Initial Review: “Hope” by Stefan (Estonia)

This song was a fan favourite from the moment it was showcased in the third quarterfinal of Eesti Laul back in early December. I was personally less convinced at the time, as country songs are rarely something I listen to, but Stefan’s “Hope” has grown on me since then. In my very brief review at the time I pointed to the obvious Spaghetti Western sound and complemented the song on how well this was executed. Those thoughts definitely still apply, but now more fully-formed. At the core of this song is the upbeat chant of ” I hope, I hope, I hope” which I’m sure the crowd will latch on to immediately. Stefan’s voice is rich and striking — while he’s not the most extroverted performer out there, I’m guessing there will be enough going on elsewhere on stage to keep people busy. And look, I know I keep saying this, but it’s nice to have some songs with analogue instruments in them.

There are two things which I feel are holding this song back a bit, both of which could be fixed in time for the contest. Firstly, Stefan sings a lot through his teeth in the verses. I’m guessing this is part of the country singer persona, but it’s hard to make out the lyrics without repeat listens, which most viewers won’t have the luxury of undertaking. His voice is at its best in the chorus when he sings a fair bit louder: if they could find some midway point for the verses that would help. Secondly, while I think the staging is way too dark overall, I like the shootout sequence. Or at least, the idea of it. In reality, it’s just a weird moment where two men dodge each other’s bullets and then disappear. I’m not saying there needs to be blood, but perhaps something a little more comically dramatic like someone’s hat flying off might give it more character.

“Hope” is a solid song which should see Estonia back in the finals again; there’s certainly an audience for this kind of music (see The Netherlands in 2014, 2016 and 2018), and I think the juries will be fairly keen on it as well.