Singing for Finland: Darude’s Eurovision decision

Will 'Superman', 'Release Me' or 'Look Away' be the track picked to represent Finland at the Eurovision Song Contest in Tel Aviv?

Sebastian Rejman (L) and Darude (R) / Credit: Miikka Varila

The Eurovision Song Contest is hosted by Israel this year for the first time in two decades, and Finland will – as usual – be hoping to win the annual music competition (or at the very least get a lot of douze points from voters around Europe!)

Unfortunately there’s been more misses than hits in recent years, as Finnish acts failed to qualify for the finals in 2015, 2016 and 2017. Last year in Lisbon Saara Aalto made it to the finals with her lively ‘Monsters’ performance, but ended up 25th out of 26 songs.

So can Darude do any better this year? He’s teamed up with singer Sebastian Rejman on three tracks – the pair co-wrote two of them – and on Saturday night in Turku, televoters and special jury members will decide which one goes through to Eurovision in May.

Composite image of cover art for three UMK 2019 singles / Credit: News Now Finland

The songs are ‘Release Me‘, ‘Superman‘ and ‘Look Away‘.

“This year’s Eurovision desperately needs some fun, upbeat songs. Darude is delivering on that front” explains William Lee Adams, music critic, journalist, and founder of the wildly successful Eurovision fan website Wiwibloggs.

“I did have one big reservation initially. Darude’s most popular song ‘Sandstorm‘ doesn’t feature any lyrics or even a vocalist. Thankfully he seems to have found his musical soulmate in Sebastian. His voice fits Darude’s production nicely, and it makes the offering quite intoxicating and even a bit sexy” says Adams.

Counting on Darude’s talent & fame

A male duo hasn’t won Eurovision since Estonia‘s Tanel Padar and Dave Benton lifted the trophy back in 2001, and Finland will be looking to buck that trend in 2019.

Ville Virtanen – better known by his stage name Darude – started producing music while he was studying in Turku in the 1990s, and DJ-ing at parties. His big breakthrough came with ‘Sandstorm’ in 1999 and it was a huge global hit. His Eurovision singing partner Sebastian Rejman was the lead singer with bands The Giant Leap, and 4th Line Band.

Finland’s Eurovision organisers will be banking in no small measure that voters remember Darude’s biggest track, which has close to 120 million plays on Spotify.

“Everyone of a certain age knows ‘Sandstorm’, but not everyone knows the man behind the hit’ says William Lee Adams, who has been a jury member at several Eurovision selection contests around Europe in recent years.

“There’s something quite magical about Darude reasserting himself to the world all these years later. Bonus: I bet he’s got plenty of surplus royalties to spend on staging!” he tells News Now Finland

Finland’s Saara Aalto performs her track Monsters during a Eurovision Song Contest rehearsal in Lisbon / Credit: Andres Putting, ESC

Staging can make or break a performance

At the Eurovision Song Contest the way a song is staged, visually, can make or break a performance arguable as much as the quality of the singers and songs. Changes will almost certainly be made between Finland’s domestic selection process Uuden Musiikin Kilpailu UMK this weekend, and what eventually gets performed in Tel Aviv in May.

Saara Aalto’s production last year in Lisbon had everything and the kitchen sink thrown at it – from the singer spinning upside down on a wheel, to pyrotechnics, a trust fall from a high platform, and an energetic dance troupe wearing jackboots and bondage harnesses. It might all have been too much for the viewers, and sometimes a more minimal approach can be a winning formula.

“Too often the stage simply swallows the performer and the party becomes a bore fast. Loreen’s [2012 winning song] ‘Euphoria‘ overcame that by creating an intimate stage within the bigger stage. She brought the dance song but viewers didn’t expect a fiesta because she created a tiny world of her own” explains Wiwibloggs’ Adams.

Sebastian Rejman (L) and Darude (R) / Credit: Anton Sucksdorff

Finland’s Tel Aviv chances

Whichever Darude song goes through to the Eurovision final, there’s always going to be tough competition.

Stand-out acts chosen so far come from Italian-Egyptian singer Mahmood, whose cool, brooding song ‘Soldi‘ has already hit number one in the Italian charts; has more than 22 million Spotify streams; and almost 36 million views on YouTube.

France’s Bilal Hassani sings in a mix of English and French on his track ‘Roi‘, and plays with themes of gender identity in his performances. The track has been streamed more than 5 million times already on Spotify.

By comparison, the top-streamed Darude and Sebastian Rejman song for Eurovision has been streamed less than 250,000 times.

So what are the chances of success in Tel Aviv, given Finland’s recent patchy history and strong entries from other countries?

“Finland competed in the most difficult semi final in Eurovision history last year and squeaked through” reminds William Lee Adams.

“This year Semi-Final 1 [where Finland will perform] is filled with countries that typically struggle to qualify. My gut tells me Darude will sail through. And your odds just got better – Ukraine is now out of the picture!”