Estonia: Eesti Laul preview - The semi-finals
This year's Estonian national selection has brought with it a new format with four quarter-finals, two semi-finals, and a Grand Final where the winner will represent Estonia in Turin.
This week, 20 songs will become 10 as only five entries will advance from each semi-final.
Read on to find out all the details about the show, the 20 semi-finalists, and some very special guests.
Here is everything you need to know about the Eesti Laul 2022 semi-finals!
The stage is set...
Tallinn's Saku Suurhall is ready to welcome the 20 hopeful semi-finalists aiming to be this year's Estonian act at the Eurovision Song Contest in Turin, Italy.
The entries of this year's Eesti Laul are diverse and the backdrop will reflect that. The stage of Eesti Laul 2022 has been designed to accommodate everything from fiery displays to more minimalist scenes, giving the artists everything they need to bring their creative visions to life.
The semi-finals of Eesti Laul will take place without an audience due to COVID-19.
Here are your hosts...
Maarja-Liis Ilus, the 1996 and 1997 Estonian Eurovision representative, and actor Priit Loog will be presenting the semi-finals of Eesti Laul 2022. Estonian broadcaster ERR has also stated that there will be a third presenter in charge of hosting duties in the green room, but they have not yet been revealed.
Semi-final 1 - the songs
1. ELYSA – ‘Fire’
Semi-Final 1 is starting off with a bang and plenty of fuego, with ELYSA delivering one of the entries to watch out for. The ‘Fire’ singer participated in Eesti Laul once before in 2015 but says that she has grown a lot as an artist since then.
That said, she almost missed the submission deadline for this year’s Eesti Laul. ELYSA co-wrote ‘Fire’ in just three hours with a star-studded team including Linnea Deb and Andreas Stone, submitting the song four days before the cutoff. ELYSA has big dreams - she hopes to make it big in the United States one day and added, “performing at Eurovision has always been one of my goals since I was a child”.
Sadly, ELYSA tested positive for COVID-19 on Wednesday, so she will not be performing live on stage in semi-final 1. The music video of her entry will be used in the semi-final instead, as per the Eesti Laul rules.
2. Helen – ‘Vaata minu poole’
Performing second in the first semi-final, Helen believes that ELYSA is one tough act to follow, with the ‘Vaata minu poole’ singer considering her one of the top acts to beat, along with Stig Rasta and Ott Lepland. Helen approves of Eesti Laul’s new format, saying that the addition of quarter-finals makes the competition “much more exciting”. The singer will bring dancers to the Eesti Laul stage. She is hoping to release new music after the competition.
3. Andrei Zevakin & Grete Paia – ‘Mis nüüd saab’
Two Eesti Laul veterans are joining forces in the hopes of avenging their previous robberies in the competition, but they have encountered some challenging circumstances along the way.
Andrei Zevakin faced a significant hurdle in trying to get to his homeland to participate in the semi-final: he was stranded in Turkey as snowy weather conditions prevented him from catching a plane home. Several of the singer’s flight tickets had already been cancelled, but he managed to arrive in Estonia in time for semi-final 1.
Grete Paia stated that her ‘Mis nüüd saab’ duet partner being trapped in the Turkish snow had made her feel “anxious” but that she still “trie[d] to perform the necessary tasks”, such as making sure that Andrei’s performance outfit arrived on time.
Grete has also revealed that the duo’s stage show will be minimalist, and Andrei believes that the key to the two artists’ success on stage is the chemistry between them.
4. Alabama Watchdog – 'Move On'
Alabama Watchdog are hoping to avoid repeating history. Last year, the group failed to qualify from the semi-final of Eesti Laul 2021 with their self-titled entry.
Band member Sven Seinpere stated that on the Eesti Laul stage this year, the band will focus on their music, not so much on the show. "The listener is very critical. They hear all the notes sung along," said Sven.
The musicians said they were not happy with the original version of the song, and were constantly working to make the track even better. In total, the band took around eight months to reach the final version of the song.
5. Merilin Mälk – ‘Little Girl’
Merilin Mälk revealed that her staging would feature her alone on the Eesti Laul stage. Merilin told ERR: "This time I'm completely alone on stage and I have to fill everything with my vocals." However, due to illness, she will not be performing in the semi-finals, and a music video of her performance will be broadcast to viewers instead. We wish Merilin all the best for her recovery.
6. Stig Rästa – ‘Interstellar’
Stig Rästa will be the first of five previous Eesti Laul victors to take the stage in the semi-finals, he previously represented Estonia in 2015 with 'Goodbye to Yesterday'. Speaking of Victors, there’s one on his songwriting team: Victor Crone, who represented Estonia at Eurovision in 2019 with ‘Storm’. Stig teased some hints about his staging ambitions to ERR, saying "For the first time, I'm trying to do something fierce on stage." His staging is said to include lighting effects that have not been made in Estonia before.
