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 wraps up its reaction to this year’s twenty Eesti Laul semi-finalists, giving the last five songs a score out of ten. In case you missed Part One (read it here), Part Two (read it here), and Part Three, (read it here) the current standings are:

  1. Merilin MälkLittle Girl”, 53 points
  2. Jyrise– “Plaksuta”, 50 points
  3. Elina Nechayeva– “Remedy”, 49 points
  4. Minimal Wind feat. Elisabeth Tiffany– “What to Make of This”, 47 points
  5. Anna Sahlene– “Champion”, 46 points
  6. Boamadu– “Mitte kauaks”, 45 points
  7. Andrei Zevakin feat. Grete Paia– “Mis nüüd saab”, 43.5 points
  8. Black Velvet– “Sandra”, 43 points
  9. Elysa– “Fire”, 40.5 points
  10. Jaagup Tuisk– “Kui vaid” & Maian– “Meeletu”, 40 points
  11. Helen– “Vaata minu poole”, 37.5 points
  12. Kaia-Liisa Kesler-“Vaikus”, 36 points
  13. Evelin Samuel– “Waterfall”, 32 points
  14. 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? We will tally all the numbers at the bottom of this article to find out. But before then …

Ott Lepland- “Aovalguses”

William: “I mean, Ott can SING. And the rasp in his voice really sells the brood and the mood. There’s an arc to the storytelling of this song. The songwriting and direction of the music video start out in a crisp, mournful black and white, before building to a climactic release and the gradual, hopeful introduction of color and soft piano keys. I want Ott, as a character in this song’s narrative, to find his light. I do. But after belting his way out of the pits of despair, I wish his final destination was more memorable.” 4.5/10

Boris: “The name ‘Aovalguses‘ sounds like a brand of industrial cough medicine or a venereal disease, and listening to this song is an equally unpleasant presence. It doesn’t help that Ott has developed a ‘Michael Fassbender playing a Nazi physician in a WW2 Mockumentary‘ sort of aesthetic. Anyway, this song… I LOATHE it and its specific brand of ‘deconstructed’ music, the sort that treats the instrumentation like a hindrance. It’s the antithesis of music, the same sort of sonic horror like that godawful Salvador Sobral performance we had to endure during the first semi of Benidorm last week.

What makes this even worse, however, are the deafeningly loud Ott fans that not only zealously opinion-shame anyone who dares to point out that ‘Aovalgusesis a crock-of-shit composition but claim that if you dislike Ott this year you know NOTHING of music altogether.  ¿QUE? I cannot IMAGINE a take worse than this, especially given music’s ultra-rich history AND specifically given what last year’s top crop sounded like, all of them VERY memorable, melodically rich tracks. Music at its best is fireworks. Its purpose in life is to celebrate it. If the music ISN’T the axis around which your song spins, you’re doing it wrong. The true insults to music aren’t as much songs such as ‘Aovalguses‘, but the assumption, no, the implication that a stripped-down musical void like ‘Aovalguses‘ is the standard we ought to strive towards. For that reason, instead of the 2/10 I would’ve given otherwise, it gets a big fat ZERO.

But I’m sure it has PrOfOuNd aNd mEaNiNgFuL LyRiCs to help channel its PuRe eMoTiOn.” 0/10

Roy: “I will come clear, ‘Kuula’ is easily my favourite Estonian song of all time. The thing with that song is that the studio is kind of lackluster. The live performance however: insane! The same will likely happen with ‘Aovalguses’. On this studio version, however, his voice already sounds insane. I would have perhaps preferred a more memorable chorus, but boy am I looking forward to hearing this live! Definitely in it to win it!” 9/10

Tyler: “Based solely on this song (and discounting that ‘Kuula’ is the better entry), I feel like this is the favorite to win Eesti Laul. And that concerns me. ‘Aovalguses’ starts off as a song you’d play in the background at a wedding reception, when a slideshow starts for the happy couple, and then becomes a climactic show-off of Ott’s pipes midway through, then just dies soon after. The staging would have to pick up a lot to carry the song. There’s some beauty to this song, if you look for it, but not enough to really carry it, and I worry about this performed live. It feels unfinished, perhaps lost in the wind. The live performance would really need to wow me, and I certainly hope it does.” 4/10 

