03 April 2018

Monsters / Saara Aalto / Finland | Review

Saara Aalto | Finland | Eurovison 2018

The seventh airing of Uuden Musiikin Kilpailu - the music competition that selects Finland's entries for the Eurovision Song Contest - featured three songs performed by Saara Aalto. She was internally selected by the Finnish TV broadcaster YLE to represent the country this year with the winning song, Monsters, decided by public votes and the points from international juries.

In recent years, Finland has frequently found itself stuck in the semi finals - in fact the past three years have seen truly diverse offerings stumble at this stage. Nevertheless, the country certainly couldn’t be accused of not making the effort; despite their poor form they frequently send the most disparate recording artists – look at the contrast between Pertti Kurikan Nimipäivät in 2015 and Norma John last year.

This year they hope to buck this non-qualification trend with Saara Aalto, an established Finnish personality who is now well-known to European viewers through her participation on the UK's X-Factor. She also has previous history with Eurovision, appearing in Finland's national finals of 2011 and 2016, when she was runner-up on both occasions. Along with her X-Factor exploits, a case of always the bridesmaid...

As for Finland's earlier contributions, their entries have rarely been awful but often battle to hook enough viewers. The Finnish crew seem to be aware of this, as Monsters is a highly global-sounding production - co-written by the composers behind Sweden's winning Heroes in 2015 - the kind of uptempo contemporary recording that could be heard on radios and in clubs the length and breadth of Europe. Of the three bidding entries, this was probably the most prudent selection. It's an impressive tune that seems to have broad appeal. However, I do worry that it may join the list of ‘decent but mediocre’ entries which would see this presumably deserving song knocked out at the semi-final stage.

On the plus side, Saara is a strong vocalist and she’s an accomplished enough performer to sell the drama of Monsters in Lisbon. At the moment, however, Finland's biggest problem is with the staging. Her national final performances were way too busy and convoluted, sucking much of the life out of the songs and diverting the viewers' attention from less than satisfactory performances.

If the success of Monsters depended on the official music video, then it would win Eurovision hands down. Based on the national final presentation, I'm not so convinced. At the moment, the live version has all the hallmarks of a borderline qualifier.

Photo: Ville Paul Paasimaa [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Artist: Saara Aalto
Song: Monsters 
Semi-Final 1 | Second Half

Official Music Video

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