All opinions expressed in this article are those of the person quoted and do not necessarily represent the opinions of the other team members or ESC United as a whole.

Team ESCUnited is making its way through the twenty semi-finalists competing in this year’s Eesti Laul, five songs at a time, giving each song a score out of ten. In case you missed Part One (read it here), the current standings are:

  1. Anna Sahlene– “Champion”, 46 points
  2. Boamadu– “Mitte kauaks”, 45 points
  3. Andrei Zevakin feat. Grete Paia– “Mis nüüd saab”, 43.5 points
  4. Black Velvet– “Sandra”, 43 points
  5. Alabama Watchdog– “Move On”, 30.5 points

Welcome back to our seven (self-proclaimed) experts:

Which songs do we want to see advance out of the semis? Which song sounds like a winner? There’s only one way to find out.

Elina Nechayeva- “Remedy”

William: “No one should be surprised by Elina’s vocal chops. She can SING. This song just isn’t on her level, and not because it’s much more pop-forward than her operatic 2018 entry. I’m all for Elina experimenting with her voice, seeing how it can play in different types of songs. My problem is the lyrics. They are SO literal, almost as if they were written using predictive text. Is it too late to translate this into a language I don’t speak? That being said, chances are high that a live performance will elevate ‘Remedy’ immensely. We’ll have to wait and see.” 4/10

Boris: “It was strange processing ‘Remedy’ at first, because it was not quite what I expected. We all assumed popera, so when she hit us with ‘ethereal evanescence ballad’ instead, our brains needed to adjust. I love this song, though. It’s soothing, atmospheric and captivating. I think it should win Eesti Laul, but I’d wager Estonia would go for Stefan (lol) or Anna (Loooooooollll) instead before they would think about rewarding an actually good composition such as this one.  Oh well, there’s always Un Voce Per San Marino, I guess.” 8.5/10

Roy: “I am so happy that she is back with a song that isn’t opera. Sure,  ‘La Forza’ was cool to have in the line-up at the time, but, for me, it just doesn’t have a replay value. With ‘Remedy’, Elina is showing us that she is also very capable of singing a ‘normal’ ballad. She still shows off her great voice as well. The major thing about this song is that it only really kicks off after two minutes have already passed. Even then, the eclipse isn’t as epic, cool or memorable as it could have been.” 6/10

Tyler: “Part of what makes ‘Remedy’ work is the sort of mystery behind it. The song reads simple to me at first, especially with the initial aesthetic of the music video being a car commercial. But then it culminates with Elina’s operatic vocals to disorient the viewer. I’m not sure exactly what ‘Remedy’ will look like on stage, but it’s got to be interesting given the composition of the song. There’s enough mystique to be intrigued, and I like how almost fantasy realm-esque the lyrics are here. Multiple listens make me miss a little more magic though, but I still quite enjoy this overall.” 8.5/10

David: “I’m struggling to pull something out here, knowing Elina has a gifted voice, so I’m trying to respect that she is free to sing different styles of songs. I feel her voice is not given a chance to shine in this song, and the moment she gets to hit a high note, it comes out as a unpleasant screech. Oh yeah, and there was some music there as well, I guess…” 3/10

Stefan: “I know that a lot of people won’t like what they are about to read, but I think ‘Remedy’ is 100x better than ‘La Forza’. I feel so much magic listening this song. I’m getting chills every time when I play it. That less is more has just been proven here.” 10/10

James: “On a recent ESC United livestream, I said that having the fantastic singer of ‘La Forza’ not do opera would be akin to inviting the late Eddie Van Halen and having him sit on a chair onstage instead of shredding. I was wrong. Elina does New Age very well, and though the song feels like its building up a little too slowly, the payoff when the guitars and drums come in and Elina lets loose is triumphant. This is different from ‘La Forza’, and though it’s too soon to tell if ‘Remedy’ is an improvement or not, that Elina is not retreading old glories and being successful is a compelling enough reason to send this to Turin.” 9/10

Total: 49

Elysa- “Fire”

William: “We’ve been getting a lot of songs like this at national finals in the last few years. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining. But in terms of ethnobops, this one REALLY has nothing new to add. It’s very on the nose, bordering on self-parody. It is so literal and derivative that it would not have been out of place in The Story of Fire Saga.  That being said, and as much as I hate to admit it, there’s an undeniable pull this song has on my inner basicness. On a primal level, it works. It’s cheap, but it’s effective.” 4/10

