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) and Part Two (read it here), the current standings are:

  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

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.

Jyrise- “Plaksuta”

William: “Now we’re talking! This is DOPE. Catchy, cheeky, full of energy and attitude … the whole package. In a contest full of retreads and returnees, Jyrise stands out in a big way. He has a distinct voice, a modern sound, a refreshing flair. And the jury had to save this?! Unacceptable. If performed well, this song should be in serious contention for the win. As it is, I worry Estonia won’t even vote it into the final. Regardless, ‘Plaksuta’ gets full marks from me. I wouldn’t change a thing.” 10/10

Boris: “My first thought of Jyrise was ‘OMG uptempo??? YESSS‘ (ok it was actually my second thought – my first was ‘Hand tattoos… are those necessary?’), and I never looked back. In this selection, ‘Plaksuta’ is a mirth geyser, raining down unbridled fun and clap-infused cheers all over the place – leave it to a FINN to liven up the Estonian selection – I cannot wait for  Jyrise to fully unleash the barely-contained chaos energy of ‘Plaksuta’ during the live <3 – Anyway, barring any on-stage disasters by the other other acts, Jyrise doesn’t qualify for the EL finale, and that sucks, because he would qualify for the Eurovision finale in a heartbeat. If only Estonians loved fun as much as regular people did.” 8.5/10

Roy: “This is my personal third favourite of the selection. I love the flow that Jyrise has, and the beat is very unconventional and cool. The chorus is very catchy and will definitely make people dance. Now, I love this, but I am also very aware that not everyone will love this. The live performance is also a big insecurity for me, and the song has the danger of falling flat in that performance. I think this might just be a tad too much of a risk to go for if Estonia want to do well.” 8/10

Tyler: “The length of ‘Plaksuta’ is a good thing, as this wouldn’t need to be revamped if it goes to Eurovision. But that doesn’t take away from the fact that I don’t like this song very much. Gives me Estonian ‘Thrift Shop’ vibes, but [with] a less obnoxious instrumentation, so that’s another positive there. Maybe the staging will make the song pop more, but I didn’t enjoy listening to this, and it isn’t my thing. There are positives about it, though, but I did not enjoy this song, unfortunately.” 5/10

David: “I enjoy this! Funky and hectic! The style change into the chorus was not really me, but the song stands out. It is its own and is captivating. It bothers me that the chorus is my greatest problem, because that part of the song is so important. That being my least interested part of the song… what a shame.” 6/10

Stefan: “Quirky, flirty, totally stage friendly. This is something different. We need more songs like this one. I also love his charisma. He just spreads a load of … positive energy. Would also love to hear it in English. I believe that it would be even more liked with English lyrics, but let’s just wait and see and hope he’ll at least get through to the final.” 9/10

James: “Oh great, dated rap performed by a Peaky Blinders LARPer. And unlike all the great rap tracks, ‘Plaksuta’ is about the fun, care-free nature of childhood in the forests of Estonia, slowly fading away into the mundanity of adulthood and paying bills and keeping the fridge filled. A little credit is due for blending in some Estonian brass and drum elements, but it is mostly yet another Eastern European dad rap entry we see multiple times a year that try to be humorous but largely flop. 3.5/10

Total: 50 

Kaia-Liisa Kesler-“Vaikus”

William: “There’s obviously a lot of talent on display here, but …. *sigh*. This is SO overwrought, so OVER produced, so EXPECTED. The key change, the light-and-shadow motif of the music video, the canned gospel choir … we’ve seen and heard ALL of this a million times before. With all due respect paid to the sincerity and musicality present in the track, this just isn’t enough anymore. It’s been done. And it’s been done better. The jury should have left this in the quarter-finals.”  2/10

Boris: “A song that borders on interesting (but isn’t), with a video clip that tiptoes the line of pretentious (and possibly crosses it). ‘Vaikus’ is merely fine to me, and given how anti-ballad I usually am, that’s a small victory, I guess? Watch Kaia-Liisa burn up this tiny crumb of goodwill with pedantic anti-staging because ‘It Is What The Art Demands‘. ugh. Would that she had the crazed, teat-baring genius of a Rigoberta Bandini.” 5/10

