Estonia kick-start their search for a Eurovision 2021 star tomorrow as the renowned Eesti Laul begins with the first semi-final. With twelve songs competing in the semi-final, there’s a lot of competition for the six spots in the March 6th final. So, what better time than now to see what our writers thought of the songs?
We follow up part one (click here) with the final six songs of the first semi-final, and it’s up to Boris, Daniel, James, Melanie and Sean to pass judgement on the songs. Take it away…
Nika Marula – Calm Down
Boris – 5 – I’m desperately trying to pick up a vibe from this song, but while it faintly contains traces of ‘bad break-up’, ‘vengeful girlfriend’ and ‘self-empowerment’, it doesn’t settle for any of them and instead becomes messy and bland. Ehhh. That diamond-studded headpiece is A Statement, however.
Daniel – 7 – There seems to be two different songs in one each battling each other to see which one will come out victorious. It makes the sequence rather dynamic and really sells girl power. I think there may be a lot happening, especially around the chorus with the snare drums and bass, but I think that this is like a fun Ariana Grande like bop.
James – 6 – There’s some good elements here: the production, the bass drops, the beat. Conceptually, however, this is a downer. Do you really want a break-up song about an emotionally unstable ex? After how 2020 has treated everybody, I am just not in the mood for this sort of thing. Not saying that we should accept forced merriment, but a break-up song with a passive protagonist (“If you don’t want me, walk away”) is not the sort of song I want to see in the ESC 2021 final line-up.
Melanie – 6.5 – Why does this song remind me of a toned-down version from Duffy’s “Mercy” but then try to sound it cooler for 2021? A lot is happening in the beat, causing it to sound a little bit messy. There are some cool parts, but not everything works. Like if they mixed everything what they like in a mixer and made this weird smoothie. Great effort, but less is definitely more in this song.
Sean – 4 – I’m finding it hard to try and categorise this song. Is it an RnB ballad with gospel elements and a little bit of electroclash thrown in for good measure? Some parts of this song have a bit of a mid-10s throwback feel for me. Aside from that, I’m not really sure how to describe this, but whatever’s happening here doth butter no parsnips for me.
Total = 28.5 (avg. 5.7)
Egert Milder – Free Again
Boris – 5 – A walking identity crisis. This song switches haphazardly between melodies, instruments and vibes faster than you can process them. There’s no hook, nothing to really anchor the listener down. I don’t need to point out the problems with that. A huge letdown because I really liked “Georgia On My Mind”, but this mess is a chaotic neutral, with the stress on NEUTRAL.
Daniel – 8.5 – Egert really hits me in the George Ezra feels. This song is such a nice and uplifting composition with a chorus that really makes me feel like I am living a care-free and jovial experience. I think this song is a powerful message and his lyrics are among, if not, the best of the competition. I think overall I am just a big fan of this song and feel like Egert is every year coming closer and closer to clenching that title.
James – 8 – Remember when this guy had the stones to bring to Eesti Laul 2020 a song completely about Georgia? His vocal style is an acquired taste, but this is the first song of this year’s batch which is thematically on point – after months of restrictions and an end in sight with the vaccine, the idea of being free again has a lot of appeal. As with his entry of last year, gliding through the world unfettered and being thankful for doing so is the sort of tonic we could use, and he carries on that theme here. Milder’s style of folk rock may have been on the decline since the mid-2010s, but the sunniness of “Free Again” should attract some new fans, especially since he’s surrounded by a lot of negative dirge in this year’s Eesti Laul.
Melanie – 7.5 – Egert Milder is always great in making songs that would sound amazing during a road trip to Georgia 😉 This song really gives you the feeling of freedom while riding and feels like a journey. Loving the laidback feeling it’s giving me and it feels so honest. Like Egert really feels Free Again while singing this song. Can’t wait to sing-a-long with thing song in my car!
Sean – 8.5 – At the time of writing, this one feels the most winnerish to me. This has the journey and build that serves successful entries in this style so well and a broad appeal for alternative and mainstream fans alike, with the lyrics reflecting the hopeful upbeat nature of the rhythm. There’s also plenty of staging scope here to create an audiovisual delight. Egert, you’ve done it again!
