Review: “Eesti Laul 2021” (Estonia)

As usual, Estonia will select their artist and song for Eurovision via “Eesti Laul“.
24 songs are included in the line-up, but only one will be Estonia’s song for Eurovision 2021.
The 24 artists will be allocated into 2 semi-finals. The allocation will be revealed later on.
Semi-final 1 will be held on the 18th of February 2021.
Semi-final 2 will be held on the 20th of February 2021.
The Grand Final will be held on the 6th of March 2021.

Each semi-final will include 2 rounds of voting. In the first round, 50% jury voting and 50% public voting will determine the top 4 acts that will qualify for the grand final.
In the second round of voting, the 8 remaining artists will fight for another 2 spots in the final. The voting will be determined only by public voting.
12 artists will compete in the final. In the first round of voting, 50% pubic voting and 50% jury voting will decide who are the top 3. In the second round, the public will choose their favorite to win.

Estonia went through a varied history at the Eurovision. From ending in Top 10 in the years 2009, 2012, 2015, 2018 to unsatisfying in 2014,2016,2017 or ending in the bottom (2013, 2019).
What will be Estonia destiny at Eurovision 2021?

In this post,I will review the 24 competing acts.

# 1 . Alabama Watchdog – Alabama Watchdog

It’s an old rock Rock&Roll song. We can easily recognize American rock elements in the song , as the “Alabama” word in the band name hints.
The singing is pretty fast and the rhyming feels a little bit forced. The melody is based on bass, drums and electric guitar. I had some difficulties to understand part of the lyrics.
After the first chorus, an electronic beat is leading the production.
The lyrics discuss several issues (which don’t necessarily have any connection between them).
First of all, in the chorus they mention the world lockdown (“Get down for the lockdown
“Stay sane till it blows out”) which reminds us of the Covid-19 lockdown.
In the second verse, they mention issues like virtual relationships as well as trans-sexual girls: ” … ain’t no girls if they’re plugged online/ If they eat those pills and the hormones fly/
Reverse or recovery won’t come so easily/ So who’s gonna pay if it won’t feel swell?”.
Eurovision fans blamed the lyricists in trans-phobia (and if you ask me, they are right).
To sum up, the genre is good but the whole package seems unprofessional and the lyrics are just ruining it.

# 2. Andrei Zevakin & Pluuto  Wingman

It’s a rap song in the Estonian language. The melody is based on guitar and dominated by the modern production. Another element in the song is special effect that change the singers voices.
The second part of the song also include trumpet playing. In a specific point, it seems like the video clip is critical for the ability to focus on the song.
My main concern is the way the song will work in a live performance.

#3. Egert Milder – Free Again

It’s a country singer song writer ballad. The guitar stringing is the central element of the melody. The singer tell a story in the lyrics: he want to be free again and he is missing the past.
I can see that song also as “Covid-19” influenced.
However, I find it really generic and basic.
It will be the 3rd time Egert competing in “Eesti Laul” as a singer: In 2015 he was part of a duo and didn’t qualify for the final. In 2020′ he performed “Georgia is on my mind” and ended in the 4th place in the final.

#4. Gram-Of-Fun – Lost in a Dance

It’s a retro dance 1980′s dance song. The song is a typical non-Eurovision song. However, that’s what makes it standout. The lead singer has a pleasant voice that fits the genre.
The first verse included an almost constant beat and backing vocals. The bridge doesn’t exist, as the chorus starts directly after the verse. The last minute starts with “Wouldn’t believe you now” and being performed with higher voice.
The song has a cyclic structure and it’s catchy. I would be happy to get any surprise in the song.

#5. Hans Nayna – One By One

It’s a Gospel Pop song. The introduction is promising, thereafter the melody is getting weaker while we can namely hear Hans voice. The chorus is catchy and stronger than the rest of the song. Nevertheless, there is something unoriginal and pretty predictable in the song.
In my opinion, the song can be revamped by adding a strong drop or an interesting break in the melody.
Hans has a warm and stable voice which puts him in the first line of performers in this national selection.

#6. Helen – Nii kõrgele (Eng: “So High”)

It’s a radio-friendly song. the melody is pretty basic. Sometimes, there is a electric guitar playing.
The song is very uniform is the sense that it’s like walking in a straight line without curves or edges.
Her dancing and smile lift the song which is already pleasant.
My favorite part in the song is when the melody is based on piano playing.
For me, the song is decent but it hasn’t a component to make it stand out among the others.

