NF Season: This week’s national final previews (January 27th – February 2nd)

Would you believe it, it’s three weeks since we last had the pleasure of previewing a national final for you guys! 2014 has most certainly been a slow year so far, but by the end of this week, we will have six of the thirty-seven all selected and confirmed (in theory anyway.. that six does include both Belarus and Ukraine so anything could happen) Anyway, the three-week drought is somewhat compensated by the fact that today’s article will preview not one but TWO national finals scheduled to take place over the weekend, so I’d better stop this introduction, and get down to the actual information!

The broadcasters to make their decision this week: YLE (Finland) and SGR SSR (Switzerland)
The broadcasters to make their decision this week: YLE (Finland) and SRG SSR (Switzerland)

As you should hopefully know by now, we are previewing the national finals in weekly instalments, offering our opinions on some of the songs wherever possible, and predicting the entries we think are most likely to win the ticket to Denmark. Following the results of each National Final, we’ll get a review article up for you, giving you our opinions of the show and the selected entry, and assessing its chances at Eurovision this year. And, as always, your opinions are most welcome throughout, we would love to know what you think!

This week’s calendar:

1st February 2014: UMK (Finnish National Final)
[20:00 CET – 22:00 CET]

1st February 2014: Die Grosse Entscheidungsshow (Swiss National Final)
[20:10 CET – 22:20 CET]

Finland: 

Finland will select its entry on February 1st
Finland will select its entry on February 1st

Uuden Musiikin Kilpailu (Contest for New Music) – or UMK for short – returns for a third year in 2014, having selected the previous two Finnish entries for Eurovision, both of which we have LOVED. So no pressure then, guys. The contest – which consists of multiple preliminary rounds – has been going on quietly in the background for over a month now, and the original cohort of twelve songs has been whittled down to eight which will compete in this Saturday’s final in the Barona Arena in Espoo, just outside Helsinki. All twelve are available to listen to here, on YLE’s official site for the contest, with the finalists clearly highlighted. Which ones stand out to you?

Reviews and Predictions:

James – My first response to the final line up is “WHAT THE HELL; NO JASMIN MICHAELA!?!” followed by an hour and a half of angry brooding relating to that realisation. Because that song, ladies and gentlemen, was a winner. I have no idea how it failed to reach the final eight, especially when there are at least three songs in the final that I just cannot see any merit in whatsoever. I could spend hours defending “Kertakäyttösydän” but unfortunately, nothing I say can reverse the decision of the Finnish public, and bring it back from the dead. “Disposable Heart”, it would seem, has been … erm… disposed of. Pardon the pun. Rest in peace, let’s move on.

From the final eight, there are still a few stand-out tracks which I believe would be worthy winners, and constitute a sixth consecutive Finnish entry that I end up loving. From what’s left, I’m favouring the clappy and singalong number “Sängyn Reunalla” performed by Mikko Pohjola. It’s one of those songs which is brilliant by itself, but features that little essence of melancholy that characterises it as uniquely Finnish, and altogether more captivating. His voice sounds fab, both in the studio and live, and in lieu of Jasmin, I will most certainly be cheering him on to the victory on Saturday night!

However, I would also be really happy if Finland were to send the gloriously random folksy number “Selja” by the interesting mother-son duo of Hukka ja Mama. Self-explanatory dynamic there. I know it’s odd, I know it’s about as far from contemporary as it’s possible to get, but there’s something charming about it that’s hard to resist.

It’s not all about what I think though… the fan favourite, judging by the amount of social media buzz I’ve observed, is without a doubt “Top of the World” performed by Clarissa and Josh Standing. Yes, it’s catchy, it’s modern, but it’s all very “been there, heard that”… would you allow me to run through why I don’t think it would be a good choice?

Good. Because there are a couple of little niggles here. Firstly, and I know it shouldn’t matter, but this ain’t a Finnish song. And he ain’t Finnish. Forgive me for wanting to preserve a bit of national identity in the contest, but I think Finland in particular is one of the countries with something really unique to bring to the table in that regard, and I would be sorry to see this Swedish paint-by-numbers composition take the Finnish ticket ahead of the more original offerings discussed earlier. Secondly, the performance is patchy at best. More specifically, the clothes. More specifically, Josh’s clothes. WHAT WAS HE THINKING!?! Please god change out of that hideous oversized football kit before it’s too late. Seriously. You are NOT MC Hammer, and that has NEVER been cool.