David: “This man can sing… yea, that’s it. What? Me to care for an emotional ballad? Nope, just plain bored.” 2/10

Stefan: “To this day, I wonder how he finished 6th  in 2012, but, oh well, that’s in the past. ‘Aovalguses’ is miles better than ‘Kuula’, but is it good enough to win Eesti Laul 2022? I don’t think so. Yes, it is a ballad. Yes, we can hear his powerful vocals, but there’s jut not much to it…” 5/10

James: “This song of sadness for Ott’s Saab, or whatever he’s wailing about in the field in the video while dressed like a finance manager, doesn’t quite do it for me. It has the narrow dimension of a Michael Bolton song: simple piano, a sensitive middle-age man’s howling in pain at a love lost, and gradually folded in fake strings to add class, as if to remind the listener that the protagonist made love in a Tallinn penthouse and not on the back of a Seadoo outside a Joe’s Crab Shack in Fort Lauderdale. Every office has a middle manager who rambles on about craft beer. This song is the Adult (Cuck)temporary anthem for that guy to sing, when his woman tires of his beer journal and tasting notes and leaves him for Željko Joksimović. Yes, she found the light, and it’s the purple ambient lighting of Željko’s Mercedes-Benz E400 back seat.” 4/10

Total: 28.5

Púr Múdd & Shira- “Golden Shores”

William: “I sometimes think I’ve grown tired of the synth-y, ’80s-ification of modern pop music. Then I listen to a song like ‘Golden Shores’ and realize I’m just tired of songs doing it BADLY. The hypnotic soundscape, the back-and-forth interplay between the vocalists, the deep, bass-y underscoring … all of it is just COOL. Mix that with an eerie, addictive synth-line that often sounds like it’s foretelling the arrival of Jason Voorheeves, and you’ve got a winner in my book.” 7.5/10

Boris: “After two good quarter-finals, I thought this year’s EestiLeaks was already slowly heading towards the ‘Best Eesti Laul of the Rahula Era’ award. Then the last quater-final opens with this unbelievably good synth-pop song. ‘HEAD OVER HEELS IN LOVE WITH THIS  I WANT THE VIBE HOOKED INTO MY BLOODSTREAM VIA AN IV‘-levels of OBSESSED. It’s hard to put in words why I love the unexpected synergy between Púr Múdd & Shira, but it works so well. I love how the synths remind me of ‘Enjoy The Silence’ (one of my all-time favourite songs). I love how, like, we finally have a good synth-pop song in Eesti Laul that *can* do very well in ESC, with the right support. In an ideal world, Púr Múdd & Shira just win easily and form an unbreakable EDM core with We Are Domi, but, in our flawed, Covid-stricken world, ‘Golden Shores‘ is the ‘Seis’: an inspired, potentially meta-defying choice that will be denied by the audience in favour of insipid crap such as ‘Aovalguses‘. Just watch.” 10/10

Roy: “At first listen, this one is quite delightful and enjoyable. The replay value isn’t there for me. It is a tad on the repetitive side and, perhaps, also a tad underwhelming for a competition like this. Cool to put on a playlist, and I could see myself recommending this to a few friends, but not necessarily that standout piece that we are looking for.” 7/10

Tyler: “Ignoring the music video (referencing Squid Game? I CAN’T…), “Golden Shores” is perfectly pleasant and daring, in some respects, too. Shira feels a little too cool for Púr Múdd, but she elevates the song well, and I quite like her past entries to Eesti Laul! ‘Golden Shores’ feels like a song that could work on stage (as long as it doesn’t date itself with pop culture references), and if they bring the energy, this could be a dark horse. Very curious to see how this looks, and I enjoyed the song quite a lot for how interesting the composition is to me.” 8.5/10

David: “Very nice composition, but I have one huge problem: the chorus that fails to strike with me correctly. It feels like it’s the song’s weakest point, as it comes out as a bit lackluster. The beat, the flow, overall composition … all seem so well-produced, and then the chorus just sounds uninspiring.” 5/10

Stefan: “I can see myself dancing to this song, but not in the Euroclub. How can I put it… The melody is good-more than good, heck, I would use it as my ringtone-but I don’t like the singing. I am not saying that they don’t know how to sing, I just can’t feel the connection between the melody and their singing.” 5.5/10