#7. Heleza 6

The composer of the song is Karl Killing who himself competing in “Eesti Laul 2021”.
It’s a mid-tempo contemporary pop song. The song is bilingual: It combines lyrics in Estonian and French.
The introduction is in French and is relying on keyboards playing. The first verse is in the Estonian language and it’s being sung much faster. There is something passionate in the song, and not only because the singer is in the bathroom. The chorus has French lyrics, it has a stronger beat and diverse production. The singer’s voice is pleasant and there is something convincing in her interpretation. The ending is instrumental and completes the song in the right way.
Some of you may find it a little bit repetitive, but I think the structure of the song contributes to the whole experience. However, I feel the song is too short.
The combination between the languages is surprisingly good. It will be refreshing to get a song like that from Estonia. Especially because the last time when Estonia sent a song in the Estonian language was in 2013.

#8. Ivo Linna, Robert Linna,and Supernova – Ma olen siin (Eng: “I’m here”)

Ivo Linna was part of the duo that represented Estonia at Eurovision 1996 and ended in the 5th place in the final. Ivo Linna collaborates with his son Robert and the duo Supernova.
It’s a rock-pop ballad with influences of the 1990’s music. The introduction is quite acoustic with drums and guitar playing. The first two verses are being sung by Ivo alone with his typical raspy voice. The verse is much stronger and we can hear other vocalists alongside Ivo. The adding of other vocalists gives the song an unique dimension of softness. The combination of the violin with drums is good but the violin should be more dominant. The second part of the song is starting with singing by one of the Supernova duo. The smokey atmosphere in the song is becoming stronger while the using of bass playing is wider.
The production is excellent and the vocalists had good effort. My only concern is that the public may tag the song as dated and therefore will prevent from voting for it.

#9. Jüri Pootsmann – Magus melanhoolia (Eng: Sweet Melancholy)

Jüri Pootsmann comes back to “Eesti Laul“, after he had won in “Eesti Laul 2016” with the song “Play“.Jüri represented Estonia at Eurovision 2016, but fail to qualify for the grand final, ending last in his semi-final.
This time we are getting a song in the Estonian language. It’s an indie pop with wide influences of R&B. The verses are relying on drums beat effect with a basic melody and being performed in a low voice. In the bridge, he is using a higher voice in a passionate interpretation. The chorus include computer processed voices as well as falsetto. Thereafter, we have a repeating on the structure of the song. The song is developing interestingly in a sense that the listener can feel he is going through a process. However, I’ve 2 points that I would like to mention. First, the song is too short. Second of all. there is a wide using of music elements that can fail on live performance.
But after all, it’s one of the good songs in the running!

#10. Kadri Voorand – Energy

Kadri competes in “Eesti Laul 2021″, after she has been one of the jury members in “Eesti Laul 2017“. It’s a jazz soul song. The video clip shows Kadri singing while playing on the piano and it may be a hint for her staging idea. The singer has a stable, warm and excellent voice alongside with impressing English. The song is quiet simple but it’s effective. The production is putting the singer in the center. It’s a radio-friendly song that can success at the Eurovision Song Contest.
The chorus is a direct continuation to the verses. The chorus is a little bit slower than the verses.
You can feel that Kadri is not only a singer, but also a story-teller. Along the song, she is showing versatile vocal abilities. The a-Capella in the ending is the best way for closing the song.
The song is excellent and it can be a huge jury favorite. However, to increase its uniqueness, I will suggest to include a little bit more complicated production.

#11. Karl Killing – Kiss Me

Karl Killing arrives this year not only as a performer but a composer/ writer of 3 song (his song, Heleza‘s song and Suured tüdrukud‘ song). Karl competed in “Eesti Laul 2018” when he ended in 6th place in the final.
It’s a classic singer-song writer acoustic ballad. The first verse is performed with guitar and the production is quite simple and thin. The song sounds to me like a typical commercial music. It has nothing bad, but it’s generic and lacks of uniqueness. In addition, I felt like I’ve been “treated” with that massive use of “Kiss me” in the lyrics. the backing vocals elevate the value of the song.
I can see the Estonian public vote for it, but it won’t be a contender for the winning.

#12. Kéa  Hypnotized

Kéa (Ketter Orav) comes back to “Eesti Laul“, after she has participated in “Eesti Laul 2016” and ended in 9th place in the final.
It’s a dance club song with the intention to becoming a “bop”. The singer has a gentle voice.
The first verse has a slow rate, the melody and production change in the bridge. Then, she is starting to sing faster. The chorus is built on a pretty constant electric beat. The chorus is more memorable than the other parts in the song. The verse that come after the chorus, has an identical structure to the first verse and it what makes the song cyclic. The backing vocals in the chorus are vital.
The “clapping” part should have come earlier, but it’s still good.
My main concern here is that I suspect the song won’t work well in the live performance on stage.

