As the Eurovision Song Contest in Vienna is approaching, ERR News staff chose their favorite Estonian Eurovision songs of all time.
Estonia has participated in the contest 21 times since making its debut in 1994. Its first appearance would have taken place in 1993, when a young Jaanika Sillamaa went into competition with “Muretut meelt ja südametuld”, but due to the qualification round, which was installed for seven former Soviet-occupied countries hoping to make their debut in the contest, Sillamaa didn't get through to final.
This year, Estonia is represented by Stig Rästa and Elina Born who will perform "Goodbye to Yesterday" in Vienna on Saturday, May 23.
ERR News top 5 all time favorite Estonian Eurovision songs
5. “Once in a lifetime” – Ines
Performed by 18-year-old Eda-Ines Etti, “Once in a lifetime” was the country's entry in 2000 contest in Sweden and finished 4th – the best place for Estonia in the Eurovision by that point and introducing a good run of top 5 positions for the country for few years.
4. “Everybody – Dave Benton and Tanel Padar
What came as a massive surprise, Estonia took the win in Eurovision Song Contest 2001 with “Everybody” in Denmark. Dave Benton, originally from the Caribbean island of Aruba and settled in Estonia just few years prior, and Tanel Padar wooed the Eurovision audience with a catchy and energetic tune, which crowned them the first performers from the formerly Soviet-occupied countries to win the contest. Incidentally, Benton was both the oldest, as well as the first non-white, contestant to win the prize.
3. “Nagu Merelaine” – Silvi Vrait
"Nagu merelaine" (“Like a seawave”) was the first Estonian entry performed at Eurovision Song Contest final, in 1994. The lyrics were written by a well-known Estonian poet and writer of children books Leelo Tungal, while the tune was composed by Ivar Must, who would later pen the winning "Everybody". For the Estonian debut at the contest, which took place in Dublin, the result was a disappointment, receiving just 2 points and leaving only Lithuania behind. However, the song subsequently went on to live a life of its own and is now mostly well regarded in Estonia – for many, it is still a firm favorite. Vrait sadly passed away in 2013, but many younger singers, including Tanel Padar, have recorded cover versions.
2. “Kuula” – Ott Lepland
After almost ten years in the wilderness and bad luck, with an exception of Urban Symphony's “Rändajad” in 2009, Estonia was back in the final top ten with “Kuula” ("Listen") in 2012. Lepland, the winner of the third season of “Eesti otsib superstaari” – a local version of Pop Idol – belt out the song on Baku's stage like a proper star and without any hitch, securing 6th place for the nation.
1. "Kaelakee hääl" – Maarja-Liis Ilus and Ivo Linna
"Kaelakee hääl" ("Voice of the necklace") was the first success story for Estonia at the contest, instilling confidence for the newly independent country. The performance was the first occasion on which a state previously annexed by the Soviet Union achieved the top 5 position in Eurovision. Ilus, who had effectively grown up in front of Estonian TV-audiences since starting to sing from the age of 4, was still just 15 when she performed the duet with 45-year-old veteran crooner Ivo Linna at 1996's contest in Norway. Because the song is a love duet, with the singers expressing their heartache at not being able to be with each other all the time, it raised some eyebrows – but it was played out at Linna “being Ilus' 'father'”, rather than 'lover'. Thankfully, the audience accepted this version and the beautiful tune and soulful performance was enough to secure the 5th position.