It may have escaped the attention of most people outside of Estonia, but there is something very important happening in a few days’ time. “Eesti Laul”, the competition to find Estonia’s entry for the Eurovision Song Contest, will be taking place in Saku Suurhall on Saturday 5th March. I admit that I’m a long-term follower of the Estonian music scene, but I’ve never particularly watched “Eesti Laul”. This year, however, will be different. Having sneakily arranged a trip to Tallinn with three friends which coincides with the “Eesti Laul” show, we managed to get tickets and we will be attending this year.
There’s no doubt that the Eurovision Song Contest is an important medium for the promotion of both artists and individual countries on an international stage. I admit, I had never, ever heard of Estonia until Koit Toome wandered out on to the Eurovision stage in 1998, sat down by that grand piano and started warbling about children living in the sea (or something along those lines). Indeed, many hundreds of performers have started their careers on the Eurovision stage and I’ve always watched it with great interest. So, which Estonian hopefuls are hoping to make it to Stockholm on 14th May to show the world what Estonia is made of?
There’s a real mixed-bag of songs up for contention. In addition to these songs, the show will also feature performances from Finnish pop-singer Isac Eliot, Maarja-Liis Ilus and Ivo Linna.
Here is a breakdown of what you can expect to see in the “Eesti Laul” final on Saturday March 5th.
1. Laura – Supersonic
Laura will be getting the show off to an explosive start with her slickly-produced, life-affirming pop-ballad. Her burlesque-terminator outfit is oddly juxtaposed with the innocent-sounding lyrics. Sample lyric: “When you are young, you are proud, we all rebel and yell – do you recognise yourself when you’re getting older? Do we crash, do we learn, do we sing our songs louder and louder?”
2. Go Away Bird – Sally
The Estonian/Russian/American act Go Away Bird will perform next with their bass-heavy, hypnotic indie-anthem “Sally”. Fronted by blue-haired, waif-like singer Hanna Parman, this is a song that just demands to be hummed along to. Sample lyric: “Sally, you’ve got to break away and live for the moment, ‘cause you were born in the Year of the Rabbit. There was a moderate drought and the radio shouted ‘You Gotta Fight For Your Right’”
3. Mick Pedaja – Seis
Young Mick Pedaja from Rapla brings his eerie, melancholy song “Seis” to the table. This could easily have been performed in much the same way 3,000 years or so ago! Mick has a Kurt Cobain look about him too. It’s certainly interesting, and I know a few druids who will probably vote for it! Sample lyric: Seisan ikka veel siin samas, teadmata, kas lahkungi.
4. Grete Paia – Stories Untold
Saaremaa-born Grete returns to “Eesti Laul” for the second time with her atmospheric pop song “Stories Untold”, which hits all the right notes. She performs with passion, resembling an angry elfin ballet dancer. Sample lyric: “Are we living twice in afterlife, riddle by riddle it all comes clear at the end – life’s a ghost ride.”
5. Kéa- Lonely Boy
A confident performance from the young singer Kea, with the R&B/soul-inspired number “Lonely Boy”. She has a strong voice and performs very well. The grey ceremonial cape that she wears could well have been borrowed from Mick Pedaja’s wardrobe! Sample lyric: “I’ve got a question, but I’m scared to sing in out. I’m scared of crossing this familiar battleground.”
6. Jüri Pootsmann – Play
Last year’s winner of “Eesti Otsib Superstaari”, 21 year old Juri Pootsmann, goes all Mr. Bond with his stage presentation for “Play”. This young man did very well at the recent Estonian Music Awards and is now hoping to add Eurovision to his CV. Sample lyric: “We ain’t got all night to find out what is right - so let’s go undecided until we know.”
7. Kati Laev & Noorkuu – Kaugel Sinust
Young Kati Laev from Saaremaa performs the dramatic ballad “Kaugel Sinust”, which also features a bold brass section. The song starts off in a dark and brooding manner, and finishes on a rousing and victorious note. And she does well to walk in those heels! Sample lyric: Kas veel ma kuulen su laule, Ja kõnnin neil rohtunud teil?
8. Cartoon & Kristel Aasleid – Immortality
This is “Eesti Laul” Gorrillaz-style – singer Kristel Aasleid only appears onstage for the closing bars of the song. For the first time at “Eesti Laul”, a virtual character performs on the stage for most of the song. Singer Kristel’s every move was meticulously captured and the visuals were programmed to replicate this on the stage. Fascinating stuff, which also features soaring vocals, a spaceship and an oversized tutu. What more could you want?! Sample lyric: You left me crying and running through a ghost town - alone and stranded. Why leave me hoping and guessing for the answers - no place stays forbidden.”
9. Meisterjaan – Parmupillihullus
Jaan’s father was renowned Estonian musician Jaan Tatte, but Jaan himself is making a very different kind of experimental music. Incorporating a jaw harp and some perplexing dance routines, this song takes crazy to a new level. And I have to say, I quite like it! Sample lyric: I honestly have no idea. Absolutely none. Are these even words??!!
10. I Wear* Experiment – Patience
I Wear* Experiment have been recording together for several years and are trying their luck with this atmospheric dance number. The song builds up slowly, gently incorporating each instrument until reaching the rousing final chorus. It’s very well performed, and you don’t need patience to listen to it! Sample lyric: “My teeth grind untired of burning need to get higher. I can’t wait to breathe lighter, the taste of heaven sets me on fire”
As you can see, there are a whole variety of song styles in contention and it will be interesting to see which one Estonia opts for this year!