It’s time for the second semi-final of Eesti Laul this evening, so it’s on to our team to pass judgement on the competing songs. Which songs should be joining the six songs qualified for the final on March 6th?
Let’s see what Boris, Daniel, James, Melanie and Sean thought of the songs…
Uku Haasma – Kaos
Boris – 8.5 – The cruel irony of our time is that Other Uku is not only the superior Uku, by like, a canyon-sized lead, but he will likely not even make it out of this semi alive, despite possessing a flawless Eurolaul-styled trance anthem. Such is the lot of the underdog under the Rahula era. 🙁
Daniel – 8 – This song is most certainly a vibe, it is mainstream enough not to be psychedelic but avant-garde enough to be something unique. This seems like an Estonian Coldplay that ups that distinctive factor. I would say I was thoroughly entertained, and I want to see this creativity come to life in the stage, especially at that end guitar sequence.
James – 7 – This sounds like it belongs on 1990’s US college radio where indie bands with varying degrees of forced quirkiness dominated. “Kaos” takes a while to get going, but once it does at the two-minute mark, you’re rewarded with a great final third. The lyrics reflect that, talking about sticking to a plan that nominally seems chaotic but will prove rewarding. This probably will be too indie for Eurovision itself, but this is on the higher quality end of the indie invasion of Eesti Laul we’ve seen these past few years.
Melanie – 7.5 – It’s the indie song that I wish every national final should have. I love the guitar in this song. It even works kind of mesmerizing. I just wished that the chorus was a tad stronger. Nevertheless, a great song from Uku Haasma and can’t wait to hear more from him.
Sean – 9 – Uku – Estonia’s answer to the question “what if Daði Freyr was an indie artist?” – Haasma here with an absolute barnstormer of a track. The reverberating guitars, layered vocals and shoegaze vibe are ticking many boxes for me, and I just hope that he can nail this live and give it the platform it really deserves. This gives me life!
Total = 40 (avg. 8)
Heleza – 6
Boris – 8.5 – Honest? She had me at “French/Estonian language combo”, but this LOVELY mid-tempo synth song is good enough to survive outside of Eurovision selection shows. I can totally see this being picked up by some indie music podcast and getting airtime? “Six” just possesses an inherent silkiness, that smoothly (and soothingly), envelops you like a warm blanket? A recurring theme with the songs in this semi, “Six” has loads of live potential but will likely be swallowed alive by the bigger fish.
Daniel – 9 – I am a huge fan of that lo-fi back beat and that French beginning. I think the intro lingers a little bit too long but the chorus really makes this song come to life and become so fascinating. I am a huge fan of the introduction (seamlessly I may add) of those synthesized sound bits. This is just a very cool and ambiance heavy song that I hope will really succeed at Eesti Laul.
James – 6 – French art pop with Estonian? I’d be curious to see how they pull off the video concept – a bizarre combo of childhood memories on an Estonian council estate and her being naked and covered with a clear, slimy and slightly glittery liquid. Perhaps the biggest danger for Heleza is that like Kadri, because of her chosen genre, her entry may be too impenetrable for Eurovision. Add a confusing staging concept, and her otherwise catchy entry will be left adrift in the semi-finals. “6” is a compelling entry, but it could be too cool for school to represent Estonia at Eurovision and go up against the likes of The Roop.
Melanie – 8.5 – One of my big favorites for the win this year. It stands out due the atmosphere she’s creating with 6. It’s not just a song, but a whole vibe the song is creating. She just takes the listener with her back to her childhood with her soothing voice. People who know me, also know I’m a sucker for the French languages, so I’m also totally love she integrated that in her song. Can’t wait to see this one comes alive on stage!
Sean – 7 – That blend of languages is seamless and really intriguing, I have to say! The song is a pleasant listen and has a cool vibe (heh), but past being a filler track in a midtempo EDM mix it doesn’t have much else going for it for me. Will certainly be interesting to see the staging though as it feels like it could lend itself to something very avant-garde.
Total = 39 (avg. 7.8)
Uku Suviste – The Lucky One
Boris – 5 – First things first: I disliked “What Love Is” the most out of all 41 participating songs last year and its victory was indicative of everything wrong with modern day Eesti Laul. This time, Uku is poised to win with a messy, hyperactive electropop trash anthem and well… It’s an improvement! It’s not bad, just kinda disjointed and average! However, I can’t help but feel a bit deflated that this is the probable winner, when… well, look at the scores I gave everyone else. This year’s EL, especially this heat is very good. I know Uku will win, because I’m not a fool (despite Matt’s insistance of constantly saying ‘sup you fools‘ at every board meeting?), but that doesn’t mean I have to approve. I don’t, and it has bled into my opinion of “The Lucky One“, as it looms over the competition as its inevitable victor like a stormcloud. So excuse me if I give this a middling score – The less time I spend thinking about it, the better.
