta will hold their semifinal on Friday and their final on Saturday.  On Friday, the 24 candidate songs will be trimmed down to 16 by a 75/25 jury/audience vote decision.  On Saturday, those remaining songs will compete, and the winner will be decided by a 60/40 jury/audience split.  All the songs can be previewed, in their entirety, here.  For Malta fans, there are many familiar faces competing this weekend: Fabrizio Faniello made it to Eurovision in 2001 and 2006, and his younger sister Claudia has tried many times to make it to the event, but often falling just short of the ESC goal.  We also see the return of Wayne Micallef, who presented one of my favorite preselection songs from last year, “Save a Life“.  In fact, out of the twenty-three singers in this weekend’s competition, eighteen have attempted, at some point, to represent Malta in either Eurovision or Junior Eurovision in past years!  Will the victory go to a veteran, or to a new talent?  We shall see…

On Saturday, we’ll see what Belgium has to offer the growing Eurovision field.  In light of the difficult economic times, Walloon broadcaster RTBF came up with an interesting twist on an open call for songs.  Belgians were allowed to submit their songs (in French or English), and the public would be able to pledge money to the entries of their choice.  When a song received €20,000, they would be qualified to go on to the next round (all money donated to non-qualifying songs would be reimbursed).  That money would then go to the further production and refinement of their entry.  Thirty songs ended up making the monetary benchmark, and that was later pared down to fourteen final entries.  A 50/50 jury/televote split will decide the eventual winner.

We will also see Finals in Iceland, Norway, and Finland, continued semifinals in Spain, Lithuania, Latvia, Croatia, and Sweden, and the first semifinal in Estonia‘s Eestilaul.  Of course, I’ll try to bring you updates as often as I can!

Have a great weekend, Eurofans!

The (Nordic) Weekend Update, 1/30

We’ve had a lot happen this weekend from all over the Eurovision world, so I’m going to break my Weekend Update up into bite-sized regional chunks.  And away we go!

Finland: 
The last Finnish Semifinal was held on Friday evening, with three songs qualifying for the final via viewer votes, and one song saved by a jury wildcard.  (Makes me feel a bit sorry for the fifth performer that night, as he was the only one not to qualify!)

Voted into the Final: 

Saara Aalto – Blessed with Love (Remember what I said about Iceland’s Yohanna being the personification of a Disney Princess?  Forget it; this girl is so treacly-sweet that I became a diabetic just by watching her!)
Stala & So – Pamela (The lead singer, Sampsa Astala, is actually the former drummer for a certain well-known Finnish Eurovision legend…)
Image from http://metalshockfinland.wordpress.com/
(Sampsa Astala as “Kita” from Lordi…ain’t he cute?)
Saved by the Jury’s Wildcard: 

The Finnish representative will be ultimately determined on February 12th.

Iceland:
As expected, the Icelandic semifinal on Saturday was not only full of talent, but also highly emotional.  After the sudden passing of Sigurjón Brink about two weeks ago, there was a bit of doubt whether or not his song Aftur Heim (Home Again)” would be performed.  Not only was it sung on Saturday night by a group of six of his personal friends, but it easily qualified for the final. 
Also qualifying:
Jógvan Hansen – Ég Lofa (I Promise) (This winner of Iceland’s version of the X Factor is actually a native of the Faroe Islands, a Danish territory.  This is his third attempt to represent his adopted homeland in Eurovision.)
Magni Ásgeirsson – Ég trúi á betra líf (I Believe in a Better Life) (This rock ballad, written by an Icelandic/Maltese team, really impressed me.)
As in Finland, the Icelandic final will be decided on February 12th.  There has been a lot of momentum behind Yohanna, but between Jógvan’s popularity and the sympathy vote behind Sigurjón’s final song, the field is more open than I think people give it credit for.  We’ll see in a few weeks!
Norway:
The last of Norway’s semifinals happened this week, as well.  As per usual, two songs qualified directly to the final, and two will move on to next week’s Second Chance round.  And the winners are…

The Blacksheeps – Dance Tonight (This teen pop-rock group has quite a bit of experience on the song-competition front; they won the youth-based MGP Nordic competition back in 2008 with their song “Oro jaska, beana!“.  Agnete and Emelie come from the extreme north of the country, and often mix their Norwegian lyrics with both English and Sami.)

