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Finland: Norma John – Blackbird

Uuden Musiikin Kilpailu 2017, complete with Melfest-style international jury, has delivered a sensible result! As highlighted here, Norma John were the class act, and their melancholic ballad, Blackbird, will represent Finland in Kiev this May. We've had several recent examples of this genre with two from Norway: A Monster Like Me which finished 9th in 2015, and the 8th placed Silent Storm a year earlier. Anouk's Birds has also been flagged up by commenter Black n Blue, along with Nocturne, another song from Norway that actually won in 1995. Blackbird compares favourably against these examples and sets itself apart from the more anodyne Start A Fire, An…
Song Appeal
Vocal Strength
Staging Potential
Likely Televote Appeal
Likely Jury Appeal
Cohesiveness of Package

Flying High

Blackbird strikes just the right mood without being cliche or gimmicky and juries will recognise the musicality as well as rewarding Leena Tirronen's flawless vocal.

User Rating: 3.57 ( 50 votes)

Uuden Musiikin Kilpailu 2017, complete with Melfest-style international jury, has delivered a sensible result!

As highlighted here, Norma John were the class act, and their melancholic ballad, Blackbird, will represent Finland in Kiev this May.

We’ve had several recent examples of this genre with two from Norway: A Monster Like Me which finished 9th in 2015, and the 8th placed Silent Storm a year earlier. Anouk’s Birds has also been flagged up by commenter Black n Blue, along with Nocturne, another song from Norway that actually won in 1995. Blackbird compares favourably against these examples and sets itself apart from the more anodyne Start A FireAn Me Thimasai and One Thing I should Have Done. Its etherial arrangement and ghostly staging add drama and edge without any need for gimmicks like trapeze artists. These dark Nordic ballads have enjoyed great success over the years, so it’s hard to discount Blackbird from reaching the left hand side of the scoreboard just because it’s from Finland.

To my ears, Blackbird is stronger than the some of those aforementioned above. There is a perfect combination of light and shade, preventing the song feeling too static or too bland. And it takes viewers on an emotive journey that soars into every chorus, culminating in a subtle, but effective lighting change to end. To its credit, Blackbird strikes just the right mood without being cliche or gimmicky and juries will recognise the musicality as well as rewarding Leena Tirronen’s flawless vocal. I’m not expecting too many changes for Kiev, but I would urge them to adopt a more sunrise-inspired lighting mix for the climax instead of just red.

The first half draw is far from ideal, but good songs continue to do well at Eurovision. I think there’s plenty here for both the juries and televote to support. With a fair wind, and provided the first half of semi-final 1 doesn’t become too ballad heavy, Norma John should be aiming for qualification and a left hand side of the scoreboard finish.

Can Finland qualify for the first time since 2014?

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13 comments

  1. Easily the best entry picked so far, great to see Finland pick a competent entry for the first time since 2014. I think qualification won’t be a problem at all and I think it should be there or there about’s when it come’s to top 10 placings. If this was Sweden we would say a top 10 should be assured so why not this.

  2. Another final where the most talented artists brought their song alive on stage and rightly won easily.In doing so they showed up the massive failings live of the favourites.Emma was shocking .No excuses about technical problems a pro would of still delivered.
    My only worry with this would be its a quality performance that might not get much of a vote at ESC.That might depend on what they are up against however and we dont know that yet.

    • Watching Emma’s live performance back, yes there were technical issues, but it was clear that nerves got to her. You’ve got to feel for someone in that situation, particularly (I would imagine) an inexperienced artist who carried a large weight of fan expectation.

  3. I must say the result doesn’t surprise me particularly after Circle of Light turned out to be Circle of Shite. Gav, you posted a link to Emma singing live and that should have warned everyone off it.

    As for Blackbird, this is a song that I liked in audio. Live she sang very well and the lighting was effective and moody but for me there was something missing. It’s a simple, repetitive song and for it to work the chorus has to make a big emotional impact and it didn’t do that tonight. Also, staging wise, there was a huge open goal missed in the instrumental bridge – where the camera homed in on the guy playing the piano rather than pulling away above the arena like a bird taking flight.