And while we’re on the subject of Josh Standing. Football kit aside, HELLO THERE SIR. He’s camp as fuck, it’s hilarious, unexpected and endearing all at the same time. Honestly, he’s a catch. And if Finland do pick this, I am aborting any prior arrangements and booking tickets to Copenhagen with the sole intent of bringing him home with me. Just saying, before anyone else lays claim. He’s mine. MINE.

Rory – Who could possibly follow in Krista’s diamond footsteps? It seems these guys are giving it a good go! UMK has definitely dominated the ESC season for a good while, and you definitely can tell why! I haven’t been following UMK as much as others have been, but judging by the way its featured quite heavily in my Facebook news feed, I’ve heard a good few of the songs and it seems like its going to be a really tight year in Finland for sure!

I do like Hanna Sky, and I think the song will do quite well on the night, but I do think that Clarissa and Josh may do just as well. They have fantastic songs, but I’m just not sure who’s better out of the two. As regards to who I think will take the trophy, that’s a really hard decision to make. Nearly all the songs deserve to be there (come on Finland, why did you get of Jasmin?! She was amazing!!), and so, I think its gonna be so tough for the public to pick, but if it was up to me, I’d go with Hanna. She seems like a really nice woman, and the song is actually really good, but I’d say she’s not out of the woods, as I’ve discussed above.

Good luck Finland trying to decide who’s going, its going be soooooo hard!!

P.S. If Jasmin had gone to Eurovision, I’d be so pitiful of all the foreign journalists trying to even pronounce that song name!

Context:

Finland was one of the first countries for whom we suggested Possible Artists way back in July, with Kristiina Wheeler and Diandra being top of our list. Whilst neither of the two were involved with UMK, it cannot be ignored that Jasmin Michaela’s song was in a similar vein to Wheeler’s “Muukalainen”, and thus would have been the closest we’ve come yet to seeing one of our suggested styles feature on the National Final stage. Clarissa and Josh’s song is the same kinda style to Diandra’s “Outta My Head”.. I’m clutching at straws here aren’t I…

Looking at the eight Finland will be choosing from, there are, as mentioned before, plenty of candidates who would perform admirably in Copenhagen, and follow in Krista Siegfrids’ glittering footsteps with dignity and style. For Finland, their last *decent* placing would actually have to be Lordi, since then, they haven’t managed to reach any higher than 17th in the final, and all too often, fantastic songs like “När Jag Blundar” and “Työlki Elää” have been cast aside in the semis *cry*.

Genre-wise, they have never been afraid to be experimental, and many of the prospective 2014 songs would provide a pleasing contrast to the previously exhibited genres of rock, dance, folk, acoustic and pop. If Finland do opt for one of the decent choices in UMK this Saturday, they will continue a run of quality contributions, and will hopefully end up with a final result more representative of their efforts! Good luck Suomi! 😀

Switzerland: 

Switzerland will also select their entry on February 1st
Switzerland will also select their entry on February 1st

Die Grosse Entscheidungsshow (I’ll apologise in case I spelt that wrong because DAYUM THAT WORD IS LONG) has been used to select the Swiss entry since 2011, the year that brought us Anna Rossinelli and the adorable “In Love For A While”. Since then, the Swiss have stuck to the same format, with varying results, but as of yet, no repeat qualification by the time Eurovision itself rolls around. 2014 has seen a slight tweak to the format of the show, with the show being broadcast almost two months later than usual, and featuring just six potential entries rather than the usual ten. To me, this already feels like a half-arsed effort, before I’ve even heard the songs; just like Austria did last year, anyone else feeling the same?

Have a listen to a recap of the six competing entries here.

Reviews and Predictions:

James – I’m going to try and sound enthusiastic. It’s going to be difficult.

I can’t help but feeling that Switzerland have given up a bit. Just compare this year’s line-up to last year’s – yes, three or four of the 2013 songs were quite clearly in album filler territory, but that was counterbalanced with absolute gems like “J’avais Rendez-Vous” and “The Point of No Return”. Fast forward to this year, and we have two half-arsed ballads, two half-arsed rock-ish numbers, one token slice of contrived Europop, and a sort-of decent country-guitar-pop thing, which by comparison comes across a lot stronger than it actually is.

The latter is, of course, Sebalter’s self-penned number “Hunter of Stars”, which is very radio-friendly, very authentic and features a very cute little whistle riff. There’s nothing wrong with it per se, and it’s the kind of song that I would rank around 20th, and eventually come to appreciate… but it’s quite a wallpaper song isn’t it. Come on, sing the chorus back to me now. You can’t remember it all without another listen, can you. Sebalter’s image will probably count in his favour – if you haven’t seen a picture of the guy, he’s from the Marco Mengoni school of rugged beauty, and though he pales in comparison to everyone’s fave Italian Stallion, he’s a decent bit of eye candy all the same. I’m still daydreaming about Josh Standing though, not gonna lie.

