This year, seven artists are competing for the top spot in the Contest for New Music UMK and the opportunity to represent Finland in the Eurovision Song Contest: Oskr, Teflon Brothers x Pandora, Danny, Laura, Aksel, Blind Channel and Ilta. The winner will be selected at the UMK Finals on Saturday, 20 February.
Starting from 14 January, each artist’s song will be released individually at midnight on Yle's national streaming service Yle Areena as well as on YouTube, Spotify and various other major music streaming services. Each song will be released on a separate date.
Oskr – Lie
Oskari Ruohonen, better known as Oskr, is a singer-songwriter whose sultry vocals have formed an intricate part of such popular acts as Yournalist and Traffic Island. Oskr is a tremendously talented multi-instrumentalist who hails from a family of musicians. He has written, produced and performed by himself and with his brother, both in Finnish and English.
The Contest for New Music UMK will serve as the next step in Oskr’s career as he returns to his roots in performing in English. Oskr’s idols include James Blake, Bon Iver and Jon Bellion.
Lie is a song that combines a strong presence with an intimate message.
– Sadly, most people don’t have the guts to say what they really feel, especially when the stakes are high. They usually end up saying what they think the other person wants to hear. This is something that is universal to all people and cultures, which makes the Eurovision Song Contest the perfect venue for my song and its message, Oskr concludes.
Teflon Brothers x Pandora – I Love You
The Teflon Brothers have kept the party going in Finland for well over a decade, and now they want to bring their message of love to all of Europe! The cherry to their wild and sweet disco sundae is the Swedish sensation and Eurodance pioneer Pandora.
The idea for I Love You and participating in the Contest for New Music UMK have been long in the making. The seeds for the collaboration between the Teflon Brothers and Pandora were planted four years ago, in a chance backstage meeting.
– We’re the Teflon Brothers, and we represent the people of Finland. And what better way to represent your audience than by being crowned the official representative of Finland in the Eurovision Song Contest?”
Pandora has also developed a soft spot for Finland during her long-lasting international career: her fiancé is Finnish, and she calls Finland home for half of the year. According to Pandora, her participation in the UMK is her way of thanking the Finnish public for their devotion and support.
I Love You is not just an instantly catchy tune – its goal is to help people better express their emotions and become more open and courageous.
– Our mission is to bring people together in joy, celebration and love. We want to tell everyone that love does not care what language you speak or how you look. It’s all about the power of non-verbal cues or, as Pandora likes to call it, mental interaction.
Danny – Sinä päivänä kun kaikki rakastaa mua
A true Finnish pioneer, the man who brought showbusiness to Finland – the one, the only, Ilkka “Danny” Lipsanen! A man who requires little introduction in his native Finland. When it comes to song contests, Danny’s seven-decade-long career is difficult to beat: in addition to a whopping seven Eurovision qualifiers, he has also competed against such legends as Paul Anka, Nancy Sinatra and Tom Jones in the 1968 world championships for pop singers in Rio de Janeiro.
Danny’s career has included thousands of concerts in over 20 countries across the world, and he has worked with the best Finnish songwriters and producers since the 1960s. With over 100 chart toppers to his name, Danny has proven to be a man with his finger on the pulse of pop culture.
Sinä päivänä kun kaikki rakastaa mua (“The Day When Everyone Loves Me”) is a unique and melancholic number that, according to Danny, is no farewell song.
– It’s about how life is a gift, but how you can never be sure how long it will last – only that it will, eventually, come to an end. My song aims to be a humorous and truthful take on the subject. While its lyrics may not represent your typical Eurovision ditty, it’s an ambitious effort that represents a perspective that is rarely approached in pop music.
Laura – Play
Laura is a unique vocalist, who likes to experiment in her music with jazz, improvisation and pop. She has been the most-played artist on Estonian radio in the last decade, and her debut album, released in 2007, has been one of the most sold albums in Estonia. In addition, Laura is the most experienced candidate in this year’s Contest for New Music UMK: she has represented Estonia twice, in 2005 and 2017.
Laura, who has spent a lot of time in Finland since she was a child, now lives partly in Finland, where she makes music and also works in the field of human resources. Her tenth album, released in the winter of 2019, was produced in Finland, and she has also begun learning Finnish. As an artist she sees her participation in UMK as an amazing step towards establishing herself in her new home country. The final spark for performing in the contest was lit last spring when she participated in UMK’s international jury.
Play is an irresistible combination of country and pop. Its lyrics focus on an on-and-off relationship where one person has become fed up with constantly forgiving the other. Laura believes that her story will resonate with many listeners:
– I want the listener to open up their soul, gather the strength and support and help that carry us through everyday life, through relationships and through music.
