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10 'Eesti Laul' classics that didn't win in Estonia

19 January 2024 at 16:31 CET
Anna Sahlene represented Estonia in 2002 and competed in Eesti Laul in 2022 Thorleif Robertsson
As the 2024 edition of 'Eesti Laul' commences, we take a look back at some of the more memorable entries that fell just short of scoring victory at Estonia's Eurovision pre-selection.

On Saturday 20 January, broadcaster ERR will broadcast the semi-final stage of Eesti Laul 2024, Estonia's format for selecting its entry to the 68th Eurovision Song Contest. 

With excitement for Estonia in the air, we thought it only right to delve back over past editions of the esteemed national final and reminisce about some of the musical moments that managed to make an impression despite not taking the win nor making it to the Eurovision Song Contest.

Laura competed with 'Supersonic' in 2016

Eesti Laul has offered up plenty of pop gems since its inaugural edition in 2009, always giving us an inimitable glimpse into what's going on in Estonian music. And between past Eurovision performers giving it another try and newcomers rising to great prominence, here's a short selection of just some of the fan favourites:

Kerli - Spirit Animal 

Estonian pop superstar Kerli was a big draw when she participated in Eesti Laul in 2017, with Spirit Animal

Spirit Animal actually won the initial vote in the Eesti Laul final. But when the top three songs then progressed to the ‘superfinal’ and voting opened again, the Kerli classic finished in second place to Koit Toome and Laura’s beloved Verona

Stefan - Without You

Eurovision fans will no doubt recognise Stefan from his crowd-pleasing performance at Turin in 2022, when he represented Estonia with the song Hope.

Well, ahead of winning Eesti Laul in 2022, Stefan had participated in the Estonian pre-selection three times before; in 2018, 2019 and 2020. Without You was Stefan's second attempt, triumphing in the first vote in the Eesti Laul 2019 final, but ultimately finishing in third place in the 'superfinal'.

OLLIE - Venom

OLLIE scored a huge hit in Estonia in 2023 with his song Venom, which first came to prominence when it won its Eesti Laul semi-final in January of that year.

The Spotify number 1 had to settle for second place at the Eesti Laul final, however, with Alika's Bridges going on to give Estonia a Top 10 finish at the Eurovision Song Contest Grand Final in Liverpool.

Laura - Supersonic

One year before winning Eesti Laul 2017 with Verona, a duet with Koit Toome, Laura very nearly won the contest as a solo artist. 

Supersonic was composed by Sven Lõhmus, who penned the Estonian entries to the Eurovision Song Contest in 2005, 2009, 2011 and 2017. Supersonic fell just short of giving Sven another Eurovision hit, however, finishing in second place at the Eesti Laul 2016 final. 

I Wear* Experiment - Patience

A great example of Eesti Laul's commitment to always showcasing a more alternative side to the Estonian music scene.

After Patience finished in 6th place at the Eesti Laul 2016 final, the trio would go on to release their debut album of the same name, which won 'Best Debut Album' at the Estonian Music Awards. The album saw them booked on the festival circuit across Europe, and the band would go on to play as support for the likes of Kasabian and Hurts.

Anna Sahlene - Champion

Back in 2002, Estonia hosted the Eurovision Song Contest following the Baltic nation’s celebrated win in 2001. In Tallinn, Estonia managed to finish in 3rd place on home soil - a result in the Grand Final which they haven’t bettered since.

That was thanks to Anna Sahlene, with the song Runaway. 20 years later, in 2022, Anna Sahlene returned to Eesti Laul to mark the anniversary and compete to represent Estonia again. Champion qualified to the final, where it finished in 4th place.

Daniel Levi - Burning Lights

Daniel’s debut participation in Eesti Laul in 2015 also turned out to be his big break in Estonia, with Burning Lights becoming the launchpad for a pop career that is still thriving today.

Burning Lights finished in second place at the Eesti Laul final, to Elina Born and Stig Rästa’s Goodbye To Yesterday, which gave Estonia a Top 10 placing in Vienna.

ELYSA - Bad Philosophy

In 2023, for the second consecutive year, ELYSA competed in the Eesti Laul final with an up-tempo, party-starting pop song. 

Bad Philosophy, along with her 2022 entry Fire, proves that while Estonia rarely sends a pop-girlie moment to the Eurovision Song Contest, there's always a place for them in Eesti Laul!

meisterjaan - Parmupillihullus

Down through the years, Eesti Laul has always offered international viewers a unique glimpse into all corners of Estonian music. But back in 2016, it even introduced a few Estonians to a domestic pop niche they might otherwise have never unearthed.

meisterjann's experimental Parmupillihullus charmed enough voters to give it a respectable 5th-place finish at the Eesti Laul 2016 final. 

Elina Born - In Or Out

Just two years after winning Eesti Laul in 2015 with Stig Rästa, Elina Born was back and going solo. Giving a sonic nod to Goodbye To Yesterday and ramping up the retro-tinged sound even further, In Or Out saw Elina finish third in her semi-final, qualifying directly to the Eesti Laul 2017 final.

In Or Out was co-written by Elina’s former duet partner Stig Rästa. 

The 2024 edition of Eesti Laul kicks off on Saturday 20 January. The semi-final will see 15 songs compete for 5 slots in February's final. You can read more about the process and find a link to listen to all of the entries right here.

The semi-final starts at 18:15 CET and can be accessed via ERR's online player.