UMK 2017: Our Reactions to the 10 finalists

With the first national finals starting to take place, songs are starting to trickle out across Europe as countries start to prepare for the 62nd Eurovision Song Contest in Kyiv. The first national final to do so was Finland who in November, revealed all 10 songs competing in the scaled back national final to be held in the Espoo Metro Arena on January 28th. The songs have had some time to circulate in the fandom and now, three weeks before the national final kicks off, we’re going to react to the songs competing in the sixth edition of Uuden Musiikin Kilpailu and could represent Finland in the International Exhibition Centre in Ukraine next May.

Just a little disclaimer…I had listened to all the songs before writing this article, but I have re-listened to these songs in order to create a sense of fairness so I can judge all the songs fairly – I have based my reviews on the music of the song, the lyrics, the vocals and the music video. With that being said, let’s dive in!!

Song #1: Anni Saikku – “Reach Out For the Sun”

We’re going to kick things off with Anni Saikku’s “Reach Out for the Sun”, which is a pretty laid back entry into UMK! There is an instant sense of emotion in this with the opening line “I don’t want this to be easy, I just need to be strong”. You can tell Anni believes in what she’s singing about. This has a summery feel which is very contemporary nowadays and it builds up to the chorus with strong drum rhythms that come across to be very empowering. The post-chorus instrumental is a little underwhelming as it builds up for a disappointing drop, but this is a very strong attempt from Anni to connect Eurovision with contemporary music. The music video’s aesthetic is also very appealing, as it hints at a 90s Britrock feel – this almost lets us into Anni’s own way of thinking. Although the various shots at synchronised swimmers and forests do leave the viewer feeling a little confused. Regardless, this is a strong song and could be a dark horse if the song is staged well on the night!
Score: 7/12 points

Song #2: My First Band – “Paradise”

I’m a bit conflicted with My First Band’s entry into UMK. Similar to Anni’s song, “Paradise” rides the summery vibe which in Kyiv would work very well as temperatures do get up to the high 20s in Celsius. The backing track is actually very positive and catchy, which adds to the summer feel. The track begins to build gradually with drums and clicks being added until the final few repetitions of the chorus at the end of the song which carry the song to a smooth end. Coupling that with amazing harmonies and some electronic elements being thrown in for good measure leave My First Band with a lot of potential in a music sense. However, the main point of contention would be the lyrics of the song. As you listen to the songs, you start to see a thread in a few songs of having sexually suggestive lyrics and, although I absolutely love the instrumentation of “Paradise”, the lyrics really let it down. For example, “I wanna see you satisfied, so let me kiss your paradise” – it doesn’t leave much to the imagination, does it? It’s a shame, cause it ruins an otherwise great song. Let’s see if the song is a bit more accessible on the night in Espoo.
Score: 6/12 points

Song #3: Zühlke – “Perfect Villain”

Again, this is a song that leaves a lot to be desired lyrically. I think that Zühlke has a really strong, soulful voice and it works to her advantage in the bridge and chorus of the song. The verses, she’s a little more delicate in her delivery so we get to see some great versatility in her vocal range. However, for me that’s the only main plus in this song. The backing track is quite RnB, which is pretty good up until the chorus where it morphs into some form of dubstep-lite and it just stops the build up abruptly, leaving the listener a bit stunned. The lyrics really bring the song down here also. There are references to the X-Men and kryptonite (which is from Superman, no?) which render the song a little tacky and it loses a sense of depth. Zühlke has a lot of potential, but it’s being wasted on such a weak song….and what even is with that music video? Is she dead? Have we only got 9 entries in UMK then?
Score: 3/12 points

Song #4: Lauri Yrjölä – “Helppo elämä”

