The cancellation of the 2020 contest has meant than many broadcasters re-selected their 2020 artists for 2021, including a number of those who had won their place via a national final. This has meant that the 2021 selection season has seen fewer national finals and fewer potential songs. Yet there has still been plenty to enjoy as a eurofan, and I face my first weekend in two months without any kind of national selection show to watch!
I’ve collected together ten of my favourite national final entries that didn’t quite make it. Not all countries’ national finals are represented and I should add just because I have highlighted these songs, does not necessarily mean I am not a fan of the songs that won those countries’ national finals are going to Eurovision.
Albania: Festivali i Këngës 59
Always the first national selection show of the season (in fact several weeks in advance of the main season, given it is broadcast around Christmas), Festivali i Këngës 2020 was the 59th edition of the Albanian music competition. With no live audience, an outside broadcast and pre-recorded live performances, it showed how the pandemic would be influencing national final formats.
Mirud “Nëse vdes”
There were 18 finalists in the final, so it can be hard to stand out but Mirud certainly managed that. As well as being my favourite song, Mirud is a very interesting and brave artist, not least his openness in his sexuality, and his artistry and flamboyance. He’s active on Twitter, keeping up a commentary on Eurovision songs and artists as they have been released.
Estonia: Eesti Laul 2021
This was the thirteenth edition of Estonia’s national selection show, Eesti Laul. While there was no audience, there were numerous examples of lack of distancing or other covid precautions which were almost enough to trigger me just while watching! Nothwithstanding, Eesti Laul brought a good diversity of music genres and also a convivial experience with several artists acting as backing singers for the other artists (and vice versa).
Suured tüdrukud “Heaven’s Not That Far Tonight”
A very enjoyable bit of schlagerpop, this pair reminded me a bit of Bobbysocks and did quite well with the televote in the final. It was cowritten by two of the other competing artists, including two-times Eurovision entrant, Koit Toome.
Finland: Uuden Musiikin Kilpailu 2021
After some controversy last year, Finland’s broadcaster made some changes to the voting system to increase the weight to the televote. In the end, it proved a slightly moot point as the winner won UMK 21 by such a landslide in the public vote I don’t think anything would have stopped it. Last year’s winner, Aksel, was back in the final, but it was no repeat for him, finishing in 5th place out of 7 contestants. While I thought his song was better than his winning song last year, it’s not my pick…
Teflon Brothers x Pandora “I Love You”
This song had a lot of things liked – it was catchy, uptempo, fun, with a very strong retro feel (especially for 90s Eurodance) and included native language verses as well as English. Pandora was most popular singer in the mid to late 90s, singing Eurodance so not surprising the song has that feeling. Teflon Brothers and Pandora did not score well with the (international) juries but came second in the televote.
France: Eurovision France, c’est vous qui décidez!
After an internal selection in 2020, France returned to a national final for 2021. With both a (limited) live audience and even a live jury present in the TV studio, it made you nervous that it could have been a (super) spreading event but it was at least nice to watch a live national final.
The winner felt almost a foregone conclusion, and my pre-show favourite disappointed live, so I’ve picked out this as my surprise of the evening – modern, French language, good live performance. The juries liked this one, but sadly not the public voters.
Italy: Sanremo Music Festival 2021
It’s hard to summarise the event and institution that is Sanremo. The 71º Festival della Canzone Italiana di Sanremo 2021 took place with no live audience, but otherwise kept to it’s five evening (and into early hours of morning) format at the Ariston Theatre. What it most certainly is not, is purely a national final for Eurovision (which is how CNN recently reported it to be!), but the winning artist does (usually) gets to decide if they want to represent Italy at Eurovision – and this year’s winners have done so.
Annalisa is well known, big selling artist in Italy, who has previously competed in Sanremo a few years earlier. This was a very beautiful song, exquisitely sung, and undoubtedly would have done well for Italy (though their actual 2021 entry may well also do very well).
That’s the first part of my “best of the rest”; part 2 with a further five songs will be coming soon!