Estonia kick-start their search for a Eurovision 2021 star on Thursday as the renowned Eesti Laul begins with the first semi-final. With twelve songs competing in the semi-final, there’s a lot of competition for the six spots in the March 6th final. So, what better time than now to see what our writers thought of the songs?

We start tonight with the first six songs in Semi-Final 1, and it’s up to Boris, Daniel, James, Melanie and Sean to pass judgement on the songs. Take it away…

Tanja – Best Night Ever

Boris – 7.5 – A musical bacchanalia. Keeping up with her previous entry’s glorious gaiety, Tanja has decided to treat us to a bout of Senhit-esque disco drunkenness. The entire song *vibes* ’30-something female co-workers gatecrashing a random bachelorette party on a drunken rampage’, irrespective of title? Which is an amazing quality. It’s trash, but delivers the lowbrow fun it promises and more!

Daniel – 5 – As much as I like Tanja, I think that this song is a bit out of date for the vibes. This is not a song inspired by the 70’s but seems plucked out of that decade and so it seems a little out of place, especially in the bridge. This is not my favorite song of her attempts and seems a little bit of chaotic energy all around. I would like to see the staging but I feel like that this is not going to change my opinion significantly.

James – 6 – Based on the video, I do have to ask Estonians an important question: is smoking still allowed in bars and clubs there? A secondary question is around whether or not you could enjoy your best night in a dingy pub cellar? The song screams a thirtysomething claims adjuster’s Happy Hour at Chili’s, though I’m not sure whether Chili’s would care that implies a comparison to a night out in what looks like a pub by the Canal in Brighouse. Anyway, this is an entertaining dance song for what it is. Judging if a song reflects a best night ever is clearly subjective – for some this song and video may do, for others waking up in a produce market in Guadalajara will suffice. All told, “Best Night Ever” is fine, but from someone who met his partner while 2Chainz and Kanye’s “Birthday Song” was playing, this is a little unmemorable in terms of meeting on the dance floor songs go.

Melanie – 4.5 – This isn’t bad, but sounds more like a pop song from the early 00s. The verses are fine, love the pre-chorus but the chorus is a definitely a letdown with the repetitive “This could be the best night ever.” The saxophone in the chorus tries to lift it a little bit up, but doesn’t make it groundbreaking enough. It’s a cute little party song, but Tanja can do better than this.

Sean – 5.5 – While this has great production, the clichéd lyrics and disappointingly lacklustre chorus make this one drop points for me. There are some neat retro touches here and there (sax interludes, midi filtering, funky guitar strums) but the song tries to sit between uptempo pop stormer and nostalgic pastiche. It doesn’t really hit heights in either. I do like the little nods in the video to “Amazing” though.

Total = 28.5 (avg. 5.7)

Hans Nayna – One By One

Boris – 4 – To my knowledge, the only singer from Mauritius to ever enter a Eurovision NF! As for “One by One”’s actual musical value, it’s a generic stripped-down power ballad someone lazily slapped a lofi electrobeat onto with zero regard of melody or rhythm? Nobody but the impressionable are fooled, honey, just so you are aware.

Daniel – 7.5 – This is quite a nice song that has a lot of power imbedded. It takes a traditional pop-ballad and amps it up a bit to make it quite interesting. Moreover, the music video makes me feel as though there might be a lot of thought in the staging. Ultimately, I think that this song is still a bit too similar to a lot of other songs in its genre and so I would need to see a bit of an extra wow factor either in vocals or in set design.

James – 5 – Soul without any soul, which is an odd thing to say as it does seem like Hans is giving a passionate performance and not dialing it in. Perhaps it’s the paint-by-numbers “Voice / Idol / [x] Got Talent” winner composition and cheap production tricks like synthesized background vocals. Another irritating element here is the modern trend for the vocalist to distort words to rhyme (golden becomes gowlden, by becomes buoy, etc.). Overall, the song leaves me cold. I get the feeling Hans is screaming into the abyss, and maybe that’s the point?

Melanie – 7 – Hans got a very interesting deep voice which really intrigues me. It’s thanks to his voice that the song is memorable. I think if someone else would sing it, I wouldn’t remember it. The verses are really building well and his voice nicely compliments it, but the choruses are for me the weakest part of this song. It’s not making the impact that it should be. Great attempt, but I would love to see him to song another song.