Boris: “Can’t. think. Of this song. Without. Cracking up. ‘Wisteria Lane resident-looking frau enters EestiLeaks with a shameless and mercenary ‘Fuego’ rip-off [nb: it’s literally called ‘fire’], snatches a top 3 televote slot without any seeming effort, easily qualifying, despite the massive competition present in QF4.’ At a certain point, you just have to stan Elysa for Playing. The. Game. very well; that, and for not rhyming ‘Fire’ with ‘Desire’. Thank f*ck for that, too.” 7.5/10

Roy: “I am very glad that they didn’t go for the cliché of trying to rhyme ‘fire’ with as many other words as possible. Now is this a good song? Unfortunately, no. The lyrics are still very straight-forward and in your face. I also feel like this just wouldn’t do well nowadays. Perhaps 5/6 years ago, but not anymore, unfortunately. Other examples do it better as well, and this already isn’t a genre that I enjoy to begin with.” 3.5/10

Tyler: “This feels like Estonia’s attempt at trying to capture the magic of a certain Cypriot song that other countries and Cyprus have been trying to repeat ever since 2018. For this attempt, I think it’s just fine? I like some of the guitar in the music, and I think Elysa could become a powerhouse on the stage perhaps when it’s time. But, right now, I felt only whelmed with this entry. I wish I liked it more, but ‘Fire’ also feels more of the same.

P.S. Also, rhyming ‘fire’ with itself just seems lazy. Couldn’t you rhyme it with ‘desire’ instead at least? Bah!” 6/10 

David: “That’s one muy caliente Spanish guitar, that mixes into a burning explosive beat. Elysa will no doubt make the place burn down to the ground, whether it’s the one way or the other. Despite all of that, it’s a very simplistic melody. It’s done right, but a song with this much heat hasn’t completely burned me up.” 8/10

Stefan: “Well it’s not ‘Fuego’, but we all have to admit that this is a BOP! I like the beats, the melody, my overall impression is that I am satisfied. There are some concerns how will she sound live. Of course there are gonna be four backing dancers, but I think we all can just come to peace with that level of creativity, since there’s nothing we can do about it. I can also admit that i did add it on my playlist.” 8.5/10

James: “Another dance banger with a fire metaphor written by Swedish mercenaries. Great. In and of itself, it is fine. Fun even. But it is a dated photocopy of tracks that were done better years ago. I can’t in good conscience endorse this when there are artists in this selection who at least dally with the concept of originality.” 3/10

Total: 40.5

Evelin Samuel- “Waterfall”

William: “This song is a bit of an odd-duck, but in a refreshing way. Its uniqueness is in its rich soundscape: new-age music beats, layered with choral melodies and epic percussion, topped off with the moody hum of a Theremin. There’s a deceptive amount of production present in ‘Waterfall’ as a studio track, but the end result sounds so simple and clean. In one word, I’d describe it as ‘hypnotic’. This will definitely not be for everyone, but I hope voters give it a shot and just let it wash over them. If nothing else, it’s an incredibly effective mood piece.” 6.5/10

Boris: “A watered-down ‘Diamond of Night’. What a shame.” 6/10

Roy: “The audience for this song, simply put, isn’t me … It is just too dated and doesn’t do anything for me. It is cool to have for variety-purposes, but it is just a bit forgettable and underwhelming.” 2.5/10

Tyler: “The lyrics feel something to be desired to me, as I find just saying geological terms that relate to water doesn’t flow for me as much as an actual waterfall. The music is nice, and I love the use of a theremin! High-key want to see if they have someone play it on stage during the performance, whether by Evelin or otherwise, as that would be fun to see. Overall, ‘Waterfall’ has some interesting parts to it, but not enough for me to fall in love with. I guess I might be on an island in that regard.” 7/10

David: “Slow start, it starts building up, and before it hits, I’m bored. Lyrics comes out as pointless and absolutely insignificant, and then there is just nothing really to care for. Dreadful!” 1/10

Stefan: “I feel like I am listening to a revamped, republished version of her 1999 entry. Apparently this is her style. I would dare to call it jazz-y, even though I am a bit confused. Some would say different is better, especially at Eurovision, but here I am just flatlined.” 3.5/10