7. Triin Niitoja and Frants Tikerpuu – 'Laululind'
Frants Tikerpuu recruited Triin Niitoja as a vocalist for ‘Laululind’ ('Songbird'), citing her vocal prowess as the motivation behind her inclusion in what he describes as a “difficult” song to sing. “The song was ready and I sang the demo version myself, but I wanted to give it to someone who can really sing well,” Frants told ‘Terevisioon’. The huge risk paid off in the quarter-finals, with the public voting to send the song and the Eesti Laul debutants through to the semi-finals.
8. Kaia-Liisa Kesler – ‘Vaikus’
Kaia-Liisa Kesler was another act progressing to the semi-finals from quarter-final 2 of Eesti Laul 2022, chosen by the juries to advance to the next stage of the competition. Kaia-Liisa is the second of only two Eesti Laul newcomers in the first semi-final. Her staging will feature creative use of light and shadows, in a similar vein to the song's music video.
9. Elina Nechayeva – ‘Remedy’
Elina Nechayeva’s ‘Remedy’ exists in stark contrast to her song ‘La Forza’, which represented Estonia in the 2018 Eurovision Song Contest. The operatic star says “I’m singing in a listener-friendly way, and [in] one moment the high note comes off. In fact, it’s much higher than ‘La Forza’s highest note”. She continues, “I thought that this song wasn’t going anywhere unless I could sing a high note at least once”.
Elina is also putting her hat in the stage director’s ring, revealing that viewers can expect the unexpected and something very different to her Eesti Laul 2018-winning entry.
“It’s a very hot opportunity to direct my own show, which I really like to do. I let my imagination fly literally. The stage show comes in a very different way from what I’m used to doing. There’s no static waving my hands against a beautiful skirt.”
Images have surfaced of Elina performing incredible aerial feats in rehearsals for the semi-finals. Could she have been inspired by Australia's own high-flying opera icon Kate Miller-Heidke?!
10. Ott Lepland – ‘Aovalguses’
Closing the first semi-final, Ott Lepland will focus on showcasing his emotions in what he considers one of his most vocally challenging songs yet - ‘Aovalguses’. "The most important thing for me is to convey emotion, vocals are just one way of amplifying them. I try to keep that in mind in my performance as well," said the singer. Ott has revealed that he will be alone on the stage, and that light will play a big role in the staging of this entry.
Semi-final 2 - the songs
1. Jyrise – 'Plaksuta'
Jyrise is getting the applause started in semi-final 2 with his song 'Plaksuta' ('Clap'). Although the Finnish rapper did not start writing lyrics in Estonian until the spring of last year, his efforts have been fruitful, completing seven songs in Estonian, including his 2022 Eesti Laul entry, which qualified to the semi-finals thanks to the jury vote. Jyrise is looking forward to performing on the stage of Saku Suurhall, telling ERR "I don't know if there's a bigger stage coming up where I can perform. That's a pretty big deal for me."
2. Maian - 'Meeletu'
Containing lyrics in Estonian and Spanish, Maian’s entry ‘Meeletu’ is an ode to Barcelona, Spain, where she is currently living, as well as Estonia. The music video for 'Meeletu' was filmed in Barcelona, and her staging in the semi-finals will continue that theme, reflecting the way she considers both Estonia and Spain her home. The singer announced that she will bring a touch of Spain to the semi-finals. "I'm trying to express that I love both places and they have a place in my heart," Maian said.
3. Boamadu – ‘Mitte kauaks’
Boamadu believes that their act stands out. Band member Peeter Priks told Terevisioon "Rock is not popular. It's going on in waves, sometimes it's one thing, [or] another. Maybe that's why the chances of winning are not small, because we have almost the only rock song. The band will be making the most of the space they have onstage.
4. Evelin Samuel – ‘Waterfall’
Evelin Samuel represented Estonia in 1999 and last participated in the Estonian national selection in 2000, breaking a drought of 21 years to return to Eesti Laul. Though she attributes the long hiatus to a reluctance to participate, she says that that reluctance is gone. “Now it’s all over and it’s nice to have fun and be happy again!”
Evelin did not give too many details away regarding the stage show for 'Waterfall', but that spectacular lighting would be involved. “The stage of Saku Suurhall is big and the possibilities are quite different”, she said. Her favourite Eesti Laul entry this year is Black Velvet’s song ‘Sandra’.