Sean – 6.5 – I felt like this one could’ve been really promising but is another entry let down by a lacklustre chorus. “One By One” has really rich production and Hans has a wonderful soulful flavour to his voice that suits the song well – similar to a particular Newman brother. I was hoping for this to turn into an midtempo indie-pop crooner, but a serviceable pop song will do just fine.

Total = 30 (avg. 6)

WIIRALT – Tuuled

Boris – 6 – Weird-ass esoteric blue grass anthem <3 Thanks for adding flavour in this (bloated, mediocre) Semi-Final, your reward will probably be 10th place in Friday’s show. 🙁

Daniel – 5.5 – Well, I will say from the get-go that this song already is hard for me to judge because of the country vibes which is not my style. Recognizing the merits of the song, it is has a unique composition and cool harmonies between the lead singer and the back-up vocals. I think that for people within this genre, this song can have a lot of impact, I just think country music at Eurovision is so hard to pull it off that only the Netherlands have really done it well.

James – 7 – Southern blues rock is a thing in Estonia? This is not half bad, though I don’t see this escaping Eesti Laul or making waves at Eurovision 2021, mostly because of the genre this band operates in and that they are 6,000 miles from that genre’s home. However, WIIRALT deserve credit for not offering a cheap knock-off of the genre (see Waylon at ESC 2018 for how not to do it right) while delivering an eventful three minutes where everyone in the band chips in. Now since Raylee opted for “Flashdance” staging at MGP, maybe WIIRALT will offer a tribute to “Road House” with the band playing behind a fence and a Patrick Swayze look-a-like fighting Southern drunks?

Melanie – 6 – Remember the days that the Netherlands glorified in sending country pop songs? Well it worked for us, so why won’t it work for Estonia? Tuuled is more country than pop though, but this isn’t bad at all. I’m just scared about the fact that the song heavily relies on the instrumentals of the song. Will it work on the Eurovision stage? I guess not. Nevertheless, I’m happy that Eesti Laul is bringing some diversity to their line-up.

Sean – 7 – Estonian country music? Interesting! If it was a standalone song not involved in a competition I think people would really dig this, but I can see it struggling in making the transition to the stage. Hopefully they can prove me wrong and rock out a big performance because this is really unique for Eurovision contention.

Total = 31.5 (avg. 6.3)

Kéa – Hypnotized

Boris – 6.5 – Oh, One Of Those Songs. Honestly, I’ve heard better Hypnotizeds (referring to both the genre and songs called Hypnotized. Poland had better be negotiating a savory contract with Purple Disco Machine at this very moment). Either way, this basic anthem is an upgrade from the squirming ball of whatever that “Lonely Boy” was, so yay for improvement! Good job, Kéa!! Maybe next time she will actually deliver a banger!

Daniel – 6.5 – This song started and I got strong Agnes and Delta Goodrem vibes and I was excited. I think this song is a full bop with a beautiful singer and fun chorus. I do think that the chorus is a bit simple and the song does go from very quiet to the retro beat a bit abruptly (or at least unexpected). I think overall a good song with some interesting transitions.

James – 4 – Generic dance track. Cliched lyrics. And Kea’s performance doesn’t quite stand out either. As Top Chef judge Tom Colicchio frequently tells the competing chefs, “bland on bland still results in bland.” There’s not much to report as a negative, but not much to report as a positive either, let alone stan about.

Melanie – 6.5 – My Spotify really loves this song. It’s always on when I put the National Final 2021 playlist on random shuffle during my run and to be honest, it’s a fun song to run on! However good to know is that I’m always doing intervals and that’s the problem I have with the song. The pace in the verses is very different in comparison with the chorus. When you finally can shake your booty on the dancefloor, you have to quit and get a drink or something because the song goes to the verse. Maybe they can save it with an amazing choreography and staging, but the lack of energy during the whole song is killing it for me.

Sean – 7 – First of all – I adored “Lonely Boy” and was so thrilled to see Kéa back in Eesti Laul this year. Her entry this year feels very similar stylistically to Tanja’s, however I feel Kéa has a better execution. The subtle synth builds during the verses are just music to my ears, and the chorus certainly doesn’t dampen the spirit of the song. “Hypnotized” gets a little repetitive towards the end, but a decent addition to the line-up all the same!

