Eesti Laul, Estonia’s national selection for the Eurovision Song Contest, is coming up on January 12. 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 (no pun intended, Inger) the start of the first semi-final on Thursday, members of the ESCUnited team have reviewed and rated this year’s entries on a scale of 1 to 10. We finished ranking the first 10 songs from semi-final 1, and now we’re diving (alphabetically) into the first five songs of semi-final 2.

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!

So far, Bedwetters’ “Monsters” landed at the top with rave reviews from our team. But will anyone from semi 2 surpass this pop-punk banger as the ESCUnited fave? Read to find out!

Alika – “Bridges”

  • Boris — 6.5 — “Every time a soppy piano ballad is released in an NF, the Eurogods flip a coin. Face up, and it becomes a captivating, enthralling experience which glues both eyes and ears to the spectacle. Face down, and it’s an ‘I Stand’-style non-entity that wastes our time for three minutes. I don’t know what side ALIKA will land on — ballads always struggle with immediacy and this is no exception. The studio’s just OK to me. I need to hear this one live before I can give a final verdict. As a slow stripped-down power ballad, “Bridges” would also automatically be at risk should it be chosen to rep Estonia, even with ALIKA at her best.”
  • David — 4 — “The emotional ballad, how lovely… no, to be fair, the song is well composed, it has a message, well done musically. I can see many enjoying this, but to me, there’s just nothing that captures me. I absolutely can respect the effort, but I would also like a hook, even in a ballad. With that said… I’m left bored. The package is there, but I just despise this genre, so… it was very likely lost before it started.”
  • James — 7 — “A fine ballad, even if it does sometimes almost lose its balance between the generic and the overly dramatic. The lyrics suggest a dramatic battle, that in order for her to move forward and connect with others she has to reach back into the past and remember who she is and where she is from. A good bit of drama to be sure, though thematically the song seems more stuck in the breaking down walls phase than the building bridges phase, and us Eurovision fans do love our thematic transitions. We want our protagonists to be in the light by song’s end, not merely acknowledging its existence. A couple tweaks to emphasize the light and Estonia has a compelling ballad on its hands.”
  • Luca — 7 — “The vocals are the best part of this song to me. I love the expression in Alika’s voice Parts of this song remind me of listening to Adele, as well as Sigrid at some points.”
  • Tyler — 6 – “The instrumentation is sweeping and nice in this song, and while I think the lyrics are important to hear, I…think this song is fine more than anything, oops. This could work well on the stage (as long as it isn’t Alika behind a piano!) and could get some televotes. I can also see this being a jury favorite which…is fine I guess, but also I wish “Bridges” had more of an oomph for me to really appreciate it.”

Carlos Ukareda – “Whiskey Won’t Forget”

  • Boris — 2 — “The one thing worse than the Ed Sheeran wannabe: The Ed Sheeran Xerox. Cringe to the max.”
  • David — 4 — “Sweet breakup song, calm and fine listening to it. I don’t mind the song, very innocent in itself, but it doesn’t really do more than that. Really just one of those ‘just there’ songs, so not really something I’d want to listen to, or really pay any proper attention to. A catchy tune, but it needs so much more than just that.”
  • James — 3 —  “I once bought a $2 jug of whiskey at a gas station in Mexico that made me think Natalie Merchant was the President of the United States and physical contact with a Volvo would result in the nightmare merging of flesh and metal like what happened to the hero in A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child. To this day I argue 10,000 Maniacs did the best version of “Because the Night” and the XC90 is the pinnacle of automotive excellence. Both are more rational propositions than ‘Carlos Ukareda’s bland and clichéd pop-country break-up ballad deserves to win Eesti Laul 2023.’ If you want a whiskey vs. girl song, check out Chris Stapleton’s “Whiskey and You” and skip this. And all hail our Queen Whirling Dervish Natalie!”
  • Luca — 6 — “I need someone to do a study on why pop-country has such a chokehold on Eesti Laul! Country isn’t my favorite genre (unless we’re talking about Kacey Musgraves’ first two albums, then in that case, yeehaw!!), but one of the things I appreciate most about the country genre is how it’s used to tell frank, honest stories about real life. Though cliche at times, the lyrics have great imagery and storytelling, making for a compelling song, and hopefully, a compelling live performance this week! “
  • Tyler — 4 — “I listened to ‘Whiskey Won’t Forget’ right after ‘Why Do You Love Me’, so perhaps my judgment of this song is too harsh, but I don’t care! I liked the guitar twangs we could here sometimes as the motif of whiskey is prominent in country music songs. That being said, bro, you say that they’re no good for you, yet you’re still pining over them with the various memorabilia in your house, like. I don’t think there’s closure, and that’s on you and they don’t owe that to you! And now I’m writing this as if it’s a direct appeal to Carlos, I guess this song at least is more engaging than the other mentioned song in this write-up? I still don’t care for it, but I’ll rate it just a little bit higher.”

