Uuden Musiikin Kilpailu got off to a flying start last week, with great variety and some stellar first performances, setting the standard for the next six acts. Would they be able to deliver the goods or fall flat on their faces? Viewers were able to decide for themselves after watching the first live performances of the last six entrants in UMK 2014.
Fans of Finnish Eurovision finally got to study the form of the final six contenders battling it out for those all important spaces in the final. Performing for the discerning jurors must be a nail biting experience, so this preview is indeed quite a useful indication as to how all six acts will cope with the pressure on the night of their semi. Would any specific act stand head and shoulders above the rest, installing themselves as a favourite for the final? Eurovisionary watched their first live performances, which turned out to be an intriguing experience.
1. MIAU – GOD/DRUG (Music: Anu Kaukola / Lyrics: Henna Juvonen / Anu Kaukola)
Starting off with an intro not unlike Nanne’s classic Avundsjuk from 1998, the first thing viewers probably set eyes on are the four large, flashing neon letters spelling the name of the band at the front of the stage. The first impression of the song is its initial hypnotism; each of the members taking turns to sing their lines of the bizarre text over the pulsating beat. The three appear far too static at first with very little if any rapport with one another, or maybe its their take on Nordic coolness. Their look is a cross between quirky and second hand shop chic. The song livens up somewhat as they launch into the second verse, followed swiftly by a bit of guitar thrashing and a downright strange mantra interlude before the song builds towards its climax. The gals thankfully loosen up more and more and their efforts seem to meet with favourable nods of approval from most judges, but by the end of it you can’t help feeling that viewers will find this the longest three minutes tonight. A truly weird start to the evening.
2. Dennis Fagerström – My Little Honey Bee (Music: Dennis Fagerström / Michael James Down / Niklas Hast / Andreas Anastasiou / Primoz Poglajen / Lyrics: Dennis Fagerström / Michael James Down)
Dennis Fagerström is on stage sporting an old fashioned light grey shirt with dark trousers and braces. He’s backed by two backing singers, a bassist, a keyboard player and a drummer. His My Little Honey Bee is easy on the ear, and his vocals passable if a little thin at times. A romantic text paired with his boy next door look will no doubt appeal to many, as will the instant woah oh oh oh chorus. The verses are however a little anonymous in terms of melody, but despite the weaker verses, the song nevertheless still flows well. The presentation however could benefit from perking up in places and the rather unexpected ending did it no favours. All in all however, a safe bet; it presses a lot of the right buttons, panders to the predictable and is by no means the worst on offer tonight. Will no doubt have pre teen girls voting in droves.
3. Softengine – Something Better (Music: Topi Latukka / Lyrics: Henri Oskár / Topi Latukka)
Next up are the band with the intriguing name Softengine and their hybrid Keane/Coldplay number Something Better. Singer Topi Latukka was in fine voice – his vocals had bags of character and nuance and he had definite stage presence, as did his compadres – two guitarists together with one on keyboards and one on drums, giving viewers a solid perfomance. Their rock sound was melodic, full of emotion, bordering on raw at times, and will no doubt get the vote of the mature viewer. The energy emanating from their stage show was clearly visible and at one point had Redrama waving his hands along in rapture. This certainly stands out as one of the stronger songs of the six.
4. Mikko Pohjola – Sängyn reunalla (On the edge of the bed) (Music & lyrics: Mikko Pohjola)
Streetwise and savvy Mikko Pohjola takes to the stage in a simple black suit over a white t-shirt singing a fragile ballad accompanied by his acoustic guitar. He is flanked by a pianist, a female backing singer and a male bassist. Mikko came across as very comfortable on stage giving a great vocal performance of a simple, clutter free song, blissfully free of gimmickery yet still extremely atmospheric. There were some stunning vocals when hs voice melted together with that of his backing singer. A slightly melancholic feel and sound to the number may be something the Finns will go for. The melody is strong but quite complex and not as immediate as some of the others on show tonight.
5. Lili Lambert – Let Me Take You There (Music : Lili Lambert / Joonas Kaikko / Lasse Piirainen / Lyrics: Lili Lambert)
Lili Lambert is on stage with a pink and grey t-shirt featuring leopard print and black leather pants. She is joined on stage by two men on keyboards and a drummer. Let Me Take You There, and that she does begins slowly at first, but when it finally does get underway, it is a highly palatable slice of dance meets RnB with a delicious synth riff underpinning the song that has a slightly 80’s feel. Again, Lili is a vocalist who is sure of her talents; there wasn’t much to find fault with here; her voice sounded a little shrill at times, but was barely noticeable, although she certainly needs to limber up as she came across like a rabbit caught in the headlights at times. Does she have what we want, what we need? Well, this soul lite number should have enough appeal to offer some tough competition on the night in its semi.
6. Hukka ja Mama – Sejla (Music & lyrics: Lasse Hukka)
Hukka ja Mama consisting of Martina on main vocal and Lasse on guitar were dressed in what can be best described as contemporary casual. Not being able to speak Finnish meant that the lyrics were lost on me, but the melody itself was deliciously rough around the edges, earthy with more than a whiff of Bluegrass and a very appealing Western sound. Selja was a great way to round of the final six contenders; it had drama, feeling and passion combined with a solid vocal prestation and seemed to be greatly appreciated by the jurors.
The final six were a tricky bunch to make out – the first six contenders were the stronger field, but again, tonight there was a lot of diversity here that will have varying appeal with the viewers. Will the love/hate performance make MIAU stand out on the night? Will viewers fall for the winsome charm of Mikko Pohjola or will they fall prey to the snaring grooves of Lili Lambert? Or, could it be a battle of the generations with teenage girls be out in force on the night and vote for clean cut Dennis Fagerström en masse or will the more mature viewer win out and send rockers Softengine to the final. Our guess is as good as anybody’s, so the only thing to do is to stay tuned and find out.
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