James: “Mumble mumble something. Those are the English (I think) lyrics by the least dynamic duo I’ve heard at a national selection in a while. I’ve developed better rapport with a parking meter than what exists between these two. The most interesting thing about the video is that the main sponsor is an Apple repair store and reseller. Really counters the Land Rover and expensive hotel imagery they’re going for. Slick production, I do like the bass, but the lead performers bury it with their indifference.” 4/10

Total: 47.5

Stefan- “Hope”

William: “There’s a deep, dust-y quality to Stefan’s voice that really works here. And, unlike other wannabe ‘country’ songs we’ve seen this year, ‘Hope’ isn’t chasing modern pop country production. If Steffen put the ‘country’ in ‘country western’ at the second MGP semi-final, Stefan is bringing the ‘western’. This Ennio-Morricone-by-way-of-Aviici sound is at least something different. ‘Hope’ wouldn’t be my first, second, or third choice for Estonia this year (in fact, it would be my eighth), but I can’t be TOO mad if it wins.”  6.5/10

Boris: “Sadboi emo sheds his feigned inferiority complex to become a cowboy. A more sensible country would probably dismiss a ‘Hope’ on sight, as it’s too gimmicky to really be taken seriously. (It is, after all, an Aviicii track with spaghetti western riffs <3. ), but Stefan is randomly beloved by the cat ladies and could very well win <3. The look on the faces of the Ott fans when Stefan beats him in the jury vote will be DELISH.” 8/10

Roy: “A nice try, but a few year late. This type of song has been a bit out of trend and was only really popular a few years ago. Regardless of what you think of that, though, I think this is the most complete song that Stefan has submitted so far. His voice is amazing, and I feel like he will strike gold eventually. This year, the selection is very strong, so I don’t think he will or should win. Stefan can be proud of this and will probably do quite well in the competition yet again!” 7/10

Tyler: “The big thing I like about ‘Hope’ is the hook, which gives Spaghetti Western in a fun way. That being said, there isn’t too much else about ‘Hope’ that makes it as big of a fan favorite as I think it is? Stefan is literally burying ‘hope‘ in the music video! There isn’t too much depth going on with the song, other than just the vibe of it. It’s a good vibe, but that’s pretty much it to me. If this does go to Eurovision, at least it’ll give us country music representation we won’t get from the Netherlands.” 7.5/10 

David: “Some good old Western, that’s always interesting, and God damn does it hit well! This is a story right here. I’m getting all the right vibes here, the slow western intro with a classic guitar, the build-up … I’m blown away, pure perfection! The only thing I hope right now is to see this on the big stage in Torino!” 10/10

Stefan: “And, of course, there is also a country song. Never been a big fan of the genre, but this song is listenable. I would probably get fond of it after listening to it couple of more times, but, after the ESC season, chances are slim that I would get back to it.” 7/10

James: “Hammy Scandipop with country western flourishes. There have been some dreadful country attempts from Latvia and Norway this year, so thankfully Stefan takes the only viable route and saddles up with some stereotypical Swedish pop production, rather than feeding lutefisk to a horse (or whatever simile you want to use to describe going Swedish on a country western track). Not very original, as we’ve seen it this past few years (e.g. that one song about being heroes of our time) in quite a few incarnations. But Stefan, likes Måns Zelmerlöw, does possess the genial goofiness to sell a corny track like this.” 7/10

Total: 53

Stig Rästa- “Interstellar”

William: “As far as straight ahead pop compositions go, this is Estonia’s best option this year. Stig Rästa knows what he’s doing. You can hate on his songs for being a bit … expected, but he and his collaborators knows how to write great hooks and compose anthemic music tracks. My mind isn’t blown, and I’m not listening to this on repeat, but it’s incredibly solid. And ‘solid’ is often underrated. When you listen to a Stig song, you know you’re going to hear the work of a pro.” 7/10

Boris: “This is just an amalgamation of every mid-teens radio hit, the sort that might become a better than nothing option in Eurovision pre-selections, once all good songs have been killed off. ‘Interstellar’  has no identity of its own, however. Its only ‘selling point‘ comes in the shape of NFTs  (what is an NFT btw? Is that short for Nicely Formulated Theft?). In past Tomivisions, I would have taken an ‘Interstellar‘, but this year we can do so much better for ourselves. Like ‘Little Girl‘, for instance. Or ‘Plaksuta‘. Or even ‘Meeletu‘. But not this generic-ass scam that aims at the lowest common denominator.” 5.5/10