Elysa – “Bad Philosophy”

  • Boris — 7.5 — “I see we’ve already arrived at the ‘Ironic-soon-to-be-Unironic Boris Fave’ section of the Reviews. ‘Bad Philosophy’ is a Stig Rästa bop which sounds it was ripped straight from an Elina Born mixtape during her Miss Calculation era and you won’t convince me otherwise. Elysa evens sings it in a pitch that makes her voice sound EXACTLY like Elina’s. The scrumptitude of Elisa “Elysa” Kolk truly knows no boundaries and I have no choice but to laugh and stan her Evil Slytherin Genius. Get her (and Merlyn) on Real Housewives: The Baltic ASAP!!”
  • David — 7 — “We sure are back to the 80’s with this one, and it’s not a bad thing either. It has it’s catchy moments and the beat is actually very nice. I do wish there could’ve been a solo with some heavy instruments or more beats to it overall. Eventually, it will get noticed, that it’s maybe a bit too much of the same beat, but lovely catchy song.”
  • James — 5 — “A lazy throwback in style to the ‘80s. Lyrically, Elysa could have done more with the “bad philosophy” schtick (throw in some lyrics like “I Kant get over you!” or “Heidegger your style, baby!”). If you’re going to go daft with a mid-tempo electropop number, might as well go all in. Otherwise, as Albert Camus says, if you believe in nothing and present nothing to the world in which we cannot affirm any value, then everything is possible and nothing has any importance. This song is nothing, and for it to win Eesti Laul 2023 would affirm its harshest critics’ contentions that this national selection has no value.”
  • Luca — 7 — “This song follows an effective trend that we’ve seen work wonderfully for many a pop girlie: think Dua Lipa, Carly Rae Jepsen, Foxes! ‘Bad Philosophy’ feels a little too derivative for me, but still catchy and fun to listen to.”
  • Tyler — 8 — “I read a YouTube comment that compared Elysa to Norway’s Raylee, and it’s a stunningly accurate comparison. Elysa returns with a retro 80s sounding bop that I find more charming in comparison to the first entry. ‘Bad Philosophy’ has the instrumentation and the vocals that I’m a sucker for, and I hope this does just as well as ‘Fire’ last year for her. I hope this entry can be done live this time!”

Inger – “Awaiting you”

  • Boris — 7 — “I’m vibing with this club party side of Inger’s. Who knew they had the capability of being fun? ‘Awaiting you’ is a fresh catchy tune, but is a bit paint-by-numbers for the funky vibe it’s trying to emulate. The song also has an abrupt ending that doesn’t suit it. ‘Awaiting you’ wouldn’t look out of place in a catalogue containing all the song’s Ben Dolic rejected before settling on ‘Violent thing,’ but that isn’t nearly the worst place a song could be. Upward and onwards, ms. Fridolin!”
  • David — 5 — “Very chill and alright, this is probably more of a personal view, that I don’t think the voice and the music clicks properly together. INGER has quite a high-pitched voice, which at some points get outdone by the music, which only slightly ruins the harmony, but I can accept it’s a fun song. I do anyhow, would like more energy and maybe more tempo as well overall, so it’s there in the middle.”
  • James — 5.5 — “I am not a big fan of Inger’s vocal style which results in most worlds being garbled. And doesn’t Inger mean “waiting for you” instead of “awaiting you”? Unless Inger is playing with the phrase and implying the object of their affection is functionally inanimate? Otherwise, this song is light indie pop froth and I will have forgotten the melody by the time the end of this sentence is reached.”
  • Luca — 6 — “Revenge for ‘Violent thing!’ It sounds like something I’d hear in the Top 40 here in the U.S. It sounds fresh and modern, though it’s not the most original.”
  • Tyler — 3 — “Okay, so I can totally see this song doing well in Eesti Laul. We’ve got a charismatic performer, an upbeat song that can be quite catchy, and there’s going to be some choreography added to this to make this pop performance-wise. That being said, I cannot look past my own personal preferences when I say that I dislike the sound of Inger’s voice 🙂 I’m sure it’s nice and pleasant to listeners, but to me, it sounds grating, and it’s the kind of vocal style I dislike quite a lot (example: the musical artist LP). I can see this winning the show, but best believe I’ll work to make sure this doesn’t win the ESCUnited jury ranking, and one could argue it’s much more prestigious.”