Total = 37.5 (avg. 7.5)
Tuuli Rand – Üks öö
Boris – 7.5 – With TikTok hypes still trending,
So Tuuli Rand be sending,
Why not an Üks öö?
Daniel – 7.5 – This is a fun party song that is very 2020’s with its strong 80’s infusion. I also think that having the song in Estonian adds to its interesting and fun ambiance. I would be highly curious to see the staging because it can be a burst of color and be something as charismatic as the music video. I think that that this is overall a good entry, not revolutionary, but rather entertaining.
James – 5 – Uncanny. The second thirtysomething women’s dance video that’s really about hooking up in this selection. And uncannily enough, Tuuli’s song has similar problems to Tanja’s. This is an upbeat bag of cotton candy, but as with cotton candy it dissolves very quickly after consumption. And the video goes against the lyrics – the video is a lady’s night out on the town, but the lyrics are about one night with a hook-up.
Melanie – 4.5 – I give it points for being in Estonian, but it’s just your average party pop song. I don’t mind it at all, wouldn’t hit the skip button or not dance to it, but it just doesn’t stand out for me. Just some kind of fun song that somehow slipped into my party list. Maybe the staging can save her, but I’m not seeing this winning this national final.
Sean – 10 – There’s just something so joyous in Estonia about seeing öö in their words! And speaking of joyous – what about THIS! “Üks öö” reminds me heavily of the lo-fi indie pop served up by Skylar Spence (the artist who Doja Cat ripped off, by the way) or boy Pablo that just strikes the right chords with me, although leaning more towards the pop end of the spectrum than those two examples. This is the audio equivalent of a bubbly bright dose of pink soda pop on a crisp summer’s day and I’m fully behind that right now. LOVE it!
Total = 34.5 (avg. 6.9)
Koit Toome – We Could Have Been Beautiful
Boris – 5 – Going from old fashioned, but fun schlager to a string of dated ballad cliché’s is a massive, massive downgrade, but props on getting your target audience (old women) right.
Daniel – 8 – What a beautiful pop-ballad with a nice composition. I think that this is the song for a more traditional audience because it hits many of the musts for a great ballad entry. Those notes are also so angelic and would really add a contrast to a lot of the more electronic based songs. I think that this song might be a bit too predictable but, hey, there is a lot of quality here.
James – 9 – The video provides a conundrum for Koit – the lady in the video (Liina Orlova) sells this ballad about regrets. We know Koit is class, and his attempt for a 3rd showing at Eurovision may be his best one yet. We all have relationships that have fallen due to miscommunication, having gotten together at the wrong time, or other reasons where the stars didn’t align, and with this mature ballad Koit absolutely nails that feeling off what could have been if one or two little things were different. But the video, and Liina’s performance, has set huge expectations for the living staging, and if they can somehow incorporate Liina into the live staging via an actual appearance or creatively in the background, Koit is in with a chance for victory.
Melanie – 7.5 – When they first announced Koit as a contestant, I was like; “ughh couldn’t he just stayed in Verona?” However, he surprised me with We Could Have Been Beautiful. His voice is so much better in this song than in Verona and he really elevates it. The song is well produced but a little bit dated. It’s full of clichés that we heard before, but it’s still beautiful. I just hope that he can pour out his heart on stage and give me goosebumps.
Sean – 6 – Well Koit, at least your music has moved into this century for your latest Eesti Laul foray (yep – I really wasn’t a fan of “Verona”). “We Could Have Been Beautiful” is a perfectly competent piano pop ballad and Koit’s voice suits this type of track well, although I have to try and block out some of the painfully cliché lyrics as an English native. Is this going to qualify for the Eesti Laul final? Too right, but this is decent and intriguing enough for it to deserve that spot.
Total = 35.5 (avg. 7.1)
Kristin Kalnapenk – Find a Way
Boris – 7 – Despite my inherent distaste for ‘Jazz’, Kristin’s song comes with a nice and *very* welcome, lounge vibe. If she, ahem, *finds a way* (sigh) to translate this into a charismatic live rendition, she’ll have my support. Until then, a moderately optimistic score will have to suffice.
Daniel – 5.5 – This is that sexy daily routine with a jazz twist. I think she has strong vocals and is extremely charismatic, the song itself is a little bizarre. I do not know maybe it is the hippie lyrics with a jazz-funk feels do not really seem to go together and then there is a lot of literal imagery that leaves little to the imagination.