Here, we have the only song in Finnish in the entire competition, and what a song it is! Lauri is able to bring the otherwise archaic Finnish language into the 21st century. Similar to My First Band and Anni, “Helppo elämä” has a contemporary rock feel that launches into a real sort of acid house chorus with synthesisers and electronics added in to push the song forward. On the first listen, I immediately thought it was an Aminata production with the bass in the chorus. This song is incredibly radio-friendly and I could see myself driving down the road in a convertible with my friends with this blasting out. Lyrically, there’s a mocking of people who live the so-called “easy life”, where they’re born with a silver spoon in their mouth, which is a very unprecedented topic seen in a Contest like Eurovision. The crescendo at the end feels like an explosion of emotion (not along the lines of say ‘1944’, but an explosion of sorts), and the “ooooh” part adds to that, as it is almost a tribal call to arms against these people who have life handed to them. For me, that adds a bit of depth to the song and although I totally don’t really understand the message of the video, the song itself is very friendly and relatable, expect this to do well!
Score: 8/12 points

Song #5: Alva – “Arrows”

“Arrows” has become a bit of a dark horse among fans, and it’s clear to see why. This song has a lot of potential and it’s used in an effective way to  get Alva’s message across. Like with many other songs, the song has a modern feel to it and Alva has a very clear and strong voice to back it up. The chorus is a big shock for the listener along the lines of “Perfect Villain”; however Alva delivers where Zühlke fails. Here, she lets rip of her vocal range, but goes gradually higher to keep the flow of the song going. This would actually be a song I could envisage Zara Larsson doing in a few years time. If there was one thing I’d have to fault “Arrows” on, it would be that it gets a little repetitive and thus, you start to lose interest in the song. Even writing this section, I’ve hard to remember that I was critiquing this. Unfortunately to say that if this was selected for Kyiv, this would be used as an opportunity to make a cup of tea or go to the toilet, which means that Finland would continue its streak of non-qualification. Finland, if you send this, do revamp it a little so that it doesn’t make you lose attention and stray away. We love Alva’s vocals and the song is great, but to save yourself some problems, give that last little kick to realise its full potential!
Score: 7/12 points

Song #6: Club La Persé – “My Little World”

Well……….I’m not really sure what to say about this, really. Emmm..I don’t know about you guys, but for me, it’s a bit of a guilty pleasure to see four drag queens rock out with a bit of “gay-glam” to quote Krista Siegfrids. The tune of the song itself is actually quite catchy and easy to remember, which would work in the group’s favour and the throwback to the 90s underground rave culture is also very trendy in music; so it’s possible that they could have support from hipsters and stylists. However, with the good you’ve also got to take some of the bad. The two main bad points of this entire act are that the majority of the song is entirely spoken-sung, which is very tacky nowadays. The only place where there’s singing is in the chorus, which is handy as the chorus is quite easy to remember. But I’m not sure 40% singing would save a song like this. The other potential stumbling block for Club La Persé is the groups aesthetic. Don’t get me wrong, I like drag queens as much as the next guy, but when you have a man with a pig nose, a man with a blue face, a woman with angry looking latex eyebrows and another woman, who’s more maybe toned down, it just looks very startling onstage. I know the LGBT+ community is all about showing who you are, but for the sake of winning a competition and representing your country in an international singing contest, it may help if they did tone down the extremity of their outfits. But like ‘Love Love Peace Peace’, it’s only a suggestion! (P.s. that fit guy in the blue teddy head though…)
Score8/12 points

Song #7: Günther & D’Sanz – “Love Yourself”

Ummmmmmm……, I just don’t even know where to begin here. I mean, like I said with My First Band, this song is one of those which are deliberately a bit sexual lyrically. Do you think it’s subtle enough? Everything about this song makes me feel a little dirty; there’s too much sexuality in “Love Yourself”. Like, I’m all up for loving myself and finding my inner beauty, but I’d rather not have the man who sang the “Ding Dong Song” whispering “MMMM” and “YEAHHH” in my ear while I’m doing so. This is definitely a joke act, but I have a feeling that Günther would end up doing really well as a result of his popularity and general status as a bit of a pervert (yes, I know he’s a character – I’m still sticking to what I say!) The music video definitely doesn’t leave much to the imagination either…I wonder what they were looking at in the VR set. The only saving grace to this entire campaign is D’Sanz, but even then his performance is mediocre and a bit lackluster. I’m sorry to say it, but this will never be good enough for Eurovision, and if Finland decides to send it, I think next year we’ll just have to force YLE to send Saara Aalto internally.
Score: 1/12 points