*ahem. I’m getting distracted because there really isn’t much else in the Swiss line-up to hold my attention. 3ForAll sounds pretty good if you can’t see who’s singing it – it’s hard to pull off “modern and contemporary” when all the members of the group look eligible for state pensions. Well, more specifically, the guy in the middle. The girls are superfluous.

It’s disappointing, that’s for sure. Things did seem to be looking up for the country, but 2014 looks like another drop down the slippery slope, at the bottom of which Michel von der Heide is waiting with a maniacal smile, brandishing his wooden spoon from Oslo. There just isn’t enough room within six songs to give viewers enough of a choice – in my opinion anyway.

Rory – Right, Switzerland what have you got for us this year? Six songs in the NF isn’t that bad compared to other countries whose national final can drag on into the early hours of the morning (Malta, I’m looking at you here), and this year, we’re fortunate to have a year minus ‘Doing the Monkey’! Only in Eurovision, ey?

When listening to the songs, you can definitely tell that there’s quite a diverse range of genres in the final, which may mean the song that gets sent may be either the strongest of the lot or the weakest. From the six, the ones that stand out for me are “Hunter of Stars” and the obvious choice, “I Still Believe”. I don’t know why, but I’m drawn to Sebalter’s voice. Normally, I hate country music (seriously, I HATE it) but this is actually OK! Like seriously, his voice sounds absolutely mental, but they also sound strangely good – in a really weird kinda way.

Then, for Yazmina – well, I think she’d be the runaway favourite. She has a powerful voice, a decent ballad. It’s almost guaranteed if she delivers on the night. As for my predictions as to who’ll take the title, I think it’s going to be tight, but I honestly think ‘I Still Believe’ is gonna take it. She has a really powerful voice and the song is typical Eurovision, but it’s just what one thinks of when they think of the whole Eurovision ballad. Natacha and Stéphanie, may also have a chance, but to me it seems we’ll be seeing the Swiss Chiara on the 8th of May. Good luck all the same though!

Context:

Although we didn’t compile a list of possible artists for Switzerland, Rory did do a speculative piece based on the idea of Switzerland sending a song in their fourth language Romansch – as they did on home soil in 1989, bringing them a 13th place result. It’s unlikely that any of the six songs on offer would be translated into the little-understood language were they to win the ticket to Copenhagen, but you never know. Might drum up some controversy for an otherwise insipid musical contribution.

Switzerland as a Eurovision nation have a very patchy recent record, as we previously discussed. Sebalter looking like the obvious favourite, it would appear that genre-wise at least, the 2014 entry will fit snugly into their 21st century Eurovision canon, in that it will likely be docile, unchallenging and guitar-based. Not that that’s a problem, and especially considering it will be performed in a semi-final where just five countries will be eliminated, it could prove a recipe for “success” after all. I place the word “success” entre guillemets for I can’t see this success equating to anything more than around 18th place in the final for any of the potential six songs. And that’s assuming they aren’t one of the unlucky five destined to be culled on the Thursday night…

Am I just being too harsh here, or do you find the Swiss line-up as uninspiring as I do?

Your Views:

Which of the Finnish or Swiss songs stand out to you?
Which of the Finnish or Swiss songs stand out to you?

Svana Lístí Agnarsdóttir from Iceland: I like many songs from Switzerland, but I’ll have to say that Yazmina is my favourite. From Finland, its Clarissa. I just hope they win!!!

 

Sami Luukela from Finland: Worst case scenario for me, would be seeing Madcraft or Hanna Sky winning .. My favourite is Mikko Pohjola!

Jack Cuffe from the United Kingdom: Hukka ja Mama or Hanna Sky!

Svetlana Andriyenko from Ukraine: For Finland, my favourite is Clarissa and Josh. For Switzerland, my favourite is Sebalter. I hope they both win!

With two national finals to cover, it has been rather difficult to establish clear fan favourites in both of them. Although the one conclusive result is that interest seems to be more focused on UMK, with Die Grosse Whateveritscalled seemingly taking a back seat in proceedings. Hopefully both broadcasters will enjoy high viewing figures on Saturday, and both will finish the night having chosen a Eurovision entry more than worthy of facing the competition in Denmark!!

What are your thoughts ahead of this weekend’s “Super Saturday”? Don’t hesitate to leave us a comment below and tell us what you think!

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