As Sweden's melodifestivalen kicks off, Finland's UMK culminates with a big final at the Barona Areena in Espoo. The four judges and the Finnish televoters will select the winning song that will hopefully make a splash in Copenhagen.
Not that UMK seems to care too much about that ESC final. They would much prefer being an important and credible song contest in their own right and Eurovision is seldom pointed out as any particularly important reference point during these shows.
If this show is a talent search, then it is doing really well. Quite a few of these participants could do well in the future if they play their cards well. But as a eurovision selection show, the whole thing has unfortunately stalled a bit since last year.
There are still good songs in the running, but in Eurovision you need a perfect package that reaches out to the audience at once. You only have three minutes to impress and most of these songs are not designed to do that.
Here are the eight songs with my new grades - this ones reflect how good a choice I think the song in question would be for Copenhagen.
1. SOFTENGINE - Something Better
A good song, splendidly sung by a brilliant and charismatic lead singer. The band desperately need choreography, though. Running around aimlessly in the background might be cool if you are in a local talent show, but it won't do at eurovision. If the performance can be tightened and strengthened, this could very well be Finland's best shot at a spot in the final come May. Puzzling that it was placed first in the running order - hardly the best slot you could have.
2. HANNA SKY - Hope
It is even more puzzling that the winner of the second heat is placed in the dreaded number two slot. Not that I mind an awful lot. I never saw the appeal of this song. Hanna has a good voice but is wailing for too much, the breakdancer is just distracting and the songwriting is far too weak. My jaw dropped when this song won its heat. Knowing how unpredictable Finland can be, I hope my jaw will stay in place once the results are in.
3. MIAU - God/Drug
An interesting group that has very little to work with. The song never takes off and becomes annoying long before three minutes are over. They would deserve a much better fate than this.
4. LAURI MIKKOLA - Going Down
Clearly the best vocal delivery out of the eight acts in the final. In the ESC, it would perhaps have made more sense to have a more positive entry that would still let Lauri's vocal chords work. Something slightly snappier, slightly catchier. And the backing group could be a bit more animated too. A reasonable but risky choice for Copenhagen. And very unlikely to happen.
5. MADCRAFT - Shining Bright
The seemingly compulsory punk act. No Finnish final is complete without it, it seems. Catchy but slightly dated and really unoriginal.
6. MIKKO POHJOLA - Sängyn reunalla
Is this our winner? Mikko's entry sounds very familiar for a Finnish audience, his song would suit the radio stations perfectly and he signed up with Warner - a major label in Finland, who have been really good at making their acts win this contest. I would not be surprised if the jurors also had a change of heart and favoured Mikko over Hanna Sky this time around.
7. CLARISSA feat JOSH - Top Of The World
This seemed to be bound for a good placing until Clarissa's vocals proved to be a bit on the wobbly side. Perhaps - if they nail all the hard parts and the performance is improved and better suited for television - this could emerge as a surprise winner. But Germany's flop in Malmö last year might be a hint that generic dance pop is not what Europe is craving at the moment.
8. HUKKA JA MAMA - Selja
An equally puzzling end to the presentation - who was in charge of sequencing this running order? Hukka ja Mama are intriguing, different and have a sound of their own. Bosnia-Herzegovina used to get away with this kind of thing. Another risky choice that could pay off, but is the song distinct enough to appeal to an international audience? I wouldn't be too sure.
The winner will be Softengine or Mikko Pohjola.
Softengine has a youthful appearance and a graspable song with a good handle. It will need some improving still before Copenhagen but is still a credible choice. Mikko on the other hand has the best song in the running, but has had difficulties delivering it as breezily and relaxed as it would need to be. If he has problems relaxing on stage now, what will he be like in the big ESC final?
If I have to select one I say it will be Mikko but I hope for Softengine. With a bit of luck, either one of them can make it through the semi. If not, the UMK people might have to take a long hard look in their mirrors and ask themselves what to do for next year.