Daniel – 9 – Well Uku has a lot to prove here. I am a big fan of the underlying track and it feels like it works so well with the song’s dynamics. It is a song of contrasts, between the water and fiery passion, between the refrain and the bass-heavy chorus. It is a more traditional pop track with an interesting twist. This song has a lot of strong imagery and has huge possibility of hitting a home-run with staging. It also gives Uku a way to showcase his voice. I think overall not like totally innovative but extremely well-done.
James – 7 – It’s as slick as you expect an Uku Suviste, Sharon Vaughn and Dimitris Kontopoulos written and produced number to be. “The Lucky One” is an S-Class Mercedes in a contest full of Fiat 500s, and Uku will no doubt be a favorite to win this again. But as with the S-Class, it is perhaps a bit too much gloss and fussiness. I’d rather have a Jaguar XJL, the same kind of luxury but with more quirks and personality. And should Uku fail to get to Eurovision 2021, I suspect the fact I used a luxury car analogy should indicate why. For all the perfection and the class, sometimes at the contest we all want a Subaru Impreza WRX like Salvador Sobral to come in and inject some passion into the whole proceedings.
Melanie – 6.5 – Definitely a better attempt that his song last year (even forgot how it was called…) However, I still have the feeling that this song is solely written to please the Eurovision audience. It’s very well produced and has any ingredient that would be needed in a big Eurovision song. Because of this, it feels like something I heard before and it misses emotions. It’s just plastic at its best. Still I think that Uku deserves to fly the Estonian Flag at the Eurovision Song Contest 2021, I just hoped it would be with a song right from his heart.
Sean – 6 – Well, it’s certainly much better than “What Love Is”, but then being better than that turgid dreary ‘love’ song is not difficult. Uku has brought an intriguingly moody synthpop track to go for the Eesti Laul title and does a serviceable job, but there’s no high moment or standout part to drag this to the top of the EL scoreboard.
Total = 33.5 (avg. 6.7)
Alabama Watchdog – Alabama Watchdog
Boris – 2 – Listen babes, if you want to come off as, well, *not* actively alt-right and fash, you may want to not name your band like a QAnon support group, avoid making statements about ‘transgenders regretting their transition’, and lay off from encouraging people to “get loud for the lockdown” (whatever that means). Now as for Alabama Watchdog’s actual musical qualities, [no footage has been found].
Daniel – 7 – We have socially-conscious rock on our hands, I appreciate that they are extremely relevant and do so in an interesting musical manner and took a page straight out of a Green Day playbook. I think overall this is a fine song with really timely content and a compelling musical composition. This would most certainly seem fun to stage.
James – 1 – I’m not going to address the particular lyrics that most are raging about. They’ve been covered by others before, and the band themselves have responded. Read into both sides what you will. Let’s say we take this alternative rock band at their word – why throw a divisive devil’s advocate entry about an ordinary man being asked to pick a side for “the coming war” into an apolitical contest such as Eurovision? I suspect the intent was to generate controversy to kickstart their career at home rather than make a serious attempt at Eurovision, where division is antithetical to the spirit of the contest. As Alabama Watchdog’s antics remind me somewhat of American alternative rock band Trapt’s divisive antics of 2020, so does the track remind me of Trapt’s 2002 hit “Headstrong” – weak, canned butt rock with a cheap meathead response of a chorus channeling 2020 themes. Sorry Alabama Watchdog, no-one’s going to back off, and as headstrong as you claim, you don’t have it to take on Eurovision.
Melanie – 7 – Loving the beat and the energy of this song. The beat is great an makes me want to rock along. It’s only getting a little repetitive after the first minute and doesn’t make a real impact on me anymore. I’m just happy to see artist again in Eesti Laul that really stay true to themselves and I’ve got the feeling these guys are doing that.
Sean – 5.5 – I’ve heard this has caused a lot of controversy with fans over the lyrics but to me this just feels like three angsty guys who want to shout at something – or everything – to make their voices heard. And heard they shall be, although whether the content is groundbreaking or earth-shatteringly poignant is up for the debate. As for the song, it’s brash and punky enough to match their M.O., but this feels surprisingly lacking in energy for this genre to impress me much.
Total = 22.5 (avg. 4.5)
Jüri Pootsmann – Magus melanhoolia
Boris – 7 – It seems as though Jüri has accepted his inherent weirdness with stride because lol this song. Bizarre avant-garde mess featuring a random falsetto (I remember Jüri’s singing voice being a deep baritone for some reason?). I’m at a loss what to think here, it’s just a very weird song I can’t make heads nor tails of. In the first semi I would have happily supported this for the *it*-factor alone, but in semi 2 LOL TOO MANY OTHER FAVES, GOTTA GO, CHOO-CHOO THE TÜDRUKUD TRAIN HAS JUST ARRIVED ON PLATFORM TWELVE.
