Eurovision 2017: [Finland] Norma John / Blackbird

I really like Finland’s entry this year. Norma John has a look of Adele about her, and she sings a song which makes me think of Kate Bush every time I hear the final interval in the chorus.

I warm to the song’s elegant simplicity and find its plaintive quality utterly endearing. Keep an ear out for the song’s evocative middle eight (possibly the most satisfying of all the songs in this year’s contest), and beam at the song’s rather tidy conclusion.

Well done Finland. I think this is fabulous.

Read more song and rehearsal reviews from Eurovision 2017

Eurovision 2016 – Finland: ‘Sing it Away’ (Sandhja)

Finland’s song for 2016 is a fast-moving soul-infused disco number that needs to end almost as soon as it has begun. The verse amounts to very little, thrusting all the attention on the melodically unambitious chorus. With no real contrast between the two, the song quickly gets boring. It’s also got a challenging fast-moving lead vocal underpinned with close harmony high-up in the mix – duff notes in the live vocals from this National Final performance highlight how risky this number is.

Finland’s only win since their 1961 debut was Lordi’s ‘Hard Rock Hallelujah‘ (2005) – what seems now like a wily creation which both ridiculed and celebrated the Eurovision at the same time. I couldn’t bear it then and I can barely tolerate it now. In that respect 1962’s ‘Tipi Tii‘ (7th) and ‘Kuin silloin ennen‘ share a common bond, with Hard Rock Hallelujah being ever so slightly more annoying.

For most of the competition’s history Finland’s efforts have, largely, languished mid to bottom of the table. In recent years, there’s been a string of a slash-metal-esque numbers since Lordi’s 2006 win, a sort-of club number in 2009, and a folksy number in 2010.

Sweet and well-intentioned as ‘Da Da Dum‘ was in 2011, Paradise Oskar (21st) did veer on the slightly creepy side in head and shoulder shots. Pernilla’s ‘När Jag Blundar‘ had elegance but lacked presence in Baku and failed to qualify. ‘Marry Me‘ was an entertaining watch and great for the Final running order, only managed 24th place in 2013. Softengine’s Coldplay-influenced ‘Something Better‘climbed to 11th place in 2014, but last year’s metal number ‘Aina Mun Pitää‘ failed to qualify.

The quality stuff is, for me at least, found further back in the Eurovision dark ages. Carita’s ‘Keep Me Warm‘ from 1974 is worth a listen, and whilst 1983’s ‘Fantasiaa‘ borrowed heavily from Abba’s trademark sound and it’s chorus let it down slightly, 1985’s Eläköön elämä thundering up-tempo rock number and 1986’s ballad ‘Never the End’ were more convincing. To date, Vicki Rosti’s ‘Sata salamma’ (9th, 1987) remains my all-time favourite from Finland. Don’t tell anyone, but ‘Nauravat silmät muistetaan‘ remains a guilty pleasure. .

I can’t really explain Finland’s foray into reggae in 1982, 1981’s pseudo-progressive effort, 1991, 1992, or 1994. God only knows what was happening in 1976 and like the singer Vessa Matti-Loiri in 1980, I’m struggling to find the melodic line in Finland’s song that year, ‘Huilumies’ – the flute really didn’t help. Probably best avoid all of those, if I were you.

Eurovision 2011: Finland

If this year’s Eurovision has proved anything it’s that I can be relied upon to completely buck trends amongst Eurovision fandom. It happened when I dared to say that “Blue’s song for the UK is ‘OK’ but it’s not amazing” (that SO went down like a bucket of cold sick – people actually sneered at me in the street) and for actually saying that Belgium’s song is really quite good. The reaction has been difficult to deal with. I’ve been ostracised, you might say. Very traumatic for me personally.

Which is why you’d think I’d hold back before expressing a strong opinion about Finland’s song for Eurovision this year. With looks of farmboy starved of sunshine, Paradise Oskar sings his heartfelt tale about a young kid who wants to save the planet to an appreciative audience in the Finnish national final. It’s enough to make you weep. It’s that sweet.

I’d (reluctantly) agree with Apple loving blogging psychologist (ocassionally seen running around in the Wapping area of London) MacPsych who describes Finland’s song as ‘an earworm‘. With the lyrics “Da Da Dam” spanning each chorus it’s easy to see why. And yes, the song is cute. And it does trip along nicely. And it’s refreshing to hear something that doesn’t have a disco beat. Something doesn’t see the latest intake of student dancers leap across the stage desperate to get their careers off the ground or improve the look of their country’s song. And in a running order of typical Euro-pop, Finland’s song could easily stick out for all the right reasons.

But the James Blunt-esque sound, with the Lena-style voice manipulation and him in front of a microphone with nothing but a guitar makes Paradise Oskar reminscent of Tom Dice singing for Belgium at last year’s Eurovision and the lovely Nicole winning for Germany with ‘A Little Peace’ in 1981. The inner cynic also makes me reach for the bucket whenever I hear the words “save the planet” in any song. My God, didn’t they do their research? Don’t they remember what happened when the UK rode the ‘environmental wave’ in 1990.

Sure, we came 6th that year. But the hair. And the dress. And the pastel shades. Oh dear God.

Finland will do well with ‘Da Da Dam’ – Paradise Oskar might want to rid himself of those contrived vacant looks off camera before each run at the chorus – and if they do then I’ll have forgiven the country for the year it won. The year I really didn’t understand what on earth was going on.

Eurovision 2010: Finland

Classic Eurovision drips from Finland’s Työlki Ellää.

And whilst most would probably dismiss it as worthless, this flashback makes me think of warm summer evenings in front of a massive TV screen (mine), alcohol fuelling my excitement as I sit rooted to the sofa indulging my one big night of the year.

It’s escapism. It’s fun. It’s inclusive. It’s a party. On that basis the song would sit well in what mainstream audiences consider a classic Eurovision final line-up.

It isn’t a winner for me personally, however.

As perky as it is, there’s a problem with the constantly recurring melody. As with any efficient pop song, the verse should be similar (if not entirely based on) the chord progressions of the chorus. But because this folksy number is so completely focussed on exactly the same material, there needs to be something extra to sustain interest. Because if there isn’t you can be sure this particular number could fall foul of some desperate attempts to tart it up for the stage.

Something distressing happens inside me around 2’30” in. Every time I listen to it, I’m suddenly aware of how difficult I’m going to find the final minute. Aside from the good intentions to build up the tension with a gradually increasing pace, the prospect of hearing exactly the same melody once more when we are back up to speed leaves me feeling a little hollow.

But, there’s an innocence to Finland’s folksy group Moon Whispers which forgives them for the way in which the song leaves me feeling dissatisfied.

The stage act has overtones of Alexander Rybak’s winning hybrid folk act for Norway last year, although the Finns pull off a considerably more relaxed style. The two ladies – Susan Aho and Johanna Virtanen – look gorgeous on camera too, distracting the viewer from the inevitability of the backing track.

I suspect – although I could be wrong – that this could fail in the same way that Austria’s Y’Asi failed to qualify in 2005. I only hope the Finns don’t interpret any failure this year as a cue to depart the competition like Austrians did. Quite apart from anything else there’s something inexplicably alluring about the otherwise impenetrable Finnish language.