The most fabulous week of the year is fast approaching. From May 9th to 13th, 43 (possibly 42) countries will battle against each other with glitter, key changes, pyrotechnics, questionable outfits and music (somewhat) in the International Exhibition Centre in Kyiv, Ukraine to win the 62nd Eurovision Song Contest. What better way to count the days until it kicks off than reviewing each of the competing entries one by one. I mean, it’s a tough job but someone has to do it! In each post, I’ll go through each country’s history in the contest, how their entry was selected, a brief introduction to the artist, a review of the song and what might have been. Our journey begins in a country celebrating its 100th anniversary of independence. It is a land famous for Santa, saunas, heavy metal monsters and sandstorms. It’s Finland!!
Finland first participated in the Eurovision Song Contest in 1961. This year marks their 51st appearance in the contest. Finland was once considered the ultimate under-achiever in the contest, finishing last eight times. That was before a band of monsters called Lordi swooped in with a song called “Hard Rock Hallelujah” and claimed Finland’s first ever victory in 2006. Since then their results have been somewhat mixed. Finland has not been in the final since 2014, when Softengine finished 11th, their best result since 2006. Last year, Sandhja finished 15th in the first semi-final performing “Sing It Away”, thus leaving Finland out of the final for a second consecutive year.
The Finnish national broadcaster, Ylesradio (YLE) organised Uuden Musiikin Kilpailu (UMK – Contest for New Music) for the sixth year in a row to select their entry. Unlike previous years, there were no semi-finals. Instead, 10 songs competed in one final, in which 50% international juries and 50% televoting decided the winner. (One of the finalists, Günther, was responsible for this little ditty back in the day.) After topping both votes, Norma John were awarded the Finnish ticket to Kyiv.
Norma John are an indie pop duo made up of Lasse Piirainen (piano) and Leena Tirronen (vocals) from Kouvola, a town northeast of Helsinki. Leena finished third on the only series of the X Factor in Finland in 2010. They both have had successful solo careers and have been collaborating on different projects for 15 years but decided to form Norma John in 2016. They have received praise for their alternative and cinematic style of music. The duo wrote and composed their entry “Blackbird”, a tale of lost love and painful memories.
I remember listening to the UMK entries and this song immediately stood out for me. It is emotional, dark and atmospheric. The instrumentation is simple but the effect is huge. Leena gives an emotional live performance and is able to draw us into her own little world with ease. Many Eurovision fans are quick to turn up their noses at ballads, particularly when there are quite a few in the contest, like this year. However, this is one of the few ballads with actual character and power. Semi-Final 1 will be a bloodbath and many good songs will fall by the wayside, but I hope Europe will appreciate this masterpiece and send it through to the Final.
What Could Have Been
In this section, I’ll be looking at a song that didn’t make it through the national selection but still deserved a shot at Eurovision. For Finland, we have Emma with her self-described “woodland EDM” track “Circle of Light”. This was a song that promised so much but ultimately failed to deliver. In the build-up to UMK, this was the fan favourite, with many describing it as the most suited to Eurovision out of the 10 finalists. However, a combination of nerves and technical problems led to its downfall, and Emma finished third. It’s a shame though. If everything had gone smoothly during the live performance, we could have been getting some woodland realness in Kyiv.
Onnea Suomelle! Lycka till Finland!
What do you think? Can this blackbird soar or will it have it wings clipped? Leave your comments below and stay tuned for another preview tomorrow!
(Sources: eurovision.tv, YLE, YouTube)