From fun duets to cheerful, simple tunes, Estonia’s small but impressive pop industry has it all. That partly explains why Väike Eestimaa is the Baltic’s most successful nation in Eurovision. With most of their Eurovision stars already stars, or at least able to grow their fan base after Eurovision, the small country always brings its A game.

Estonia debuted after the fall of the Soviet Union, and enjoyed resting on the left side of the scoreboard throughout the late 90’s. After their (undeserved?) victory in 2001, the country experienced a non-qualifying streak. The only glimpse of light came when the punk girl band Vanilla Ninja (originally from Tallinn) landed a top 8 result for Switzerland in 2005. Finally, in 2009, Sandra Nurmsalu brought Estonia to its first final in the semi-final era and placed an impressive sixth with the Estonian-language song Rändajad (it was the highest-placing non-English song of the entire contest). Since 2009, it has enjoyed some ups and downs, mostly seeing the higher scores when singing in Estonian and the lower ones when singing in English.

Estonia’s Recent History

2014: Tanja with “Amazing”, 12th place in the semi-final with 36 points

2013: Birgit Õigemeel with “Et uus saaks alguse”, 20th place with 19 points

2012: Ott Lepland with “Kuula”, 6th place with 120 points

2011: Getter Jaani with “Rockefeller Street”, 24th place with 44 points

2010: Malcolm Lincoln with “Siren”, 14th place in the semi-final with 39 points

2009: Sandra Nurmsalu with “Rändajad”, 6th place with 129 points

2008: Kreisiraadio with “Leto Svet”, 18th place in the semi-final with 8 points

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EbRlwsLVgjE

Recent Stats

1. How many sets of “douze points” has Estonia actually received since 2008?

Two sets in the Grand Final (from Finland and Slovakia in 2009), and five in the semi-finals (from Latvia in 2009, Finland and Latvia in 2010, Portugal and Sweden in 2012).

2. Who has Estonia awarded their recent “douze points” to?

In the finals – Russia (2008), Norway (2009), Germany (2010), Sweden (2011), Sweden (2012), Russia (2013), and the Netherlands (2014)

In the semis – Finland (2008), Norway (2009), Russia (2010), Sweden (2011), Sweden (2012), Denmark (2013), and the Netherlands (2014)

3. How many Estonian acts have received writing credits for their entry (either music, lyrics, or both)?

4 – Tanja, Ott Lepland, Malcolm Lincoln, and Kreisiraadio

Best Scoring Entry:

2009: Sandra Nurmsalu with “Rändajad”, 6th place with 129 points

In 2008, they sent politicians singing about vegetables and gas lamps in Finnish. The year after, they send the complete opposite: four stone-faced young women with orchestral instruments delivering a mature song in their native language. It worked perfectly, allowing Estonia to qualify for the first time from a semi-final and giving them a great spot to boot.
Most Memorable Lyrics: “See on tee, ta nähtamatu rajana kulgeb, nende ees, ta ootab kui riskida julged” (It is the way, it weaves an invisible path before them, waiting until you dare to take the risk)

Worst Scoring Entry:

2008: Kreisiraadio with “Leto Svet”, 18th place in the semi-final with 8 points

Once upon a time, three Estonian comedians decided to exploit all of the Eurovision stereotypes through a song. Comedian One asked Comedian Two and Comedian Three, “What do we need to make fun of Eurovision?” (It probably sounded a lot better because they were speaking in Estonian). Three replied, “How about attractive girls?”, and Two jumped in, “Yes! But they need to wear bikinis!”. One, who was feverishly taking notes, stated, “Great! What else?” Two answered “Well, everyone sings in English rather than their own language, and it never makes sense, so we have to sing in nonsensical English.” Three contradicted, “True, but everyone votes for their neighbors or for the host, so maybe we should sing in one of their languages.” One said, “How about both? And German too, for no reason?” Two and Three nodded in agreement. Two said, “So, we have hot girls and languages taken care of. We also need the cheesiest, sexiest dance moves. How about this one?” He then started raising his arms up and down repeatedly while standing still and rigid. Three laughed and clapped, and One took more notes. And that’s how Leto Svet was written.

