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Finnish Eurovision entry aims for place in competition finals

Finland’s Eurovision entry Norma John will be aiming to win over the judges with a haunting ballad, "Blackbird", to make it into the finals of this year’s campy Eurovision Song Contest. The intriguingly-named Finnish duo will take to the stage Tuesday evening in a bid to bring the European talent spotlight back to the far north.

Image: Pelle T. Nilsson / AOP

Norma John, the duo comprising vocalist Leena Tirronen and pianist Lasse Piirainen, have already managed to pull in positive reviews from global media for their poignant song, "Blackbird".

On top of that, foreign and local press have also lauded the Finnish entry’s visually striking stage show, placing the pair among the top ten in betting odds ahead of their first performance in the contest Tuesday evening.

"This song has touched very different people around Europe," said Piirainen, who teamed up with Tirronen to write the ballad about the pain of heartbreak.

"Eurovision is well-known as the kind of place where anything can happen. Whatever you can dream up, may well be turned on its head," Tirronen noted.

"Our goal is to take Finland back into the final. We’ll see what happens," she added.

Tirronen was rightly guarded about Finland’s chances of making it into the final. The Nordic nation was denied a place in the final lineup in the last two contests. It has also finished last overall in the contest 10 times. Since the introduction of a semi-final in 2004, it has failed to reach the finals six times.

Promising showing in rehearsals

While Norma John still have to impress the judges enough to get into the final, they already made a strong showing during rehearsals on Monday evening. The small audience gathered to follow the rehearsals was fully caught up in the duo’s final run-through. Large screens erected to play back the performances even captured Tirronen welling up as she delivered the song.

Image: Pelle T. Nilsson / AOP

The pair said they will stick to their goal of securing a final place, in spite of the inevitable backstage jitters they expect to have.

"It’s such a special occasion, that of course you get a little bit nervous," Tirronen said.

"Then the audience finally lights up. Your legs start to shake as you walk down the long ramp toward the stage," Piirainen continued.

Norma John will sing in seventh position in the first Eurovision semi-final on Tuesday night in Kiev, Ukraine. Ten of the 18 songs performed will be selected for the final on Saturday, where prequalifiers Spain, Italy and the UK will also be take to the stage.

Although punters, journalists and fans are heaping praise on the duo, Norma John will still have to convince judges that they deserve a place in the final. If they do make it through, they will also have to win over national audiences tuning in to the show for a shot at winning the title – and bringing the competition back to Helsinki.

Finland’s only win in the quirky song contest came in 2006, when the monster metal band Lordi swept away the competition for a surprise win with their hit, "Hard Rock Hallelujah". Apart from that, its best showings were sixth place in 1973 and 11th in 2014.

Yle will broadcast the first semi-final Tuesday evening on channel 2 from 10.00pm.

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