Roy: “This is the type of song that you will always find in Eesti Laul. While decently showcasing the singer and her capabilities, it isn’t going to be one of the front-runners. Instrumentally, this is quite simple, and I am not the biggest fan of the choir, but that is a personal thing. I do love the small little quirky pauses in the final chorus. Overall decent, but it shouldn’t win.” 5.5/10

Tyler: “This is a song that I quite like the message for–that silence is just as good as voice and being able to stop and listen. It’s quite good, and I think Kaia-Liisa sings the song quite well. Her performance in the music video is strong. My one little criticism about the song is that it can read off a little pretentious to me at the same time, but I still like listening to it. I’m unsure how this will look on stage, but, with proper staging, I think this could escape the semi-final.” 7.5/10

David: “Strong and emotionally performed, great singer. I feel the passion that is with the song, but, darling… an emotional ballad, probably the most common genre in this competition, and my most hated genre as well. May I never hear this song again!” 2/10

Stefan: “Chills, literal chills. If you don’t feel the magic, get out of here immediately. We just had to have one magical song in native language, and, in Eesti Laul, it’s this one. I’m keeping my fingers crossed for an imaginative performance and that she will end up at least like Ilta at UMK last year.” 9/10

James: “A staring into the void piano ballad, complete with a resolution sorted after the bridge with the emergence of a full backing choir. There are a few nihilistic songs lurking around the Eastern parts of Europe, so this one makes a change. The realization that the path to salvation from your current dark predicament starts with only one step away from the dark and into the light, and then one step at a time from there, is a worthwhile message. It doesn’t exactly lend itself to a party, but at least the song resolves itself in a positive way. Execution wise, though, a bit clunky, and the ‘children!’ (‘Vaikus’ in English) brings to mind a much better song by North Macedonia a couple years back that made that Balkan nation proud.” 5/10

Total: 36

Maian- “Meeletu”

 

William: “Ok, Ok. I can vibe to this. It’s the kind of experimental indie pop Eesti Laul promises but so often under-delivers. ‘Meeletu’ is charmingly lo-fi, as if your downstairs neighbor invited you to listen to some music she’s been working on in her spare time. If anything, I wish the song was even a little more experimental? The vocal layering and droning beat of the verses give way to a more traditional-sounding chorus, and I’d be interested to hear some of the weirder places Maian’s musical mind could go. 6.5/10

Boris: “Estonian/Spanish language combos are a quirky asset to have in your musical arsenal, and the more quirks a song has, the more biased I am towards it. Sadly, while ‘Meeletu’ is a very cute song, I’m not as fond of it. Problem is, I really do NOT trust Estonia to put through the songs I want in the final, so any song caught in the likely crossfire, like a ‘Meeletu’, needs to fulfill its purpose as a potential meat-shield, rather than as an actual warm-bodied finalist. This is all to say that I can’t allow myself to be attached to Maian, who finds herself outclassed by Jyrise and Púr Múdd, but that’s fine. ‘Meeletu’ is good and better than what Estonia probably deserves , and that’s a truth nobody, not even Estonia’s philistine audience, can take away from her.” 7/10

Roy: “This is such an unexpected earworm. This would do amazingly on playlists, and, if I remembered correctly, it charted quite highly in the Spotify viral top 50 Estonia list. A great sign and [proof] that this is a superbly streamable song. Absolutely wonderful for Maian, but, for a competition like Eurovision, streamable often isn’t the way to go. You often fade into the background a bit too much and people forget to vote for you because you don’t stand out. Regardless of the result, I like this a lot and I wish Maian the best for her future!” 8/10

Tyler: “A lot of what I like about ‘Meeletu’ is the novelty and how much it reminds me of ‘La dolce vita’ back in 1989–a non-national language being used seamlessly in the lyrics. The Spanish used in ‘Meeletu’ works so well with the Estonian that it takes a while for me to realize it is actually Spanish. It’s quite lovely, and I’m very happy this qualified from the quarter-finals (which, sidebar, please don’t do that again, Eesti Laul!). It’s nice, but doesn’t wow me as much as I want it to, though.” 8/10

