Editorials & OpinionStockholm 2016

Xtra Review: Finland’s UMK 2016 – Heat 1

The national final season is picking up pace, and earlier this week the 18 competitors in Finland’s Uuden Musiikin Kilpailu were unveiled. They will compete in three heats throughout February, with three acts qualifying from each to make the grand final on Saturday 27 February.

Over the next few days we’ll be taking a look at each song and seeing whether Finland could have a winner amongst the selection, or even just something to get them back into the final again. Today Peter listens to the songs on offer in semi-final 1.

Saara Aalto – No Fear
No Fear is probably the most pop out of the entries in this heat, but it’s still probably the most left-field, as it takes you on a bit of a dizzying journey through every genre it can possible cram in. There are oriental flavours, lush strings, time signature changes, a threat of some dubstep, some schlager, and it’s not until about halfway through that you really know where you stand with the song. It’s certainly memorable, but I wonder if it’s just a bit too kitchen-sink for a 3 minute pop song and whether the voters might be put off by that. Watch here.
Mikko Herranen – Evil Tone
Mikko Herranen makes the transition from his earlier grunge and heavy metal material to this mainstream rock ballad, which I can envisage doing the business at every adult contemporary radio station going, as it seems to be made to appeal to as many people as possible while maintaining the rock stylings of its singer. It is well produced and I can see this having a large voter base, even though it’s full of laboured metaphors like “life is like a limosine” and “love is like a magazine” not to mention the slightly offputting title. Watch here.
Stella Christine – Ain’t Got Time For Boys
This is a bit of a jazzy R’n’B slow jam that could have been a hit in the mid-90s, but obviously there’s no way something like this would have been seen at Eurovision back then. It’s got some catchy guitar riffs and it’s nice and understated, but Stella’s vocals at the end keep it on the right side of forgettable. It stands out in the line-up, but it’s hard to see it doing too much damage should it make it to the contest itself in Stockholm.

Clemso – Thief
Clemso is a Nigerian singer living in Finland, and Thief is a pop song with an Afro-beat flavour sung in English, the Yoruba language and West African pidgin English. It’s another song that increases the diversity of styles on offer in the Finnish selection, but unfortunately it doesn’t really add anything particularly exciting to these ears. There’s no real discernable hook and the song doesn’t particularly go anywhere. I would say that the 3 minutes pass by without you really noticing, but that would be a lie as it actually feels like a very long 3 minutes indeed. Watch here.
Pää-Äijät – Shamppanjataivas
A load of novelty rubbish from two bearded guys that’s fairly catchy, but not enough to make up for how embarrassing the whole thing is. These guys may have some sort of appeal in Finland, but I’m choosing not to find out and to remain in the blissful belief that they won’t stand a chance – the dislike:like ratio on the Youtube video is certainly a promising sign on that front. Watch here.
Eini – Draamaa
Where would we be without a clapped out schlager hag or two to make a Eurovision season more colourful? Eini has had a long and illustrious career, and now she’s hoping to fly the Finnish flag at Eurovision. Draamaa is so schlager, and the attempts to disguise it with contemporary dance production and dubstep breakdown aren’t fooling anybody. The soft-focus in the video, the scantily clad muscle men and Eini’s acting all put me in mind of Lisa Kudrow’s iconic character Valerie Cherish from “The Comeback” and that is not a bad thing in my book at all. You go Eini, get that sexy mechanic half your age!

So who is qualifying?
If I had my way then Saara Aalto would be through to the final in spite of the song being a bit of a mess, and Eini would also be sailing through, if anything because of it being a mess! After that then I’d quite like to see Stella Christine make it through just on account of it being a very pleasant, well put together little song.
Of course in reality I doubt it will go down like this. I’d imagine Stella Christine is fairly safe, but I also can’t envisage a scenario in which Mikko Herranen doesn’t make it through on account of his familiarity and how generally accessible his song is. As for the third spot, I think Saara Aalto should get it if she puts in a good performance but maybe I’m just kidding myself and that novelty tat is destined to go all the way…
What do you think?
Let us know if you agree and have a go at predicting the outcome by dropping us a tweet @escXtra. Meanwhile stay tuned for the next instalment coming tomorrow.

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