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Finland skips TV audience vote, chooses pop star Saara Aalto as Eurovision 2018 act

Finland is approaching the Eurovision Song Contest rather differently this time around. Rather than choosing a singing act through a televised talent contest with the winner selected by viewer votes, organisers at the Finnish Broadcasting Company have already placed all bets and selected pop star Saara Aalto as Finland's representative.

Saara Aalto. Image: Yle

The Finnish Broadcasting Company Yle says it has selected pop star Saara Aalto to be Finland's representative at next year's Eurovision Song Contest in Portugal, and that the Contest for New Music (UMK) will not involve a qualifying competition performers this year.

Instead, Aalto will perform three songs composed for her in a televised event in March of next year, according to UMK.

Song, not singer to be decided by vote

"Of these three individual songs the viewers and international juries will get to choose the best one to be performed in the Eurovision Song Contest (ESC) in May in Lisbon. The selection process will be broadcast live from Espoo Metro Areena on the 3rd of March," the statement reads.

Aalto gained domestic fame after placing second in the reality TV singing contest The Voice of Finland in 2012. She went on to compete twice in previous UMK contests but placed second both times. Last year Aalto was runner-up in the reality TV talent contest in Britain on The X Factor UK.

"I know that this journey is going to be fantastic regardless of the results of the actual competition. I'm of course jumping right in with the attitude that I can win the Eurovision Song Contest – or at least finish in second place! That's something I've been great at, no doubt about it," Aalto jokes.

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Why the change?

According to UMK producer Anssi Autio, the main goal of changing UMK into a vote about songs rather than a singing contest is to get better results at the actual Eurovision contest.

"We believe strongly that luminous Saara Aalto who is building an international music career is our secret weapon to success. We are putting all our best efforts into having three captivating songs and shows to choose from, with the best one staged in May in Lisbon," UMK producer Anssi Autio said.

Historically Finland has rarely done well at ESC and has only won the longest-running annual international TV song competition once.

The monster-costumed metal band Lordi made Eurovision history in 2006 when it became the first hard rock act and the first Finnish entry to win the contest, with its song "Hard Rock Hallelujah".

In 1973 Finland placed 6th with Marion Rung who sang Tom Tom Tom, too. However, Finland has placed last in the contest ten times and failed to reach the final seven times.

"As Eurovision history has shown, who makes it to Eurovision and how to achieve that spot in the ESC Final is a mixture of various factors. We are confident that we now have in our hands the recipe for success," Autio said.

Tickets for the UMK show at Espoo's Metro Areena will be available for purchase from November 14.