David: “Did not expect to hear a Estonian song mixed with Spanish. Original, but the Spanish pronunciation is struggling. It took me a while to notice the Spanish. Catchy beat and radio-friendly, but nothing outstanding nor extraordinary. It struggles to stay inside my mind.” 4/10

Stefan: “Your average radio friendly song of national final. There’s no shame saying I won’t be listening to it again. I just didn’t connect with it. It did fight its way through the quarter-finals, but it only did that so we could have a filler song … I’m just sayin’.” 2.5/10

James: “More like tuutu, which Google Translate informs me is Estonian for tedious, tiresome, boring. ‘Meeletu’, which means crazy, is false advertising. The lyrics for this slow, trippy song don’t mean much of anything, unless Google doesn’t much care for this song, either, and is having a laugh to keep itself awake. Instrumentally, I am guessing they’re aiming for an atmosphere of confusion and of loss and, paired with the end lyrics of a train ticket back to Tartu, that she finds some resolution at home? That use of instrumentation to help the protagonist find home is clever, but, for a music contest, I won’t care, because this is the song during Eurovision where I’ll get up to make a daiquiri refill.” 4/10

Total: 40

Merilin Mälk- Little Girl”

William: “I’m actually taken aback at how much I respond to this song. A kinda typical, radio-friendly pop break-up ballad is not usually what I gravitate toward. But this is executed at SUCH a high level. The lush soundscape, the gorgeous simplicity of the piano, the dynamic vocal layering, the cute and identifying way her voice squeaks on certain vowels … I could go on and on about how much I love this song. Not only is ‘Little Girl’ my Eesti Laul winner, it may be my favorite song from ANY national final so far this year. It’s pure excellence.” 10/10

Boris: “Merilin Mälk delivered something that I never expected to hear in EestiLeaks: An excellent mid-tempo pop ballad. And god is it good. A stellar build-up carries us through Merilin’s (relatable) storyline, as the music and her voice carry the vocal punches, supported by the articulate lyrics. This is musical story telling at its finest. Even more surprising is that ‘Little Girl’ is the sort of song that gets better with consecutive listens – unlike, say, Olivia Rodrigo’s vastly overrated ‘Driver’s Licence’, the song ‘Little Girl’ is inspired by. It has come to a point that I’ve grown so attached to it that I absolutely NEED it in the Grand Final of EL (and Eurovision, but the latter is actually easier to accomplish, as ESC juries will love ‘Little Girl’ on sight). Estonia had better give me an ACCEPTABLE reason if and when they fail to vote for Merilin in the semi-final.” 9.5/10

Roy: “I feel like so many returning artists have learned a lot from their previous participation. With ‘Miljon Sammu’, I actually really enjoyed the studio version, after some time. The issue was that it completely fell flat live. With this ballad, that aspect is not a danger for Merilin. She can just stand behind a microphone, stand, and sing her heart out, and I think that is a great direction that she took. The song might not be ground-breaking, instrumentally or lyrically, but it’s a great step forward!” 7.5/10

Tyler: “The piano in this song is my favorite part of ‘Little Girl’, as it feels taken out of a musical where Merilin is getting over her former love. I very much enjoyed this, and I think the staging would do very well with this. The instrumentation is unique and gives different levels that keep me interested, as does Merilin with her vocals, too. Vulnerability can be powerful to see on stage, so, as long as it feels and looks authentic, this could resonate with televoters. Hoping this does well!” 8.5/10

David: “A simple song and simple lyrics… lady, please stay ,never come back, otherwise I’ll rather bang my head into a wall. There’s a great lack of effort to make a positive first impression, other than trying.” 2/10

Stefan: “Disney song alert! The thing I liked here is the build up. Her voice is also so pure, and I really believe she’ll be able to bring it live, too, vocally and emotionally. Let’s hope little girl has grown up.” 7.5/10