Song #8: Emma – “Circle of Light”

From a cult favourite to the ultimate fan/bookie/general consensus favourite to win the entire competition. There’s no beating around the bush here, Emma has the most Eurovision-like song in UMK this year. I think it’s fair to say that there is some influence from Greta Salóme’s “Hear Them Calling” with the evolution of the song from the intimate start to the big brash finish. The gradual progression of the song, as wooden instruments are combined with electronica and the explosive post-chorus instrumental really give “Circle of Light” that kick and that motivation to just get up and dance or run. The musical progression is highly addictive and would easily become an earworm given half the chance. Coupling this with Emma’s extremely ethereal voice and you have quite possibly one of the best chances to reach a top 10 position in Kyiv. Emma’s voice is capable of an entire octave higher, but she only uses her strength where it’s needed; to emphasise the sacredness and safety of her ‘circle of light’. I think there is no doubt that this will do well on the night and it’s quite possible that we will see this under the Finnish flag in the International Exhibition Centre in May. And do you know what, I wouldn’t mind one bit! Also, the lyrics are incredibly relatable, albeit rather pagan-like. However, the topic of self-assurance will go down a storm in Espoo…do you think it’s a good song?
Score: 12/12 points

Song #9: Knucklebone Oscar & the Shangri-La Rubies: “Caveman”

Again with Günther and Club La Persé, I have actual idea what to say about this song at all…I think this is quite possibly one of the worst songs I have ever heard from a national selection – and I’ve heard Mariaana Seppern, and that was diabolical, let me tell you that! I am just in awe of how this managed to make it to the final 10. I mean, the Shangri-La Rubies themselves are perfectly fine and they do the best they can. However, Oscar’s performance (if you can call it that?) is just terrible. Lyrically, this is an appalling entry. I mean, the ‘Mickey Mouse pyjamapantz [sic]’ line is just horrendous and I just wish that they could just scrap this and replace it with an entirely different song, one that actually shows everyone’s full potential? I’m sorry YLE, but just….no
Score: 1/12 points

Song #10: Norma John – “Blackbird”

Aaaaand finally, we reach the last song – “Blackbird”! In comparison to Knucklebone Oscar, Norma John are practically gods here! This song is my personal #1 out of all the songs competing in Uuden Musiikin Kilpailu. For those of you who don’t know (or just haven’t figured it out yet), I appreciate songs with musical depth and meaning in the lyrics – that’s why I’m very much pro-Jamala. This is the exact same situation with Norma John in Finland. When I first heard this song, I was in awe in the grandure and honesty in the song. This genre – a sort of “Scandinavian Noir pop” – would be the style of music I would normally listen to, so this appealed to me almost instantly. Leena’s (Norma’s) vocals are so soul-stirring, it actually moved me the first time I heard the song. The instrumentation, however, really adds the depth to the song and whenever I listen to this song, I can see myself walking across an open snowy field in the early hours of the morning looking up at the amazing beauty of the Aurora Borealis. The lyrics also are a great departure from the clichéd “let’s all love each other”. Instead, Leena and Lasse (John) are real from the get go and tell the sad story of losing love, a very saddening emotion which reflects in the music and in the lyrics ‘Blackbird, don’t sing.’ For many though, this is a controversial song and has split the fandom as to whether the song is boring or just artistic. It really just depends on where you stand on the issue – we all learned last season that the fandom will always be divided on the issue of song vs. show (1944 vs YATOO). In any event, this song for me is one of the main contenders to take the crown from Emma’s nose (with some incredibly visual and clever, moving staging) and personally, I’d be more than happy if either of them represented Finland in Kyiv…..Also, can anyone tell me what they’re trying to tie in the music video? I’m a bit lost on that front…
Score: 12/12 points

So, that’s what we think! What do you think of the 10 competing entries in UMK? Let us know by voting in our poll! The poll will close on January 28th at 18:00 GMT, so make sure you vote for your favourites, so we can compare your results with the final ones! And while you’re at it, who do you think will represent Finland in Ukraine next May? Do you think there could be a surprise in store for the fandom? Be sure to let us know in the comments section below!

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