Roy: “I think this is Stig’s most solid solo attempt so far. A very good pop song that he will easily be able to deliver live. I think this would be the safe option to send for Estonia. It is an improved version of ‘Storm’, in a way. Would definitely think this has a solid shot at qualifying and not getting last in the grand final. However, there are other, more risky options in the selection that could give Estonia a higher placement, if they play their cards right.” 7.5/10

Tyler: “There isn’t anything technically wrong with ‘Interstellar’, as the music and lyrics are pretty inoffensive to me, and it isn’t like Stig sings poorly. Rather, ‘Interstellar’ as an experience feels like the vastness of space: empty. The song is pleasant, but not enough for it to grab my attention. ‘Interstellar’ goes nowhere to me the entire time. So, again, it isn’t an unpleasant experience to listen to. But, rather, it’s like I lost three minutes from listening to it, and it doesn’t seem remarkable to me at all. Stig might pull off some fun dance moves onstage, but I just don’t care for this song at all. I hope it improves live.” 5/10

David: “Very youthful, with a nice beat, and professionally produced. This is what you call ‘playing a safe card’, something you’d easily hear on mainstream radio. Not what I personally would’ve expected from Stig, which does score some extra points with me. But, in the end, this is a competition where your average radio-friendly song won’t stick out.” 5/10

Stefan: “I am sorry to say, but this isn’t one of Stig’s strongest entries in Eesti Laul. There were better and there were worse. Comparing it to the rest of this year’s bunch, it just gets lost. I’ve heard and forgot about it. Or maybe my standards are way up high after ‘Goodbye to Yesterday’ [in 2015].” 4.5/10

James: “The video has a negative tone, which the song itself does not have and which does not bode well for his staging. This is Stig’s typical pop, aided by Swedish mercenaries for the ‘Live Laugh Love’-signs-in-the-kitchen crowd. It’s endearing in that, ‘you can be a bitch, I can be a jerk, but we love each other,’ way, but not very original … especially the generic pop track Stig’s vocals are layered onto.” 6/10

Total: 40.5

Triin Niitoja and Frants Tikerpuu- “Laululind”

William: “I can only assume one or both of these two are wildly famous in Estonia? How else to explain that the televote advanced this out of the quarter-final? Triin and Frants are vocally gifted, no doubt, and the layering of their voices here is well done. But this song is dated. It’s bordering on a Christian worship music-sound, even. With respect to them as singers, I DO NOT get it.” 2.5/10

Boris: “For those who don’t know: this is what torture sounds like for people with both ADD and synesthesia (ie: moi). ‘Laululind’  is an utterly stultifying experience that also manages to be both irritating AND forgettable. (Triin’s voice specifically is very twee, but that works Happiness Anthems like ‘This is our choice’; here, it’s annoying beyond reason.) The title may translate to ‘Songbird’, but listening to ‘Laululind’ is like having a mosquito buzz around your room at 3 AM while you’re trying to sleep. Go away, or get squashed by the competition.” 3/10

Roy: “I did not expect this to work, but, as of right now, this works very well! I am very aware that this song runs a massive risk live and that it could very well fall flat with a mediocre vocal or a lack of chemistry. Currently, it is one of the more memorable songs for me, and it is proudly sitting fourth in my personal top. It isn’t really ground-breaking, and this would probably not do very well on Eurovision, either, but I enjoy it, and I am glad it is in Eesti Laul this year!” 7.5/10

Tyler: “Duets aren’t quite my thing, case in point: ‘Laululind’. Guess I sort of find this song, all about remembering the good times after a breakup (at least this is my perspective of the lyrics and the video), boring to listen to. I don’t see how the song would work well enough for me to like it being performed. I do think Triin and Frants sing the song well, and I don’t doubt their talents, but the song itself puts me to sleep like Laudanum. I wish I liked the song more, but I look forward to changing my mind when we see the live performance.” 5.5/10 

David: “Sweet, very sweet… but I’m bored… I’ll definitely point out that both are great singers, and they create something in this song, magical indeed. However, I’m REALLY bored.” 2/10

