Eesti Laul, Estonia’s national selection for the Eurovision Song Contest, is just around the corner. Coming out of a 2022 season that saw Estonia finish 13th in the grand final, can the beloved Baltic nation make some Eurovision magic?

As we await the start of the first semi-final on Jan. 12, members of the ESCUnited team have reviewed and rated this year’s entries on a scale of 1 to 10. Check in with us over the coming week, as we’ll be revealing our Eesti Laul rankings five songs at a time, alphabetically through each semi-final.

Earlier this week, we started alphabetically by artist in semi-final 1. It’s been full of pleasant surprises already. We got to hear Japanese in Eesti Laul! And the rock entries this year? Ate and left no crumbs!

Bedwetters’ “Monsters” landed at the top with rave reviews from our team. Will anyone take the number-one spot away from them as we reveal our thoughts on the rest of semi-1? Read to find out!

Kaw- “Valik”

  • Boris — 7 — “I can’t pinpoint exactly why, but I’m charmed by this youthful indie rock song. Mostly because it feels like the music a genuine band of teenagers would cook up during a jam session in a grungy garage, except with actual Production Value behind it? It is outclassed by the other rock songs, and I have no hopes that kaw will do well in Eesti Laul, but consider my interest piqued.”
  • David — 4 —  “I must say, I am not exactly the biggest fan of the Estonian language, so it is hard to get into that overall. The song has a fast beat and it feels like the song goes really fast, and the Estonian lyrics take overhand. Cool beat, but hard to enjoy properly, when having non-understandable words along with it. I still think it’s a cool attempt and that I can respect at least.”
  • James — 6 —  “A little lo-fi, but not a bad little pop indie rock number with a little bit of energy to it. It’s minimalist, the vocalist sounds like he was recorded in a dumpster behind a KFC in Victorville, California, and some of the instruments pop awkwardly in the mix. But we’re used to grand and over-produced, so something a little opposite is refreshing, in a weird way. I can’t see this making it over to Liverpool, and despite a modern showcase of the Estonian language, I can’t really recommend it, but I am glad it is here at Eesti Laul. Which is more than I can say about some of Kaw’s rivals.”
  • Luca — 7 — “It’s bright, upbeat, catchy and a little grungy. And I have always found the Estonian language fascinating. So this definitely checks a lot of boxes for me. I’m obsessed with this song and I need more people to be talking about it!”
  • Tyler — 7 — “’Valik’ has a pretty good sound to it! I get a sense of nostalgia with the beats and the vocals, similar to the music I would listen to in my youth, except without the cringe. If the performance can be upbeat and give a slight edge, I think this could at least qualify for the Eesti Laul final, even if I don’t think this has a shot of winning the national final. Still though, I quite enjoyed ‘Valik’ as it’s quite peppy and fun.”

MERLYN – “Unicorn Vibes”

  • Boris — 7 — “I mean……. many people including myself have unironically compared Merlyn to Samanta Tina, and she’s equally destined to be an underwhelming second-hand embarrassment who will scuttle herself in an unceremonious last place in her semi. I still find Merlyn’s existence hilarious though, soz. We all need a Real Housewife in a cotton candy wig delivering three minutes of delightful nonsense into our lives, or else you haven’t LIVED.”
  • David — 1 — “What the actual f**k?! Seriously… what am I supposed to say, other than what in the actual holy freaking f**k?!”
  • James — 1 — “Is Belarus trying to sneak into Eurovision here? Now despite this song’s rank amateurism, this is clearly designed to get an obnoxious subset of the ESC fanbase to yell “Yassss, Queen!” and regurgitate all over social media. And pandering on top of low effort schlock makes it worse. Merlyn looks only half-bothered herself. Why should I be?”
  • Luca — 4 — “It’s giving Meghan Trainor’s aesthetic and charisma with Samanta Tina-style chaos and camp. The song wasn’t for me but Merlyn was so mother for this.”
  • Tyler — 7.5 — “Another song that’s too short! I guess perhaps it’s good that this song isn’t prolonged for the listener, because I can see this getting old very quickly at the end. The music video, the lyrics, and the instrumentation all feel as if it’s manufactured meme-ness, and while most of the time I would be annoyed by it, this song worked for me! It’s shallow, but it’s still really fun to listen to! Could see this getting televoting support. I’m expecting a great performance in January.”