James – 8 – A pleasant, sunny jazz number. It’s breezy, positive, and will go down a treat in early summer. A bonus is that there is purpose to the lyrics, that it’s not just breezy for the sake of it. Kristin is telling us to power on through the darkness, and if you power on you will find a way. Jazz has not been kind to former-Soviet countries of late (see Carousel, Mariko and the Shin), and I worry that if this makes it to Eurovision, this may be similarly clobbered in the Semi-Finals even though this is a tonic we could use in 2021.
Melanie – 7.5 – I’m actually really likes this one! It reminds me of a great Sunday afternoon just chilling with some friends at my home. We need more of this kind of laidback jazzy tunes in the national finals! I only have the feeling that this would be eaten by the other acts that are more suitable for the big stage. I know this is not going to Eurovision, but it’s going straight to my Sunday playlist!
Sean – 7 – This is such a ‘Sunday morning coffee’ type song, it’s almost painful. Not meant to be a negative though, this is a stylish and jazzy number that melts in the ears like caramel in your mouth (not sure on that description, but let’s roll with it…). Certainly adds to the diversity of the selection though it may struggle to attract its core audience enough to vote for it.
Total = 35 (avg. 7)
Ivo Linna, Robert Linna & Supernova – Ma Olen Siin
Boris – 8.5 – Independent from the usual joy I feel each time I see Ivo Linna’s face, his song just slaps? It starts of slow and composed, sure, but then becomes a glorious indie roadtrip down memory lane, dripping in a palpable nostagia that transcends the language barrier, followed by an excellent key-change mid-song. Potent stuff. GJ Linna’s.
Daniel – 7.5 – I think that this has an extremely hypnotizing feature and I think I might have accidentally gotten hooked upon it. It has a refreshing tone to it and sounds almost out-of-this-world. I cannot really explain it, it just is something very different and so it adds a cool element to Eesti Laul competition.
James – 7 – It’s a bold proclamation – “I am here!” And Estonian legend Ivo Linna (supported by his son Robert) has by and large delivered a song that wipes the floor with a few entries by performers one-third his age. Ivo’s Tom Petty-esque rock is finally on show at a Eurovision event, and stands out for that and for giving us hopeful lyrics, and that he is able to persevere as he knows his love is waiting for him at the end of his long journey. I doubt this will do much at Eesti Laul, but it’s a quality entry from Estonian music royalty that is well worth checking out nonetheless.
Melanie – 6 – This one is interesting! I don’t know if I’m really into it, but there are some parts I definitely like about the song. I think it’s the orchestration that makes it stand out of other songs. Somehow it also reminds me of an indie band kind of song, but mixed with some classical elements. Very interesting song that I wouldn’t rule out for qualifying yet.
Sean – 8 – Do not count this one out at all! Ivo Linna is rightly revered in Estonia – I went to the Eesti Laul final in 2017 and the joy in the arena when he performed was palpable. This is an even better performance than that effort, this has a great late 90s orchestral rock feel to it that just builds and builds and builds throughout the three minutes. This could bring the house down in Estonia if the performance if right!
Total = 37 (avg. 7.4)
So, who did our team have down to qualify in this semi-final?
- Egert Milder – Free Again – 37.5
- Ivo Linna, Robert Linna & Supernova – Ma Olen Siin – 37
- Koit Toome – We Could Have Been Beautiful – 35.5
- Kristin Kalnapenk – Find a Way – 35
- Tuuli Rand – Üks öö – 34.5
- WIIRALT – Tuuled – 31.5
- Kéa – Hypnotized – 30.5
- Hans Nayna – One By One – 30
- Tanja – Best Night Ever – 28.5
- Nika Marula – Calm Down – 28.5
- Karl Killing – Kiss Me – 26.5
- Andrei Zevakin & Pluuto – Wingman – 25.5
According to our panel, five of the last six songs in this semi-final should make it through! Only WIIRALT from part one yesterday would make it into our top 6 for the semi final, with our results seeing Egert Milder, Ivol Linna and Koit Toome all make it through to the Eesti Laul final. Will we be right?
What do #YOU think of our view on the songs? Have we underrated any entries? Have your say in the comments below, on social media or on our forum HERE!