Stefan: “How much I was lacking of overall feelings with ‘Waterfall’, I got all of that here. I just love the piano parts. Even though I don’t understand a word, I really felt everything. This needs to stay in Estonian! Hopefully, they will able to transfer the magic from the video on stage. ” 7/10

James: “The title track from Steven Wilson’s masterpiece The Raven That Refused to Sing is about an old man who is convinced that the raven that visits his garden is his sister coming back. He believes that when the raven sings a comforting song, like his sister did when he was scared as a child, it provides validation of his hopes and comfort … as everyone in his family has long since died. The raven doesn’t sing, and, in fact, taunts the man with his refusal to do so, and the man dies sad and alone. ‘Laululind’ is about two songbirds you want to shut up. There’s no deep metaphor in the lyrics of this song. It’s a shallow duet about two lovers who occasionally have a fight, but, when they make sweet music together, they take flight. I am not going to speculate on how the duo makes their sweet music, but, in terms of vocal performance, it’s all a bit flat and uninteresting.” 3/10

Total: 30.5 

And there you have it. Team ESCUnited’s reactions to and scoring of all twenty Eesti Laul semi-finalists. Now for the fun part. When we crunch the numbers, our full ranking is as follows:

  1. Merilin MälkLittle Girl” & Stefan– “Hope”, 53 points
  2. Jyrise– “Plaksuta”, 50 points
  3. Elina Nechayeva– “Remedy”, 49 points
  4. Púr Múdd & Shira– “Golden Shores”, 47.5 points
  5. Minimal Wind feat. Elisabeth Tiffany– “What to Make of This”, 47 points
  6. Anna Sahlene– “Champion”, 46 points
  7. Boamadu– “Mitte kauaks”, 45 points
  8. Andrei Zevakin feat. Grete Paia– “Mis nüüd saab”, 43.5 points
  9. Black Velvet– “Sandra”, 43 points
  10. Elysa– “Fire” & Stig Rästa– “Interstellar”, 40.5 points
  11. Jaagup Tuisk– “Kui vaid” & Maian– “Meeletu”, 40 points
  12. Helen– “Vaata minu poole”, 37.5 points
  13. Kaia-Liisa Kesler-“Vaikus”, 36 points
  14. Evelin Samuel– “Waterfall”, 32 points
  15. Alabama Watchdog– “Move On” & Triin Niitoja and Frants Tikerpuu– “Laululind”, 30.5 points
  16. Ott Lepland– “Aovalguses”, 28.5 points

In our #1 spot … we have a tie! Merilin Mälk and Stefan both received 53 points from our panelists. But how are we going to break this and, if necessary, the other ties in our ranking? A runoff! I compared our panelists’ individual scores for the songs that are tied, and the song from each pair that the majority of our experts preferred came out on top! With that done, here is who we would qualify out of both semi-finals, based on our collective scoring:

Semi-Final 1

Merilin MälkLittle Girl”

Elina Nechayeva– “Remedy”

Andrei Zevakin feat. Grete Paia– “Mis nüüd saab”

Elysa– “Fire”

Stig Rästa– “Interstellar”

Semi-Final 2

Stefan– “Hope”

Jyrise– “Plaksuta”

Púr Múdd & Shira– “Golden Shores”

Minimal Wind feat. Elisabeth Tiffany– “What to Make of This”

Anna Sahlene– “Champion”

As for our winner? All but one of our panelists scored “Little Girl” higher than “Hope”, narrowly making Merilin Mälk Team ESCUnited’s official pick for Eesti Laul!

But will we get our wish? Eesti Laul kicks off with its first semi-final on Thursday! Tune in and find out.

Which song are #YOU rooting for? Is there a song #YOU are surprised didn’t make our collective qualification wish list? I thought for sure Boamadu were locks, but they JUST missed. Sound off in the comments below, in our forum, or on social media @ESCUnited.

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2 Comments

  1. […] Tuesday, Team ESC United finished our preview coverage of all twenty Eesti Laul semi-finalists, scoring each song to determine which five songs we would […]

  2. […] Tuesday, Team ESC United finished our preview coverage of all twenty Eesti Laul semi-finalists, scoring each song to determine which five songs we would […]

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