Eurovision 2023 top 37 countdown: #1 FINLAND – Käärijä – Cha Cha Cha

If (and I appreciate it’s a big IF) you have been following the countdown, you probably will have already worked out who my number one is going to be. Not that you’d have expected Finland to be at the top of my countdown before the national final season had begun – Saara Alto with “Monsters” in 2018 was the only time Finland have been in my top 10. Yet that has all changed this year in a big way as this kookie, crazy Finnish rapper, singer and songwriter, Käärijä, cha cha chaed his way to be my number one this year – right from the moment I first saw his potential entry. Can he win the affections of the Eurovision televoters – and juries?

Finland has a national final, UMK, that has, at time, had a bit of reputation of being a graveyard of fan favourites/best choices for Eurovision. Not so this year – “Cha Cha Cha” easily won the juries (worth 25%) and absolutely landslided the televote. The song is utterly unique – it’s genre-defying as you have a mix of Finnish hip-hop and rap, metal and rock and electronic music that then develops into a full on Eurodance bop. The performance too is nothing less than super memorable – it’s vibrant, anarchic, borderline unhinged. I think the best thing to do is watch the national final performance – though given the time of writing this, you don’t have long to wait.

Käärijä himself is quite a character to put it mildly. His stage name is actually a bit of a play on words and as a bit of an in-jokes with his mates but has stuck. Real name is Jere Pöyhönen, and he’s been releasing music since 2017 and he’s an experienced live performer. The iconic bolero jacket came about via his tendency to get too hot during performances and remove his shirt (aside from that). His song is all about wanting to relax after a tough week at work, but in that most northern European of traits, he needs a few drinks to get relaxed and his confidence going.

As I wrote above, I got drawn to this song from the very first and while I try never to get TOO invested in other countries’ national finals, I’m not sure I’ve ever willed a song to win its national final as much as this one. I just absolutely love this and perhaps some of you might find that odd given metal/rock/rap style – but it’s such a unique blend, and plenty of stuff I usually enjoy like electronic music, dance pop and a super catchy element. This is all then combined with Käärijä’s charm and as I’ve followed his journey, he just comes across better and better, that you just end up really rooting for him. I think this is perhaps the first time since Conchita that I’ve felt so strongly about hoping a particular act can win.

Which of course brings us to – can Finland win Eurovision for only the second time after their sole victory (Lordi) in 2006? Well it IS very possible, even with Loreen still being the big favourite, and La Zarra for France building some momentum up at the moment. I can’t see this as being a purely bubble song, and it’s striking that given the genre(s) of Cha Cha Cha and fact he is male, it has still managed to take the lead in the Eurovision scoreboard app (where female bops are heavily favoured, and especially by previous iconic winners).

I think a televote win has quite a decent probability – the key will be how many points he can accumulate over his rivals versus what the juries may score him. His type of vocal (heavy on the rap/hip-hop side) is not one that jurors have tended to reward much in the past, though they really should be more expansive in their receptiveness to musical genres and vocal styles. However, the overall performance and the unique nature of the song, is definitely something they should reward and not bury. So I go in with hope not expectation but at the end of the day, we’ve got a new iconic song and artist to cherish. It’s crazy. It’s party.

Finland in the Eurovision Song Contest

First entered: 1961

Appearances (excluding this year): 55

Best result: Winner 2006

Last year’s result: 21st

Flag of Finland

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