    Overall, a very disappointing UMK final. The staging and camera work were far better than the UK last night but the vocals (particularly from some of the fancied acts) were extremely dodgy and where the vocals were okay often the songs were even more dodgy.

    So Blackbird was the only sensible choice for Finland. For me it’s only a 3 out of 5 at the moment and more likely a non-qualifier at Eurovision than qualifier, unless they can find that extra tweak that makes the emotional connection with the viewer.

    We now have 5 known songs for Kiev, 4 of which are female sung ballads. As I was awaiting the UMK results I played the others again and, actually, the UK song/performance stands up well in the comparison.

  4. That’s Lucie Jones blown out of the water then. (Final version pending.)

    I appreciated this one right from the start and was disappointed to see it become a seemingly foregone conclusion that Circle of Light would be chosen. I’m so glad YLE took appropriate action because Emma wouldn’t have gotten out of the semi-final.

    In Norma John they have a real class act and an absolute gem of a song. I don’t expect this to fall into the 21st place boring/depressing trap, because it’s simply too good a song. I’d suggest a stronger visual climax, and with even more evocative camerawork throughout, I think Finland might be looking at 5th-7th place or thereabouts, just as long as NTU don’t throw it on in slot #3 of the final or something.

  5. I think I’m on the pessimistic side tonight, I don’t get this one. It’s sung very well and was staged very well but it can’t really go anywhere from here and I think the song is too forgettable and simple.
    With the other entries so far, improvements can be made to push them up, Yle staged it close to as well as it can be and I’m not sure it will hold up if the other broadcasters raise their game. Borderline qualifier, 8th-12 in semi my view at the moment.

    • Hippo, you make some very astute observations. I speak of someone who does get this song and has done so since the outset. I would like Blackbird to do well but we have to be wary of wishful thinking, particularly where money is involved!

      Perhaps I was a little pessimistic in my earlier initial reaction to the live performance. There is a cohesive package here which works and is ready to go for Kiev, which makes it more likely to qualify than not. If it does qualify, your assessment of 8th to 10th in the semi is probably about right.

      As you say Blackbird is already close to its ceiling in terms of potential for development. The only area for major improvement is the camera work during the instrumental bridge. The obvious idea of the camera imitating a bird taking flight (see my earlier post) may just lift the song to a new emotional level – you never know. That caveat withstanding, other songs (notably the UK, with which Blackbird is surely competing for the same kind of vote) have more scope to improve. So unlike some here I’m not currently seeing a left hand side final finish for Blackbird.

  6. I’m so happy this won! National final season is turning out very well for me so far!

  7. So it looks like the first dance/pop song is going to be pretty much a guaranteed top 10 eg Belgium 2016 Israel 2015

  8. Sorry to disagree with the majority but this to me sounds like a borderline qualifier. Good vocal but not much emotional connection here which is vital for this type of song. UK potentially much, much better

  9. A deserving winner on the night. We’re still a few months away from the contest, but Blackbird, in terms of the arrangement, the live presentation, camera-work, and the vocalist’s performance, is ready to go, which is unusual for Finnish entries, which are often miles away from reaching their potential after winning UMK, whereas with this, the potential seems to have been already exploited.

    Whether this has the legs to do well at the contest or not, I really like this one. Some people have made comparisons to Anouk’s birds, Nocturne, and personally it has reminded me of some of Enya’s material, but overall I think most of us can agree that Finland have sent a quality composition, and they deserve a pat on the back for it.

    • The Anouk comparison is perfect, as is Patricia Kaas a bit too, so I think Finland can expect a similar result. Otherwise I like your Enya comparison too, I’ve noted down Joni Mitchell myself.

  10. Nice song and I think this will get enough love from jury and televoters to qualify. But as the song does not really go anywhere, I don’t expect the result to be very impressive afterwards.

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