MIA – “Üks samm korraga”

  • Boris — 5 — “A random, shouty christiany-tune. How… Maltese?”
  • David — 3 — “If I have to describe the music, then I’m leaning towards somewhere between a power-ballad and a ballad, which is far from being my favorite genre in music, and is what pulls it down the most. I do find the Estonian in this song soft and actually pleasant, despite having no clue what it’s all about, so that’s fine for an outside viewers/listener. Yet, I’m still without a proper hook, something that stays on my mind or anything really.”
  • James — 8.5 — “I could be mean and say that the lyrics are a bunch of generic empowerment slogans you’d find on kitchen signs at HomeGoods.  And I’d be right. However, there’s a sincerity in this type of song which usually come around once or twice a year which could be lumped into a sub-genre called “In vino veritas.” Power chords at the chorus with lyrics belted out by a female veteran who looks like she’d easily slot into a mid-tier Real Housewives franchise. This one gets a bonus with a piano solo that lands with a punch heavier than expected in a boozy Baltic housewife anthem.”
  • Luca — 6 — “Inspirational power ballads don’t resonate with me most of the time. This kind of falls into ‘Fight Song’ territory for me, where it’s pleasant and a little moving, but doesn’t dig quite deep enough for my personal taste. A quick look at the lyrics translation reveals some very touching words. The piano ballad took me by surprise and made what could’ve been a generic song so much more memorable.”
  • Tyler — 6 — “This song, while I haven’t dived into the lyrics of, seems pretty inspirational to me! At least, that’s the impression I’m getting in the music video with the Joker shadows in the background harming her self-esteem. ‘Üks samm korraga’ musically has all the hooks for these kinds of inspirational songs, and I guess I’m just a jaded curmudgeon, because I don’t really care for this song all that much. Mia sings the song well though, and I’m curious to see what the live is like.”

Neon Letters & Maiko – “Tokimeki”

  • Boris — 9.5 — “It truly was love at first listen between me and “Tokimeki”. A trippy J-Pop song, including an ADORABLE JAPANESE LADY singing in her native language? I want to bury her in a cascade of cathearteyes emojis. PROTECT THEM AT ALL COSTS.”
  • David — 2 — “Okay, that’s actually cool! Japanese has somehow made it into Estonia, which is definitely unique, but is it anything special? Sadly, I must say no. Just because you can include an unusual language in a song in Europe, doesn’t exactly make it stand out. The song is generally slow, stays in the same tempo and even the English parts are quite lackluster.”
  • James — 10 — “I suspect the songwriters are trying to make a point with the Estonian and the Japanese lyrics almost blending into each other. Though calculated, there is a sincerity to this sweet, frothy, indie pop song that keeps you engaged for three minutes. In a way it reminds me of Len’s classic ‘Steal My Sunshine,’ a sweet and quirky bon bon that evaporates almost as soon as it’s aired. I fear that ‘Tokimeki’ may be lost among a lot of crass noise with adjustments to the Semi-Final voting rules frightening juries and publics into selecting populist fart blasts instead, but for a quirky and fun Saturday night on the Mersey, there’s no song I’d rather be listening to to kick off the summer of 2023.”
  • Luca — 7 — “One thing about me is that I will always have a soft spot for those quiet indie pop entries. ‘Tokimeki’ is so beautiful, blissful and well-produced. The Japanese verses were such a unique touch! While adding in a new language to this year’s lineup sets “Tokimeki” apart, the song itself felt a little one-note for me. But maybe that’s OK! I don’t mind that it’s low-key; I think that’s part of the charm.”
  • Tyler — 10 — “Make no mistake: I don’t think this song has a shot at winning Eurovision, but also, this is me judging the songs and if I like the song, then I’m rating it highly. So this gets a 10/10 for me! I love the blend of Estonian indie pop with a splash of city pop to it. The Japanese works well here for me, and this is the kind of song that would make me jam out on drives. This is going into my non-Eurovision playlist for sure. Loved it, no notes.”