Most Memorable Lyrics: “Krompira, graska, luka, jastoga, to je dosta” (Potatoes, beans, onions, lobster, enough!)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6scDhoKfUN0

Gem in the Archive:

One of Estonia’s more forgotten and more folky performances is “Tii”. Sung in Võro, a Southern dialect of Estonian, it features five women sing-shouting while a horned drummer accompanies them. It makes no sense, but I quite like it.

Here is what Team Wiwi has to say on Ukraine’s recent performances:

Zach: Estonia’s done pretty well for itself lately (minus their shocking early departure in 2014) with two top ten finishes and a good qualification record compared to other nations. My favorite far and away is Urban Symphony, they were actually my favorite in 2009. Sandra’s voice fit the song PERFECTLY, the instrumental is entrancing, and their staging was cool and mysterious, perfect for the song! One of my all time favorites I must say! Malcolm Lincoln recieves the honor of being my least favorite entry. He just sang it so annoyingly, whenever he sang “carry on” I cringed at the horrible pronunciation. Add on creepy/borderline stalker use camera work with one two many creepy stares and it’s a recipe for disaster. At least Leto Svet is good for a laugh.

Robyn: Eurovision lore says that English-language songs do the best, but Estonia is the exception to that rule – their two best scoring songs in recent years have been sung in Estonian. The secret seems to be highly emotional songs that bypass the language barrier and draw audiences in. With Tanja’s “Amazing” failing to qualify in Copenhagen, perhaps it’s time for Estonia go back to that previously successful style. Well, better to follow the path of “Kuula” than bring back an “Everybody” kind of shambles.

Angus: Once formidable, Estonia today is more of a loose cannon. It lunges between the extremes of thumping dance track and balladry. I personally prefer the former. ‘Rockefeller Street’ was super catchy and one of the strongest songs of 2011 but suffered unfortunately from being bunched together with a heap of other dance tracks in the running order. Likewise ‘Amazing’ was pretty fabulous. Tanja’s dance routine to me was inspiring rather than distracting and in a year dominated by ballads should have shone like a diamond among pebbles. Neither, however, lit up the scoreboard. My problem with the ballads – excepting ‘Rändajad’ – is that they’re a) too safe and b) too dreary. There’s nothing groundbreaking about either of the Estonian songs from 2012-2013. ‘Kuula’ had at least a modicum of emotional depth as a wrought piece of ballad writing but ‘Et uus saaks alguse’ was just a superficial rip off lacking any of 2012’s integrity. They both bored me to death. At least Rona Nishliu, for all her many songs, wailed so I was kept awake. The Estonian singers just muddled onto stage, mumbled a few words and then wandered off again without much notice. Coming back to ‘Rändajad’ that was kind of amazing. The darkness and iciness of the piece lent in something that sets it above generic balladry. It was haunting. Everything about the performance was just mesmerising and it’s the kind of thing Estonia should aim to achieve again. It stood out from the crowd and had it not been for the fact 2009 was probably the strongest year of Eurovision ever…it might just have won the whole thing. Urban Symphony could probably clinch it too if they ever tried again…

Francheska: The Baltic States are always interesting competitors. Estonia is obviously the more successful of the three, and relies on an intersection of Nordic and Soviet voting blocs. 2012 and 2009 were great years for Estonia, but I have to give major props to 2006. That’s right, the Swede who used obscure metaphors and a genre that can be only described as teenage chick-flick music. The song is contagious and fun (and I need to steal those boots). That said, with Estonia’s fun and deep offerings to the contest, I simply do not get the 2011 entry. “Rockefeller Street” is nonsensical at best, and the fun attitude is misread as being simply childish. That magic trick and the mickey mouse shirts did not help, and made us confuse it for a JESC entry with some kids who aged really prematurely.

Who was your favorite? Your least favorite? Räägi mulle vastuses! (Tell us in the comments!)

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Chrysovalantis
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Chrysovalantis

My favorite entry of Estonia among the ones you refer to is 2009’s ”Randajad”.I would also like to mention Sandra Oxenryd (Through my window in 2006),Neiokoso(Til in 2004).

