2015 was a really good year for UMK. It really was. There was a huge boost concerning production values and content, the new presenting style and absence of more or less irrelevant "experts made for a much better tv show. The lineup was also an interesting mix of very different kinds of Finnish contemporary music.
Then there was the tiny drawback that the eventual winner represented very little of all this and ended last in its semi final in Vienna. You can't get everything right at once, I suppose.
Another problem is that very few of the songs managed to find commercial success of any kind after the contest. It would be better for a hit contest to actually produce hits, but this year's lineup seems even stronger. Maybe this is the year things turn for the better?
Like last year, it seems Yle won't reveal the running order until the broadcast starts so here are my reviews in the order the songs are presented on the official UMK website.
Saara Aalto / No Fear
Nobody wants this like Saara Aalto does. She really wants to break through and become a star and be loved by the masses. She was the runner-up to Paradise Oskar back in 2011 but this is clearly her best shot to date. Her song is bold and effective and sounds a bit as if Kate Bush had written the soundtrack to Disney's Frozen. Not the most instant song ever but most rewarding and not a bad gamble for Eurovision.
Mikko Herranen / Evil Tone
Some sort of rock ballad. That's how I would describe it. I think. Every time I try to remember what it sounds like, it escapes me. That can never be a good sign.
Stella Christine / Ain't Got Time For Boys
A good voice and a very pleasant style but another song that just isn't strong enough. It sounds good for as long as it goes on and then it fades, but if Stella Christine sings as well live as on the studio recording this could be a surprise in the making.
Eini / Draamaa
Given Eini's omnipresence in Finnish showbiz since the late 1970's - where she landed a big hit with the local version of Baccara's Yes Sir, I Can Boogie - it is surprising this is only her second attempt to make it to the ESC. She found herself a more than decent contemporary pop schlager in a stylish arrangement and while the chorus could have been stronger it would be deeply unfair if she didn't make it into this week's top three.
ClemSO / Thief
This former member of a Nigerian boy band has a very pleasant voice I'd love to hear more of. His entry is well produced but again lacking that final handle or push or surprise needed to stand out.
Pää-Äijät / Samppanjataivas
Song-wise this one has it all: an infectious rhythm, a hit sound and a most effective hook. Personally I have had it up to here with this kind of male performer that is "weird" and "funny" and "crazy" but even I must admit this is a functioning package.
It is always hard predicting when the only thing you have to go on are the studio versions and video clips provided by Yle. Who will be able to pull their performance off once the cameras are on?
Having said this, I think the top trio of this semi final will be Saara Aalto, Eini and Pää-Äijät. Saara can sing, Eini is very experienced and Pää-Äijät's song sounds like a hit single.
However - if ClemSO or Stella Christine manage to burn through the screen and make their songs work, either one could potentially steal Eini's spot in the final. Which would really be a shame.