OLLIE – “Venom”

  • Boris — 7 — “Okay, here comes the big controversial opinion: I’m not that big on “Venom”. First off, I think it’s a live disaster waiting to happen? Ollie himself has said on social media that he needs to learn how to sing it (and sure, that may have been facetious, but ‘Venom’ is a technically very challenging song to sing, so was it really just in jest?). But even if we assume ‘Venom’ will be good live (it won’t be), it’s still Nicklebackian in the sense that it’s mostly a pop song with a rock sound, than an actual rock song? And god the deliberate “roughness” to emulate rawness is a bit too prominent here. It’s fine, and I like it, but it doesn’t set my world on fire and to call it a standout in this pretty good selection is a charitable assessment I don’t fully agree with.”
  • David — 8 — “Without a doubt, there is massive potential here! A very interesting vocal range, a strong delivery, a very well-produced song, lyrics that go hard… it’s almost impossible to find anything bad about this song! However, I would call this soft-rock, it’s rather slow during the lyrical parts, but that’s only a very minor bother, in return for a great vocal delivery. I would like the song to remain fully in its rock genre, or at least hit harder. I can enjoy this when it gets its moment, but I also fear it could be a forgotten song, over multiple repeats, which is also very important, since you want that song, that can be played over and over again, and still equally enjoyed.”
  • James — 6 — “Never made it as a wise man, so Ollie thought he’d try Eesti Laul instead. In 2023, despite looking like he’s a lifted Ford F-150 ride away from 2005. Ollie can add “uhh” all he likes, that doesn’t make his Chad Kroeger tribute act any less egregious. That being said, he’s not bad at it. It’s just that Eesti Laul and Eurovision is a weird venue for this broseph hard rock schtick, complete with black jeans and T-shirt and leather wrist cuffs. Or maybe not. We had a Linkin Park sound-alike in Finland two years ago, who’s to say this blatantly retro act can’t do well? I have my doubts, as Europeans may view this as a little too “North American.”
  • Luca — 8 — “With that post-grunge sound and raspy vocals, ‘Venom’ takes me back to the feeling of growing up in the early 2000s and hearing Nickelback or Creed on the radio, but not in a way that feels dated! It’s a solid song, it’s catchy, and I would love to see it do well. This type of rock isn’t necessarily my favorite but Ollie makes it so exciting and engaging.”
  • Tyler — 3.5 — “In contrast to the other rock entries in Eesti Laul this year, I find ‘Venom’ to be quite a toxic song to listen to. I don’t like the lyrics as they make me feel uncomfortable, and I’m annoyed more than anything at the grunts Ollie gives at the end of verses. It’s either an exaggerated breathing technique or an artistic choice to punctuate the statement he’s made, and regardless of what’s true, I don’t like either one! There are other rock entries in this selection for me to enjoy, and I find “Venom” to not be worth my time.

And that completes semi-final 1! Check out our team’s overall ranking so far:

  1. Bedwetters – “Monsters” (8.4)
  2. Neon Letters & Maiko – “Tokimeki” (7.7)
  3. Ellip – “Pretty Girl” (6.6)
  4. OLLIE – “Venom” (6.5)
  5. Kaw – “Valik” (6.2)
  6. MIA – “Üks Samm Korraga” (5.7)
  7. Anett x Fredi – “You Need to Move On” (5.5)
  8. Janek – “House of Glass” (5.1)
  9. MERLYN – “Unicorn Vibes” (4.1)
  10. Andreas Poom – “Why Do You Love Me” (3.2)

It seems like “Monsters” is the one song that all five of us agreed on. Who do #YOU think should represent Estonia at Eurovision 2023? What are your favorite Eesti Laul entries this year? Let us know in the comments below, our social media, our forum or Discord.

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