Stella Mwangi – Haba Haba (Stella infuses this song with her Kenyan roots.  She’s been active in the music scene in both Scandinavia and West Africa for a while, but this is her first venture towards Eurovision.)
Going to the Second Chance round are:
More news to come, of course!

The Weekend Update, 1/23

Another day, another update…Semifinals have continued this weekend in Finland, Iceland, and Norway, and Croatia’s preselection has kicked off, as well.  There are also further updates from Azerbaijan, Portugal, Moldova, and Malta!  And away we go…

Finland:
Three more acts have moved on to the Finnish Final after this Friday’s semi.  After a public vote, this week’s winners are:
Paradise Oskar – “Da Da Dam” (Reminds me a bit of Belgium’s Tom Dice from last year, don’t you think?  If Tom were a member of Greenpeace Suomi, this might have been the result.)
Milana Misic – “Sydämeni kaksi maata (Two Countries of my Heart)” (Milana is the daughter of a Croatian father and a Finnish mother who actually represented her nation fifty years ago in Finland’s debut ESC entry.)
Father McKenzie – “Good Enough” (Yes, they’re named for the character in “Eleanor Rigby”!)

Knocked out at this round of the competition were Jimi Constantine’s “Party to Party” and Soma Manuchar’s “Strong“.  An interesting point of trivia, courtesy of reader Stefanos in Finland: Soma’s outfit was designed by Mert Otsamo, a finalist on the first season of “Muodin huipulle”, the Finnish version of “Project Runway”.  According to Stefanos, “I liked his work on Muodin Huipulle more than I did Soma’s outfit.”  I haven’t seen any of Otsamo’s work, but after seeing Soma’s outfit, I’d be hard-pressed to imagine I’d disagree.

Next, we move on to Iceland:
It’s been a week of highs and lows for Iceland this week.  On Tuesday, we heard the sad and sudden news of the passing of Sigurjón Brink at the age of only 36.  He was supposed to sing in the third semifinal next week, and it has been decided by both the network and his family that his entry, “Aftur Heim (Back Home)” would be performed as a tribute by a group of his friends and fellow musicians, and will therefore remain in the competition.  Next week’s semifinal heat is sure to be an emotional one.

In the second semifinal, which aired last night, we had five songs competing for two slots in the final.  The victorious tunes were:
Yohanna – “Nótt (Night)” (As I mentioned last week, Yohanna came in second place back in the 2009 competition with “Is It True?”  I try to stay as neutral and impartial as I can, especially during the preselection phase of the Eurovision year, but I honestly think that Yohanna might, in fact, be the personification of a Disney princess.)
Matthías Matthíasson & Erla Björg Káradóttir – “Eldgos (Eruption) (I speak no Icelandic, but I’m pretty sure I recognized the word “Eyjafjallajökull” at the start of the song…is this a tribute to the epic volcano that covered half of Europe in ash last year?  Any Icelandic readers wish to comment?)

We’ve got more news after the break!

Norway:
From Florø, the westernmost town in Scandinavia, we had this week’s semifinal for the Melodi Grand Prix.  Qualifying directly to the final are:
Babel Fish – “You Can Depend on Me” and
Hanne Sørvaag – “You’re Like a Melody” (Hanne is no stranger to Eurovision.  She’s composed three songs for the competition: “Disappear” for Germany in 2008, “My Heart is Yours” for Norway 2010, and “Shine” for Georgia, also in 2010)

Moving on to the Second Chance round will be:
Endre – “Oh, Oh (Puppy Love)” and
Mimi Blix – “Allergic”

