I suppose I spoke my mind on how I feel about this year's edition of Euroviisut in an earlier post today, but let's focus on the songs instead. Starting from this week, I will also predict the outcome in advance but here are my grades and opinions on the first five songs in competition:
1. AUTOMATIC EYE - I'm Not The One Who's Sorry
The honour of opening the 2011 edition of the Finnish semi finals went to a group who, according to the press material, had a radio hit some time ago but whose name is unlikely to ring any bell with the larger part of the audience. They offered a typical straightforward piece of radio pop/rock of a kind that has struggled to make an impact in Euroviisut lately. Tailor made for the airwaves, but the live performance left a lot to be desired. The singer, a bit too excited for his own good, made a frantic and unfocused impression on stage. Bland rather than bad, but clearly not an entry that would go very far.
2. MARKO MAUNUKSELA - Synkän maan tango
Tango is an important part of the Finnish folklore and a good enough reason to weep your heart out to a sentimental tune in minor. This tango has gone through the pop filter, however, before it was handed over to the current Tango King, winner of the prestigious Tangomarkkinat Song Contest. Maunuksela possesses a strong, deep voice and displays rather a strong stage persona as well, nailing the camera with his eyes throughout the song, giving overall a good impression. The song is hopelessly wasted on a non-Finnish audience, but as a product aimed at the domestic market only it is not bad at all.
3. JOHANNA IIVANAINEN - Luojani mun
The softest song of the evening (by quite a margin, too) is offered by Johanna who, despite being more of jazz singer, offered a musical mix somewhere in between a hymn and a country ballad by the fire. Anyone who could keep a straight face performing with an outfit as unflattering as Johanna's deserve some extra points, I suppose, but this song clearly hit a nerve with many televoters. It benefits from repeated listening (as well as from a change of language - if Johanna wins she will sing in English in Düsseldorf) but would be very much of a risk in the ESC. Hit or miss. Sink or swim.
4. JONNA - Puppets
Jonna was exposed to a larger audience when she competed in a docusoap and found herself selected for the girl band Gimmel, only to leave the band almost at once. She had a bit of a career going on for a few years after that, but have remained very much outside the public eye for a long time. She put on a very ambitious show (including both dancing and a change of dress), but forget the most important detail: a good song to go with it. When the chorus falls as flatly as this one, no amount of skillful dancing can help you. Especially not when the camera work is this uninspired and the director seems not to be able to care less about what happens on stage. A shame every time such an amount of ambition is wasted to no use.
5. CARDIANT - Rapture In Time
Ever since Lordi won the ESC in Athens, it has been clear that heavy metal will always have a given spot in Euroviisut. This genre is definitely not my cup of tea, but what is worse is that the singer doesn't measure up to what is expected of him. This type of melodious metal requires a lot of vocal precision and the vocalist has to struggle to reach the higher notes. He eventually hits most of them, but it is a bumpy ride and not as enjoyable as it could have been. The chorus is not all bad, but on the total this is not designed to appeal to me.
Every week, the audience is the let loose and by televoting they decide who will pass on to the final and who will be left in the cold. Three songs per week take a spot in the final, scheduled for February 12th.
This week, Automatic Eye and Jonna found themselves knocked out but they can still hope to be the lucky loser: out of the non-qualifyers, Yle will select one wild card to take the tenth spot in the final.
All in all a weak first semi. The quality will improve in the two remaining semis, but the Finnish televoters have a bleak bunch to select from.
The positive side effect of that is that is should be easy to pick the quality raisins out of the dull cake. The second semi will prove if this is the case.