Daniel – 10 – This song is just incredible and sounds so modern and well-produced. It has highs, it has lows it has substance and strength behind it. I heard this song and added to my personal playlist before I knew it was in Eesti Laul, that is how great I think this song is. I would love for Jüri’s redemption and I think this song would be the perfect vehicle. It just is so masterfully composed and arranged.
James – 3 – What the dickens is Jüri thinking with that horrid din of a chorus? I like Jüri’s “Play,” which is one of the least-deserved last places in a Eurovision semi-final. However, “Magus melanhoolia” has to rank as one of the weakest attempts to return to the contest. The song has two stages: slow, melancholic musings and the violent response of the chorus with some higher pitch that pierces the ear drum. It then just peters out at around the 2:15 mark. Normally I am not one who advocates filling the whole three minutes for the sake of it, but on top of a revamp, this song needs something else to add variety.
Melanie – 9 – If I could decide which song of this line-up should represent Estonia at Eurovision, it would be Jüri Pootsman. Didn’t like “Play” at all, but this one is definitely on another level. This is contemporary, modern and something we haven’t heard before. Also digging the Estonian language in the song. I’m just scared that he can’t deliver the same feeling live as in the studio cut, however I think that the pre-recorded vocals can really help him. Happy to see you back Jüri and hopefully we see you in Rotterdam!
Sean – 6.5 – 2016 Jüri felt very much like an artist trying to find his place in the world and work out what he was about. I’m glad he got the chance to return with a song more suited to his artistry as he has delved recently into more electronic pop. This weighs in very much on the short side but what is there is a rolling, snaring piece with great production value and good stage potential.
Total = 35.5 (avg. 7.1)
Suured tüdrukud – Heaven’s Not That Far Tonight
Boris – 8 – “QUEENS SUPREME. Heavens bless Eesti Laul 2021 for *FINALLY* giving Kaire and Dagmar the starring cast role they bleeping deserve. And of course it comes in the form of antiquated Melfest schlager (written by Koit somehow? Told you his target audience is Older Ladies now) so the olds can propel The Big Girls into the finale after they come second last in the jury vote <3”
Daniel – 6 – “This is a throwback. Not a song inspired by the 70’s but could have been plucked straight out and I would not have been surprised. I think that this song is fun, full of predictable lyrics and sequins for those of us who look for a retro vintage look. I like it, it is not a winner, but I love that it is in Eesti Laul.”
James – 10 – “Kaire Vilgats and Dagmar Oja, two backup singers who have supported most of Estonia’s entries these past two decades, have stepped into the spotlight for one hell of a bombastic show. This schlager pop disco track with an unapologetically retro sound could have gone horribly wrong, but Vilgats and Oja pull out all the stops with their personal anthem of seizing their chance to shine after years of being in the background. Vilgats and Oja work wonderfully off of each, escalating in a back and forth battle until the frenetic finale. If you want a positive anthem for Eurovision that channels the spirit of someone in the background stepping forward and becoming a hero during difficult circumstances, this is it. Vilgats and Oja are the heroines we need for 2021.”
Melanie – 8 – “This is definitely my guilty pleasure of this year’s Eesti Laul. This is just catchy as hell and makes me smile every time I hear it. Do I see this winning Eesti Laul? Probably not, but it’s such a fun and amazing song and I’m happy that they got a chance in this year’s national final.”
Sean – 3 – “Suddenly we have a scene from a wedding reception thrust straight onto the Eesti Laul selection. Fine, it’s pleasant enough to listen to but – really? This could be any album track from a 90s/80s dancepop artist or even going back to the 70s with the disco era. I’m sure they’ll give their all with this song but it’s totally not my thing.”
Total = 35 (avg. 7)
After these reviews, which six did we pick to qualify for the Eesti Laul final?
- Gram-of-Fun – Lost in a Dance – 41.5
- Uku Haasma – Kaos – 40
- Kadri Voorand – Energy – 39
- Heleza – 6 – 39
- Rahel – Sunday Night – 37.5
- Sissi – Time – 36
- Jüri Pootsmann – Magus melanhoolia – 35.5
- Suured tüdrukud – Heaven’s Not That Far Tonight – 35
- Uku Suviste – The Lucky One – 33.5
- Helen – Nii kõrgele – 29.5
- Alabama Watchdog – Alabama Watchdog – 22.5
- Redel – Tartu – 19
Our top six sees some new names reaching the Eesti Laul final ahead of more known acts, but will this be the case in tonight’s show?
Do #YOU agree with our thoughts on the Eesti Laul songs? Share your thoughts with us on our forum HERE or join the discussion below and on social media!