Sunday, November 27, 2016

UMK 2017 songs: first listen

A few days ago the line-up of finalists for UMK 2017, the Finnish national selection for Eurovision, was announced.  Today I listened to the songs for the first time.  Here are my thoughts.

Arrows - Alva
This is a pleasant and reasonably contemporary pop song although it has a rather bland and generic feel.  The "arrows, arrows, arrows" hookline is memorable enough but this song is lacking that something extra to appeal to the voters.

Blackbird - Norma John
I'm not a fan of ballads at all, but for me this is the standout of the national selection and could have the best chance of getting Finland a decent result at ESC.  This song's slow brooding drama immediately made me think of something which would turn up in Norway's MGP - and I mean that as a compliment.  Norma has a beautiful voice too.  If they get the staging right, this could do very, very well.

Caveman - Knucklebone Oscar and The Shangri-La Rubies
UMK certainly brings a bit of diversity every year but in 2017 there seem to be more novelty/joke entries than should really be necessary in a national final.  This isn't so much a song as a messy mishmash of ideas and will probably need to lean on significant staging to give it any chance.  It sounds like a leftover song from an axed musical and has no redeeming features for me at all.

Circle of Light - Emma
For me this is immediately drawing a comparison with "Hear Them Calling" and I'm visualising similar staging with added wolves (!)  This would make a very predictable and safe winner and it's all just too "been there done that" for me.  It's not the worst song I've ever heard but it's totally lacking in originality and brings nothing new to the table.

Helppo elämä - Lauri Yrjölä 
Hooray!  A native language song - the only one in the national final. The title means "Easy Life" and it goes from a "Hey Brother"-styled beginning to a chorus with some serious dance beats.  I quite liked this on first listen, I know it doesn't really have a chance in the contest but I'm glad it's there.

Love Yourself - Gunther and D'Sanz
Yes, that Gunther, sleazy old Gunther of Ding Dong Song and Like Fire Tonight fame is back, back, back. And he's crossed the border into Finland!

Love Yourself, eh?  This isn't Justin Bieber's worldwide mega-hit ballad, but instead it quickly makes its intentions very clear.  This song appears to be an ode to, erm, "touching your tra-la-la" and the chorus takes it into Eurodance banger territory.  It did make me smile, I have to admit!

Paradise - My First Band
This is just a bad, bad parody of an r'n'b pop song.  "I wanna see you satisfied/let me kiss your paradise"?  Goodness gracious. No thanks.  Perhaps I might have liked this better if the lyrics weren't so hideous.

Reach Out For The Sun - Anni Saikku
It boasts the kind of empowering "you can do it!" lyrics which turn up in numerous national final songs every year. My main problem with this song is that it's desperately needing a big old dance remix.  The sentiment of the song deserves something more uptempo than the sea of blandness which it's sailing on.

My Little World - Club La Persé
All together now..."I just love my little world, I don't need no new sensations..." oh wait.  It's not that one.  What's with rehashing song titles in this year's UMK?  31 years after Waterloo and Robinson brought us that cheesy tune, Club La Persé will bring something completely different to the Finnish national selection.  Visually this collective is, well, let's just say, interesting.  I like the beat and the retro-dance feel of the chorus but the whole thing is a bit of a waste.  Another "novelty" song.

Perfect Villain - Zühlke
When I saw her picture I was immediately reminded of Nina Soderquist in Melodifestivalen 2009. Zühlke could be just as fierce. This modern, mid-tempo number has the potential to do quite well, and the song's chorus starts with "what would the X-Men do?".  What would the voters do?  What would Brian Boitano do? (sorry).  I think this could do well.

All in all, on first listen I found this selection of national final songs to be disappointing.  Was that the best Finland could do?  You always expect something better (see what I did there!) and at least something different/unusual from a Finnish national final: but 2017 is more different/unusual in a bad way rather than a good way.  Maybe a few more listens will change my mind - or maybe not?

My preferred winner would be "Blackbird" as I feel it would give Finland the best chance at ESC.  I guess it's between Emma, Zühlke and Norma John, although in recent years UMK has given us some surprising results so anything can happen!

The UMK final takes place on 28 January 2017 - yes, just one national final, no semi-finals this time round - and it will be hosted by Krista Siegfrids.

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