Total = 30.5 (avg. 6.1)

Andrei Zevakin & Pluuto – Wingman

Boris – 2.5 – I suppose I can ‘notionally’ understand why this song is popular or liked, but even without understanding the lyrics it’s outward vibe is one of ‘two tweenboys desperately hitting on girls in bars’ and… am I supposed to relate? Sign me up once a humorous, self-deprecating component has been added, but until then I’ll just chalk it down as a ‘fukboi’ anthem. Ugh, the things we must do JUST to give high scores to Kristel Aaslaid.

Daniel – 6 – Not a fan of the intercom pauses as it breaks the flow of the song. It is a very interesting concept between having these friends converse in the form of song. I think there is a clear idea there and my fear is how they will manage to translate that into a stage (as opposed to the music video). I do love myself some Spanish trumpets, though, that was fun.

James – 4 – If these two doofuses go clubbing, they’ll need a lot more than a wingman to pick up chicks. They need to lay off the Xanax for starters. I guess they put the Tejano-style trumpets at the bridge to wake up their dates. I am not one of those ESC fans who hates rap, but this mumble nonsense really grinds my gears. The stage name of Pluuto reminds me of the running “Oooooober” joke from the 2016 “Gilmore Girls” reunion series on Netflix, and that coincidence is about as interesting as this song gets for me.

Melanie – 5 – Loving the beat of this one. Sadly, the song stays very linear and never takes off. It’s always stays the same monotone beat and the most memorable parts are the one that they say something and the beat stops. I think this could be higher if I may be understood what they sing, because that’s also the strength in Dutch Rap music. However, I’m happy to hear some Estonian in the competition, so it’s a hard one for me. For now, it’s just hangs in the middle of my scoreboard. Maybe the stage show can bring it higher in my ranking.

Sean – 8 – A nightclub video? In a pandemic? Impressive to say the least! This song really comes into its own in the final third but the journey is as much fun as the destination – this is a slickly produced flow with a great blend between Andrei and Pluuto, and Estonian rap is a genre I’d love to hear more of if it’s all like this! I think many won’t get this but I can really vibe to it.

Total = 25.5 (avg. 5.1)

Karl Killing – Kiss Me

Boris – 3 – Oh great, another White Guy With a Guitar ‘Sad boi’ with ‘deep emotions’ and a ‘melancholic song’. Already looking forward towards everyone declaring it a masterpiece although it’s basic like hell.

Daniel – 6.5 – This is a cute, standard guitar-driven love song. I think there is a lot of soul and emotion packed in the three minutes and that merits praise for its musicality. The transition in the last minute is most certainly its most unique feature and will really distinguish it from other songs. It still was only for a small segment and I would have wished it would have a stronger finish, but it is still interesting.

James – 2 – This makes Sixpence None the Richer’s “Kiss Me” sound like My Dying Bride’s “A Kiss to Remember.” Karl’s request for a kiss is a very simple acoustic guitar song delivered (over)earnestly that may tickle some folks’ fancy, but to many others songs like this are the reason why the “white guy with acoustic guitar” trope took off (as in if you see a white guy at a party with an acoustic guitar, smash it). And the less said about Karl’s hair’s center part, the better. Additionally, the lyrics make Karl sound needy, not romantic. And for all those who may say I just outright hate the acoustic guitar balladeers, Karl could use the confidence that Tom Dice gave, where he laid down exactly how he’s going succeed with his guitar regardless of anyone else’s opinion.

Melanie – 7 – I always love myself a cute little guitar song. Loving the melody and the vibe, but I’m missing some raw emotions. Really hope he can brings that to the stage and keep it small and intimate, because this can be a high flyer then.

Sean – 8 – I thought this would stay in the teeny bopper guitar ballad vein the whole way, but this has a great payoff in the last minute. The song feels very earnest and could have a real moment on the stage if they play it right. Really quite impressed with one considering it isn’t really my thing!

Total = 26.5 (avg. 5.3)

Let’s see what the early rankings are from this semi-final…

  1. WIIRALT – Tuuled – 31.5
  2. Kéa – Hypnotized – 30.5
  3. Hans Nayna – One By One – 30
  4. Tanja – Best Night Ever – 28.5
  5. Karl Killing – Kiss Me – 26.5
  6. Andrei Zevakin & Pluuto – Wingman – 25.5

It’s all very close, but it’s the country rock stylings of WIIRALT edging it at the moment. Will they hold on at the top of this semi-final? Stay tuned for part two tomorrow!

Do #YOU agree with our views, or have we underrated any songs? Share your thoughts with us on our forum HERE or join the discussion below and on social media!

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