Estonia (Semi 1) - Alan Nachtigal

Eesti Laul 2019 is the 11th edition of the Estonian National Selection. Here we cover the first of two semi-finals, in which twelve songs are competing for six spots in the February 16 Final. The first four qualifiers will be determined by an even split of jury and televote, while the last two qualifiers will be selected from a run-off vote.

The Swingers, Tanja & Birgit – “High heels in the neighbourhood”

BOOM! Eesti Laul 2019 kicks off with the opening riff of a blistering saxophone. Tanja (Eurovision Estonia 2014) and Birgit (Eurovision Estonia 2013) are joined on stage by four instrumentalists from the Swingers. The vocals are strong all around and the energy of the Swingers make it feel like live instrumentation. The song is jazzy and fast-paced, and would translate well on the Eurovision stage.

Marko Kaar–“Smile”

Marko appears in a fitted leather jacket with a fresh cut and white sneakers. He is joined by four background dancers. His vocals sound just like the studio track. Some group choreography kicks in with the second verse. By the end of the song he is perhaps a little winded. The song is Spotify-ready, and he has a charm that may earn votes.

xtra basic & Emily J – “Hold me close”

Emily J appears on stage in a grey jumpsuit. Her vocals start strong and she knows how to work the audience and camera. A male and female dancer take center stage during the second verse – acting out elements of the lyrics. The 2nd pre-chorus begins to fall apart vocally and some ad-libbing falls flat, but she finishes strong. The song lacks a true chorus – just a pre-chorus followed by an instrumental hook. It worked for “Fuego,” right?

Johanna Eendra –“Miks sa teed nii?”

We start with a close-up of the lovely Johanna. Two back-up dancers join her on stage. Johanna walks the stage intently as the dancers perform modern movements that fans of “So You Think You Can Dance” will find familiar. The song is well-produced, the vocals are good, but structurally it doesn’t go anywhere. This feels buried in the middle of the show and easy to forget.

STEFAN – “Without you”

STEFAN is back and wants to win after his duo failed to advance to Lisbon in 2018. He’s looking handsome in a white button down, playing a black grand piano and longing for a lost love. His vocals are pitch-perfect, and we get interesting LED video effects when the drums kick in. The bookies have predicted this song to advance from the semi-final, and with good reason. It is catchy and well-crafted.

Sandra Nurmsalu –“Soovide puu”

Sandra stands alone in a white dress, slowly coming into focus as the camera pans in. Her voice is ethereal, and her pitch and tone are wonderful. Though she remains fixed in one place, the performance is mesmerizing. In the bridge section, the LED screens appear to show a tree slowly growing – someone please check backstage for Jamala! The song is beautiful and stands to do well with the jury and public.

Jennifer Cohen– “Little baby el”

The stage is awash in pink light. Jennifer has her hair pulled back and is giving strong Jennifer Lawrence vibes. She is joined on stage by five back-up singers in color-coordinated tops. The song is a love song to her daughter – it is sweet and sounds current. The background vocals are pitchy, and it isn’t clear to me why all five are needed.

SOFIA RUBINA (ft. JANIKA TENN) – “Deep water”

Starting in black-and-white, SOFIA is alone on the stage, serving some black flapper-dress realness. Is that a red hat she is wearing? Or a red weave up-do? Maybe it is both. Her vocals are strong with impressive flourishes, but she fails to use the entire stage or and engage the audience. The song itself sounds like a dance remix an old vocal, only halfway achieving the goal of making it sound current.  

ÖED – Öhuloss

These. Girls. Look. Fun. And. Quirky. The camera starts backstage, reminiscent of Sweden 2017. Lead singers Grete and Kristel are neon-clad and pause for a group selfie with their four back-up dancers as they take to the full stage. The song has swag, and is all about the driving bass and snare combined with sing-song melody. Their chemistry is evident, but vocally they sound winded by the end of the performance.

Victor Crone – “Storm”

Swedish singer (and birthday boy!) Victor Crone enters today’s semi-final as the bookie’s favorite to win. Among others the song is written by alumni Stig Rästa (Eurovision Estonia 2015). Victor starts alone on stage with an acoustic guitar…then suddenly the guitar is gone! When he goes into his upper register he strains and misses more notes than he hits. All at once there is a blond-haired woman behind him singing! Was she the one in the audience earlier? Never mind, because just as quickly she is gone! Next the audience disappears and he’s on a mountain top surrounded by wind, dark clouds, debris, and dangerous lightning. This is getting confusing – what of this is pre-recorded, what is live with camera effects? The storm goes away and he ends the song as he started, standing with his acoustic guitar. To do well at Eurovision he’ll have to make his vocals rock solid.

Ranele – “Supernova”

Ranele is wearing a camera-friendly sparkling dress, and is joined on stage by two men in their underwear. They are covered with body glitter. One is in trunks, one is in briefs – it’s great to have options! The men dance around the stage (sometimes with disco balls!), while Ranele for the most part stays in one place. The song has a catchy chorus and repeats the word “Supernova” enough that you are quickly singing along. Should the look served by this trio be added to your Halloween 2019 Vision Board? Yes. Will this song win Eurovision? No.

INGER – Coming home

Thankfully, INGER got permission from his parents stay up late for tonight’s performance. He starts alone on stage strumming his ukulele. The lighting for the stage is soft, and full of stars, the crowd waves their mobile-phone flashlights throughout. His vocals sound much like the studio version and are strong. The song itself is not offensive, has a good melody, and flows well from start to finish. I might forget this performance but going last has voting advantages.

The first FOUR songs to advance based on the initial jury and televote are: THE SWINGERS, TANJA & BIRGIT! STEFAN! VICTOR CRONE! INGER!

And the final TWO songs after the additional vote: SANDRA NURMSALU! XTRA BASIC & EMILY J!