Aksel – Hurt
Aksel Kankaanranta, the winner of the previous Contest for New Music UMK, is ready to reclaim his throne as Finland’s next representative in the Eurovision Song Contest. Although his victory last year did not take him all the way to Rotterdam, it provided him with other opportunities, such as working with the best producers in Finland and singing in Finnish. However, Aksel will continue to sing in English in this year’s UMK. He has also welcomed a few new members to his growing family of pets: in addition to his dog Topi, who stole the spotlight last year, Aksel is now the proud owner of three exquisite rose beetles.
Aksel believes that he is more prepared to focus on his performance this year, as he is now more familiar with the contest and its production process. However, he still likes to approach things with his trademark mantra to life: “We’ll see how things will go”.
Hurt is a powerful yet sensitive ballad about how looks can be deceiving.
– Someone may look like they’re ok on the outside, but they could still be in terrible pain on the inside. When you’re hurting, you also end up hurting the ones you love. I’ve lived that experience, so I’m truly able to identify with this message. My song is also a reminder that you don't need to be anyone but yourself, Aksel concludes.
Blind Channel – Dark Side
The black sheep of this year’s Contest for New Music UMK is Blind Channel. Formed in 2013, the band immediately set its sights on world domination: in 2014, they were invited to play at Wacken Open Air, the largest open-air heavy metal festival in Germany and the world. Soon after, the band signed its first recording contract. In 2018, Blind Channel was nominated for best rock group at the Emma Gala Music Awards, Finland’s premiere ceremony for musicians and artists. Last autumn, Blind Channel welcomed its sixth member, Aleksi Kaunisvesi. Aleksi is known for his solo career and is one of the most successful producers and DJs in Finland today.
Blind Channel calls its style ‘violent pop’. After honing their craft underground for three albums, the band believes that the time has come for them to bring their sound to the world. Blind Channel loves to put on a show, and the band’s members are no strangers to crazy antics and big gestures.
– It’s time for Finland and the world to see, hear and understand what Blind Channel is made of.
Dark Side is the soundtrack to an underground party and serves as the perfect distillation of Blind Channel’s message.
– We want to show everyone that even if your life isn’t ideal, it can still be fun. This song is dedicated to everyone who has ever felt excluded or unworthy, to those who just want to flip everyone off and scream bloody murder. We're here to say that we’re not alone in this world – and the Eurovision Song Contest is all about unity, no matter how you choose to express it!
Ilta – Kelle mä soitan
Most people in Finland were introduced to Ilta through the smash hit song Sillat (“Bridges”) by Finnish rap superstar Cheek. Ilta has lived and breathed music her entire life, and singing comes as naturally to her as eating and sleeping. Last autumn, Ilta released her debut album Näitä hetkiä varten (“For These Moments”), and she has been a regular fixture on Finnish music shows.
When she was a little girl, Ilta would gravitate towards songs that had a powerful presence and a delicate core, and she wants her music to have the same effect on her audience. Ilta had to think long and hard about whether she would be at home in the Contest for New Music UMK. In the end, the opportunity to sing to everyone in Finland and the possibility of performing at the Eurovision Song Contest to an audience of over 180 million people outweighed any hesitations she had.
Ilta's touching ballad Kelle mä soitan (“Who Will I Call”) is a concrete depiction of what it is like to live with loneliness.
– You could be in the middle of a crowd and still feel incredibly alone. It’s one of the most difficult feelings any person can have, as we're meant to connect with others. I hope that my song can provide everyone with a bit of hope and comfort, no matter if they feel lonely or not. Even though it doesn’t include an explicit message of survival, I hope that it can make people feel that they aren’t alone in their feelings, Ilta concludes.
The finalists were chosen from nearly 300 applicants by a jury of 8 music industry professionals that was led by Tapio Hakanen, YleX’s Head of Music.
– The selection of artists and songs that we have for 2021 is the best we've ever seen and heard. This year, a versatile group of artists, from veritable legends and chart toppers to new and upcoming performers, will all compete for the opportunity to represent Finland at the ESC. Such a fantastic group of performers requires a superlative set of songs, and it’s been fabulous to witness so many chart-busting Finnish songwriters rising to the occasion. This year, we’ll have the opportunity to hear a generous mix of genres, from touching ballads to no-nonsense pop and explosively energetic rock, as well as everything in between. I believe that these artists and the show that we’ve prepared around their performances will entice, delight, resonate, provoke and engage everyone in Finland. In 2020, UMK reached a record 1.5 million viewers, making it the biggest music competition show in Finland. This year, viewers will be in for something even more spectacular", notes Tapio Hakanen.
Winner to be crowned on 20 February
The winner of the Contest for New Music UMK and Finland’s next representative at the Eurovision Song Contest will be chosen live on 20 February at 9.00 pm (EET). The competition will be streamed live for international audiences on Yle Areena. The broadcast will also include English-language commentary.
The host of the UMK Finals will be revealed in February. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the finals will be broadcast without a live studio audience.
The winner will be chosen jointly by Finnish television viewers and an international UMK panel. The public will account for 75% of the vote and the panel for the remaining 25%.