Croatia:
The first round of this year’s Dora Festival happened this weekend, and unlike what we’ve seen in the Nordic countries I’ve just mentioned, singers in Dora do not sing their proposed Eurovision songs until the final round of competition.  Instead, they choose a song freely, and hope that televoters will look favorably on them.  (This is actually a similar format to what Germany did last year.  It worked for Lena Meyer-Landrut!)  Out of twelve singers in this heat, five have already been chosen to continue on.  The sixth will be announced next week.
Confirmed for the next round are: Miro Tomic, Jelena Vanjek, Dora Benc, Sabrina Hebiri, and Jacques Houdek (who was the evening’s ultimate winner).  We’ll see another round of twelve next week.

Azerbaijan:
After seven weeks of preliminary heats and one semifinal, the top 5 singers in Azerbaijan’s preselection have been picked.  Like in Croatia, they have been singing covers, and we won’t hear their proposed entries until the final round (or, knowing Azerbaijan, possibly even after the winning singer has been selected).  They’ll go up against each other on February 2th.  And they are:
İlhamə Qasımova
Eldar Qasımov
Aynişan Quliyeva 
Nigar Jamal
İlqarə İbrahimova

(For the record, I had been rooting for Çingiz Mustafayev, a participant on Yeni Ulduz, the Azeri version of the “Idol” franchise.  Not only was he a strong singer and a confident performer, but he is also a trained classical Flamenco guitarist fluent in Azeri, Turkish, English, and Spanish.  Sadly, he was knocked out of competition in the semifinal round.  If he had been sent to Düsseldorf, and had his talents put to good use, Azerbaijan could have possibly gotten some valuable votes from Spain, who will be voting in their semifinal.  Çingiz, if you’re reading this, please keep trying!)

Finally, lists of competing songs have been released in Moldova (although out of the 92, songs listed on the official Moldovan broadcaster’s website, only these songs are continuing on to the next round) Portugal, and Malta.  Portugal will select their song on March 5th, Malta on February 12th, and Moldova on February 26th.

Phew!  After all of that, I don’t know about you, but I need a nap.  I’ll keep you all posted on more news as it comes in!

The Weekend Update

Well, another weekend has come and gone, and while we don’t have any new songs added to the roster of Official Eurovision entries, we had a lot of activity over the past few days in the realm of Preselections, especially from the Nordic region.  Here’s what went down up North!

Finland:
This Friday marked the first Semifinal in the Suomen Karsinta (Finnish Qualifier), with five songs battling it out for three places in the Final.  And the winners are:
Johanna Iivanainen – Luojani Mun (My Lord)
Cardiant – Rapture in Time
Marko Maunuksela – Synkän Maan Tango (Troubled Country Tango)

So, in the three songs listed above,  we’ve got a ballad, metal, and tango, and the rejected songs were pop and rock…you can’t say that the Finns lack variety!  We’ll see five more songs next Friday.

We’ve got more after the break!
 Iceland:
The first of three Icelandic Semifinals (or Söngvakeppni Sjónvarpsins…try saying that five times fast!) took place on Saturday evening, with two songs sailing through to the final out of five competing tunes.  Unlike the Finnish Preselection, local broadcaster RÚV has mandated that all songs must be sung in Icelandic (although I believe they retain the option to switch to English at a later point).  The two going on to the final are:
Haraldur Reynisson – Ef ég hefði vængi (If I Had Wings)
Erna Hrönn Ólafsdóttir – Ástin mín eina (My Loved One)  (I’m not quite sure if I’ve got the translation right on this one…any Icelandic speakers out there want to let me know?)

There are two more rounds of Icelandic semifinals to go.  Within those two semis are songs by 2009 Eurovision runner-up Yohanna (her song “Is it True?” was truly a stunner) and rocker Magni Ásgeirsson, who is actually better known to American audiences from his appearance on CBS’s 2006 series “Rock Star: Supernova”.  Magni came in 4th place, but his career has continued to flourish, especially in his native country.  Here’s Magni performing an original song on “Rock Star: Supernova”.
  
