Ahead of the final of Finland’s Uuden Musiikin Kilpailu 2017, the Wiwi Jury — our in-house panel of music unprofessionals — is reviewing all ten competing entries. Next up is indie pop duo Norma John with their song “Blackbird”. Are we feeling the pain or are we just left cold? Read on to find out!
Norma John – “Blackbird”
About Norma John
Norma John consists of two friends — Leena Tirronen and Lasse Piirainen — neither of whom is named Norma or John. Leena took part in Finland’s first and so far only season of The X Factor in 2012. After that she released an album under the moniker Leena Ihmemaassa (Leena in Wonderland). Keyboardist Lasse Piirainen has been playing for 30 years already. Their song explores a break-up and the pain that follows when everything seems to remind you of your ex.
Kristin: I’m completely mesmerized. Such a beautiful production. So low key, so simple, but so strong, and the instrumental part just sent shivers down my spine. And Leena’s soft and heavenly voice is the icing on the cake here. Unfortunately, I don’t see this winning UMK, but I’m going to root for this nonetheless. Norma John. You just get me.
Patrick: I am writing this late at night so initially I was scared this might put me to sleep. But actually I kind of buy this act. She has a very smooth and relaxing voice, the song itself is very chill and has a quite touching melody. It reminds me of Ireland’s winner “The Voice” mixed with Norway’s “Nocturne” — just very toned down and calm. It is a very well produced song and I quite like it. For Eurovision this would not be the right choice, but it’s definitely worth a listen — and worth Norma John giving it a shot.
Bernardo: Her voice! “Blackbird” is so dark but so dreamy at the same time and suits Leena’s voice perfectly. This will kill it with the judges. Lyrically it is extremely well constructed and the production has the perfect tone. I’m transported to another universe. Slay Norma John, slay!
William: It’s atmospheric and enchanting and her voice is stunning. But 30 seconds into this I had to check if I still had a pulse, as the song just loops monotonously until a rather long instrumental break. It sounds like a mash-up of Elisabeth Andreassen’s Melodifestivalen 2011 song “Vaken I En Dröm” (which finished last in its semi) and a song they’d play in a made-for-TV movie about senior citizens. I appreciate the beauty here. But sometimes beauty needs a bit of ugliness and grit to make it memorable.
Robyn: This is some good Scandinavian gothic. “Blackbird” is about the common experience of heartbreak, but Leena’s vocals elevate it to more than just a song of sadness. She brings both strength and fragility to her performance. I’m also enchanted by the little fluttery instrumental break, evoking a bird in flight. It brings the perfect amount of lightness to the song, a glimmer of hope amid the misery.
Natalie: I know it’s brilliant, ridiculously well-composed and earnestly written, and I appreciate the beautiful and passionate delivery. In all respects, I should be happy for this to go to Eurovision. But I just want to hate it. I guess the problem is that I want to beam when I watch Eurovision and be consumed by optimism and happy energy. But this is just so maudlin and pained. I just can’t be a fan. I’m so sorry.
Jovana: “Blackbird” is probably the entry I most enjoyed listening to. It’s one of those songs that you want to listen to with your eyes closed. It’s also proof that when you have a singer that can deliver both technically and emotionally, you don’t need more than a simple melody with a few instruments. “Blackbird” is a tune that I can imagine being used in a film, something like The Lord of the Rings. However, it is reminiscent of popular songs including Florence and the Machine, Christina Perri’s “Jar of Hearts” and, obviously, The Netherland’s 2013 entry “Birds”. Sometimes audiences reward familiarity, sometimes they punish it.
Sami: In a way this works like dementors in the Harry Potter universe. It drains peace, hope and happiness out of you, but in this case, you kind of enjoy it. The simplicity makes this effective and moving. Sadly it’s slightly forgettable. The melody isn’t really going anywhere and the song is mostly based on Leena’s great vocals. The music video is amazing and I hope they can bring the same intensity to the stage performance.
In the UMK Wiwi Jury, we have 19 jurors but only room for 8 reviews. The rest of our scores can be found below:
Before calculating the average score, the highest and lowest scores are dropped. This is to remove outliers and reduce potential bias. We have removed a low of 4 and a high of 9.5.