Uuden Musiikin Kilpailu (UMK – Finland) 2022 Reviews: All Finalists

One of the more anticipated of the smaller finals (especially by rock fans), UMK sticks to its tried and tested formula of seven entries in a single show. I can’t find any information about the running order on the night, so I’ll review the songs in order of release.

Cyan Kicks — “Hurricane”
We’re off and running with this electro-rock banger which packs a lot into three minutes. While there is something familiar about the general chord progression it seems like a minor thing given the amount of energy this is going to have on stage (hopefully). Singer Susanna Alexandra has enough versatility to briefly hit a big note in the last minute in addition to her snarling rock voice and looks like she could be a mini-hurricane all by herself. Last year Blind Channel used “put your middle finger up” as a rallying cry in their entry: Cyan Kicks uses variations on “shut up”, but probably not as effectively. Nevertheless this song is relentless from start to end and I’d give it a good chance of winning if there wasn’t a certain act in this year whom we’ll get to in a moment.

Bess — “Ram Pam Pam”
The last time since Finland sent a song in Finnish was 2015, and the last time they qualified with a Finnish entry was 2008, but if there’s one song from the four sung in Finnish from this batch which would give them a strong chance of qualification, this is it. For those less keen on rock, this EDM banger is for you. It’s infectious, more catchy than it has any right to be, and Bess’s husky voice is a perfect accompaniment to lyrics about being unsatisfied in a relationship. I can imagine this coming second in Helsinki, like the Teflon Brothers & Pandora combination last year, albeit their song was far less serious than this one presents itself as being.

The Rasmus — “Jezebel”
This was the entry to beat the moment the contestants were announced. Veterans of the European rock scene with millions of albums sold worldwide, I’m old enough to remember their breakthrough single “In the Shadows” from 2003. “Jezebel” has a similar vibe, and while it isn’t as modern as other songs in this selection, I can’t see why Finland wouldn’t send this song. Even though it has been a long while since The Rasmus had anything approaching global recognition, in Finland at least they’d still have a strong following. The song has clean, solid production, it’s memorable with a clear theme which has good staging possibilities. The greatest risk is that the other rock tracks in this selection split the vote and something else comes through.

Younghearted — “Sun numero”
I imagine when the UMK programmers are looking for a palate cleanser to calm things down after a couple of the brash tracks in this selection, they’ll turn to this ballad. With lyrics about attempting to move on after a messy break-up, this is a gentle song which builds to a moment of semi-acceptance right at the end. Musically the build is worth the wait because it manages to balance offering something new while staying true to the track’s vibe and still offering a satisfying closure. The vocals also strike a similar balance, remaining wistful without slipping into self-pity. I can see this getting lost among the bigger acts on the night, but it’s worth revisiting afterwards.

Olivera — “Thank God I’m an Atheist”
Of all the songs in this line-up, I suspect this will be the most divisive. Not only due to the lyrics (which aren’t as bad as some make out), but Olivera’s high-pitched, slightly squeaky voice will be charming or annoying depending on your tastes. Fortunately for this review, I not only like her voice, but also the song’s message. This is a great example of a song that is fairly basic musically, but it gets away with it because you’ll be too busy listening to Olivera’s musical voice and considering what you think of her lyrics. She discusses the concept of eternal life and decides she’s fine with death being the end rather than a new beginning. The title is an expression of how her atheism gives her comfort rather than any anti-religious sentiment. This song has a surprising amount of depth to it and I think it would be a worth addition to any Eurovision line-up, but I don’t think it’s going to be Finland’s choice this weekend.

Tommi Läntinen — “Elämä kantaa mua”
It’s great to have a straightforward, fun, schlager-rock song in this selection. Sung by Tommi Läntinen, who’s apparently one of the best-selling male singers in Finland, he’ll at least have strong name recognition among various demographics watching on the night. He’s being presented like an elder statesman of Finnish music. Like any schlager song worth its salt, this is catchy, uplifting, and heartfelt. In this case, Läntinen compares his life to riding a Harley Davidson. Look, this is probably not going to win, but it will provide three minutes of cheer and that’s victory itself in these difficult times.

Isaac Sene — “Kuuma jäbä”
I guess it would have been a minor miracle had I liked all the songs in this selection. So here’s the one that unfortunately doesn’t connect as much with me. Maybe it’s a grower. I appreciate Sene’s vocal skills, and this has a smooth, slick club beat, which is what’s been missing from this line-up. The lyrics, full of sexual tension, appear to deal with the singer (or his character) realising his sexuality was more fluid than he thought after running into a “hot dude” one night after spending many evenings with women. At least, that’s what the translation suggests. It’s a theme that could lead to some pretty provocative staging, something which I think Sene is more than capable of delivering.

I’m looking forward to watching these performances this weekend: this feels like the strongest national selection since Spain’s Benidorm Fest.