Aksel Kankaanranta was due to represent Finland at the 2020 Eurovision Song Contest in Rotterdam with his song “Looking Back”.
Finnish broadcaster selected Aksel through its UMK format. While the UMK brand has been used since 2012, this year was the first time since 2017 that it was a multi-artist selection. Six acts competed in the final, with the winner being chosen by a mixture of public and jury votes.
Aksel narrowly lost out to the hotly tipped Erika Vikman in the televote, but a convincing lead with the juries was enough to secure victory.
And now we’ve compiled 10 facts you need to know about Aksel. Let’s do this!
Finland at Eurovision 2020: Facts about Aksel
1. He’s a home bird
Aksel was born and raised in Turku, Finland’s sixth-largest city in terms of population. In an interview with our Dayana, he tells us a little bit about his homeplace: “It’s a couple of 100 kilometres to the west from Helsinki. And I’ve lived there all my life. Not in the city itself, but near towns in the coastal areas”. In fact, he’s rarely travelled outside of Finland. Rotterdam would have been Aksel’s third trip abroad.
2. He started out playing the violin
Aksel comes from a musical family. His father was a violinist and his mother also had experience with the instrument. And while his parents divorced when he was still a child, they both endued him with a love for music. So, Aksel started to learn the violin too. He started at four but stopped when he was 13.
3. He realised he could sing in eight grade
Aksel discovered his talent for singing in junior music class. He was playing the bass for Zen Café’s “Todella kaunis”, when he decided to sing along. And he surprised himself: “Damn, I can sing!” However, it wasn’t until he was 15 that Aksel sang in front of a live audience for the first time. “It was a Christmas church, there was a crowd of three hundred. I sang “Walking in the Air”. Before the show, it was quite exciting, even more exciting before I got on stage. But as soon as I started singing, the tension disappeared”.
4. He was almost the Voice of Finland
Aksel appeared on the sixth season of The Voice Of Finland in early 2017. His audition with Vance Joy’s “Riptide” was enough to make three coaches turn. Aksel opted to join Anna Puu’s team, and soon enough he was through to the live shows. Performances of hits like “Let Me Love You”, “Thinking Out Loud” and “Hymn For The Weekend” took him to the final where he finished second.
Aksel actually only entered the competition after encouragement from his mother and sister. Aksel calls the experience a baptism of fire: “I was surprised at how quickly the tension disappeared in the performance situation itself”.
5. He has a number one single
Shortly after his stint on The Voice, Aksel collaborated with Pyhimys — one of Finland’s most successful rappers — on “Jättiläinen” (Giant). The single went on to be one of the biggest hits of 2018. It reached number one in the charts and stayed inside the top 20 for 20 weeks. The track received the Song Of The Year and Most Streamed Song Of The Year awards at Finland’s annual Emma Gaala in 2019. Aksel and Pyhmis also performed at the event.
6. He’s finishing his studies
Aksel’s dream is to support himself with music: “It would be so ideal if you could make a living by doing what you enjoy. Probably mainly singing, but also songwriting and composing could be done on the sidelines”. But first Aksel is completing his studies. He’s currently studying media in the Turku Vocational Institute.
7. He’s shy
Aksel was always shy growing up. And despite his musical success, he remains a little shy today. However, he doesn’t let that hold him back. “Why do I want to be in front of large audiences, even though I’m shy? I wonder why it should be wondered. I want to realise myself and evoke deep feelings and reactions in people. I want to convey sensitivity and soulfulness”.
8. He was bullied
Sadly, Aksel didn’t have an easy time when he was younger. “I was bullied at school”, he tells ILTALEHTI. But despite the struggles he endured, Aksel isn’t bitter. He holds no grudges and he doesn’t even feel the need to gloat and say “look at me now”. That’s because he believes his bullies faced issues too. “It certainly wasn’t easy for them either. I have forgiven them mentally”.
9. He’s a gamer
When he’s not singing, Aksel likes to relax with his computer games. And he’s a fan of all kinds of games. In one interview, he says his favourite game is currently Destiny 2 — a multi-player first-person shooter game. It lets him clear his head. But Aksel is also fond of less strategic games — Pokémon Go is also among his top picks.
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Don’t look back! Look here – it’s Finland’s ?? @okraranta! We’re looking forward to Aksel joining us for The Wiwi Jam From Home on Wednesday May 13! ? Aksel was due to be Finland’s singer for Eurovision 2020 with “Looking Back”. • For the #wiwijam, Aksel will sing an acoustic version of his Eurovision song. And his dog Tosso will sit in on the performance to keep him company. • Aksel is an up-and-coming name in his native Finland. After finishing second on The Voice, he collaborated with rapper Pyhimys on the hit single “Jättiläinen”. He also picked up a numerous awards. In March, he won UMK 2020 – Finland’s selection show for Eurovision. • Follow @wiwijam for updates. Graphics by @cinansdl • #WiwiJam #WiwiJamAtHome #WiwiJam2020 #Eurovision #Eurovision2020 #ESC2020 #EurovisionSongContest #OpenUp #EurovisionSongContest2020
10. He has a dog
Followers of Aksel on Instagram will notice that a certain four-legged friend is a near-constant presence in the singer’s updates. That is, of course, Aksel’s dog Topi. He has even created a series of story highlights dedicated to his canine chum.
Eurovision 2021 update
Broadcaster YLE has confirmed song submissions for UMK 2020 will open as normal on September 1. Aksel Kankaanranta is welcome to submit a song, but a pre-jury will decide which songs make the live stage of the competition. Aksel has confirmed that he intends to send in an entry for consideration.
Will you miss Aksel at Eurovision? Are you excited to hear his next UMK effort? Let us know in the comments.