James: “There’s a story missing here. This is one of those songs with an unreliable narrator, dropping selective facts (her beau not meeting her, her wandering around looking for his apartment) but leaving us intrigued with the gaps. Why did he not meet up with her? Why does she not know where he lives? Is he married or engaged to someone else, and she refuses to admit it? Well, at least she admits she’s not seeing him again. Or is she? We all have messy friends like this, and ‘Little Girl’, which is a telling title, is their anthem of heartbreak, as they learn to cope with the bad decisions they made.” 8/10

Total: 53

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

William: “Is this too low-key to be competitive? Maybe, but it’s still quite good. The guitar track, in particular, is a highlight, generating an evocative, smoky mood with each successive string pluck. Elisabeth’s vocals are delicate, but they’re backed up with bravura, relaxed confidence, and maybe even a hint of danger. Interested to see how well this performs live, on a stage designed to showcase BIGGER compositions and showier artistic displays. But I remain hopeful. There’s just something about this song. It sticks.” 7/10

Boris: “Title of the song / name of the band say it all. This, in the semis over Ariadne? Fuck that, THIS in the semis over DRAMANDA?? I think I hate Estonia almost as much as I hate the TikTok anti-culture that ‘inspired‘ this musical cipher.” 4/10

Roy: “To me, this is an absolute 10 out of 10. I am rarely obsessed with a song and rarely put songs on repeat, but boy is this perfect! This is like drinking hot chocolate by a campfire, with a blanket around you, getting a warm hug. Elisabeth’s voice is so soothing and fits the song beautifully. I am just absolutely in love with this and, to me, there are no flaws! Then why no 10 Roy? Because I am a review-writer with Eurovision in mind. And I am no fool either, I know that it will likely struggle there…” 9.5/10

Tyler: “This doesn’t really work for Eurovision, as it’s a chill song, with breathy, subdued vocals that, while technically good, might not fill the arena come the big night. That’s part of why I’m giving this song the score it’s getting, despite the fact that I actually like this song a lot? It vibes as a road trip song to me, and part of the qualities it has that wouldn’t be good for Eurovision are qualities that I like personally. I hope this entry will get the maximum (groan) points it can get as a nice surprise, but this will be on my playlist regardless.” 7.5/10

David: “Well… I can’t answer that title … not a blues fan, either.” 2/10

Stefan: “What to make of this – Wow, I mean just wow!!! I was mesmerized! This just proves less is more. They don’t need a flashy performance. I just want to see them on stage with some smoke and intimate lights.” 10/10

James: “A slow, blues-y hook up song by a band whose name will make for great fart jokes should it make it to ESC. Its lack of resolution prevents it from being a great song, but it’s almost there. Elisabeth describes a post-coital moment of being puzzled that her lover is staring at her, her being insecure and somewhat taken aback that they would be infatuated with her. There’s a repeating chord progression that makes you feel the clock winding down to sunrise, stretching out the three minutes to make you feel the silence (in a good way). But it’s only the moment described, and we’re not sure if her insecurity is going to cause her to never seem them again. And a lack of resolution in an ESC song can be frustrating – we want finality, to make sure that the artist going to Turin is not in limbo once the lights go down.” 7/10

Total: 47

As has been the norm with Eesti Laul this year, the panel is all over the map with our takes on these songs. No song yet has been uniformly loved or hated, a hopeful sign that the competition will be fierce. Adding all the scores up, the current rankings 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

Looks like we have a new front runner! After two weeks at the top, Elina Nechayeva has been usurped by both Jyrise and the current points-leader Merilin Mälk, both currently the only songs that have received at least 50 points from our panel. But can they keep their spots at the top?

Come back next Tuesday to read our thoughts on the final five songs. They are:

  • Ott Lepland– “Aovalguses”
  • Púr Múdd & Shira– “Golden Shores”
  • Stefan- “Hope”
  • Stig Rästa– “Interstellar”
  • Triin Niitoja and Frants Tikerpuu– “Laululind”

We will also be comparing our scores for all twenty entries, deciding which songs we would qualify to the final and which song we would crown the victor!

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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