Being in a rush has never been a typical Finnish trait. When most other countries use semi finals in order to quickly reduce the number of songs in the running, this first heat of UMK will content itself with singling out one finalist, kick one other song out of the competition and subsequently let everyone else continue to the second chance heat.
At least it allows more exposure of most participants, and that is what the UMK set out to do: expose new songs and Finnish talent.
So what about the songs, then? I wrote about the general standard already yesterday - now it is time to take on the individual songs of the first heat. The grades are based on the studio versions as well as the demo performances shown on earlier UMK shows.
1. MIAU - God/Drug
Female trio with an attitude and a song that presents a lot of good ideas that unfortunately never really take off in any big way. The chorus goes on and on without any climax in sight. Had the songwriting been a bit sharper, this could have been a contender.
2. DENNIS FAGERSTRÖM - My Little Honey Bee
A very polite, clean-cut and easygoing little pop ditty, as light as a summer breeze, unlikely to disturb anyone. Which is a minus in a competition where people are supposed to vote for you by phone and where you need to stand out and be remembered. Lucky break that Dennis himself is such an asset - likeable and lively - but the question is if that is enough. I would like to like this more than I do.
3. LILI LAMBERT - Let Me Take You There
A competent piece of disco, well sung and with a retainable chorus. But also generic and very much heard and done before. It would take an almost supernatural amount on stage presence to make this seem like a Eurovision winner in 2014.
4. HUKKA JA MAMA - Selja
This duo does look a bit odd at first, but they also bring the most personable entry so far and that is not a bad thing. Most probably this will go nowhere near a victory, but it is pleasant and catchy in its own little way.
5. SOFTENGINE - Something Better
Another slightly generic-sounding song - The Lovebugs? Sinplus? Petr Elfimov? - that is completely saved by a convincing performance. A young band with good voice and a strong presence and - not least important - a major record label behind them. It would be a small surprise if this entry didn't go on straight to the final tonight.
6. JASMIN MICHAELA - Kertakäyttösydän
A good voice and a catchy chorus meets a complicated and messy verse, and again you ask yourself why nobody tried to clean up the songwriting a bit. If they get this to work on stage it could be a dark horse, otherwise it will fall flat.
What do I predict, then? Yle didn't make it easy for themselves since they allowed people to buy block of votes (up to 50 votes per voter) in the internet voting. Suddenly they will have to fight off allegations of vote rigging on a completely new scale. Suddenly qualification seems to depend even more on fan base and financial muscles than ever before. Which makes prediction hard.
I think Softengine will go straight into the final. Hopefully because the audience wants them, hopefully not because their brand new record label decides to push their career.
And who falls out, then? It can be anyone of the others, really. I think it could be Lili Lambert that falls out, and keep my fingers crossed that it will not be likeable Dennis Fagerström.
Live webcast should be available from Yle's official UMK page.