Likely Televote Appeal
Likely Jury Appeal
Cohesiveness of Package
The melancholy, radio-friendly 'Play' may end up with a result that instead straddles the middle of the scoreboard, just like it does the road.
In what was a wide open Eesti Laul this year, the Estonia public resisted the staging gimmicks and went with the early favourite, Jüri Pootsmann. Jüri will perform in semi-final 1.
The following review has been written by regular commenter, Ben Gray.
The Estonian public have continued their long trend of providing us with a selection of contemporary, bold and alternative songs only for them to end up choosing the safest song by popular artists. It’s almost hard to believe a country that could give us Eesti Laul is ultimately decided by normal human beings with normal tastes.
Third placed Cartoon essentially conned Estonia for votes by dressing the vocally abysmal Kristel Aaslaid in a motion capture suit. Having worked with motion capture tech myself, I can tell you that it couldn’t possibly have been live, and that’s before you notice Kristel’s movements weren’t even in sync towards the end of the performance. Embarassing.
Of course, honorable mention has to go to the mesmerising Mick Pedaja and I Wear* Experiment, who both created a benchmark of musical quality, relevance and artistic value for Eurovision that may not be reached again for quite some time, the latter instead cast away with a paltry 3 points from the public.
Anyway, the long standing market favourite, Jüri Pootsmann, beat Cartoon and Laura, a.k.a. “Estonia’s Cheryl Fernandez-Versini,” in the superfinal to win the golden ticket to Stockholm. Stig Rasta, who represented Estonia in 2015 alongside Elina Born, is the writer here, and it certainly shows. Jüri channels the cool melancholy of ‘Goodbye to Yesterday’ into ‘Play’, which is arguably more instant than its predecessor, but lacks the interest of Stig & Elina’s overall package that was contained within its lyrics and the charismatic performance.
Jüri is a recent winner of ‘Estonia Seeks a Superstar’, their version of ‘Pop Idol’, so his domestic popularity helps to explain his victory in Eesti Laul. His deep and rich voice gives him a distinctive edge, but his stage presence is less Estonian preppy emo and more Christian Grey of Fifty Shades fame. In a year of Eurovision which is exceptionally lacking in exciting entries, Estonia isn’t going to make anyone gag, but neither will Jüri be whipping the competition.
As a song, ‘Play’ has a distinctive flavour and is easy and familiar enough for juries and the wider public to get into. It should therefore not have too much trouble qualifying from the semi final. But, in the final, Estonia face a problem of turning off televoters with blood-red stage graphics featuring Jüri looking at you like a serial killer. It makes Iceland’s smoke and ravens seem soft and eerie in comparison.
Scary themes turning off televoters has precedent in Hungary’s 2014 entry, ‘Running’ by Andras-Kallay Saunders, who could only manage 10th place with the public compared to a lofty 4th with the juries. Granted, Jüri isn’t singing about domestic abuse, ‘Play’ is a song about taking a chance on love, which seems bizarrely unfitting with the rest of the package. In the world of Eurovision betting, we often talk about the disadvantage of scary, aggressive women with angry songs in Eurovision. This was defied by Nina Sublatti last year, who, instead of softening up, portrayed herself as a gothic feminist heroine. It’s going to be interesting to see if Jüri can show us whether appearing villainous can hinder male performers as well.
In conclusion, since the inauguration of Eesti Laul, Estonia’s contributions to Eurovision have either sunk or swam. The melancholy, radio-friendly ‘Play’ may end up with a result that instead straddles the middle of the scoreboard, just like it does the road.
Can Estonia qualify this year?