NF Review: Estonia will be “Amazing” in Copenhagen

*cue Peter Poles impression* Moment’s silence, please. Sandra Nurmsalu will not be singing for Estonia in Eurovision this year. Neither will Maiken. And that’s sad.

Tanja will fly the Estonian flag in May!
Tanja will fly the Estonian flag in May!

Okay, so as I think the majority of us were hoping for Estonia’s answer to Aarwen to be their 2014 representative, I’m sure you all feel the pain this week, when it comes to what *could* have been. The jury votes just about killed whatever chances our Sandra had, for some inexplicable reason, when you consider that both her unique song and her captivating performance were near perfect. However, there’s nothing we can do to change that now, and “Kui Tuuled Pöörduvad” will simply have to join the legions of other criminally underrated NF entries from 2014 not to make the cut. Along with Finland’s “Kertakäyttösydän“, Latvia’s “Saule Riet“, and fellow Estonian Maiken with her pool of seals.

Estonia, having held their Eesti Laul final tonight, went for the third-best option in the form of Russian-Estonian Tatjana Mihhailova (or Tanja, for short) with the electronic pop song “Amazing”, complete with an Alyosha-esque costume and a Karolina Gocheva-standard wind machine:

The song:

I know what you’re thinking. And please stop that train of thought right there. Don’t even DREAM of saying the word “Loreen”.

Yes, the stage performance, with the floaty dress and the synchronised acrobatics and the accompanying male dancer, is all very reminiscent of Sweden’s winner from 2012, but for God’s sake that does NOT constitute plagiarism or anything of the sort. Just like with Cascada last year, I can see these accusations surfacing and then persistently clonging around the Eurovision fansphere from now until May, and quite frankly, it’s two in the morning and my mind can’t cope with the idea of having to put up with that. Let’s get things straight before it all kicks off. “Amazing” is not trying to be “Euphoria”. It’s not a rip-off. It’s not plagiarised. It’s in the same genre, it uses a few similar structural motifs, but that’s as far as it goes. And that kind of thing happens in popular music day in day out. “Amazing” is a new song in its own right, and it should be treated as such.

That aside, my opinions on the song are that it’s promising but ultimately a little bland. I’ll tell you what my initial reaction to hearing the preview of it was: “oh, this is quite nice.. no chance they will pick it though…” Well then. It should be right up my street, what with me being a sucker for electronic music and female vocals and everything… but for me, it doesn’t really go anywhere. Like, it’s only a few hours since the national final, and I’ve already forgotten how it goes. In my head, I’m still humming “Kui Tuuled Pöörduvad”. Don’t get me wrong, I really like listening to “Amazing”, but it has a shelf life of maybe three or four weeks before I’ll become irrevocably disenamoured with it.

Tanja, as a performer, is a lot more well-known in Estonia than we previously gave her credit for, however, and alongside Sandra, Lenna and Kõrsikud, she was in fact also a returning contestant in the Estonian selection process, having finished in second place back in 2002, and fourth place the following year. Her vocals tonight remained on point despite having a challenging and energetic choreography to simultaneously contend with, and I think this aspect at least bodes well for her appearance in Denmark in a few months.

The show:

Eesti Laul has always been lauded as one of the best national finals in the Eurovision calendar, and my expectations were most certainly high going into tonight. The eventual show I watched wasn’t exactly what I anticipated. For starters, my livestream had all the fluency of two arthritic pigs competing in a three-legged race, which didn’t help proceedings, but alongside the various observations I noted on twitter, the following aspects of the show stood out to me:

  • The graphics. I’m sure we’ve all seen them before, you know those ones with the blue background and the Sans Serif font? Yahhh.. I’ve never been quite sure whether I think they’re “minimalistic” in a really fresh and edgy way or just “minimalistic” in a “we can’t be arsed to design proper graphics so sod it, this is what you’re getting” kind of way. After seeing those terrifying postcard bookends whereby pictures of the artist were covered in flashing blobs of yellow and pink not unlike those a child would create having hijacked “Paint”… yeah, I’m going for “minimalistic” = “shit”. Sorry ERR. I just didn’t get it.
  • Something I DID like, though, was the fact that each performer had the opportunity to say a few words to the audience directly before beginning their song. Again, the language barrier meant that I had no clue what meaning these few words transferred, but I found the whole concept rather endearing, as it served to ‘break the fourth wall’, and humanise the performers as it were.
  • The green room was adorable. Stag antlers, not your average decoration in Eurovision circles, it must be said, were placed sporadically along the walls of what appeared to be an L-shaped room, which gave the whole thing yet more quirky character.
  • There was a country song that I actually liked! (SHOCK HORROR) Traffic’s harmonies within “Fur Elise” were absolutely mesmerising, glad to see it do well in the voting, despite the fact it JUST missed out on the superfinal.
  • I was extremely confused, and actually a little suspicious when the jury was called on to start revealing its points whilst the televoting lines were still open… I don’t know about you, but that just doesn’t seem fair. I’m not fabricating ANY semblance of voterigging rumour here, but I just feel that giving viewers the chance to see which songs are doing well in the jury vote – and thus, which songs might “need” more televotes to advance to the next level – doesn’t make it a particularly level playing field, right?
  • While we’re on the subject of the jury votes, I genuinely can’t understand why Sandra Nurmsalu scored so poorly with them!?

For all that I’m left a bit deflated by the eventual result, I did still enjoy watching Eesti Laul. I don’t think it’s quite as good a show as it’s been built up to be, and my NF of the year is definitely still UMK in Finland, but the Estonians put on a fantastic show tonight, with quality songs, and a really lovely endearing feel to the proceedings as a whole.

Here’s a picture of the Norman Salumäe and his adorable backing singers with a puppy.

D'awwww
D’awwww

At Eurovision:

Tanja’s “Amazing” is one of those songs which is going to divide opinion. Some will find it dull and unoriginal, some will find it amazing and exhilarating.. and others will vaguely enjoy it but then forget it exists as soon as the next song comes on. And therein lies the danger for Estonia this year, I fear.

2014 is looking to be a year rather jam-packed with high-octane numbers such as this. In comparison to the songs from Macedonia, Ireland or Hungary, I do worry that Estonia’s contribution might not stand out enough to persuade viewers to spend their loose change on a vote in its favour. Add to this the fact that Estonia find themselves performing in the first half of semi-final one, alongside big hitters such as Russia, Ukraine and Azerjibban, and you’ve got yourself a bit of a problem here. Much as I think this one will deserve to be among the top 26 in the final reckoning, I worry it might not have the mileage to reach the Saturday night. I hope Tanja will prove me wrong, but at the moment, I’m sticking my neck on the line and saying non-qualifier. For now at least.

Your views:

Did Hungary make the right choice?
Did Estonia make the right choice?

Søren Johansen from Denmark:  I love the song from Estonia, They won the first time in Denmark 13 years ago, Maybe also the 2nd Victory will be in Denmark

Richard West-Soley from the United Kingdom:  For me, Estonia always has a brilliant, contemporary national final. Every country should be like Estonia 😀

Susan Mathieson from Canada: I’m a bit lost as to how this happened, but then my favourite never wins at Eesti Laul.

Widespread praise for the show itself, as generally happens every year, but a definite mixed reaction to the song choice itself. Could Tanja really be in danger of bringing Estonia their first non-qualification since 2010? Or do you really like the song and think it will turn out to be a success in the final?

Feel free to let us know below: what do you think of the song and the show?

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