Tha
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Tha

@CookyMonzta Yeah, I know. Sandra and Lenna are great singers, and was really unfair the Eesti Laul’s jury don’t give high points to Sandra. But today, I don’t think that “Kui Tuuled Pöörduvad” could win this edition of Eurovision, because this year we had some really great songs, but… look to the winner. Of course Conchita would win even if Sandra would represent Estonia ): Anyway, “Amazing” is a good song. One of my favs this year. But I agree that Sandra should win, cause I’m waiting her return since 2010 haha. And Lenna should win in 2010. Even “Supernova”… Read more »

ESCaddict
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ESCaddict

Rockefeller Street is one of the worst ESC songs ever. It is like some kiddie crap from The Disney Channel. The performance was embarrassingly bad.

Alex
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Alex

Amazing is in my head all the time, probably because Tanja’s a good vocalist. Unfortunately, the song is not altogether too great. They should’ve saved their routine for the Eurovision Dance Contest, if it ever returns. Et uus saaks alguse was underrated. I didn’t like it at first, but the unabashed brightness of the song grew on me. Wish it did better in the final. I actually had a problem with Ott’s performance of Kuula – he went off the studio version melody too early, which detracted from the very special buildup. Powerful song, though. Rockefeller Street was an extremely… Read more »

CookyMonzta
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CookyMonzta

@Tha: They had their chance to send Lenna this year with “Supernoova”, which I thought had the potential to finish in the top 5 overall. But I also thought that Sandra’s “Kui Tuuled Pöörduvad” had the potential to win.

Needless to say, with the both of them having finished in the top 10 (Lenna and her band Vanilla Ninja for Switzerland, and Sandra with her band Urban Symphony), they ought to try again, perhaps reform their bands.

Belko
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Belko

I liked only 2011 entry, but Kuula and Amazing weren’t that bad.

Maria
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Maria

1. Et Uus Saaks Alguse (has always been a guilty pleasure)
2. Kuula (disliked it at first, now an amazing song imo)
3. Randajad (same as above)
4. Rockefeller Street (loved it at first, now repetitive but still great)
5. Amazing (amazing sing-dance routine, average dance song)
6. Siren (nothing special. Not a bad tune tho)
7. Leto Svet (ew)

R
Guest
R

Ott Lepland is the best, period.

Charles
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Charles

Sandra Nurmsalu and Ott Lepland remain in my book as the most impressive and most remarkable singers to have graced the Eurovision stage since Evelin Samuel in 1999 and all three scored equally 6th place …that does mean something … while everything else was either pathetic, cheesy pop or unimpressive balladry besides a shameful victory beyond my understanding back in 2001. They need to come back with that type of high quality and please in Estonian which sounds beautiful.

David
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David

Estonia is the only Baltic state that sends ok songs to ESC. Overall i like their entries. I agree though that Estonia most times fails to deliver a memorable performance.

Tha
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Tha

Estonia is one of my favorite countries in Eurovision (since 2009). They should be the winner in 2009. Urban Symphony was perfect, for me, and is my favorite Eurovision song and performance since that date. I didn’t liked “Siren” and “Rockefeller Street” (I was feeling on a JESC in 2011). But Randajad, Kuula, and Et Uus Saaks Alguse are amazing ballads in a beautiful language. I’m was sooo happy when the 2 first reached the top 10! 😀 Tanja’s song was good, one of my favorites in 2014 with a amazing dance routine, in a middle of so many ballads.… Read more »

Bledar Leka
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Bledar Leka

1: 2009
2: 2012
3: 2013
4: 2011
5: 2014
6: 2010
7: 2008

QwaarJet
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QwaarJet

It was Urban Symphony, not just Sandra that did Randajad.

Darren
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Darren

Estonia is quite an interesting country at Eurovision. When they are good they are really goo, when they are bad they are terrible (2008)
I loved Malcolm Lincoln, Urban Symphony, Getter Janni and Tanja though! They really should have qualifed this year.

Anonymous
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Anonymous

Randajad was the best, Kuula and Rockefeller Street were great too, Birgit and Tanja were ok, but the rest were rubbish….

Lolly
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Lolly

1. Rockefeller Street
2. Kuula
3. Randajad

… all the others