James: “Two demerits for me are the daft lyrics and the multi-tracked vocal harmonies that give a lot of people the Agnetha/Anna-Frid from ABBA vibes. ‘I am a waterfall, falling for you,’ is fine, depending on your tolerance for puns, but what the hell does the follow up to that in chorus, ‘I will be a waterfall with you,’ mean? And the harmonies grate, as the lyrics are from the point of view of a feminine singular, so feminines plural singing those lyrics is a bit jarring. Sure, I don’t mind a bit of retro kitsch, but only if it’s done well. There’s a couple of issues here, however.” 5.5/10

Total: 32

Helen- “Vaata minu poole”

William: “There’s something charming about this, in a Wine Mom’s Nite Out-kinda way. Helen left the kids with dad, and she’s ready to hit the town with her gay friend and Debbie from hot yoga. She has NO rhythm, but that won’t stop her from dancing like she used to. At precisely 10:19 PM, she will run out of steam and get an Uber home. She will eat exactly half of a low-calorie ice cream sandwich from her freezer, apply moisturizer, change into her husband’s faded college football T-Shirt, and crawl into bed.

Anyway, the song? Eh. It is what it is.” 3.5/10

Boris: “If Elysa being a Desperate Housewife was funny, then meet Helen de Lesseps, who is like an Estonian Real Housewife.  Despite having no discernible musical talent, Helen manages to ambitiously pursue a career in music because she has a Rich-Itch Husbando who pays for all wifey’s whims.  Including sim cards, as Helen was a shock-televote qualifier in the semis. Besides that, I find her general affect just funny? Dancing-Bedroom-Karaoke-Choreo to a basic, but enjoyable, electropop track, like she’s Mirud after an overdose of ‘Me Tana’. There are surely worse entries around, conceptually, than ‘Vaata Minu Poole’ (which my Google Translate claims is Estonian for ‘View My Pool’).  In a truly just world, she qualifies over boring shit like ‘Vaikus’ and demonic shit like ‘Aovalguses’, but you know she’ll be punished by Estonia’s utterly humourless voter base. Unless hubby’s sim cards come to her rescue first.” 8/10

Roy: “Every single time that I start listening to this song, I have the feeling that I have never heard this song before. It just doesn’t stick for some reason. Then the chorus comes around and a bell starts to ring again. Quite simple lyrics there that are decent to sing along to. I feel like this has a big danger to feel and sound very flat in the live performance. A bit too dated, a bit too middle of the road and underwhelming. This is not the one.” 3/10

Tyler: “SIM card queen! Honestly have no idea how this made it to the semi-finals, but thank you to the televoting Estonians for this. The video gave me Adult ARK Music Factory vibes, but still a serviceable song. This might be crazy good live, or this might be a disaster, but I feel this will be vastly entertaining to watch. ‘Vaata minu poole’ is a fun song and definitely needed in this selection.” 8/10 

David: “I’m getting some classical ’70s and ’80s vibes here, and yet still modern. A decent effort, it works, it’s not too switching and stands its ground for what it is. I respect the effort, but I would honestly never really get into this style myself, a bit slow and out of my time.” 4/10

Stefan: “This girl is giving us some disco vibes. The only thing missing are the rollerblades. Hehehe, JK… I can’t say it’s monotonous, because it’s not, but I just can’t connect with it. There are many better songs in Eesti Laul this year, there are some less [good], and this one goes in the middle.” 5/10

James: “Is this a walk of shame anthem? The rising sun makes her blush after a night spent with her new fella, where she wishes she had stayed? Yes, it is. It’s a mid-tempo middle-aged (even though she’s only 35) pop song, oozing middle class respectability fraying as Helen tries to formalize her sexual relationship into something more long-lasting. Something to get her beyond the night. I do wonder if there is a sub-genre for this as you see a couple of these a year from the Baltic countries from 30 and 40-somethings? Slow love songs from X-ennials born in and still haunted by memories of the Soviet Union and coping with the societal changes as they merged into the European Union.” 6/10

Total: 37.5

Jaagup Tuisk- “Kui vaid”