Linalakk & Bonzo – “Aeg”

  • Boris — 4 — “Is it possible to dislike an act merely based on the presentation? Linalakk and Bonzo demonstrate some of the most awkward ‘chemistry’ imaginable through the tangled web of physical discomfort and social awkwardness that makes up their VC. Their attempts to be physically affectionate despite their reverse polarity making them repulse each other on a subatomic level is sucking up ALL my attention, in a sort of grim, morbid fascination that I would normally reserve for MESC video teasers. That by itself should make you assume the music just doesn’t offer me much, which is correct, so rest assured that the score still would have been a very generous four out of ten regardless.”
  • David — 1 — “This was only 3 minutes??? I feel like I aged 3 years in that time.”
  • James — 8.5 — “It would take a special type of darkness for you to not enjoy this tender duet. The acoustic guitars are slight, and even using an adjective like gentle would be too jarring. There’s a story here, like two Jean-Claude Van Damme movie henchmen fell in love with each other and have a night off from shaking down Hong Kong laundromats. Their lives are usually chaotic, but for three minutes, these two lovers get to enjoy the bliss of being in each other’s company.”
  • Luca — 6 — “I liked the low-key, atmospheric and folksy feeling of this song. It was so sweet and pleasant. It didn’t click with me at first, but I listened to it again when I was having a busy, stressful day, and felt like this song pulled me in and asked me to slow down and be present. One comment described it as a ‘lullaby’ and that resonated with me.”
  • Tyler — 6 — “Overall, this was a nice and lovely song! There wasn’t a big crescendo or any crazy musical moment, but I don’t think there needed to be one for the atmosphere Linalaak and Bonzo were going for. For this entry to become a televote winner, there has to be a dramatic or beautiful moment onstage. Based solely on the audio of the song though, I can’t give a higher score. ‘Aeg’ was cute! But cute gets devoured when next to gorgeous…”

Total group score for semi 2 so far:

  1. Elysa – “Bad Philosophy” (6.9)
  2. Alika – “Bridges” (6.1)
  3. INGER – “Awaiting You” (5.3)
  4. Linalakk & Bonzo – “Aeg” (5.1)
  5. Carlos Ukareda – “Whiskey Won’t Forget” (3.8)

Total group score overall for Eesti Laul so far:

  1. Bedwetters – “Monsters” (8.4)
  2. Neon Letters & Maiko – “Tokimeki” (7.7)
  3. Elysa – “Bad Philosophy” (6.9)
  4. Ellip – “Pretty Girl” (6.6)
  5. OLLIE – “Venom” (6.5)
  6. Kaw – “Valik” (6.2)
  7. Alika – “Bridges” (6.1)
  8. MIA – “Üks Samm Korraga” (5.7)
  9. Anett x Fredi – “You Need to Move On” (5.5)
  10. INGER – “Awaiting You” (5.3)
  11. Janek – “House of Glass” (5.1)
  12. Linalakk & Bonzo – “Aeg” (5.1)
  13. MERLYN – “Unicorn Vibes” (4.1)
  14. Carlos Ukareda – “Whiskey Won’t Forget” (3.8)
  15. Andreas Poom – “Why Do You Love Me” (3.2)

In this house, we still stan “Monsters” the most! Check in on Thursday for the final part of our team review! 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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