And finally, we have news from Norway:
This year’s Melodi Grand Prix started on Saturday night, with seven songs competing for the chance to continue.  The top two go directly on to the finals, but the songs that came in third and fourth place go on to a wildcard round, or Siste Sjansen.
Moving on to the finals:
Helena Bøksle – Vardlokk 
Åste & Rikke – Not That Easy (Ah-Åh-Ah-Åh)

And to the Second Chance Round:
Sie Gubba – Alt Du Vil Ha (Everything You Want)
Use Me – Daisy

So, what do you think of the songs that went through?  Who are you rooting for so far?  Drop me a line in the comments!

The Best of the 2010 Preselection (Part Two)

Continuing on where I left off…

From Russia: “Senza Respiro (Without Rest)” by Antonello Carozza

Remember what I had said earlier about Eurovision fans practically begging Italy to come back into the fray?  Well, every once in a while it seems that an Italian artist will take the initiative and apply for another nation’s Preselection (or, alternately, a country will sing in an entry in Italian, even if there’s no real reason to.  I’m looking at you, Romania!).  This happened in Russia this year, with singer Antonello Carozza (who I really can’t find much more information on, other than a 2006 San Remo Festival performance) coming in a respectable 8th place with his fun, bouncy, sexy, half-spoken, half-sung pop number about the fickle nature of fame and celebrity.  Can you imagine if this song had made it to Oslo?  Between the catchy song, cute singer, the former-Soviet Bloc voting that somehow propelled “Lost and Forgotten” into 10th place in this year’s Final (yeesh…), and the desire to see Italy return to Eurovision…we could have had a major ESC hit on our hands with this one.

 From Finland: “Annankadun Kulmassa (On the Corner of Anna Street)” by Heli Kajo

Ok…if the French film character Amelie were a jilted lover in Helsinki, I imagine she’d be a lot like the impossibly cute Heli Kajo.  The first line of the song translates to “Why do you pass out alone, on Sunday nights, pants down, on the corner of Anna Street?”  Her pain and anger, blended with the innocent sweetness of the song as a whole, gives this fantastic contrast that I know I had to listen to a few times.  By the time the tune builds to its understated climax, translated to “Why do you only say ‘I love you’ after a double whiskey?”, you just want to give Heli a hug and tell her to kick her boyfriend’s worthless ass to the curb.  “Annankadun Kulmassa” came in 6th place in this year’s Finnish preselection.

From Israel…the entire Kdam!
We all know how much I raved about Harel Skaat’s “Milim (Words)” this year, and how I think he was basically robbed (although winning all three of the Marcel Bezençon Awards mitigates the blow a bit).  In the Israeli preselection (or Kdam) this year, there were three other songs that could have easily gone to Oslo.  The four tunes presented were all crafted for Harel, and there really wasn’t a bad one in the bunch.  I think I’ve already mentioned the gorgeous “Le’an (Away)” and its incredible final high note, but the ballad “Le’hitkarev (Closer)” and the more uptempo “Elayich (Towards You)” were also fantastic songs that really highlighted Harel’s range and showmanship.  Israel really has a tough act to follow for the 2011 event; they set the bar incredibly high with this past year’s Kdam.


From Sweden: “Kom (Come)” by Timoteij
As I’ve mentioned before, bits and pieces of a previous year’s winner often come through in the entries vying for the next year’s Eurovision crown.  In the case of Alexander Rybak, we were given a string-heavy, yet upbeat number that balanced folk and pop.  One of the best examples of that in this year’s Swedish Melodifestivalen was Timoteij’s “Kom”.

This fun, summery pop number only came in 5th place in this year’s Melodifestivalen, but it was selected as the Swedish representative for the OGAE Second Chance Contest, where ESC fans from all over the world select their favorite “also-rans”.  “Kom” won by a pretty heavy margin.  Considering that Sweden didn’t make it to the Eurovision Finals this year for the first time since 1976, should Timoteij have represented them, instead?

What were some of your other favorite preselection entries?  Let me know what you think!

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…