#13. Koit Toome – We Could Have Been Beautiful

Koit Toome comes back to “Eesti Laul“. The singer represented Estonia at 2 different occasions: In 1998 as a solo singer (12th place in the final) and in 2017 as a part of duo with Laura Põldvere (didn’t qualify for the final).
This time, Koit is competing with a singer-song writer emotional ballad. The piano playing in the main element of the song. His singing if full of air and it seems a little bit like it was recorded in a presence of vocal coach (it’s not surprising since the singer himself told that he tool some singing lessons in order to be able to sing this song).
In the chorus the drama is growing. He is using falsetto and in general singing in high vocal.
The song is catchy but it sounds like some boy-band songs in the early 2000’s.
I’m not sure that the singer and song have a perfect match. However, it’s an unpredictable and good effort. Well done!

#14. Kristin Kalnapenk – Find a Way

It’s a jazz song. The song is opened with bass stringing. Thereafter, it becomes a ballad that contains drums and keyboards. Kristin’s voice fits the song and it she is singing it effortlessly. The bridge and chorus contains wind instruments playing. The bass solo elevates the value of the song.
The song is ending with a solo of keyboards playing. However, sometimes it seems like her voice disappear among the production. I don’t expect any Diva singing, but some powerful singing could really help here.

#15. Nika Marula – Calm Down

It’s a indie-pop song with soul influences. The beats and drums in the song remind me of Rag’n’Bone Man – Human”.
The opening is based on piano playing and the warm voice of Nika. The production is sophisticated, modern and well planned.
The chorus has more “happy vibes” than the verses. Nika shows versatile vocal abilities along the song. The ending where she is singing in a “church” style is effective and unpredictable.
The transition between different styles, genres and beats is the thing we should be thankful in 2020-2021. It’s an excellent effort that I wish would work well on stage.

#16. Rahel – Sunday Night

It’s a pop with Funk influences. The song is starting with piano playing, while Rahel is singing in a style of soul. Although it isn’t a musical song, I can totally see it performed live in a theater show.
Rahel has got great vocal abilities. Her singing becomes the main element in the song.
There is a use of wind instruments and bass guitar in some parts of the song.
melodically, it is one of the good songs in the running.
I’m not sure how effective will it be as an Eurovision act.

#17. REDEL Tartu

The song is named “Tartu” after the second biggest city in Estonia.
The duo have already participated in the national selection in 2013 as “Winny Puh” and ended in the 3rd place in the final.
After having a troll act last year with the name “Kapa Kohi-LA“, this year we will have “Tartu“.
It’s an urban rap song with a very noisy and unpleasant introduction. The experience is even worst than drinking poison. It seems like the song has something like 10 words in the lyrics. I don’t see any chances that their over-produced vocals will work on stage.
It’s a contender to be the worst song of Eurovision 2021 season.

#18. Sissi  Time

Sissi is the daughter of Dave Benton who was part of the duo that won for Estonia at Eurovision 2001. It will be her second attempt to represent Estonia. In 2019, she performed “Strong” and ended in the 4th place in the final.
This year she is competing with a gospel – soul ballad. The opening is relying on her warm voice alongside the piano playing. The chorus is arriving early, but it’s first occurrence is modest and not bombastic at all. Thereafter, the song accumulates power and beat. The backing vocals have been chosen and put wisely. The third part of the song is starting almost as A-Capella.
Sissi knows how to move on stage and it can help her a lot in delivering the message behind the song.
Can you see it? this is the dark horse of “Eesti Laul 2021″.

#19. Suured tüdrukud – Heaven’s Not That Far Tonight

It’s a disco-pop song. The song sounds like it was recorded in the 1980’s. This is a meeting between 2 divas that just came to celebrate. behind the song we can find 3 authors that 2 among them are competing here as performers: Karl Killing and Koit Toome.
It’s catchy and have different character comparing the other 23 songs in the running.
The 2 singers can sing easily but the with a dated song like this, I don’t see any chances of e decent result.

#20. Tanja Best Night Ever

Tanja comes back to the national selection. In 2014, she won the national selection with “Amazing” and therefore has been chosen tot represent Estonia at Eurovision 2014. She failed to qualify for the final.
In 2019, she competed as a part of a group (with The Swingers and Birgit Õigemeel). They performed the song “High Heels In The Neighborhood” and ended in the 7th place in the final.
It’s a typical Eur-pop song with no edges or surprises. The vocals improvisations have to get out.
The only thing I could remember from the song is it’s title.
She could have brought something better.

