Eesti Laul 2018: First semi-final songs revealed in Estonia

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Eesti Laul is one of the most anticipated national finals of the season. And today broadcaster ERR is unveiling the ten songs that will compete in the first semi-final of Eesti Laul 2018 on 10 February.

In early November, the 20 semi-finalists and the names of their songs were revealed. At that stage, a few songs were already released, but today is the first time we’ll be able to hear all ten songs competing in the first semi-final.

The songs will be slowly revealed today, one by one every hour from 10:00 to 21:00 EET on the ERR Eesti Laul stream. As was the case last year, TV host Mai Palling and Vanilla Ninja guitarist Piret Järvis will chat with the artists as their songs are revealed. You can also watch the proceedings (with livestream commentary) on the web site of our official Eesti Laul partners at DELFI PUBLIK — Estonia’s most-read news source.

The Eesti Laul semi-finals will take place on 10 and 17 February. Ten songs will make it to the grand final on 3 March, where Estonia will select their act for Lisbon.

Eesti Laul – Semi-final one

Wiwiblogger William offers his candid first impressions below. The songs are being presented in the running order of the semi-final.

Vajé – “Laura (Walk with Me)”

We don’t know who Laura is, but if she has half a brain she’s going to take these guys up on their offer of a walk (so long as they sing).  Stefan’s voice is smooth, resonant, sweet and sexy — and the production is very now. He mixes electronic sounds with a smooth dance beat that seems to nod to Shawn Mendes. He doesn’t just sing, he smoulders. And while the song doesn’t yet have that WOW moment, staging, close camera crops and plenty of eye contact may well elevate this. They told ERR that they’re here to do this their way. “We have never been compared to other people and artists,” they said. “Maybe we’ll just come and do as we see. We do not look at anyone else.”

Iiris & Agoh – “Drop That Boogie”

As you can see in the pics below, Iiris oozes attitude and that comes through in her sound, which flirts with genres from electronica to garage to pop. She’s pretty but gritty, yesterday but today — and she appears to be singing about a same-sex relationship. “Me and my lady we bouncin’ backwards and on…I’m not sure she’s the one, but whenever we kiss it’s like Rachel and Ross.” (Nice reference to Friends there). The song lacks the predictable peaks and troughs of a typical Eurovision song, but it’s funky edge could lend itself well to staging.

Iiris actually lives in London, but continues her cooperation with Agoh. She says her performance will involve “a little chillin'”.

Etnopatsy – “Külm”

“Etno” sounds like “ethno” — and you can really feel it! Bringing indigenous sounds and some undeniable authenticity to the contest, this track bridges the ancient with the modern to create something intoxicating, mystical and spellbinding. The repetition of hell-la, hell-la, hell-la, hey really drills into your ears. Bonus points for their fierce dreadlocks, ladies! In recent years, both Sweden and Norway have said “well done but no thank you” to Sami-inspired tracks. Will Estonia follow suit?

“Estonian folk musicians and composers have always been inspired by nature and natural phenomena,” they tell ERR. “We want the sun to be in the winter, beautiful cold in winter, and this inspiration comes from Estonia’s nature, and we both are nature lovers.”

Sibyl Vane – “Thousand Words”

Sibyl — which actually consists of Helen, Heiko and Hendrik — brings straight-up alternative to Eesti Laul. They’re represented by the Latvian label I Love You Records and they won the Young Bands 2011 competition, which gives them a bit of street cred. “Thousand Words” has a familiar sound — it wouldn’t be out of place in a teen movie and for some reason it makes me think of Ireland 2009 (not a bad thing). The first minute builds really nicely, but the chorus, while pleasant, ultimately feels a tad flat. Word has it they’re great live, so there’s plenty of reason to feel positive about this one.

Aden Ray – “Everybody’s Dressed”

Aden has crafted a current, sensuous sound. His high-pitched vocals sound choral, religious and sexy all at once — a strange mish-mash that is surprisingly inviting. The use of synth and digi-sounds give him contemporary flair, yet I can hear 80s greats like Annie Lennox in there. The song is interesting but a tad monotonous. As with so many songs so far, it lacks the climax so commonly found in Eurovision contenders.

Tiiu x Okym x Semy – “Näita oma energiat”

Mr Saxobeat seems to open this track, promising sunshine, sand and plenty of pina coladas. But things get very grunge very quickly and our saxophone friend is swallowed by a garage-warehouse-hip-hop group that has no sense of melody, shape or form. This feels messy and rather unfortunate. They clearly have character and personality in spades (see our Instagram gallery below). But the song is just so tedious and irritating I can barely bring myself to finish it.

Stig Rästa – “Home”

“Goodbye to Yesterday” had fire and a smouldering edge. This does not. Instead Stig goes for something sweet, tender and dreamy — a love letter to his special someone. Sleepy to some, totally romantic to others, it isn’t a clear winner or even a clear contender — but Stig doesn’t care. This year marks his 12th appearance as a songwriter or artist and his first going solo. “I’ve been practicing so much now that I’m not afraid of anything,” he told ERR. We have to give him props for the line “Sleep on the balcony, watch a little GoT” — I love the Game of Thrones! My only fear is that the more hipster acts in this year’s selection will, like the Mother of Dragons, leave him feeling a little burnt.

Miljardid – “Pseudoprobleem”

If Franz Ferdinand were re-born in Estonia, they may sound something like this. Miljardid strike the right balance between mainstream and niche, radio-friendly and slightly alternative. The track progresses somewhat linearly, but changing instrumentation, rhythm and accents keep it interesting. It seems a tad repetitive for Eurovision, and the ending rather abrupt, but surely this will find, and deserves, its fans. Interestingly, Estonian social media suggests this is one of the more popular acts. Music critics, however, say this is one of the band’s worst songs.

Desiree – “On My Mind”

Desiree sounds fab. She’s a breath of fresh air — and one with a very Spotify-friendly sound. The snare drum is a simple yet effective flourish, and for me the song speeds by. But at the moment it — like so many other songs here — feels flat and lacks a proper climax. We’re moving forward but I never feel like we arrive anywhere and at times this seems more like background music than the main event. No matter. If Desiree can pull this off live and infuse it with a bit of emotion (which, at times, is drained out by the digital sounds) I may just fall in love.

Elina Netsajeva – “La Forza”

Wow. Elina can sing. Her operatic flourishes will no doubt divide the fandom. But this much is clear: She’s managed to take opera and make it slightly more accessible with some contemporary production that gives it a slight pop vibe, without moving into camp territory. Live she should rightfully blow people away.

What do you think about the songs competing in Eesti Laul’s first semi-final? Which should make it to the grand final? Tell us in the comments section below!

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Photos: Rauno Volmar