William: “This song is chasing the similar … industrial-meets-falsetto sound that Jüri brought with ‘Magus Melanhoolia’ at Eesti Laul last year, but in a more lyrical, less experimental way. I dig the lush composition that builds with the flow of the song. His vocal is in conversation with the instruments. The song could use some trimming or rearranging. It reaches what sounds like the climax about two minutes in, but repeats itself as it extends for another full minute. Because of this, it doesn’t end as strongly as it begins. Interested to see how this will look and sound live, though.” 6/10

Boris: “Did you mean ‘MAGUS MELANHOOLIA’? — Googlebot. This song is a full minute longer than Jüri’s, and never quite justifies why it has the additional runtime. ‘Kui vaid’ is not uninteresting, I suppose, but also definitely not interesting.” 6/10

Roy: “Jaagup learned from his previous attempt. This song is recorded in a lower register that he is more likely to be able to sing live. Adding to that is the beautiful Estonian language. The background track of this song has a filmography feeling to it. Good to have in a national selection and to showcase himself as an artist, but the song is maybe not strong and memorable enough to do well at Eurovision.” 7/10

Tyler: “Part of the appeal for ‘Kui vaid’ is how dissonant the two halves of the song are. The first half feels supernatural in a lot of ways, then culminates into a loud and uplifting crescendo that drowns out Jaagup to me. Jaagup could perform well, particularly given Eesti Laul 2020, but the halves could be a bit jarring if not tied together very well. To me, the song works after multiple listens, but the performance would have to be able to work just once to get votes. Overall, I enjoyed ‘Kui vaid’! Just not as much as a few others!” 8/10

David: “I’m getting emotional vibes, but that doesn’t matter at all, because I don’t understand what is being sung about, so there is no connection there. Which is a huge problem, because the song overall gives me this feeling that the lyrics matter the most here, so the music is completely overshadowed and close to non-existent… I end up judging words in a language I’m not familiar with.” 2/10

Stefan: “I really liked the mystic intro and then came the refrain, when I got disappointed. Locally, this could do well, but I highly doubt it can go far at Eurovision. Don’t know if I’m the only one, but it somehow reminds me on Uku’s song last year.” 4/10

James: “A massive improvement on his horrible 2020 effort ‘Beautiful Lie’. The lyrics are more poetic, less whiny. Jaagup sings in Estonian, which is better, as his English in ‘Beautiful Lie’ was sung terribly (two-syllable ‘fight’ being a low point). Excellent percussion keeps this song moving, and, unlike other songs in recent Baltic selections, the bass drops are not clumsily deployed like farts at a funeral. Jaagup won’t win my best song, but he’ll win my most improved artist of any national selection in 2022. Massive respect should be given to someone who took notes from critics and improved his craft.” 7/10

Total: 40

Once again, opinions among our experts are varied, with every song receiving praise from some and side-eye from others. We’ve tallied up the votes, and here’s where things stand:

  1. Elina Nechayeva– “Remedy”, 49 points
  2. Anna Sahlene– “Champion”, 46 points
  3. Boamadu– “Mitte kauaks”, 45 points
  4. Andrei Zevakin feat. Grete Paia– “Mis nüüd saab”, 43.5 points
  5. Black Velvet– “Sandra”, 43 points
  6. Elysa– “Fire”, 40.5 points
  7. Jaagup Tuisk– “Kui vaid”, 40 points
  8. Helen– “Vaata minu poole”, 37.5 points
  9. Evelin Samuel– “Waterfall”, 32 points
  10. Alabama Watchdog– “Move On”, 30.5 points

We have a new front-runner! Returning champion Elina Nechayeva has taken an impressive jump into the lead. The other four songs reviewed this week weren’t so lucky, with all of them falling near the bottom of our collective ranking. But we’re only halfway through this year’s Eesti Laul competitors. There’s plenty of time to shake things up! Come back next Tuesday to read our thoughts on:

  • Jyrise– “Plaksuta”
  • Kaia-Liisa Kesler-“Vaikus”
  • Maian– “Meeletu”
  • Merilin MälkLittle Girl”
  • Minimal Wind feat. Elisabeth TiffanyWhat to Make of This”

Do #YOU agree with our takes on these five songs? Do #YOU think any of them have what it takes to go all the way? Sound off in the comments below, in our forum, or on social media @ESCUnited.

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