#21. Tuuli Rand – Üks öö (Eng: “One Night”)

It will be the second participation of Tuuli in the national selection. In 2013, she competed in “Eesti Laul” with 2 different songs (each one of them with different group) and ended in 5th and 10th place.
It’s a dance hose song with influences of Funk. The melody sounds a little bit not original.
The song doesn’t require any special vocal abilities and Tuuli is singing it effortlessly.
The Funky beat is the main element in the song.
Something in the final outcome feels unimpressive and flat. The song need a “stronger character” in order to survive.

#22. Uku Haasma – Kaos

It’s an alternative rock song. The song is defiantly not a typical Eurovision song.
The song is starting with introduction of electric guitar. The singer’s voice can’t be defined as high or either low. The vocal effects in the production makes it sound like Uku Haasma is the backing vocalist of himself. There is a wide use of echo in the production which may change in the live performance. The verses have a slower rate, while the chorus is faster and have a different rhythm beat. The chorus includes not only guitar playing but drums. In the last minute, the bass guitar takes control of the melody but it has been done in the right way.
I find Uku‘s voice very pleasant and unique. I’m not sure about the chances of this song in “Eesti Laul 2021”, but I can say that for me it’s one of the best songs in the running


#23.Uku Suviste – The Lucky One

Uku Suviste will try his luck in the 4th time in “Eesti Laul“.
In 2017, he performed “Supernatural” and didn’t qualify for the final.
In 2019, he ended as the runner-up with “Pretty Little Liar”.
In 2020, he won the national selection with “What Love is“, but didn’t manage to represent Estonia due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
This year, Uku is bringing us an electro-pop song. The song is starting with a mysterious atmosphere. The style reminds me of Russian Pop from the 1990’s. I’m not sure that I’m good with the rhyme.
The chorus is much more stronger. There is a use of computer processed vocals.
The beat is being built gradually until the chorus where it is exploding.
I can see Uku giving a powerful and effective performance to this song.
Uku sounds well in the song, but the final outcome is a little bit too dated for me.

#24. WIIRALT – Tuuled (Eng: The winds)

It’s an American country song. The only think that isn’t American in the song is the Estonian language. It has the typical drums and electric guitar playing in the melody.
In the middle of the song we have a pretty long instrumental section. The lead singer has a smokey voice. At some point, it becomes just basic and predictable.
It’s a song that can be played on the radio. The main problem is that the potential audience of this song won’t big enough in order to being them the desired achievement.

My Ranking

It’s a diverse national selection that includes plenty of music genres: Pop, Rock, Jazz, Funk, Indie, Rap and more. However, the majority of the songs can be defined as radio-friendly but not as a potential Eurovision acts. My full ranking will be as following:

#1. Heleza – 6
#2. Sissi – Time
#3. Nika Marula – Calm Down
#4. Kadri Voorand – Energy
#5. Rahel – Sunday Night
#6. Jüri Pootsmann – Magus melanhoolia
#7. Gram-Of-Fun – Lost in a Dance
#.8 Uku Haasma – Kaos
#9. Ivo Linna, Robert Linna,and Supernova – Ma olen siin
#10. Koit Toome – We Could Have Been Beautiful
#11. Hans Nayna – One By One
#12. Kristin Kalnapenk – Find a Way
#13. Kéa  Hypnotized
#14. Uku Suviste – The Lucky One
#15. Helen – Nii kõrgele
#16. Karl Killing – Kiss Me
#17. Suured tüdrukud – Heaven’s Not That Far Tonight
#18. Tuuli Rand  – Üks öö
#19. Andrei Zevakin & Pluuto – Wingman
#20. WIIRALT – Tuuled
#21. Tanja – Best Night Ever
#22. Alabama Watchdog – Alabama Watchdog
#23. Egert Milder – Free Again
#24. REDEL – Tartu

My Prediction

It seems to me that the battle will be between Koit Toome and Uku Suviste.
Personally, I think that the national selection includes 4 wonderful ladies that can bring Estonia to a very decent achievement:
Heleza – 6
Sissi – Time
Nika Marula – Calm Down
Kadri Voorand – Energy

Doron Lahav is 28 years old guy who lives in Israel. Doron watches Eurovision Song Contest since early 2000s. Doron works as a Data Scientist and also shows interest in singing and writing.

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