5. Black Velvet – ‘Sandra’
The song ‘Sandra’ was inspired by the German pop singer Sandra Lauer, who had hits such as ‘Hiroshima’, ‘In The Heat Of The Night’ and ‘Maria Magdalena’. Black Velvet member Lauri Liiv reflects, "I remember I had a whole tape full of recorded Sandra and 'Hiroshima,' I listened to it over and over again."
‘Sandra’ was one of 10 Black Velvet songs in the running to be the band’s Eesti Laul entry this year, with the group’s members deciding to enter the national selection for the first time just before the submission deadline.
6. Púr Múdd & Shira – ‘Golden Shores’
Although they have been making waves in the Netherlands and Germany, Púr Múdd decided that it was time to re-introduce themselves and their sound to their home country of Estonia. The group cites 80s music as one of their biggest musical influences. They have teamed up with Eesti Laul 2020 6th-placer Shira to bring ‘Golden Shores’ to Eesti Laul, releasing a music video inspired by the hit Netflix series ‘Squid Game’.
7. Jaagup Tuisk – ‘Kui vaid’
Jaagup Tuisk advanced to the semi-finals from quarter-final 1 thanks to the jury. The Eesti Laul 2020 runner-up is hoping he can achieve a better result than his previous effort 'Beautiful Lie' and win the competition.
The young singer has plenty of vision for his Eesti Laul 2022 performance. “The main goal of my stage show is how to offer the viewer something new and original. We have quite a few cool ideas that we want to use.”
8. Minimal Wind ft. Elisabeth Tiffany – ‘What To Make Of This’
Minimal Wind and Elisabeth Tiffany advanced to the semi-finals from quarter-final 4 thanks to the juries. Performing in Eesti Laul for the first time has brought fear and excitement with it for the young artists. "[Guitarist] Paula and I have known for a long time that one day we will find ourselves in Eesti Laul. Now it is here," singer Elisabeth Tiffany told ERR.
That nervousness hasn't stopped the Eesti Laul newcomers from having big dreams. They hope to tour around Estonia, play at foreign music festivals, and release an album after the competition.
9. Stefan – ‘Hope’
The music video for ‘Hope’ was filmed in the Taberna Desert in Spain - the same location as the Clint Eastwood film ‘The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly’ - where the air temperature reached 39 degrees Celsius. Stefan’s dedication paid off, as he won an award for the “best music video of the city of Almeria” in 2021. As one of the favourites to win the competition this year, the four-time Eesti Laul participant is hoping he can bring some of that same visual prowess to the stage for his spaghetti Western-inspired entry. One thing can be revealed however, and that is that his staging will not include any real live horses, due to it being against the rules of the contest.
10. Anna Sahlene – ‘Champion’
20 years since Anna Sahlene represented Estonia on home soil with ‘Runaway’, she has returned, with Suured Tüdrukud singers Kaire Vilgats and Dagmar Oja on the songwriting credits of this empowerment anthem. Kaire and Dagmar were Anna’s backing singers at Eurovision in 2002, and the trio have maintained a strong friendship since then.
The ‘Champion’ singer hopes her Eesti Laul 2022 entry will be an inspirational song for its listeners. "It may sound like big words, but I wrote a song for everyone who needs encouragement. We live in difficult times - there is fear, loneliness and disease because of the coronavirus. It is a song for everyone who needs something to be happier," she proclaimed.
Estonia's 2014 Eurovision artist and quarter-final 2 host Tanja Mihhailova-Saar will open semi-final 1 with Anna Sahlene's 2002 Eurovision entry 'Runaway', in a celebration of 20 years since Estonia hosted the Eurovision Song Contest in Saku Suurhall.
Eurovision 2002 was the first event hosted in Saku Suurhall, so this year's edition of Eesti Laul serves as a tribute to its venue as well as Estonia's musical history. Estonian 90s eurodance icons Caater and a dance troupe led by Monika Tuv round out the special guests appearing in semi-final 1.
Laura Põldvere, who represented Estonia in 2005 and 2017 at the Eurovision Song Contest, as well as hosting quarter-final 3 of Eesti Laul this year, will return to the stage as a performer in semi-final 2. Joining her, Villemdrillem will also take to the stage, as both artists perform their own new music.
Executive producer Tomi Rahula hinted "in addition, we have some surprises in store, but we will keep them a secret until Thursday night". Tune in to find out what they are!
How you can watch the Eesti Laul semi-finals:
The Eesti Laul semi-finals will be available to watch by clicking here at the times listed below:
Semi-final 1 Australian watch times:
Friday 4 February
3:30am AEST (QLD)
4:30am AEDT (ACT, NSW, TAS, VIC)
Semi-final 2 Australian watch times:
Sunday 6 February
3:30am AEST (QLD)
4:30am AEDT (ACT, NSW, TAS, VIC)
No horses were harmed in the writing of this article.